Friday, April 26, 2024

Road Trips are Always a Lot of Fun

We didn’t think this trip was going to be that much fun last week when we headed toward Nebraska. We started off at 3:00 a.m., thinking we’d get to Omaha early in the evening. With car trouble from our rental car, it took us nine hours to get out of Ohio, when it usually takes three. We got to the hotel at 10:30 in the evening. A long first day.


Things definitely got better. We spent a great weekend with Rebecca and Steve. A lot of friendly sparring between those two. Steve wanted to tell Rebecca the proper way of cutting onions, different from how she was doing. She turned around and started reminding him who was in charge.


Steve showed his love for Rebecca though when we taught him how to play spades. Rebecca bid nil. Those of you who know spades will know that meant Rebecca did not want to take any tricks that round. Unfortunately, I played a low spade, and the only spade Rebecca had was higher than mine. She was not happy with me.


After a minute, Steve said, “I don’t ever want to hear anything from you again,” and he played an ace of spades.


The next day we taught my mom how to play spades. Murray won, of course—I never expect to beat him—but I was proud that Mom won second place.


What was Ping-Hwei’s favorite part of the trip? We went with Steve and Rebecca to have lunch at Olive Garden. Ping-Hwei dropped his phone through a crack between the seat of the bench and the frame.


Rebecca tried crawling under the table, but couldn’t get it out. Our server tried, then went and brought two more people to help. Finally the manager said, “I’m a big guy, so give me room.” He crawled under the table and figured out just how to lift the bench to get it out. A few minutes later, the server came back, looked at Ping-Hwei and said, “You let him sit there again?”

For the rest of the trip, Ping-Hwei kept asking us to tell people that story.


Besides spades, we had a good visit with Mom. While we were eating lunch in the activity room, maybe the loudest fire alarm I’ve ever heard went off. A nurse came in and told us it was a drill they did once a year, and they had to do 100 percent evacuation. As we stood outside, Mom told me that I could add this to our adventure, that we had to go outside for a fire drill and stand in the rain.


While Mom and I waited for Murray and Ping-Hwei to go buy lunch, Murray called me and said, “Your Big Dummy is here.” That’s Ping-Hwei’s nickname for my brother Rodney, and they’d run into him in the grocery store. Always such a joy to see my mom and Rodney.


One evening we stopped by Murray’s brother Myles’s house to have dessert with his family. They have chickens.


This winter, one of their young roosters was frostbitten, and his foot fell off. They have him in a cage on the sun porch while he heals. He was so excited we were there visiting and greeted us again and again. I asked Myles, “Does he wake you early in the morning?” He said, “Oh yeah.”


On our trip home, we stopped to have breakfast with Murray’s aunt Vangie. She’ll be 90 in a week or so, lives alone in the same house her husband built for them in 1960, and she still drives.


Murray asked how her husband knew how to build a house, and she said, “He was really smart.”


We took bagels and cream cheese for breakfast, and she also made a cheesecake. We said we’d never had cheesecake for breakfast before, but we were willing.


As we drove through Indiana on the way home, Ping-Hwei saw a White Castle along the road, so he bought us lunch. Especially nice, since we don’t have a White Castle nearby anymore.


Murray and I listened to a Jeffery Deaver book and started a new one by John Grisham. I read 12 chapters of 1 Samuel for us in the car. Rebecca helped me make a cheeseball from Mom’s recipe for Mom’s birthday. It was a fun road trip. 

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Hope For Hypocrites

Our church is studying hard questions friends may ask about the church and our faith. This week we talked about how people say they don’t want to go to church because there are so many hypocrites there. The first thing I thought was, yes, there are hypocrites in the church. I am one.


Josh, the teacher who spoke this week, reached out to people who have had trouble from someone in the church in their lives, and to veterans in the church, those who need to make sure we are showing people the truth of Jesus.


Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


These are some of my favorite verses, and I believe they can help both people who have been harmed by hypocrisy in the church, as well as veterans in the church, those of us Christians who know we are not perfect.


Matthew 23:13,15: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”


Josh said that it is not okay with Jesus when people in the church keep others from getting close to him. It hurts Jesus. It makes him mad.


Christians are often accused of judging others’ actions, while not being truthful to god’s ways themselves. I know I do this, but that is not what Jesus wants to do. He loves you and calls you to let him walk beside you and help. Matthew 11:28-30.


For those of us who are long-time Christians who are caught by sin, Josh said it may not be because we are evil people. We love God and want to obey him. But, for many reasons in our lives, we are hungry. There’s something we need that we can’t find, and Jesus wants to fill that need in us. He loves us. He offers to help us from the inside out. Jesus saves us, but our walk with him is a process. He offers to walk with us on a daily basis, giving us what we seek hungrily, changing us from the inside out.


Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.


This does not happen the moment we become Christians. It is a process. Jesus loves us and wants to help us. As we are healed, we can more easily help others to be healed. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

Grace and Truth: John 18:15-27: My Heart Breaks for Peter; Jesus speaks up for Himself

Peter was confident he would not deny Jesus, but Jesus knew he would.


Verse 17: “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

He replied, “I am not.”

Verses 25-27: Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”

He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.


Matthew tells us of Peter’s terrible regret.


Matthew 26: 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.


Peter was confident, opinionated, and forceful in the way he spoke to Jesus. But he also recognized his errors and repented with heartfelt humility and sorrow.


Jesus spoke up for himself when questioned by the high priest.


John 18:19-23: Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”


Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, and called us to be meek. Later, Jesus would not defend himself before Pilate, and he allowed himself to be beaten and put to death. But here, he took an opportunity to speak up for himself and point out the wrong they did to him.


More than once, the apostle Paul stood up for himself when he was treated wrongly.


Father, give me the wisdom to know when it’s right for me to oppose someone who wrongs me, and when it’s best to keep silent. 

Friday, April 5, 2024

A Lady I Look Forward to Meeting

I shared this post on author Emily Conrad’s blog back in April 2019. Learn more about Emily at


The woman at the well from John chapter 4. I don’t just want to meet this lady. I want to sit down and have a conversation with her.

According to verse 39, she convinced many in the town to come out and meet Jesus. How did she do that? What made her want to?

I’ve heard lessons on this passage many times. Did she come to the well when no one else was around? Was her reputation that bad?

She seemed to come up with a question or an argument for everything Jesus said. Was that to avoid talking about her own sin?

She was a talkative lady. Jesus asked if she’d give him a drink of water.

Verses 9-11: So the Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you – a Jew – ask me, a Samaritan woman, for water to drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said to him, “you have no bucket and the well is deep; where then do you get this living water? (NET)

When Jesus offered her living water, she wanted to know how he’d get it, since he had nothing to draw water out with. She challenged him, asking if he thought he was greater than their father Jacob.

But she was willing to play his game. If he could give her enough water so she’d never have to come back to the well, she was willing.

Then Jesus started to dig deep into the woman’s own life.

Verses 16-18: He said to her, “Go call your husband and come back here.” The woman replied, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “Right you are when you said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the man you are living with now is not your husband. This you said truthfully!”(NET)

No, she didn’t want to talk about that. She turned it into a theological discussion.

Verses 19-20: The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you people say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” (NET)

Verses 25-26: The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (the one called Christ); “whenever he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I, the one speaking to you, am he.” (NET)

One thing I’ve heard taught about this woman sticks sharpest in my mind. She left her water jar and went back to town. The reason she’d come out in the first place. Something changed her.

We know Jesus was tired. But something he did, something in the way he related to this woman gave her a new purpose.

Was it a kindness like she’d never seen before? Did she recognize that here was someone who cared for her more than she ever dreamed possible?

When Jesus told her he was the Messiah, she believed him, and she wanted to bring everyone she knew to meet him.

Father, open my eyes wider. Help me understand your love so much more clearly, and grasp it so close, that I forget about whatever else I want to do and run to share it with everyone I can.