Brother to Brother/Man to Man


Saturday, December 8, 2018

Community in a Shoe Box

 Community in a Shoe Box
Theology in the Trenches
by Kathleen Kjolhaug

It sounds like a sales pitch, doesn’t it? Community in a shoebox! With a shoebox, you, too, can build community. Or, Come one, come all…it’s as easy as lifting the lid on a shoebox.

I love shoe boxes, and I love the word community. Put the two together and you have something special. As of late, I’ve noticed both. The red and green shoeboxes canvassing church parking lots or carried in little arms bring light to the season and if I do say so myself, are becoming part of the very fabric of our communities.

Gathering goods in order to ship shoeboxes filled with treasures to little children round the world brings a smile. Little hands collect and stuff those boxes full to overflowing for others within our global community, and the excitement of this endeavor can be felt in big and small towns alike.

Displays are set up while posters help paint a visual for little eyes. Many carry the boxes home in order to gather goods so others may have something special to help celebrate the birth of Christ.

Little hearts ask how the shoebox is going to fly in the air and arrive at a place across the ocean. They are amazed when the big truck at the drop off point is filled with more boxes than little ones can count. Their hearts beat faster as their eyes light up and the magic of it all is what the season of Christmas is truly about. It’s about giving. It helps embed within the next generation…that which we so desperately want them to learn. We want to help them put faith in action by loving their neighbor as themselves and this is one small step towards that as they make their way in life.

Capable are the organizers who take on these projects. Hand to hand love is spread as faith in action demonstrates an overflow of the Holy Spirit. Church to church, school to school…community is built on common ground…red and green shoeboxes stacked high.

Under the arm and in tow are not just the children but the boxes this time of year as moms and dads leave the premises from where the boxes are handed out. Never mind there is the weight of a diaper bag upon one shoulder. Never mind that the hand extending from it is connected to a child or two or three…the shoebox does not drop. It is sacred.

With excitement the children have a bounce in their step. And, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. From parking lots to church entryways…to filling trucks which make their way across the country…to centers where teens as well as the elderly volunteer to help fill…it’s just one shoebox at a time.

This is community on a global scale. I, for one, am blessed to see it unfold. What a gift. What an honor to be a part of it in any form.

Thank you to those who have been called to minister accordingly. Thank you!  Amen.

Monday, December 3, 2018

With Love, From Grandma

                                        With Love, From Grandma
Theology in the Trenches
by Kathleen Kjolhaug

Dear One,

Of what shall I write? What shall I say that you do not already know deep within?  Words often remind us that we are loved, and of this I want to remind you…that indeed you are…loved. I pray you put it on and wear love well. I pray you not only wear it well but that you, too, will be able to pass it on so that 1000 generations may rise up and call Him blessed (Deut. 7:9).

Into this world, you came, and into this world, you must go for this is your place of ministry. Life is a gift, but sometimes, it won’t always seem as though it is.

If I could take your face into my hands pressing it so that we were nose to nose…I would do so. If I could, I would hold you fast for the rest of your days here on earth. You would then be in my care, within reach, under my supervision, and by all intents and purposes, safe. Yes, you would be kept covered under the wings of my protection, and I would be able to help guard your heart, mind, and soul.

Since that is not possible, perhaps it would be easier if I’d just lay down my life for you. Yes, dying would be a sacrifice worth making for you, dear one. If I could die so you might rise to call Him blessed, I would do that. Absolutely I would give up my life if it meant that sacrificing it would help you to see more clearly how much you are not only loved but valued.

Value…now there is a word worth noting. Pressing the pause button in order to reflect upon this word would be of great value. Since we live within a world that screams anything but, you must know that you are indeed not only valued, but valuable. You see, you were created by the One who is not only able to hold you close, but He is the only one who is able to hold fast (Psalm 37:34).

It’s only when you look into His eyes, not grandma’s that you will be able to see more clearly. If I were the one holding on, I’d merely stifle your growth, but not Him. He allows you to choose this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:13). He allows you to choose joy (Psalm 65:4) …and to choose the way in which you walk. You see…He gives you freedom.

He gives you the freedom to not only love and be loved but “He who began a good work in you and will bring it to completion” (Phil. 1:6). That is a promise from someone who cannot lie because He alone is the Holy One…who was and is and is to come.

My precious one, pray close attention to the list of dos and don’ts He sent down for guidance. Know that the list wasn’t given in order to suck all the fun out of life. Rather, it is a guide that allows you to give and receive love more authentically because you will know what true love is when you live it well.

Oh, I don’t mean that if you follow the list you won’t have troubles…for He says that in this world you will have troubles (John 16:33). Sometimes we run into troubles because others have fallen short. Sometimes we run into troubles when we fall short. We don’t have much control over others but when we fall short…there is a plan for us to follow. We need only turn to Him and ask forgiveness. He, who is faithful and just will forgive our sins (1John 1:9). He died for sinners. I rest in that. The old has passed away when we ask forgiveness. That’s exactly why He died and grandma doesn’t have to….on a cross that is.

Don’t tell grandpa, but grandma isn’t perfect, and I don’t expect you will be either. I qualify for His love because He came for sinners…not the righteous (Matt. 9:13). I have lived a life that has been perfectly imperfect and that’s how I know all of this is true…cause I’ve leaned in deep...deep into the truths of His Word…His truth.

Pray. When you do, He gives sight to better see things how He sees them and not how you perceive them to be. That is called discernment and that is a cool thing. The best part of that gift is that anyone who prays for it receives it. Wisdom is another gift He promises for all who seek it (2Chron. 1:12). I’d highly recommend asking for that one too cause it’s good stuff…true stuff…forever stuff.

BE STILL and KNOW (Psalm 46:10)…that you are loved, dear one. Put it on and wear it like royalty because you are. Others may tug at your armor, so put on His armor (Eph. 6:13).

You don’t have to know everything in this world, but know there are a few things worth knowing. Know His Word. Know you are forgiven when you confess and turn to the best of your ability. Know you are loved with an everlasting love. You will then be equipped to go, therefore, and live the Gospel.

May Christ hold fast as you hold fast to Him (Heb. 3:14).

Love,   Grandma

P.S. Grandpa agrees. He read it and sealed it with his approval.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Potter Daughter

The Potter Daughter
Theology in the Trenches
by Kathleen Kjolhaug

The road wound like a ribbon through the canopied trees. To the right of the trees were the village shops, and to the right of the shops was the lake. The storefront pavement pushed up to the edge of the shop doors calling to passers-by.

I had no particular place I had to be but where I was, and so I stopped. How I happened upon the sacred turn of events was lost to me, but grateful I was. The sign which caught my eye was whimsically placed above the door and it read, “The Potter Daughter.”

Like a mouse sticking its nose out its hole, I opened the door and poked my way in. Although I’d never before entered, one just knew this was holy ground. The cement floor slanted as if ramped for accessibility yet curved down into another portion of the shop. Two connecting rooms cradled the display of pottery before me.

A cash register sat poetic like upon a wooden counter while shelving stretched from one side of the shop to the other offering respite for the pottery pieces. A third space just behind the register was accessible and there was a stir of activity within.

“Come in” said the potter as I crossed the threshold between shop and workshop. “Duck your head, there are some stairs here that are a little precarious.” Where they led I do not know. I only know that once passing beneath them, the wheel which drove her work took center stage.

Her tools were strewn about…scrappers, carving blades, clay, water, and a wheel to name a few. Within the shop, “The Potter Daughter,” the potter daughter fielded questions.

“So why did you name your shop as you did?” I asked.

“Oh, my mom and dad had three daughters. I am the only one who is a potter and thus, I am known as the potter daughter. This is my dad’s garage where he had a repair shop for many a year. He did his work right here. I loved this place. So, I turned it into my studio and shop.”

She welcomed all who entered into her world, and freely shared what knowledge she had of her trade. Oddly enough, it didn’t seem like knowledge she gave to others who came; it seemed more like love.

A woman in the back of the shop was hoping to begin her own pottery business and listened intently to a few pointers. A local was relaxing near the front table keeping an eye on the goods…enabling her to visit with her guests. In solitude he sat midmorning looking as if he was thankful to have a place to go, sipping coffee as he sat. The two seemed to know the rhythm of the work before them.

As I combed the shelves admiring her work, it was easy to see that He was ever present. The fruit of the Spirit was around each bowl which lipped the words, “love, patience, kindness, goodness, humility…”

What the potter called a wine goblet took on chalice form and in a nearby basket Bible verses were etched for Confirmation.

Perhaps there’s a little bit of a “Potter Daughter” in us all. Or better yet, The Potter’s Daughter/The Potter’s Son.

Jeremiah 18:1-5 brings it home. “Jeremiah, go down to the potter’s house. I will give you my message there. So I went down to the potter’s house and saw him working with clay at the wheel. He was making a pot from clay. But there was something wrong with the pot. So the potter used that clay to make another pot. With his hands he shaped the pot the way he wanted it to be. Then this message from the Lord came to me: ‘Family of Israel, you know that I can do the same thing with you. You are like the clay in the potter’s hand, and I am the potter.’”

May we be open to being made and remade as the Potter sees fit.  Amen.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

What's Right About This World

What’s Right About This World
Theology in the Trenches
by Kathleen Kjolhaug

Perspective is always good…especially when trying to find out what’s right about any given situation. A familiar tune I remembered as I came to the table to write. Perhaps you, too, know it.

“Though the wrong seems oft so strong…God is the Ruler yet.” These lyrics were written back in the day by a pastor from Lockport, New York. He enjoyed hikes up to higher points-of-view where he could look upon farms, orchards, and Lake Ontario extending outwards some fifteen miles.

Pastor Babcock, before beginning his walks would say, “I’m going out to see my Father’s world.”

The lyrics are sacred. Into the deep crevices, they fall filling gaps that yearn generationally to make sense of a world that oft seems unrecognizable. Being able to see for miles in any given direction creates a panoramic view. To see things from that vantage point is always breathtaking as into focus the big picture emerges rather than the small clutter blocking one’s view.

“This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears…” Pastor Babcock continues.

Listening, now that’s something that takes on many forms. “Be Thou My Vision Lord, Be Thou My Guide” rings true from yet another prayerful perspective. Wisdom begets wisdom and the passing on of it is a mighty thing. You see, familiar threads weave patterns deep within strengthening the very fabric on which the foundation of the world began. The familiar helps us find our way and listening is a part of that process.

So how does one become keenly intimate with the process of seeing and listening as if it was one in the same? Is it possible?

“Listen with the ear of your heart,” is what Benedict wrote when introducing his rule. His rule was not something made up of regulations to follow; rather, it was penned to help many find a way to live out the Gospel at a time when society around him looked anything but Christ-like. The “rule” was not a list of to-dos; rather, it helped offer stability, obedience, and a way of life in which to live the Gospel (Laureen Virnig, OSB).

When I listen with the ear of my heart, as Benedict suggests, it is like pressing pause. Many times in our lives we recognize the need to pause. It beckons. It calls. As I listen, I am better able to see more clearly that which is before me, in me, and He who is moving through me.

Prayerful listening calls us to contemplate. Contemplation satisfies a longing for that which the soul yearns. To be set apart is one thing, but to set oneself aside is quite another. To set aside one’s self is an act of intentionality. It’s a plan of action we are all capable of, whether it be out in the wilderness, in the car driving from point A to point B, or be it a walk between the kitchen sink and the toy room. If we are intentional, those moments are and can be sacred.

Often times, hearing His still small voice above the overtures around us may appear to be a daunting task. It is not. To be able to set yourself aside is merely a mindful act.

We hear much about mindfulness these days. Mindfulness may bring about an inner quiet, but His mind is what truly transforms. Putting on the mind of Christ to be Thou our vision can only happen when we listen. When we listen, we not only are able to see more clearly but we remember that He is our Ruler yet. This not only brings comfort but a spurring on, if you will, to pass it on.

In the stillness, I am better able to listen with my eyes. What He has shown me has moved me. As He becomes our vision, may we be able to listen with the ear of our heart in order to see more clearly.

Remnants of the recognizable I saw while listening with my eyes:

v  Daddy gripping hand of little girl as she skips across parking lot to school.
v  Child discovering the delight of mixing paint colors for the very first time.
v  Wounded warriors sharing journeys so others who go through the dark night of the soul will be able to recognize more clearly Light piercing the darkness.
v  Grown girls hugging their mama communicating love of understanding…no words needed.
v  Retired teacher saying yes…she will sub one more day…giving of herself…thank you Gwenn.
v  Young men gathering to pull out a dock too heavy to bear for the elderly owner.
v  Just a simple note communicating “Thank You” for walking upon this earth.
v  Pastor Babcock writing lyrics for all to hear His holy name some 100 years later.

We remember once again what the songwriter wrote, “O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong God is the Ruler yet.”

Psalm 50:12 backs him up. “The world is Mine, and all that is in it.”

Praise His Holy name.  Amen.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Little Country Church Time...In the Quiet of the Night Time

Little Country Church Time…In the Quiet of the Night Time…
Theology in the Trenches
by Kathleen Kjolhaug

I go to a little country church located at the edge of town. How it landed there, poetically placed near an open field, I haven’t a clue. I only know that we attend. The structure is solid, the teaching is solid, and the people within…well…they are sinners saved by grace…every last one of em.

There’s no pretending cause we’re much too small a group to not notice the imperfections of one another. At the same time, we’re much too small a group to not notice the forgiveness of those imperfections. As we literally bump into one another coming and going, we choose to love just as we are…cause we come just as we are.

There are no choirs of angels gathered round to make music, but we have a piano player with fingers that find their way around those keys like none I’ve ever seen. The volunteer organists are willing to make their way around the ivory tower which stands across from the piano making sounds that could mimic those choirs.

Our pastor stands on the solid rock while leading forth his imperfect sheep that need sheering more oft than not. He’s patient with us. We are patient with him. It works both ways as small congregational pastors wear way too many hats. Perfection can’t be paraded through as one would go bonkers cause there’s not enough time to perfect much…except His word expounded weekly. That seems to roll out onto the red carpet as the Spirit moves…getting us back on track.

I suppose I share this…not to brag…not to gather sheep from other pastures...rather, to let you know that you are not alone. You are not alone cause I see far and wide the countryside dotted with little white churches. Oh, some of them have made their move to larger lots to pool their people who are no longer countryside. They had to. People move and needs change.

Somehow though, those little country churches were the anchoring pins of our nation. The goal long ago was simple, to honor the Lord with all their hearts, minds and souls. The goal was and still is to love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s hard to do this unless there is a shepherd to herd us back into the fold, and the shepherd can’t do that without a little church in which to gather...His flock.

No…we don’t have fancy choirs, or room for modern music set up, or people to fill all of the roles needed, or even enough ministry teams to help fill cups to overflowing.

But, what we do have, are praying people. Yup, praying people is what we have within the likes of our little white country church, and I bet you have them in yours.

Let me tell you a story. To a city far away…I traveled. Late one evening it was, and a friend from our little country church was in the big city too. We met up. We shared our hearts.
When dropping her off, out the door she did hop. Suddenly, she turned only to hop back in. Into my vehicle, she came once again, took my hand and said, “Let’s pray.”

In the driveway, we sat. In the dark of night, in a big city far away from our little country church, we prayed. And, that…is big church. With the angels and saints, we were…in the dark of night, living the Gospel that had been planted within from a little country church at the edge of town.

And, my guess is, you, too, gather as one just like we did…living the Gospel rooted from a little country church somewhere in your past…which dots this nation.

To God be the glory great things He has done and continues to do…both now and forever…Amen. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Down Will Come Baby, Cradle and All...

Down Will Come Baby, Cradle and All
Theology in the Trenches
by Kathleen Kjolhaug

Well, there certainly was no cradle in the tree when the winds blew. There was, however, a raccoon or two, or three, or four, or five. Yup, the whole little family waddled on over to a new tree when the winds decided to topple the big basswood which had been offering shade to our home throughout the years of our married life.

Long before we were married it had taken root. Now, it was gone. Slowly rotting away from the inside out it had been for quite some time. My husband and I would debate several times a year as to where it would land if it were to topple over. My best guess was that it would land smack dab in the middle of our living room. He dismissed my concerns as he thought it would land far to the left of the driveway…well away from the house.

As he slept on one evening, I did not. I finally roused him as the winds they did blow. Soon, lightning flashed every few seconds and thunder followed keeping us both on our toes. As he looked out the main window, he assured me that these winds were not as strong as some he’d seen in the past and that I was not to worry. I was able to take him up on that advice cause it’s difficult to worry when one is in sheer terror.

Soon, I noticed he was no longer pacing the floor, but rather, camped out in a chair right next to a large window which framed him nicely with each flash of lightning. And the tree? Well, it too was framed right behind the large window in front of which he sat.

Minutes later, into the opposite side of the house we both did scamper. Perhaps it was my incessantly high pitched screeching suggesting that perhaps he should remove himself from such a location that made him jog in my direction. This time, as he moved on past another large window, we both noticed the green leaves swaying radically close to the front railing of the front porch. Twice the lightning lit up the surrounding area…and twice we noticed a large treelike formation that was not there prior to the storm.

Not to worry, because in the middle of a lightning storm with high winds, in order to clarify the situation, one need merely take a flashlight and not only turn it on but go out of doors to check on things. Yup…twice he meandered out that front door to see what was going on with those large leaves flapping nearby. This time, I kept my high pitch thoughts to myself.

Apparently, heading to the basement wasn’t manly enough, and my pleas of making a quick getaway went unheeded. Upon returning from his second lap around the open porch facing the natural disaster, he was proud to point out that he had moved both vehicles out of harm's way just prior to the storm hitting.

The miracles that followed were many. Coworkers came to help clean it up…a beautiful stump was carved for a flower pot next summer…boards were cut for carving…and new views will be waiting. The colorful maple tree that had been hidden will now be seen, and there is more room for dreaming of what to put into the space we didn’t have before.

Was it sad the tree came down? Yes. However, there are new vistas around every disaster just waiting to be seen. What might be a disaster for some are miracles for others. Although the tree didn’t fall to the left of the driveway as predicted, it did miss the living room and the vehicles. Each one is a miracle.

Miracles are messy…keep your eyes open for them…you want them…they are gifts.

Deuteronomy 10:21 confirms it.  “He is the one you praise; He is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.”  Amen.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Hidden Costs of College

The Hidden Costs of College
Theology in the Trenches
by Kathleen Kjolhaug

“Be aware of all the hidden costs of college,” the article stated. On and on it droned about the extra costs that we should be aware of. After having six kids make their way through the college experience at one point or another, in one form or another, and noting the expense of it along the journey, I had to chuckle.

Among the “hidden” costs were meals out once in a while. This adds up to several hundred bucks per year, they explained.

Apparently, this is news. I wanted to counter and make mention that this little phenomenon known as “eating out” isn’t exactly something that’s hidden cause out in the open it’s been for many a year…at least around here. In fact, it’s not only been out in the open but has been a practiced unapologetically long before they went off to college. I’ve actually been known to toss a coin or two in their direction so they intentionally could get a meal elsewhere other than home.

Added expenses such as computers and technology costs were also mentioned in the article. I have a secret for that author. We’ve been providing the likes of it throughout high school, and to have them move on out in order to get those things anywhere else but here would be a money saver as far as I’m concerned.

Yup, college or any type of schooling beyond high school isn’t cheap, but neither is living at home. Now, I don’t want to take all the wind out the sales of the experts who think that we may or may not be aware of the “hidden” costs, but my guess is that most of us have outlived the surprise element long ago. I believe it went by the wayside for me when we began to not even flinch when purchasing one-hundred buck basketball shoes or any type of sports shoe for that matter.

Hidden fees? Hmmm…graduation pictures for twins wasn’t exactly a picnic, nor were prom dresses three years in a row. Dishing out dollars in order to attend games our kids played in was another little drain on the cash flow around here. I wouldn’t have missed a one, but etched in the memory banks is a picture of us standing in line waiting to get hands stamped as prices inched their way up from two, to eventually five or more bucks per away game.

My goodness, by the time they left for college, I was saving all kinds of money annually because of this fundraiser or that one. I can hardly believe the word “fun” is in the middle of that word.

I don’t want to be “Debbie Downer” here. No, I do not. So, with tongue in cheek, I write this. However, hidden costs of college are a lot less hidden that the ones that sneak up on you before they even get there.

Unarmed many of us are when dealing with that which we find ourselves in the midst of during our parenting years. Cell phones would be a prime example. By the time ours went off to college, texting or any added features were not an automatic for them. Much deliberation went into each and everything handed over. We tried desperately to not hide the cost that was apparently hidden to them.

I remember well getting a call from one who was not only away at college but apparently had a crush on some guy during that first semester. Quite disappointed she was because she’d missed his texts he’d sent her one evening. Why did she miss them? There was no texting on her phone. Temper tantrum she did not give, but fifteen bucks monthly after that she did in order to purchase it herself. The crush was soon squished as he was on to another who he was apparently able to reach. Bummer.

Yup, some things truly are hidden and other times, not so much. Psalm 119:11 speaks of the kinds of things that are worth hiding. And the cost of having these hidden within, have lasting benefits. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Now that is something worth hiding not to mention there are no hidden costs. They’ve already been paid…long ago. Amen.