Brownie tithe…..

Yesterday while working from home I was given a treat by my daughter K. She had made a batch of brownies for her class for their Christmas party (note how I said Christmas party – you’re allowed to say that at a Christian homeschool school). And she knew I wanted one after she had made the plate for her fellow classmates. However, she called me into the kitchen and proceeded to slice out a very generous piece from the middle. You see, while some in our house fight over the brownie sides – the hard brownie crust that circumnavigates the baking dish, my favorite brownie section lies right in the middle where it is moist and soft. And my daughter knows this. And she wants to please her dad. So she proceeded to cut a triple size brownie section from exactly in the middle to give to me because she knew it would bring me joy. She did this before any of the other brownies had been cut for her or her classmates. She did this not out of obligation, but out of a generous heart. And she did this to please her dad who loves her so much.

Before she scooped out that prime brownie piece for me, I spotted a learning opportunity. I asked her to visualize replacing the brownies with her time, money, and talents. And then to visualize replacing me with God.

Because she voluntarily selected that prime brownie as the first one to serve to me, she did what we are all called to do with our time, money, and talents. We are called to give a tithe, literally translated to 10%, to God in the form of offerings to our church. And this tithe is to be off the top. The Israelites called it “first fruits”. We pay God before we do anything else. And we do it out of gratitude because God is what has given us everything – from our lives to our families to our jobs to our material possessions to everlasting life through accepting his son Jesus. And we do this because we know it pleases God. Just like K knows that I like the middle brownie, we know in Scripture (2 Corinthians 9:6-15) that God loves a cheerful giver.

The lesson sank in and really hit home, both for K and for me. It was a perfectly scripted way to look at God, our tithes, and how we should be returning to Him our time, money, and talents. And in this season of Christmas what better way to honor God’s gift of Jesus by giving back to Him and to others in need.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Thief…..

In my spiritual journey, I have had many mountaintop experiences…..and just like everyone else, many times were spent in the valleys of life. And while we might thoroughly enjoy and seek out those mountaintop experiences, if you count the number of days we spend on top of a mountain, those days pale in comparison to those days we don’t spend on top of the mountain. That is not to say that we necessarily are in the valley — it is just meant to point out that you are either #1) on top of a mountain or #2) in a valley or on your way to or from the mountaintop. #2 is where we spend most of our lives.

I have several posts brewing that highlight certain times of revelation, growth, challenge, struggle, or mountaintop. Some people call these “testimonies”. I call them God’s fingerprints on my life.

For background and foundation, I was raised in a very Lutheran-centric home. My grandfather was a Lutheran pastor. My great-grandparents were Lutheran missionaries to China (where my full Norwegian, white-bread grandmother was born). I attended Lutheran parochial schools as well as college. One of my first memories was singing “Jesus Loves Me” in Sunday School and with my grandma — it was her favorite song. Another early memory was my grandma teaching me the Lord’s Prayer and me having to recite it by memory. I remember the extreme pleasure when I could recite it back to her when I was 7 or 8 years old. So I know doctrine and I know being Lutheran.

However, I did not “feel” Jesus until I was about 10 or 11 years old. Here is that story.

My neighborhood friends and I really liked our bikes. We rode them all over the neighborhood and beyond. They were not only our transportation, but they were also tools.

Tools for status. My friend Freddy had the nicest Redline BMX bike I had ever seen. Other friends had Mongoose bikes. My BMX bike didn’t have a brand because it was cobbled together. I scavenged the frame somewhere and painted it maroon. A friend gave me a pair of cool gold colored BMX forks. The rims were anodized blue. Together it looked more Franken-bike but it was steps above the K-Mart Huffy that kids had pinned as the basement floor of approval.

Tools for respect. Our BMX bikes allowed us the opportunity to gain skills and earn the respect of our peers. We did this through minor accomplishments like bunny hopping curbs, pitching out to crush cans, or most frequently by setting up a street ramp and seeing who could get the most air and land the farthest. I still remember the day when the pothead high schooler up the hill saw our ramp on his way to somewhere and said “Hey little kids, get out of the way. Here I come!”. As he careened his ten speed bike down the hill he probably hit that ramp at 20mph or so and took off like an eagle. We were saucer-eyed as he vaulted past all of our best marks still pointed heaven-ward. However, what goes up must come down. And ten speeds weren’t made for that stunt. He easily doubled our best jumps but landed in a crumpled mess heap way down the hill. His back tire immediately taco-ed and the rest just collapsed and he tumbled in a bloodied mess of flesh and metal. We were speechless and silent thinking he may be dead. He got up and said “Wooh, I taco-ed my bike dudes”. He proceeded to get up collect his bike and head up the hill home. I don’t think the pain hit him because he was so stoned.

Tools for freedom. Our bikes were transportation, not only to school, but to the world beyond. This was still the time where kids would be out “until the street lights came on”. We took full advantage going to the drug store for dime candy, hitting the many rogue dirt tracks, and frequenting video arcades. It was during these times where I picked up a bad habit. I stole.

The targets of my sin were not the candy from the drugstore nor the blips and beeps of the video games. My error was much less insidious, much more mundane, much less evil than any of those. Which made a perfect trap for this little church boy to fall into. I stole chrome caps off car tires. You’re thinking “What?” because you either don’t know what chrome caps are or you are thinking that it is such a minor offense. Well, first off, stealing is stealing so let’s get that out of the way. Whether it is money, candy, or chrome caps, if it belongs to someone else and you take it, you are a thief. I was a thief. I stole the little chrome caps that screw on top of the air valve on a vehicle’s tire. And so did my buddies. We adorned our bikes with them and were always on the lookout for better ones, nicer ones, shinier ones. The thing is you can only put two on your bike at a time. And I had dozens all stored away in little plastic 35mm film containers. Chrome caps had become my proverbial potato chip. I couldn’t eat just one.

Having been raised knowing right and wrong, I knew what I was doing wasn’t right. At first it started with my buddies and I would join in. We used to skateboard across a parking lot scouting the cool vehicles for caps. We looked for Camaros, Corvettes, Cadillacs, and Mustangs. Those were usually guarantees. Once we spotted a vehicle, we would then skateboard by it and pretend to fall. While down, we would quickly remove the chrome caps from that side of the car and move on. Later, however, I would be scouting on my own and collecting caps alone — absent was the peer pressure…..but I did it anyway. And it was wrong. But at that point I was powerless to make any changes.

It was at this point that I was in my sin, doing something wrong, and unable to stop it. In my prayers, I finally reached out to Jesus to help me; to keep me from doing wrong; to keep me from stealing something of someone else’s that I clearly did not need. Even though I knew right from wrong I could not stop and I knew I needed Jesus to help me. And then, that was it. I went out and “sinned no more”. I mean, I did have a little temptation here and there but once I said that prayer of repentance and seeking help, I was able to walk the straight path. And I knew Jesus was with me. I could feel Him with me.

And that is the first time this “raised in the church” boy felt the reality of Jesus. He was no longer words to a song or doctrine or a famous historic figure or someone the pastor spoke about. He was real!

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

It’s a life…..

Yesterday’s video of the Little Drummer Boy was one of beauty and entertainment. The link to today’s video is one of truth and light. Our culture doesn’t want any of us to see that, but it still doesn’t make it any less than truth.

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What a redemptive story.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

A day of thanks…..

In this day of Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday), it is very important for us to pause and look around at our blessings. If you are reading this, right out of the gate I can count several blessing for you without even knowing your specific situation — the fact you can read, you have some type of electronic device, have internet access, your heart is beating and you can breath, and you have some type of autonomy in the fact you can spend some of your discretionary time perusing the internet. So suffice it to say that you are enjoying many things you can be thankful for — and I am sure there are many more you could identify without breaking a sweat.

On Facebook throughout November, I posted a “thanks” a day as a part of the 30 days of gratitude. Below are all the posts and only begin to scratch the surface at all I am grateful for. I could easily do this for a whole year instead of just a month.

Thankful day #1: I am thankful the creator of the universe loves me enough to send his son Jesus. Thank you God!

Thankful day #2: thankful for our 2nd amendment rights that give us the tools to uphold all the other amendments (and in honor of the 6 new concealed carry applicants who passed the class that was hosted here at our place).

Thankful day #3: so blessed we live in a country where we can openly and freely worship Jesus! — at Southeast Christian Church.

Thankful day #4: I am thankful for a good job with a good company that allows me to provide for my family. Prov 14:23

Thankful day #5: although I should have posted this Friday (Nov 1) on our anniversary, I will do so today. I am so thankful that God blessed me with the gift of a Proverbs 31 woman — one who loves and serves her family, who nurtures, who wipes the snotty noses and cooks the meals that nourish us, who shuttles here and there, who teaches, who clothes and quilts, and who prays and worships.

Thankful day #6: I thank God that I got a “two-fer”, a buy one-get one free in my marriage to my wife. With that wonderful union and commitment, I received a wonderful gift from God in the form of a beautiful little 4 year old girl. That little girl who I adopted stole my heart and has blossomed into a smart, talented woman of Jesus — beautiful on the inside and outside. R – I love you!

Thankful day #7: so thankful for my first born K! I saw the crown of your head before you were born and I did not leave your side for 8 hours (sorry wifey). You are my punkin and have had my heart ever since. You are such a talented, sweet, beautiful, and observant daughter of God. May He lead you to your niche in this world. I love you!

Thankful day #8: I thank God for my namesake and my only son. D, you are so special and I want the world for you. I know and pray you will grow into the gentle warrior God is calling you to be. I love you!

Thankful day #9: I am thankful for the places God has taken me to live — Texas, California, and Kentucky. Each one unique and the exact place I needed to be at that time.

Thankful day #10: I am thankful for a safe, happy, and encouraging childhood being raised by loving parents who are still together to this day.

Thankful day #11: Thankful for our veterans and military who serve and sacrifice to keep us safe from evil in the world, protect our freedoms, and guard the Constitution.

Thankful day #12: I am thankful for my physical health. While I am not 20 years old anymore, occasionally experience old injury pain, and could stand to lose a few pounds, I am disease free and healthy. I thank God for continued breaths and heartbeats.

Thankful day #13: I am so thankful for my parents. My Mom and Dad sacrificed to raise me and my sister (and many others transitioning though — exchange students, relatives, friends, etc). They instilled faith, values, morals, work ethic, and many other benefits into us that have paid dividends in our adult lives. They raised God-fearing, tax-paying, community-serving, disciple-making kids that this country needs more of. It is my plan to pass this on to my kids and do the same. Thanks Mom and Dad for all you did as parents. I love you!

Thankful day #14: I am thankful for “anchor points” in my life. These people are more than a mentor. They are important people who have poured into me, who spend time with me, who I can learn from, who love me for who I am yet push me to be more, and who provide perspective on all the important things in life (spiritual, relational, physical, emotional, financial). An anchor point is a more intimate relationship than a mere mentor – they are someone who “anchors” you…..and you can have multiple ones you can knit together to create your personal safety net.

Thankful day #15: I am thankful for prayer; that we can communicate with our Creator directly. That we can lift up our pains, reveal the secrets of our hearts, confess our sins, cry out in despair, and seek out God’s guidance. Christ tore the curtain and bridged the gap and he intercedes for us (Hebrews 4:13-15 and 6:19-20). Jesus, thank you for hearing my feeble prayers. I am weak but You are strong.

Thankful day #16: I am thankful for the nature that God has surrounded me with out here in the country. And to hunt on my own land is a special treat. Not only because of the food provided, but the journey — that included a beautiful owl that landed on the tree next to us, multiple geese squadrons flying by so close you could hear the air off their wings, a hawk setting off a cacophony of squirrel alerts, and coyote yips in the distance. God made it all and you must be out in it to truly enjoy it.

Thankful day #17: I am thankful for storms in life, physical and otherwise. They bring rain, the winds blow and test us, and they let us know there is something bigger than us. For the believer, storms also force us to trust in our Creator and stake our claim on the solid rock of Christ. Prayers for all of those affected today by violent weather storms in the midwest.

Thankful day #18: I am thankful for the 2nd Amendment. If you like or enjoy any of the other amendments or any of the Constitution for that matter, you cannot dismiss the 2nd Amendment which backs it all up. None if it means anything if it can be easily taken away — and the 2nd Amendment prevents that.

Thankful day #19: I am thankful for friends who are in my life now, as well as those from the past (and those in the future). If you are reading this on Facebook, YOU are one of those. Our lives might have intersected for a very short time or you might know my entire life story — either way God meant it to be for a reason. Thanks for who you are!

Thankful day #20: I am thankful for forgiveness, reconciliation, and second (and third and fourth…..) chances.

Thankful day #21: I am thankful for God’s handiwork that He so frequently shares with us in the form of sunrises, sunsets, rainbows, and other spectacular forms of creation. This picture is from this morning.

Thankful day #23: I am thankful no one noticed I missed day #22.

Thankful day #24: I am thankful for the skills, talents, and gifts God gave me…..and the parents, teachers, and mentors who taught me to leverage those skills for the better of my family and others around me.

Thankful day #25: I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I place my hope and trust in the salvation of Jesus and knowing I have dear friends who have done the same is such a valuable resource in keeping me an encouraged, inspired, and accountable disciple.

Thankful day #26: I am thankful for the many blessings of enjoyment that God gives us (that He didn’t have to). Such wonderful things as a sunrise/sunset, a butterfly fluttering, powerful volcanoes, the sweet taste of strawberries, perfumed flowers, soft kitten fur, birdsongs, human hugs. There are SO many more that I can’t list them all. List your favorite blessings from God in the comment

Thankful day #27: I am thankful for memories that, as I get older, I can replay like a mental VCR. God’s blessings go back quite a ways. ;)

Thankful day #28: On my favorite holiday, I am so thankful for faith, family, friends, food, and football. Happy thanksgiving!!!

Thankful day #29: (added retro) I am thankful for holiday family traditions and that I can serve my wife to make this her favorite season (as a thank you for her serving me on Thanksgiving to make that my favorite day).

Thankful day #30: (added retro) I am thankful, again, for salvation and eternal life through Christ Jesus who God gave as a sacrifice for my sins because of His great love for me. He loves you the same and wants to have a personal relationship with you. Not a seat in a church, not a Sunday check-the-box, but a real, true, fulfilling relationship that will carry you home through anything to heaven.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Shared from Dad…..

My Dad sent me this email and it is worthy of sharing, especially at the end of this Veterans Day.

In time of war, and not before
God and the soldier we adore
In time of peace and all things righted
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted

Rudyard Kipling

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Walking dead…..

This guy has an interesting perspective on the walking dead. With all the craze of zombies nowadays, this walking dead analogy should be quite popular. Unfortunately, many reject the truth.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Ironic…..

Because it was Friday morning I was on my normal Friday routine — up early to serve breakfast at Wayside Christian Mission and then over to pray at the local abortion center. For the last two years I have been slowly building a relationship with an escort at the center. He and I have a common interest in deer hunting so this time of year is ripe with stories and conversation. I have blogged previously of using that commonality to build a bridge of relationship in which to show the love of Christ. It is a slow and uncertain path but I have enjoyed my conversations with someone I have nothing politically or spiritually in common with.

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to catch up with this man. I had been out bow hunting the evening before (with no luck) and was updating him with the year’s progress. Modern gun season also opens tomorrow so we had much to talk about.

He was telling me a story he had heard of a tobacco farmer who had sold hunting rights for a few hundred acres to a group of hunters. He said this group brought in some ARs (evil black assault rifles for those of you not in the know) and just shot the place up. It seems this group not only tore the place up, but also irresponsibly left multiple deer carcases in the area. While that is bothersome and definitely not a responsible hunting habit, the following comments were what struck me. Now note that these comments are standing in front of an abortion clinic which puts a very different perspective on things.

He said “They were just murdering the deer. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it is right”.

The irony was amazing and I was almost speechless. I shared it with a fellow brother in Christ and he replied “Wow, you can’t make this stuff up”.

For anyone who this story doesn’t just jump right out at to, let me detail it.

An abortion center’s sole existence — the way it funds itself — is to perform abortions which terminate the fetus, end the pregnancy, kill and murder the baby (use whichever PC or non-PC wording you would like). They do not make money providing contraception, offering alternatives to abortion, or otherwise providing “choice”. They only make money by killing little babies. And currently our legislation, legal system, and culture allow this to happen. In essence, it is legal. Now all you have to do is go back to my acquaintance’s statement of “They were just murdering the deer. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it is right” and swap out “deer” with “baby” to see just how ironic the statements are and how blind some folks are to the horror and tragedy that occur behind those doors.

Frequently in my prayers in front of that center I pray for a result similar to what occurred in Acts 9 where Saul’s blind eyes were given sight and scales fell from his eyes and he could see again. His course was immediately changed — he was baptized, renamed, and became one of the biggest evangelists the world has seen. I pray that for any of us who may have blind spots. And I pray that for those in the orange vests.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net