Twelve Days for the Whole Year

The following is the article I submitted for The News Tribune (Tacoma) for today. I have been thinking recently about this secular sense of the “season” of Christmas. In reality, Christmas is not a season but an everyday reality throughout the whole year. That is the inspiration for this article.

January 5 will be the twelfth day of Christmas – and no, it is not about drummers drumming and ending with a bird in a fruit tree. The twelve days of Christmas is just the prelude to the rest of the year as we live in the promises of God through Jesus Christ. And so, with that, I offer this new rendition of the popular Christmas song: The 12 Days of Christmas. Enjoy and to God be the glory.

My true Love doesn’t give me things like partridges or turtle doves, French hens or pipers piping, dancing ladies or egg-laying geese. My true Love does not give me silly things like these.
But my true Love gave to me…

(1) Instead of a partridge in a pear tree, I have a Savior who died for me.
(2) Instead of two turtle doves, I have His love that came down from above.
(3) Instead of three French hens, I have the faith to boldly pray my amens.
(4) Instead of four calling birds, I have His inspired, infallible, inerrant holy Word.
(5) Instead of five golden rings, I have a Spirit-renewed heart that sings.
(6) Instead of six geese a-laying, I have confidence that with Him I will be staying.
(7) Instead of seven swans a-swimming, I have a joy that is more than brimming.
(8) Instead of eight maids a-milking, I have His promises fulfilled that He’s not bilking (yes, that’s a word – and used correctly).
(9) Instead of nine ladies dancing, I have a place in His holy court, at whom I won’t be just glancing.
(10) Instead of ten lords a-leaping, I have security in His hands in which I have safekeeping.
(11) Instead of eleven pipers piping, I have the sure and certain hope that my tears He will be wiping.
(12) Instead of twelve drummers drumming, I have excitement that my Lord Jesus will soon be coming.

My true Love gave me everything I need for all that I need is Him through Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen.

Good Night Promise

The writing of this the other night brought me peace as I drifted off to sleep. I guess that is why I write many of these evening blessings/poems while in bed. It is good for the brain and the soul to give them something else to chew on other than the stress and troubles of the day. At the end of the day; powerless to do anything about what happened that day or what will happen tomorrow, all I want to know is that my life is secure in God’s hands. I want to know that everything will ultimately be alright.

May this poem bring you peace as you retire at day’s end. God’s promise to you, in Jesus Christ, is that you are His forever. Even in the vulnerable state of sleeping, your soul is always safe in Him. Let your troubles go and rest in Him.


Good night my lovely one.
Lay down your weary head.
Relax those tired eyes.
Your day is now all done.

Good night my little one.
Your soul is safely kept.
If death shall quickly come.
In Jesus you have won.

Good night my chosen child.
You will be always mine.
My longing gaze at you.
Will always bring a smile.

Now rest and sleep this night.
And do not fear or fret.
I’ll keep you close to me.
You’ll never leave my sight.

I Got This

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! [Psalms 46:10 ESV]

I got this.
Take it easy.
Calm down.
Be still.
Remember, I am God.
I am sovereign.
I am LORD.
I Am.
Why do you worry?
Why do you get discouraged?
Why do you let others get you down?
Don’t you trust me?
Be still and remember.
Be still and know.
Be still for I Am.
I am Creator
I am Father
and I will reign forever.
All my enemies and yours, WILL be defeated.
All my opponents and yours, WILL be put to shame.
For I have won the victory.
I Am 
So why, oh why, won’t you be still?
Take it easy.
Stop worrying.
I got this.


I stand.

I stand condemned under the weigh of my sin,
with no logical defense to make.
I stand condemned as a violator of Your holy law,
oh God.
I stand condemned.

I stand condemned as glory-stealing,
honor-withholding sinner.
I stand condemned as an non trusting kingdom builder,
oh God.
I stand condemned.

And as I stand condemned I see my Savior,
my Lord,
my advocate,
my Jesus.

Jesus stands with me.
Jesus intercedes for me.
Jesus takes the judgment for me.
Jesus dies for me.


Jesus rises for me.

I now, through faith, I stand liberated,
I stand free,
I stand hopeful,
I stand forgiven.
For Jesus, my Lord, took the weight of my sin
and made my defense before You,
oh God.

And now I no longer stand,
I fall on my face to worship You,
oh God.
I fall on my face to honor You,
oh God.
I fall on my face to praise You,
oh God…

as I stand on Your promises.

The Pastor -|—

Authority of Jesus

Do you want to know what never, ever gets old with me?

What never gets old with me is the fact that when Jesus says something…IT HAPPENS.  No if, and or buts about it.  When Jesus speaks, people (and demons) listen.  I guess that is also why I enjoy preaching on texts, like what we have for Sunday ~ Mark 1:21-28 ~ the authority of Jesus/casting out evil spirits.

Jesus teaches with authority (not like that of the scribes).  The scribes, when they taught, would rely on the authority of the great teachers that came before them.  Their teaching would be full of phrases such as:

[So and so] said [this] about [this] Commandment and therefore according to [so and so] you should live in [this way].

This got old for the people.  The scribes never taught with their own authority.  They didn’t make their own judgments.

But Jesus did…and the people loved it.

You see…Jesus’ authority wasn’t just in the manner he spoke.  It wasn’t just in his voice inflection. It wasn’t just in his facial expressions and body language.  Jesus’ authority was much different…and powerful.  Jesus’ authority was his own’s and he didn’t need teachers who came before him.  Actually…no one came before him because he was God for crying out loud.  You don’t get any more authoritative than that.

And Jesus displayed that authority through his powerful words when he commanded those evil spirits to leave that man…and the evil spirits listened (kicking and screaming on the way out).  But that shouldn’t surprise you because…
…when Jesus speaks people listen.

…when Jesus speaks his words do something
[“Lazarus, come out”, “Take your mat and walk”]

when Jesus speaks he means exactly what he says.
[“Your sins are forgiven”]

Wow…that is authority.  That is awesome.  That is powerful.

We are God’s children because He says so.
We are forgiven because God says so.
We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ because God says so.

Next time you are in worship and hear the pastor announce forgiveness, know that the pastor does that with the authority of God and therefore the words being spoken are from God himself…AND therefore…you can trust that the words will do what they actually mean:  YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN.

Thank you, God, for calling me your child, forgiving me when I stray and embracing me when I return.  May you be praised always and forever. Amen!

edh -|—

The Old Rugged Cross

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
the emblem of suff’ring and shame;
and I love that old cross where the dearest and best
for a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it someday for a crown.
(Words/Music by George Bennard, 1873-1960)

This song is another memory I will cherish about Lyle (see previous posts to get caught up).  Lyle was a craftsman and loved working with wood.  He made many bird houses, benches, wooden tractors and small wooden crosses.  Lyle would deliver those crosses to the nursing home and the hospital.  One day Lyle came into my office with a box filled with these 5″ by 3 1/2″ crosses and said he would like to leave these in the narthex for people.  I said that would be great.  I made an announcement in worship and by the time I left to go home that Sunday morning all the crosses were gone.  Lyle made more for Belmont and they were quickly snatched up as well.

During the final days of Lyle’s life, he lay in his hospital bed clinging to one of his “old rugged crosses” and I remember thinking what a proclamation of faith.  He was not only clinging to a piece of wood but he was clinging to what that cross represented to him (to us).  Lyle lay in his bed clinging to the hope of the resurrection and the promises that Jesus gave us through the cross.  Lyle lay in his bed undaunted by what was happening to him and looked forward to what Jesus had prepared for him.  His hope did not waver for the cross stood as a reminder to him of the life Jesus came to bring for us all.

What a great image and reminder for all of us…”cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it someday for a crown“.

Praise be to God, always and forever.


Coffee shop ponderings — The “Rocco’s” of this world

Welcome to this weeks edition of coffee shop ponderings.  Today I start off with an unusual spectator across the street…a raccoon.  Along main street Jackson there are a series of trees growing along the sidewalk as if a remnant of the forest survived humankind’s invasion.  Directly across from Coffee Choices is one such tree, but this one contains a scared little raccoon.  My guess is that he came out when all was quite…exploring an otherwise scary world, but before he had a chance to retreat to his own safe haven, our scary world closed in around him, forcing him to find refuge in a tree.  My bet is that he will be there all day…or until the “coast is clear”.


But I can’t help to wonder what Rocco (that’s what I am calling the raccoon…kind of dorky, I know) is thinking as he looks down on our world.  It’s a world where he is not accepted or welcome, even though we are the ones invading his habitat.  Rocco is not free to walk among us.  He is not free to partake in our freedoms.  We have pushed him and “his kind” to the fringes.  And as I think of Rocco, I cannot help but to think of the way things are in the Church.  There are people in our churches who hide who they are for fear of rejection.  There are people who conceal their shortcomings for fear of being condemned.  There are people who keep their distance as others point and gawk.  And as long as there is this mistrust and haughtiness in the world, the Rocco’s of this world will remain in the trees of life.


But things will not always be this way…


…we are told in Isaiah 11, “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.”  That is a vision of the kingdom.  That is a world where Rocco has no need of trees.  That is a world where people will not be afraid to be who they are…children of God.  And it is in the promise of this kingdom I will wait expectantly and rejoice in. 

And so…as we wait and rejoice…let’s join together and welcome the Rocco’s of this world.  Let’s make this a “safe” place for all those on the fridges of the Church and of this world.  Because with Jesus…there are no need for “trees” to hide in.




"Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." (Romans 5:1-5)

When I was preparing my sermon on Thursday I stumbled across the sermon I preached three years ago.  It was the very first sermon I preached at Salem Lutheran Church on June 6, 2004.  The text that Sunday was also Romans 5:1-5.  This means that I have finally reached the point in my ministry here where I get to repeat the lectionary cycle.  So I decided to read that first sermon partly because I wanted to see how I interpreted the text back then but mostly to see how (if any) I had grown over the last three years.

I then got to thinking about how I, the community, the church and the world has changed over the last three years.  I got to thinking about the sufferings we have experienced.  I then got to thinking that even though we have gone through sufferings, we are still here and we are stronger for them. 

"Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God."  It is because of this peace that we can endure and overcome suffering.  It is because of the promise from God, that when we go through the fire we will not be burned (Isaiah 43), that we can face suffering with hope.

…but when I go through suffering, I don’t always think about this hope…

I know there will be times when I will complain about any suffering I may experience.  I will whine and be miserable.  But in those times I pray that God may slap me in the face with the reminder that I am not alone and therefore make me stronger.  I thank God for this "refining process".  I thank God for strengthening me through the years.  And I thank God for the opportunity to share in his glory.

"Oh God, slap me in the face with your love and grace when I whine in suffering.  Remind me that you are there to strengthen and guide me through the fire.  Through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord I pray, Amen!"

One more thing…
My wife and I have a wedding today and a graduation tomorrow (Sunday).  After that we head on vacation for a few days to visit friends, so I may not be able to update this site until Thursday.  Take care and may God bless your comings and going.



After my trip to my hometown this past weekend, I will never think of the phrase, "Over the Hill", in the same way again.  It will no longer be something to tease people with about getting older, rather it will be something to remind me about going home.  Who would have ever thought a drive home could cause someone to think so much (much less, think theologically).

The drive from Jackson, MN (where I serve as a pastor) to Dawson, MN (where I grew up) is nothing too exciting.  The land is flat with an occasional hill or two (including my favorite hill outside of Dawson — more on that later).  There are a couple towns to break up the monotony of the 2 1/2 hour drive and even a lake to dress up the scenery.  Other than that, The trip between Jackson and Dawson is nothing to put in a tourist magazine.

But there was something about the drive home on Friday that got me thinking.  I hadn’t been home since Christmas and found myself really looking forward to getting home.  My sister and brother-in-law along with my 2 1/2 year old niece were going to be there.  I was going to see my two grandmas who live in the nursing home there.  Along with these homecoming a cousin of mine who serves in the Air Force was returning home after being stationed in a former Soviet Union country (I can never remember the name).  This was going to be a fun weekend.

The drive between Jackson and Marshall (the half way point) was nothing exciting.  But once I left Marshall something changed.  Now I was becoming anxious.  I found myself looking more and more forward to getting home.  I had to resist to urge to press my gas peddle closer to the floor in a effort to hasten my arrival.  Each farm place and bend in the road become more and more familiar.  Finally I arrived in Clarkfield and that meant the westerly turn that brings me closer to Dawson.  Ten more miles then I wold be making the northerly turn to Dawson.  The ten miles outside of Clarkfield were the longest ten miles of my life. 

Then finally mile marker 8 arrived and I headed north. As I drove along (and I did increase my speed here) I recognized a familiar hill.  It was the hill that I knew once I reached I could see Dawson.  Sure enough, I crested the hill and there was Dawson.  I was "over the hill".  I was going home.  My heart raced a little more and before I knew it I was walking into my parents home.

As I think about this experience I wonder if that is what it is like for someone who is approaching the end of their life.  As they lay there in bed are they "cresting that hill" and seeing their final destination.  Does their "heart race a little bit" as they perceive that they will be home shortly.  I wonder.  I have seen people completely at peace with dying and this has to be it. 

I look forward to going home.  I look forward to seeing my family.  I look forward to that peace and comfort that only loved ones can provide.  And if I feel this way about a boring 2 1/2 hour trip home then I can only imagine what my real homecoming will be.  I look forward to "cresting that final hill" and seeing my Savior waiting for me.  What a sight that will be.  In the mean time, I continue my journey.  God bless YOUR journey and happy homecoming to you.

P.S. If you would like to read more about homecomings read Anne Graham Lotz’s book, Heaven: My Father’s House


God is not a repo man

I used to be a car dealer.  Back in 1997 I moved back home to work for my dad and learn the family business.  My dad owned and managed a Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge/Jeep dealership.  He started doing that in the early 80s and has a very good business with loyal customers (In 2004 my dad gave up the Chrysler franchise to focus on other ventures.  He now sells used cars and does some woodworking/cabinet building and still has a very good business).  My dad has an excellent reputation for honesty and kindness which largely contributes to his customer’s loyalty. 

Most people in my small hometown of Dawson, MN expected me at some time to return home to learn the business.  After all, that is what the older (and in my case, the only) son is supposed to do.  But two and a half years later I realized I sucked at selling cars (but that is another blog entry, so let’s move on).

While learning the business one of the jobs I disliked the most carried the title of "repo man".  You see…one of the things my dad would do is co-sign loans for people who bought cars from him.  Most people were honest so this was not a problem.  But every once in a while someone would take advantage of my dad’s kindness and generosity and default on the loan.  When that happened, I was sent to retrieve the vehicle.  I only went on three repo missions but they always made me nervous.  Who knows how people will react when you show up to take their vehicle back.  Luckily I never had any problems, but it still didn’t lessen my anxiety about repo missions.

Imagine if God had a repo man or worse yet, was a repo man himself as it pertains to the promises he gave to us <pause to reflect and ponder…but not too long> wouldn’t that be a scary thought?  But don’t worry, when you are baptized, God makes certain promises.  God essentially "co-signs the loan" and takes complete responsibility for any losses.  The promises that God makes are: forgiveness of sins, membership into the church and the body of Christ and eternal life.  God says "here you go…enjoy…why, because I love you".  But everyday we "default on the loan".  We sin.  We hurt God.  We fail to acknowledge God and the promises given to us.  We fail to help others.  We become selfish.  We don’t talk to God.  And I could go on, but I think you get the point. 

But here is the great thing about God…God is not a repo man.  God does not come to us and say, "You haven’t come to worship enough or read your Bible enough or prayed enough (…etc) so I am going to take back those promises I made to you".  God does not do that.  Instead, God sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to this world to die and rise for our sins.  God seals his promises through the cross.  God is not a repo man but this does not give us free reign to continue to take advantage of God’s love for us.  What it does is assure us, even though we are sinful, we will always be wrapped in God’s loving arms; knowing our status in God’s family will never change.

So do your best to "repay God" not out of obligation, but out of thanks.  God is not a repo man and therefore the promises given to you in baptism are yours forever.  Praise be to God, always and forever.  Amen! -edh-