garbage men


For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3:8


One of the things that I am grateful for in this world is garbage collection. Living in a suburban neighborhood as we do, there isn’t much we can do with our garbage except pay to have it picked up. One of our neighbors burns his—or most of it—and it stinks to high heaven when he does! I compost what I can for use in the garden, and we recycle as much as possible, but we can’t get away from the fact that we just can’t deal with the rest ourselves. Thank goodness someone is willing to remove it!


On the fun and interactive educational website,, I learned that the average American throws away about 4.4 pounds of trash each day. Why does this matter? Well, in 1973, a couple of students at the University of Arizona coined the name “garbology” for a class project, and the idea is now an academic discipline. In other words, you can go to college and major in “the nature and changing patterns in modern refuse, and thereby, human society” (source: These “modern day archaeologists” can tell a whole lot about people by the things they choose to discard. The concept of studying what we regularly throw away has led to public service campaigns, “creative repurposing” of items, and a general awareness of how not to be quite so wasteful.


God has been studying “garbology” since he created the earth. Adam and Eve made quick work of getting rid of that apple core, and God dealt swiftly with them on that issue. But it wasn’t the apple core itself He was concerned with; it was the “sin” of lying about it that broke God’s heart. What God wanted from the first humans He created was a completely trusting and transparent life devoted to Him. Eventually, God sent His only Son to take all of the “junk” out of our lives—emotional, spiritual, mental, and yes, physical. Psalm 103:12 says God removes our transgressions “as far as the east is from the west.” Aren’t you glad He’s is in the “garbage removal” business?


Blessed Redeemer, save us from ourselves and distill our lives down to be lives lived only for You. Amen


Jesus with CrowdsThe crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. Mark 4:1


Jesus’ ministry was no nine-to-five job with vacations, benefits and 401K’s. He was crazy-busy all the time. Early in His ministry, He began teaching the crowd of people, but the crowd grew so large, He had to get into the boat offshore. He taught them about the wonders of God’s kingdom. Towards evening, He said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side” (Mark 4:35). They all piled into the boat and started across. Soon, Jesus was sleeping, but a ferocious storm blew up. The disciples were afraid, but Jesus just told the wind to stop and it stopped.


When they landed on the other side, they encountered a demon—well, many demons in one guy. The demons were so numerous, they called themselves “Legion.” Jesus threw the demons into a herd of pigs, and all the animals jumped off a cliff (Mark 5:1-16). Then, Jesus and the boys got back into the boat and went across the lake again, the way they came. They just went across the lake to cast out one guy’s demons? The disciples were probably thinking this was not a wise use of Jesus’ time. But they didn’t have a chance to say anything because here came Jairus, a synagogue leader, begging Jesus to come heal his dying daughter. Off they go again to Jairus’ house, but a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years decided if she could touch Jesus robe, she would be cured. With the crowd pressing in on Him, Jesus suddenly realized that some of His power had been tapped. “Who touched me?” He asked. So He stopped to help this poor outcast of a woman which meant that He didn’t get to Jarius’ house in time to heal the girl. People said she was already dead, but Jesus knew better. They all went there anyway, and Jesus woke the girl up and told her parents to get busy and fix her something to eat (Mark 5:21-43).


Whew! This was all in one day! And you thought your job was stressful!


Lord, thank you for Your boundless energy in caring for us! Amen


01-airliner-airplane-cartoonWe who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. 1 Thessalonians 4:17


If you’ve traveled by air, you know that the airlines have changed. Gone are the days when flight attendants changed clothes three times during a three hour flight, served full meals to everyone, and still managed to stay unruffled throughout the journey. “Getting there is half the fun!” claimed one airline. Getting there now seems to be most of the problem!


Nowadays, airlines seem to be more concerned with the almighty dollar than the lowly passenger. Fares have skyrocketed, supposedly due to fuel costs or the need for the CEO to live an outrageous lifestyle or both. Everything costs extra: baggage, meals, snacks, and on and on. Last time I flew, safety information was no longer delivered by a live person. We now watched an amusing video—all the same information: fasten your seat belts, where the emergency exits were located, what to do “in the unlikely event.” But the airline now provided us with comic relief: a cliché of ducks sitting in a row; tiny men refusing to remain in the seats by the escape hatch because they could not open it “in the unlikely event;” and dad putting the oxygen mask on his little girl who then put a mask on her dolly. Clever, yes. Worth an inflated fare to get where we were going? Probably not.


Paul tells the Thessalonians that “the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God.” Now that’s what I call Friendly Skies! Jesus will be our Pilot, our Flight Attendant and our Savior all in one. When He comes to claim us, we won’t need a reservation or a high-priced ticket. Everything will be provided for us at no cost. We won’t need a life vest, and we certainly won’t have to worry food. A marvelous banquet awaits us where we are going. No flight delays, airsickness, stuffy cabins, fear of flying. Just Jesus accompanying us on the ride to our eternal home. Now that’s a trip to die for!


Lord of the Universe, we await the day when You return for us and we fly the friendly skies at your side. Amen


Red Squirrel

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image… and let them have dominion…over all the wild animals of the earth.” Genesis 1:26


Our property is home to many kinds of wildlife: songbirds, frogs, snakes, grey squirrels, and one cute little red squirrel that lives under our deck. I’ve never seen another red squirrel around. Why doesn’t he have any other little squirrel friends or a squirrel girlfriend? He torments our dogs and eats all my birdseed, but he’s so cute, I’ve never had the heart to chase him away.


When my husband was out of town, our dogs were restless all night long one night. When I let them out the next morning, I heard a strange noise in the living room. Imagine my surprise when I found the little red squirrel looking up at me. He was at least as surprised to see me as I was to see him, and he promptly bounded down the stairs into our basement. I scurried down right after him, not to try to catch him, but to shut the door, for heaven’s sake! I didn’t want the little rascal to come back up those stairs! It slowly dawned on me that he must have gotten in through the dog door, and been in the house all night, upsetting the dogs.


Squirrels can be very destructive when they are someplace they’d rather not be. Like inside a house. I am blessed with wonderful neighbors, and here they came, like the Ghost Busters, three grown men toting live traps, ladders, work gloves and snacks. They set traps. They searched the basement. “Are you sure you saw him inside?” they asked repeatedly. When they left, they said, “You’ll know if the squirrel gets into the live trap because he will make a ruckus.” No ruckus. No squirrel. Monday, after my husband came home, we called an exterminator who was very helpful. “Open all the windows in the basement,” he said over the phone, “and the squirrel will leave.” Duh! We opened them, the squirrel got out and the adventure was over.


God provided a solution to my squirrel problem through my neighbors and the exterminator, even if the squirrel never realized humans are supposed to have dominion over them!


Maker of All Living Things, teach us to live peacefully with all Your creatures. Amen



Peace Be Still

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

Psalm 46:10


“The more I get alone, the more I see I need to get alone more,” begin the lyrics of “Still,” a song written and recorded by Nathan and Christy Nockels. It is difficult for me to justify being still and alone in God’s presence. I’ve always considered staying busy a virtue, a value by which I have always lived. I am hard-wired to be doing something. This need to be active is why I never seem to complete anything at all! I live a life of busy-ness, with unfinished “business” keeping me stressed out. I know God wants me to slow down—He doesn’t have to draw me a picture! Why, then, why is it so hard to listen to His heeding and just be still?


Three Gospels record the Spirit driving the Lord into the wilderness to be alone after His baptism. Satan showed up, uninvited, but Jesus rebuked him. Later, Jesus got up “in the morning while it was still very dark…and went out to a deserted place to pray” (Mark 1:35), even though Simon and his companions went looking for Him (v.36). The Lord knew how important it was to get away from “the maddening crowd” and spend time with His Father, to be obedient to His calling.


When I am quiet—while I’m gardening or walking or meditating (which isn’t often enough, apparently), I can see so clearly the benefits of this practice. Silence has its own cadence, if we listen, a rhythm all its own. My heart beats, my blood pulses, and my spirit rises to meet the Lord. I notice beauty all around me, in the miniscule things I would miss if I were involved in some seemingly important life activity. God cannot sing over me when I am roaring in my own ears about some earthly concern. Even prayer can be silent; the Holy Spirit groans within me if I just admit I don’t know what to say (Romans 8:26). And perhaps this is the answer: to seek the quiet times with the Lord over all else, until even crazy times seem quiet.


Calming Lord, come to me in my quiet moments and make them grow into a lifestyle of peace. Amen


Tomatoes(Those) whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who (meditate) on his law day and night… (are) like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:2-3


This year, I ordered my tomato plants from a catalog. Because of our stubborn spring weather here in Minnesota, I was unable to plant them until late May. By then, they were beginning to get “leggy,” with long stalks below spindly little leaves. I knew just the solution: I planted the tomato’s “toes” deep into the soil, burying the stalk up to the first set of leaves. A tomato planted this way will quickly develop roots along the buried stalk, ensuring that the tomato plant will flourish and become bushy. My tomato harvest will be delicious, and I await the appearance of those bright red orbs with salt shaker in hand.


As the true Master Gardener, God knows just how each of us must be “planted” to flourish and produce for His kingdom. Like my tomatoes, some of us may be “leggy,” having somehow shot up on our own without much care from God. He knows that those of us who come to Him when our “stalks” are weak need to be buried up to our eyeballs in His Word so we can be “rooted and established in love” (Ephesians 3:16). He is faithful to those kinds of folks (of which I was one), helping us catch up on our new life as He sees us showing signs of growth.


Folks who come to Christ as babies have nurturing parents and a faith community. They are like seed that is planted, and “God gives (them) a body as he has determined” (1 Corinthians 15:38). Both the “early” and “late” bloomers are equally loved by Him as His precious children. And as the Apostle Paul says, “If we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). When God is the Gardener, we “will flourish.., bear fruit in old age.., stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:13). If we want to be strong servants of the Lord, we must “humbly accept the word planted” in us, which can save us (James 1:21).


Nurture us and grant us growth in You, O Lord. Amen


Ugandan Children's ChoirAt his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Psalm 27:6


My daughter, granddaughter and I had a chance to hear the Ugandan Children’s Choir at a Christian music festival last weekend. I was so fascinated by these children, all orphans, who were so happy and animated and talented! They sang and danced, and the boys played drums and hollowed-out logs. I had to email my friend and fellow writer, Betty Liedtke, who has started a fund to help young women in Uganda break free of the cycle of poverty and prostitution in which they are now trapped.


Betty said she had missed our festival, but that she had seen children performing in Uganda. In an article she sent me that she wrote for the Chanhassen, Minnesota, Villager paper in 2012, Betty said she and her companion were “invited to view a performance by (female) students…leaving…that afternoon to compete in the National Music Festival in Kampala.” Betty described how they were “mesmerized by the girls – by their clear, strong voices, their powerful and energetic dance moves, and the bright, engaging smiles that seemed wider than their faces.” Having just seen a similar group, I heartily agreed with Betty that these kids were already champions.


Betty’s article goes on to say that she and her companion later came upon the bus carrying these same girls. Parked at the side of the road, the bus had a flat tire which was just being fixed by the bus driver and the teachers. Betty asked if she could take a picture of the bus, and she was ushered into the bus, where each Ugandan girl posed and grinned as she snapped photos. Betty believed “their excitement about the music festival, their cheerful-by-nature personalities, and the positive attitude and upbringing they learned at school” had been the reason for the smiles, along with the fact that they remembered Betty from when she was cheering for them at their school that morning.


The Ugandan children—indeed, all the people there—show such enthusiasm when they sing about God, Betty says, that “Let us pray” often means “Let us sing.” We can learn an important lesson from the people of Uganda: the world is the Lord’s and we are all worshiping together!


Lord of the Earth, let us sing! Amen


To find out more about Betty Liedtke’s work with the Ugandan women, check out her website at


PalimpsestThough your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:18


Internal medicine physician Victoria Sweet wrote a wonderful memoir called God’s Hotel: A Doctor, A Hospital, And A Pilgrimage To The Heart Of Medicine (Riverside/Penguin Books, 2012) about her practice at Laguna Honda Hospital in California. Laguna Honda was a place for hopeless cases who could not pay for their treatment, where the doctors practiced “slow medicine,” unfettered by the constraints of “managed care.” Because of her passion for medical history, Dr. Sweet was studying Medieval Latin, specifically paleography, to learn to read the handwriting of the preprint Middle Ages. She learned about palimpsest, shadow texts that could sometimes be discerned beneath another text. Parchment was expensive and was sometimes reused. Scholars scraped the former text away and reused the parchment when they could.  I immediately thought of our modern term, “repurposing.”  Dr. Sweet had another epiphany.


“Underneath our scientific modern medicine,” Dr. Sweet wrote, “was an earlier way of understanding the body—erased, to be sure, just a faint shadow on the consciousness but active in our thoughts and desires, nonetheless.” In other words, we understand our own bodies far more than “modern medicine” gives us credit. Dr. Sweet’s experience at Laguna Honda taught her to look for the obvious and listen to the patient, instead of relying on sophisticated tests and lab results. If doctors can help patients look at their “shadow selves,” diagnosis and treatment becomes a partnership.


This caused me to think about the “partnership” we have with God. Each believer has a “shadow self,” a former life of sin that God has erased, cleaned up and thrown into the deep blue sea. But that “text” of our old lives sometimes peeks through the new life written over the old, and we feel the familiar sense of guilt, shame and remorse. At these times of self-deprecation, we must remember that God is our partner. He will come to us and remind us that the “shadow” is just that. The meaningful text of God’s wonderful scripture covers us, redeems us, and blots out all our old transgressions. Give God your “shadow self” too.


Cleanse me, Lord, and I will be clean. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7). Amen




He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness. Malachi 3:3


Kintsukuroi, is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer, making the piece beautiful once again. According to Wikipedia, the practice of kintsukuroi has been around for centuries. When an ancient ruler sent a broken bowl to China for repair, it was returned, glued together with ugly metal staples. Japanese craftsmen soon created a “more aesthetic means of repair.” Kintsukuroi became so popular, some deliberately smashed their valuable pottery and had it repaired using gold lacquer. The “philosophy” of kintsukuroi  “treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.” The pieces are more beautiful for having been broken.


How like these broken vessels we are! Born into a imperfect world, we spend out entire lives vacillating between good and evil. As children, we soak up what our parents, teachers and other caregivers model and teach us, whether it is helpful or hurtful. So many things go into shaping our personalities, from our physical abilities and attributes to our family’s economic standing to the opportunities afforded us in life. As we grow into adulthood, we throw advanced educational opportunities and job history (or the absence of) into that emotional blender, along with new relationships, marriage, children, physical and mental health or illness, and by now there are cracks everywhere! The worldly voices crying out to us offering “just what we need” may not all be legitimate or appropriate, but sometimes they shout so loud it’s hard to hear anything else. Think street drugs, promiscuous sex, get-rich-quick-schemes.


No wonder we need Jesus! He’s more than the glue that holds us all together; He’s the gold in the cracks of our lives! Belief in Christ makes the difference between using plain old school paste to patch up our problems and having the Master Craftsman bring His golden love and healing to make us all the more beautiful—and useful—for the brokenness we experience. “When He has tested me, I will come forth as gold,” said Job in the middle of his trials (Job 23:10). Let’s choose Jesus as our Sacred Artist Who repairs with gold.


Jesus, Refiner of our souls, come to us and heal our brokenness. Amen


Computer Error“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6


On a website called, I learned that “State-of-the-Art” refers to any computer I can’t afford. “Obsolete,” on the other hand, means the computer I now own. And “Microsecond” is the time it takes for a “State-of-the-Art” computer to become “Obsolete.” And I thought a keyboard was the same as the typewriters I used as a youngster. Now I learned a “Keyboard” is the standard way to generate computer errors, and a “Mouse” is an advanced input device to make computer errors easier to generate. I am totally clueless and should probably sell my computer and start using paper and pencil again! But who would buy my computer anyway, if it’s already obsolete and just generates computer errors?


I tried to think what Jesus would do, and I think Jesus is kind of like a computer Himself. Yes, this is true, and it can all be documented in Scripture. Jesus enters your life if you ask Him to. In Matthew 7:7, Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Then, He scans your problems, whatever they may be. Jesus doesn’t care what’s happened in your life before. Once you are His child, you are a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). God’s cosmic computer skills also include the ability to edit your stress away! When we begin to understand and accept that God is God and we are not, our perspective of what stresses us out changes drastically. We begin to experience “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7. Jesus preached, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25). He is faithful to download solutions to our problems if we follow Him and study His ways. Jesus deletes our worries completely and invites us to “Come to (Him), all you who are weary and burdened, and (He) will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus saves us from a lifetime of being lost in cyberspace, and welcomes us into eternal life when we are finally deleted from this earth. I like Jesus’ computer terminology!


Come Lord Jesus, be my Personal Computer! Amen