Christmas Prevents Drowning-3rd Sunday of Advent

When my brother and I were growing up, we often went at each other.

We competed in anything we could come up with or we’d just poke one another.

I, being the younger brother, would poke my brother Tom because, well, he was the older brother. It was my job.

One day Tom and I were playing in a hotel swimming pool. My parents were at some conference, so the two of us needed to entertain ourselves at the pool. We had the whole thing to ourselves!

We were making up games as we went along, throwing things into the deep end and seeing who could get them faster or just trying to dunk each other.

We had been playing a long time and I was getting tired but didn’t want to quit.

I decided I should irritate Tom so I did something in the shallow wend to get him to chase me. As I started to get away from him, I ducked under the rope separating the shallow end from the deep end.

Right at the rope line the bottom of the pool took a huge descent to make the water deeper. Right when I got to that spot, I started to sink.

I knew how to swim, but I had become so tired I couldn’t keep my head above water.

I started to panic because all the effort I was giving to get back to the surface wasn’t working. As I flailed under the water, I looked up at the surface of the water and was scared…really scared.

I was going to drown.

In that very moment, I felt a hand violently grab my arm and start to pull me back under the rope to the shallow end.

I got my feet back on the shallow end floor, pushed up, got above the water and breathed a huge breath…and coughed up some water, but I breathed air.

That hand? It was my brother Tom. He saw me start to become helpless in the water and decided he should probably save me or have something to explain to Mom and Dad later.

I looked at him with a mix of fear and tears in my eyes.

He looked at me in all his compassion and said, “You ok?”

I, of course in all my humility, said, “Ya, thanks.”

That was a lot for us to communicate so deeply back then. Then Tom said, “Let’s get out of here and go back to the room.” This is code for “I don’t want to spend the rest of my time saving my little brother in the pool.”

Tom saw me in trouble and on the verge of drowning and said “I gotta do something.”

Isn’t that the message of Christmas?

We were drowning in our own sin and no chance to save ourselves and then God by His own choosing and grace, began a plan to save us by sending Jesus at Christmas to be born, live, die, and rise again!

It’s like He’s reaching in, grabbing us, and pulling us above water so we can breathe again!

When I sing “O Holy Night,” I am always reminded of my love for the air of forgiveness in these lyrics:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious dawn!

That’s why Christmas is more than just a holiday about a sweet baby in beautiful straw. The passion is way deeper.

We drown without Christmas. We have our head and heart above water because of it!

Glory to God in highest and on earth!!!

God is good all the time!

Peder

Choosing to Lead

My parents are heroes in my life. I lost both of them at younger ages but I am grateful for the time I had with them and the impact they’ve had both on my life and the lives of others.

Over the years, I’ve met so many people who knew my parents and were affected by them in some way. Strangers come up and tell me stories of my parents loving service, strength to hold fast, and their effort to do everything with excellence and 100 percent heart.

I have even had people come to me and tell me how they disagreed with my folks in some way and how even then they felt like my folks were their friends.

My parents were willing to make hard, unpopular decisions. Not because they wanted to but because it was best and right in the sight of God’s goodness. Their heart was to put up the good fight for those who couldn’t help themselves like those in poverty or foster care, refugees, or hurting friends who needed an advocate.

My parents didn’t just take on a cause to take on the cause. They truly stood with resolve behind what they believed in.

When they were alive, I never understood how powerful the commitment to stand for what you believe in would have a lasting impact.

Allan and Sylvia Eide

I just remember them talking late into the night about the struggle of feeling like an island with no emotion left to offer because of untrue rumors, getting excluded in community circles, and even having hurtful things being said to their face because others didn’t agree with what they were doing.

Understand my folks were not perfect or rebels. Far from it. They just stood firm with hard decisions because of Christ because it was right and what is the point of something that is good if you don’t fight for it.

Remembering these characteristics of my parents is extra precious because there have been many times I have felt like I’ve been in some similar situations.

I’ve had to make some hard decisions regarding leadership positions I’ve been entrusted to. Like my folks I tried to make nothing in haste, sought a lot of counsel, and prayed through it extensively. I feel good about my decisions.

Yet every decision still involves trust and usually affects other lives.

I have tried to my best ability to be loving without vacillating on the choices that seem to be the best.

The hardest part is probably hearing information that is going around that isn’t accurate and knowing that people are responding negatively without having all the pieces to the puzzle in any of those situations.

It’s hard to resist the temptations of trying to control the info or attacking with self-righteousness to bring justice where I think it’s needed. Those never produce good fruit.

I am blessed with friends, colleagues, coministers who stand with me and are for me. Still sometimes you can feel pretty alone. It’s part of leadership and being committed to what you believe.

Maybe that’s one the reasons why the Bible talks about trusting in the Lord with all of your heart and leaning not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

It’s interesting that God talks about the heart in this verse when it’s the mind and all the “possible scenarios” of what people are saying or doing that fuels fear and hurt.

Is it because whatever a person speaks usually reflects what’s in their heart?

Is it because the heart is often the metaphor of where Christ lives?

Is it because the heart is how we describe our passions, our loves, and dreams, and God wants us to give all of that to Him daily?

Maybe yes to all three.

To be very open with you: those times are really hard and that’s ok.

When I’m in it, I don’t know who will like me and who won’t in the end. I might learn that I need to do things differently. I’m totally fine with that as long as integrity is kept.

I always want to see God’s Kingdom come and all involved see how much God adores them and loves them in this.

I also do not want to live in my wounds or fear and lean on my own understanding. I’ve always hoped that one day my children will hear from others about how their dad helped them or made a difference so they can be encouraged to fight the good fight.

Here is my take away…

I can’t lead and make choices and measure them solely on peoples agreeing with it.

I can’t make every one happy. Sounds cliché but it’s a reality.

I must, as best I can, try to stay keep a clear conscience before the Lord.

I must remember I may never get to see the fruit of my labor and that’s ok…

Why?

Because the second part of Proverbs 3:5-6 says “acknowledge the Lord in all of your ways and He will make your path straight”

I really want the straight path. I believe that’s what my parents were trying to show me.

God is good all the time.

Peder

My Dad-A Father’s Day Thought

I was a momma’s boy growing up. I was pretty spoiled by my mom and everyone knew it. There were many reasons why, too many to go into here but the point is… I was spoiled by my mom and I was just fine with it.

I loved my dad. I respected him and was a bit in awe of him as a kid. He was a tremendous worker and man of accomplishment and community service. My dad served 35 years in the military including WW II and all of this was done with only a high school education. He attained the rank of full Colonel in the Air National Guard and worked for the Governor of Minnesota all while still farming on the evenings and weekends. He did all this to provide for his wife and four children on a farm just outside of Fargo, ND.

Father’s Day is so much about remembering for me. My memories of my dad are many and quite a variety. I remember things like:

– him leaving each morning at around 6:00 am with a coffee and an egg sandwich for his 40-mile drive to the Air Base in Fargo to go to work.

– getting to ride on the side of the tractor next to him as he worked a field and begging him to let me drive while we plowed the ground. He let me drive with a correcting hand ready to grab the wheel when I got off track.

– having me sit on his shoulders as I watched the Blue Angels at the Air Show at the base because I was too short see over every one else.

– playing chess in the dining room with him at night after baths and always wondering if I really did win or if he let me win while he smoked his pipe.

– his shopping with me for earrings for my mom at Christmas, and how he constantly guided me away from the real diamonds to some earring shaped like a fish.

– letting me help him hook up the camper to the car to go fishing in Canada every summer and the patience he showed as I always thought I got a bite from a fish every other second.

– standing in the cold and rain to watch me play football in high school and never complained about being there in the worst weather.

– waiting up for me if I was out late with friends to make sure I was ok (a well-deserved lecture also came if I was later than agreed upon)

– sitting with a program in the audience for every choir and band concert, musical, etc. I was ever in.

– taking me duck hunting before morning light and reminding me that shouting “here comes one!” doesn’t help the duck get closer.

– walking behind him as he walked behind the casket of his wife taken too soon in their life together, so broken and vulnerable and scared. I had never seen him like that.

– standing next to him dressed in tuxedos for a picture on the day I would marry the woman he would call a girl who is “strong” and “carries herself well.” He was right :)

There is a lot more that I would selfishly like to tell you but I want to show a favorite picture I have in my house. It’s a picture that was taken after my dad had returned from leading an Air Guard Competition Team winning a trophy called the William Tell Trophy. Mom had made the outfit I’m wearing because Mom thought we should look good when our father, who is an officer, returns home from a successful military trip. For me, the focus of this picture is what he is doing and what I am doing…

WT_1972_Boy-300dp

I’m looking up at him, and he is smiling at me.

Isn’t that how God looks at us?

That’s what I want to remember more than anything.

That’s what I want my kids to remember about me.

I need to do so much better than I have been. I have made some good memories but I need to grasp the truth that it’s not too late make more. I’m still here. I’m still a dad. I’m not done yet. I can still make some pretty cool memories not just for my kids but my wife, my friends, and my neighbors.

My dad died on August 3rd, 1994. He was not perfect but I don’t care. That’s not what counts. What counts is……

I know I had his blessing.

I know I had his love even if rarely said.

I know he was pleased with me even though I almost burned the house down… (another story for another time :))

I pray my children know the same from me. I can still show them. I can do better. Maybe even capture it in a picture.

God is good all the time

Peder

Independence Day

photo credit: sunsurfr via photo pin cc

I can’t believe it’s July already. I love summer in Minnesota, and July marks the middle of the warm weather to me. It’s baseball, fishing, swimming, camps, MLB All Star break, really green golf courses, fireworks, and, of course, Independence Day.

July 4th carries so many memories for me. Growing up on the farm near Hitterdal, MN, we would spend the day mowing the lawn, hand washing all the vehicles, blowing things up with fireworks, and then we would travel to Detroit Lakes, MN, for a picnic, swimming, watching fireworks with the family on the beach, and then falling asleep in the back of station wagon as Dad drove us back to the farm.

I loved those times. My dad and mom did so much to make it fun and yet didn’t say yes to everything we wanted. They would try to be economical and pack as much food and drink so we wouldn’t buy anything we didn’t need. They provided all the blankets, sunscreen, sand castle making equipment, water, coffee thermos (for Dad), mosquito spray, and sweatshirts for the evening show. We were free to enjoy the day with no needs to be worried about. Freedom feels good.

That’s what Independence Day is about right?  It’s about the Founding Father’s declaring they no longer subject themselves to the tyranny of the King and England itself. Even after the declaring independence, the cost to achieve that freedom would not be measurable until it was attained. The cost of human lives sacrificed on the battlefield was not projectable. The attitude was “whatever it takes to get it done.”

It got done, and this freedom has been challenged, defended, protected, and preserved with many more lives “no matter what it takes.”  Freedom is just that important and worth it.

It’s a freedom that doesn’t allow us to do whatever we want but a freedom that says we can pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

Look, my friends, I want to point you in a direction to remember the most important freedom you have. That’s the freedom from the bondage of sin that God gave us through the death AND resurrection of His Son Jesus. That Independence Day is eternal. It’s not just heaven and eternal life but it’s also freedom to pursue the Father God’s love, presence, will, grace, and not have to be afraid. No worries. It’s all been provided for you to approach your Abba Father God.

In John 14:6 Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  Jesus took care of all your needs so you can have the freedom and independence to come into the presence of God and have no fear. The cost and sacrifice was great. In Jesus, your freedom from death has been challenged, defended, protected, and preserved. He did whatever it would take because you are worth it to Him.

No more tyranny of sin and condemnation.

Thank Jesus even as you read this for your freedom and celebrate Him. Sing. Dance. Fireworks.

God is good all the time!

Peder