Thursday, March 29, 2007


We went in Menards this past weekend.

Menards is one of my favorite stores. It is full of so many interesting things.

There’s lights and decorative fixtures on display. Near the entrance a bank of ceiling fans spin near a rack of radios and flashlights. There’s showers and toilets, sinks and windows all on display.

Tools. There are aisles and aisles of tools. You can find saws, drills, drivers and hammers of every kind.

You want flooring? There’s carpet (indoor and outdoor), laminate, tile, linoleum (rolls and peel & stick squares) and hardwood.

There’s the section with the windows and doors all on functioning display. You can open a door to another door to another door. You can lift a brand new window for a great view of the appliance section.

The appliance section!

Counter top ranges, double stacked wall ovens, side-by-side refrigerators, freezer on bottom refrigerators, dishwashers, front loading washing machines and dryers all on display for the eager consumer.

Don’t get me started on the paint section.

Thousands of swatches producing seemingly endless color possibilities.

There is a touch screen in the paint section that could entertain for hours. You choose a photograph from several in their archives of a room in a house. You can then touch the screen on a color palette and the computer will “repaint” the room in the color of your choice to give you an idea of what the pain would look like on a wall.

Menards is a wonderful way to spend an evening.

One thing that has always amazed me, every time I go to Menards, is the potential that is sitting on their shelves.

Inside that simple home improvement superstore are entire homes just waiting to be built. Every nail and two by four, every inch of carpet and tile, every piece of drywall and every shingle necessary to build a dream house is actually under their roof and on their shelves.

All the material you would need, and all the tools to build it, are in the store. Not just in theory. It’s not as if it can be ordered and you could pick it up there. It’s all actually there! Every time you walk through Menards sliding glass doors every ounce of paint and pound of screws is in the store.

Furthermore, once the house was built, they carry the furnishings, appliances and decorations to finish it off with practicality and style.

It’s all there just waiting for someone to purchase it and someone to build it.

A visit to Menards is an encounter with amazing potential.

I can think of a few other encounters that carry potential.

Every time I am privileged enough to stand in front of a group of young people I get the same feeling I get when I walk in Menards. I see raw potential.

When I walk into church I feel the same way. There is raw potential.

Everything is there. Anything is possible.

Not just in theory. It’s actually there.

Every ounce of peace and pound of joy is waiting for someone to get it and take it home.


Thursday, March 22, 2007


My father in law told me a terrific story from his teenage years.

He and his brother decided one evening to steal a police car.

The police car was in an auto repair garage over night. They broke into the garage and took off on a joyride in the squad car.

They were outside of town when they happened upon, of all things, a terrible car wreck. This was in the 60’s, long before cell phones. The people involved in the wreck saw a police car coming down the road and started waving at them to stop and help.

My father in law and his brother stopped but had to quickly admit they were neither one a police officer and could offer them little to no assistance. They drove them to a nearby farm house, called the real police and then swiftly returned the car to the garage where they found it.

They were never caught.

Can you imagine the disappointment of the people involved in the wreck when their heroes turned out to be two teenaged boys out for a joy ride in a stolen squad car?

They were rescued! It’s the cops!

Not Quite.

The police have a primary function of enforcing the law and protecting law-abiding citizens. Yet they have a perceived secondary function that is equally important.

The public expects police officers to be more than enforcers of the law. We expect them to be heroes.

They, as was vividly displayed on September 11th, 2001, are expected to run in when everyone else is running out. They are expected to be heroes.

It must have been a terrible disappointment to those in the accident for their rescuers to be nothing but frauds. They were teenaged boys who appeared to be one thing but were in fact nothing of the sort.

They had the form but not the function to follow.

The outcome of my father in law’s story was amusing.

If the world finds the church to be less than the heroes we ought to be it would be tragic. If my children find me to be less than the hero I ought to be it would be tragic.

The next time the cops come down the road I hope it’s the real ones!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

When You Lay Down With Dogs...

On Tuesday, March 13, 2007 a Siberian tiger at a private zoo in Montenegro bit off an arm of a woman who tried to feed the animal.

Slavka Sekulovic, 58, had put her arm into the cage with two Siberian tigers when one of them grabbed it and bit it off, said doctor Zoran Srzentic who admitted the woman at a nearby hospital.
Srzentic said that Sekulovic's life is not in danger, though she remained in shock after losing a lot of blood.

"The tiger just wouldn't let it go," he added.

The owner, Stojan Sekulovic, has claimed the tigers were a present for his private zoo (
Fox News).


Who sticks their arm in a tiger’s cage? Doesn’t common sense tell a person that if you put a part of your body near the hungry mouth of a vicious animal he’ll most likely bite it off?

While I can feel some sympathy for the certain pain and trauma this woman endured I also feel bewildered at why she would stick her arm in harm’s way.

It’s easy for us to point out and mock her obvious malfunctioning logic yet how often do we do things that, when given thought, will place us in similar peril.

How often do we make decisions that affect our family, faith or finances in ways we never considered would come to pass. We find ourselves in situations and wonder “how did this happen” when the answer is obvious.

You stuck your arm near the tiger’s mouth!

There’s an old saying that says, “When you lay down with dogs you get up with fleas.”

What it means is that you’re going to get exactly what you put yourself in position to receive.

Spend all your money and you’ll be broke. Eat whatever you want and you’ll be unhealthy. Say whatever you want to say and you’ll have fewer friends. Put your arm in a tigers cage and your hand gets bit off!

The reason is simple.

When you lay down with dogs…

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Man And The Machine

I have a confession to make.

I wash the dishes.

I wash the dishes but I don’t trust myself. I find it difficult to eat using tableware that has been handwashed. I just don’t think it gets clean enough.

We use the same water and the same washcloth to wash a dozen different dishes and silverware. How clean can stuff really get?

I find it a whole lot easier to trust a dishwasher. The machine can’t feel or see where the grime is yet I trust it to clean my dishes better and with more efficiency than I ever could.

I don’t know why I trust the machine over myself. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the eighties and nineties where machines were believed to be the future of everything and quickly replaced people in various functions.

Nevertheless, I find it easier to trust a machine that cannot think, see or feel to do something that logically I could do just as well, if not with more efficiency. In fact it seems almost discerning and enlightened to trust a cold, lifeless system than a warm blooded person.

Afterall, that’s what the machine was built for. That’s what it does. Surely the machine can out clean me any day.

Or can it?

Could it be that I trust the machine because it is easy and fashionable to do so?

Could it be that my old-fashioned effort to clean a saucer is actually more efficient and better at getting that saucer clean than a dishwasher could ever hope to be?

Could it be that we trust science over faith because it seems to be discerning and insightful when actually the life of faith better serves a soul than science could ever hope to do?

We trust everything in this world. We trust what we read in the news. We trust our computer and the internet. We trust our bank and our mechanic. We trust our doctor and our pharmacist. We trust science, math and the numbers.

Yet we have such a difficult time trusting God.

Why do we trust the machine and not the man?

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Neglecting The Familiar

I won. I’ve finally won something on e-bay.

I won a cd for $1.49.

The cd was released in 1991. It was around the time that cd players became more affordable and more artists released their music on cd’s.

Digital audio was still a relatively new technology and so production companies often printed instructions for how to care for the cd on the cd case insert.

I was amazed at the instructions that were given.

Always hold the cd by the edges. When not in the cd payer always return the cd to its case. If a fingerprint should get on the underside of the disc only wipe it off with a soft, dust/lint free cloth and always wipe in a straight line away from the center of the disc.

The instructions for care were followed by the promise, “If you care for your compact disc in this manner it should provide you with a lifetime of listening pleasure.”

As I read those instructions I mentally balanced them with the way an average person actually handles a cd.

I’ve got about three just laying loose in the floor of my car right now!

When we’re not using them for a coaster we throw them around, pile them on top of each other (not in their cases) and wipe the pizza sauce off the underside with the back of our shirt (well, at least I do).

As our familiarity grows our care lessens.

This seems to be true of most things.

Consider the first year of marriage versus the 10th. If she gets a cold in the 1st year you’re rushing to the emergency room. If she gets a cold in the 10th year you’re buying a box of Kleenex so she doesn’t get anything in the casserole.

When I bought my first new car I babied it. No fast food. Wipe your feet. Routine maintenance, wash and wax. No driving fast or hitting bumps. Park at the back of the parking lot so some junker won’t scratch the paint.

After about 3 months that all starts to fade.

Before 1 year is up there’s fries under the floormats, pop stains in the cup holder and cd’s lodged in the seats.

When I first got my laptop I kept a lint free cloth between the keyboard and screen whenever I closed it. I always set it on a laptop fan base to keep the internal hardware cool and prevent damage.

Not anymore.

As our familiarity grows our care and attention lessens.

We become so familiar with things that we cease to genuinely care for them and appreciate their value. We take them for granted and neglect the care they properly deserve.

I sure hope this hasn’t also become true of my walk with God.