Category Archives: nKurEdge

Listen to me. Please?!

I shared this yesterday morning as we introduced our four week series, “I Pray.” I wrote it on May 22, 2008 when we learned the cancer in Lois could not be removed and she had less than 2 years. Since I was in a hospital waiting room I couldn’t pray out loud, so I wrote this which is loosely based on Psalm 5.

Daddy, Daddy, Listen to me. Please?!

Daddy I need help making sense of all this. My brain hurts, my heart hurts, I can’t even cry anymore.

I really need you. I feel like my whole life has been broken into pieces – a thousand piece jig-saw puzzle with no picture on the box.

Forgive me, Daddy, for all the times I’ve insisted you do what I want – to make things come out my way. That’s never worked. I realize that now. I know you’ve forgiven me, but I’m still sorry.

I know you will protect us from the wicked evil in this world but I feel as if I’ve been overcome by the noxious fumes of confusion and deception and now I’m wandering around these hospital hallways in a fog. I can’t see where to go. I know I shouldn’t be afraid – but I am. Afraid of tomorrow let alone next week or next year.

So, I’d like to come into your study. I’ll quit talking.

I just need to be near you; for you to protect me. You don’t have to talk to me but if you do I’ll listen carefully, I’ll do my best to follow your instructions, because I know it’s the only way I’ll get through this.

Daddy, I need a hug – to be reminded that you love me just the way I am.

One in a Million

A father once said, “Son, you’re one in a million!”

The son replied, “Dad, I know you meant that as a compliment, but it means there are 1500 guys just like me in China!”

Late Sunday afternoon, May 15, we learned Don Callison, a man who was one in seven billion went home to be with his Lord. After a tough journey with cancer, Don’s life on this earth ended and his eternal life began.

We could search the entire population of the world and not find another man the caliber of Don Callison. Who can measure the value and impact of a life lived at full-throttle for Jesus? Only in the last few months, as the cancer took its toll, did Don slow down physically but spiritually and intellectually he was sharp – even as recently as my last visit on April 8th.  For every question I asked him about his health, he asked two about my ministry. It was never about Don; it was always about others – and mostly about pointing them to Jesus.

Don’s enthusiasm for the Gospel was highly contagious; his sense of humor disarming and his persuasive skills unequaled. I’m sure God has a record but there’s no way for us to count the number of people who packed their bags to serve at Echo Ranch Bible Camp in Alaska or on the mission teams to Russia. And those are just the short-term missionaries. The Holy Spirit used Don’s wit, sarcasm, and captivating smile to provoke many to give up promising state-side careers to move to remote places all over the world so they could share the Good News of Jesus, the Christ.

I’ve watched people add zeros to checks because Don had the bravado to say out-loud, “You can do more than that!” Few people realize what God did through Don’s vision for the Christian Union Triennium project which ended in June 2013 and provided funds for five radio stations, 8 clean water wells, and 1600 solar powered radios!

I first met Don in August 1990 and I am a different person because of our friendship. Over the years we did several things together but from 2008 on we were especially close as we spent many weeks each summer traveling promoting missions.

He taught me how to follow Jesus better. I know of no greater compliment. He was one in seven billion.

I will miss him.

The Danger of Individualism

I will never forget the all-nighter I had with God in 1983. I strongly sensed God was leading me to sell the bookstore our family owned – something I did not want to do. (Owning and managing a bookstore was a dream my Dad and I had shared and talked about since I was 9 yrs old.) Dad died in 1980 and his estate was bankrupt. We had worked for three years to pay bills and dig out of debt and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Then God and I had an all-nighter. I remember talking to a friend and mentor the next morning. He encouraged me to seek counsel from at least three God-fearing friends. He said, “It’s all too easy to act as an individual but God created us to live in community – so seek the advice of those you’re in community with.”

There is Biblical precedent:

In Acts 6 we find the record of the Twelve gathering all the disciples together to choose seven who would be responsible for the “daily distribution of food.” The decision was made by a group.

There is also the account in Acts 13 where we find the church at Antioch agreeing as a group to set apart Paul and Barnabas and send them off to spread the Gospel.

There are certainly situations when God speaks to us as individuals about sin, people, and circumstances that apply to us as individuals. We should test those things against the Word of God (see 1John 4) and respond accordingly.

When our decisions have implications for more than ourselves, we should be careful. Our individualism, selfishness, personal agendas, and desire for control often become the very things that cause us to be deceived.

The disaster of individualism often begins with “God told me . . . “

Yes, I did sell the store. Everyone I sought out agreed it was the wise thing to do.

“Miss Lillian”

The first missionary I remember meeting was Lillian Dickson, a short, stout woman who could tell spell binding stories about far-away places. As a seven year old, I sat in rapt attention and listened to tales about an island off the coast of China called Taiwan where many people were hungry, homeless, and needed clothes. dicksonI’ve met well over a hundred different missionaries since, but “Miss Lillian” is the one who impacted my life the most.

Between 1959 and 1972 “Miss Lillian” was in our home many times.  She led “The Mustard Seed,” a ministry in Taiwan that cared for hundreds of adults and, over the years, thousands of children. Reader’s Digest featured an article about the “Littlest Lady With the Biggest Heart” in 1962 which launched annual trips to North America for speaking tours to raise money for the mission work. Dad coordinated many of those tours.

When Dad died in 1981, “Miss Lillian” called to offer condolences and soon had me smiling at the memories of my duties when Dad and Mom took her to various churches to speak. As a ten year old, it was my job to carry the giant Los Angeles telephone directory, which she sat on in the car, into the church so she could stand on it when she spoke. Unforgettable!

Don’t ever pass up the opportunity to get to know a missionary. You never know how God might use that person in your life – or in the lives of your kids and grandkids.

Already But Not Yet

I can’t believe how fast time moves: today (January 21) would’ve been Lois’ 63rd birthday. Instead, she is already in Heaven basking in a City which is indescribably beautiful. I am fully confident she is with God, not because she was good; not because she helped scores of people; not because she prayed with people to accept Christ; not because she was a great wife, mother, and grandmother. Lois is in Heaven because Jesus redeemed her from sin and evil and she accepted that gift of salvation and followed Christ. In the end, Lois received the desire of her heart: to be with the God and Father of her Lord, Jesus Christ. She is experiencing all the wonder and fulfillment of Heaven.

When we think about Heaven, we often repeat Paul’s words, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21) But what does that mean? We live in the tension between the already and the not yet. We know God has prepared a personal place for those who have placed their trust in Him; it’s already done. But we are not there yet. Our loved ones who have gone ahead of us are embracing and enjoying the total presence of God in the very place that God intended for them from before the beginning.

Not one of us is immune to death; apart from the return of Christ, every one of us will die. Death comes in many forms: old age, chronic illness, accidents, cancer, or some unforeseen sudden failure of a critical organ in our body. Death is coming. But we are living between the already and the not yet.

As Christ-followers we have the opportunity (or obligation?) to respond to death in a way that is Biblically informed; an attitude which sets us apart. As Believers we know that death is not the end – it is actually the beginning. We know that death is not to be feared because to be “absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2Cor 5:8). We know that eternal life as joint heirs with Christ is to be valued far more than all the riches this world could possibly offer.

Whenever the negative emotions creep in, I remind myself that I am not on the throne, God is! His power and grace and mercy and presence are what I need – and I need that far more than I need Lois! Do I miss Lois? Yes. But I fully recognize that this journey isn’t about me. It’s all about God – the maker of the heavens and the earth; the great Giver who sent His only Son to pay the price for my sin; the Master of the universe who cares so much about me that He knows my every thought. So I center my thoughts on Him and live between the already and the not yet.


I admit it. Sometimes I get caught up in the hype of churches having 10 Christmas Eve services; top contemporary Christian recording artists as guests, and production teams making custom videos.  It’s easy to get caught up in the “bigger is better” trend.

And I love technology. It’s a constant battle to exercise self-control to keep from up-grading my phone every six months and to resist the temptation to get the “latest and greatest.” Advertisers do a great job of making us think we need the newest version.

On top of the first two, I love to eat! One of my favorite shows is “Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives” and I’ve come close accepting Guy’s challenge to spread some of that pesto on a flip-flop. The ability of the camera crew to capture everything but the aroma drives my salivary glands crazy and certainly increases my appetite.

But here is what I’m learning: The biggest, the newest, and the most appetizing is not reality; 99% of my life is lived in the ordinary, the mundane, and the routine.

Yes, we have mountain-top experiences when God speaks and moves in ways that are almost indescribable. Yes, we sometimes find ourselves in the valley when God carries us through grief, despair, and pain. But life is lived mostly on the plain – in the rhythm and routine of family, work, and worship.

God meets us in the ordinary.

I sense God speaking, moving, convicting in the quietness of my drive from home to church; when I’m praying at my desk; as I’m visiting someone in the hospital; while I’m listening to a friend. That’s what my ordinary looks like and it’s in those times when I most consistently meet God.

Will you expect God to meet you in the ordinary? Listen. Wait. Be still. He is there and He is not silent.

May we each meet God in the ordinary – as we serve, worship, study His Word, and challenge each other. May we encounter His powerful presence in our work – whether it’s building a house, preparing a meal, or driving a truck. May we experience His fullness in our marriages, families, and friendships. God is already there in all the mundane and routine. God meets us in the ordinary.


Christmas Eve we were all singing by the light of the candles we were holding. I was on the front row because TJ, Levi, and I were leading the service which was coming to a close. As we sang, Sarah, Natalie and Bo – my three youngest grandchildren – came and hugged and stood with me. That made my Christmas for 2015!

I am thoroughly enjoying being the pastor for Northgate Church in Ottumwa. In some ways, the past year has been difficult as I’ve been reminded of all the ways Lois partnered with me in being a pastor. But God is gracious; I get to work with a gifted associate pastor and there are several Godly couples I’m learning to call on when being a single pastor might be awkward.

The big transition this year was for Kari Beth & Jeremy, Sarah & Natalie. They moved to LeClaire, IA when Jeremy received a promotion from John Deere which required a move to their headquarters. I am fortunate its only 2.5 hours away and I don’t think we’ve gone more than three weeks without seeing each other!

Tri State camp was in July and once again I had the privilege of leading staff as we asked God to use us in the lives of over 100 teenagers. I am continually amazed by the transformation I witness both in the lives of campers and staff.

In August I took some time off after a conference in Colorado Springs and met sister-in-law Beth & Bill for ice cream and then drove over the mountains to visit my Aunt Harriet and cousin Sue in Montrose, CO. On the way home I stopped and spent a day in Abilene, KS visiting the Eisenhower Presidential Library.

In October I once again participated in the CareGivers Forum in Green Lake, WI. CareGivers is a gathering of people who run retreat and counseling centers for pastors and missionaries and I’ve attended this annual conference since 2006. Even though I no longer work as a pastor-to-pastors, I do remain in contact with many of those people and find great value in the fellowship and encouragement as well as the networking.

I still live five miles north of Joy and Tony and their four boys and see them often. Brady, Broc, Brandt, and Bo are very active boys – there’s always something going on. I watched at least three baseball games a week from May-June!

Peter lives in West Des Moines where he is on staff at Lutheran Church of Hope in their IT department. We try to get together about once every six weeks but both of us are tied to church schedules so we sometimes default to long phone calls.

This year I have watched God work miracles in people’s lives as He turns chaos into order; depression into clarity; confusion into direction; grief into comfort; and darkness into light! I am so grateful to be a witness to His power.


My Dad loved fruitcake. Not just any fruitcake. Somewhere in the memory bank of his mind, Dad remembered a fruitcake that was exquisite; just the right ratio of candied fruit, nuts, cake – all aged and fermented to perfection. For years people gave us fruitcake they were convinced would be a match to Dad’s memory. And we bought fruitcake; carefully trying each one to see if it was good enough.

Then, in the fall of 1975, Dad announced he would make his own fruitcake. Lois and I were newlyweds and worked with my parents every day in the family bookstore, so we had front-row seats to watch the progress as Dad tried to re-create the perfect fruitcake. In early September he began collecting ingredients – as this was pre-internet, everything was done through catalogs and direct mail. By the middle of October Dad was ready.

By the end of a very long day there were eight “loaves” – in reality, rings of fruitcake. Dad had discovered what he thought was the secret to “curing” the cakes: wrapping them in cotton cloth soaked in a mixture of cooking oil and rum. Each cloth wrapped cake was then sealed with plastic wrap, placed in plastic bags, and stored in Tupperware containers purchased especially for this project.

Dad planned to let the cakes ferment and cure for eight weeks but at week seven his patience ran out. He opened a cake with great fanfare and groaned. It was dry, crumbly, and smelled sour. It was a flop. What a disappointment.

Like my Dad, you might be disappointed this Christmas. Maybe you won’t get the gift you are expecting; maybe the friends you hoped to be with will cancel. It’s possible this will be the first Christmas without someone who has been there in the past. Maybe the memories of a very happy Christmas will once again be un-matched. Maybe Christmas will be dry, crumbly, and sour.

Take heart. Look up. Listen to our Heavenly Father.

The essence of Christmas is simple: God generously and sacrificially gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we, too, can give of ourselves to serve others.

If you find yourself disappointed this Christmas – give generously and sacrificially to someone else. The rewards are deeply satisfying.

And keep looking for the perfect fruitcake.

Sincere Thanks

I just returned from an errand: Several weeks ago the laser-cut key for my car broke off the key fob and because of the design the key was useless.  I had to order a new one and it arrived last week. The dealer called several times reminding me to pick it up and I finally got it done today. Just picking it up was quite a process and the Parts Manager was very patient as we walked through a number of steps. He was gracious to walk out to my vehicle to make sure the new key worked and to program the buttons on the new fob.

I thanked him and said I hoped he would have a great Thanksgiving.

As I drove back to church I wondered how he would celebrate. Even more specifically, how will you celebrate Thanksgiving? Family? Food? Football? Shopping?

In the middle of the all the activity, let’s take time to remember that God poured out on us His mercy – forgiveness we could never earn and which none of us deserves. God gives us grace – endless rivers of goodness – which we see and experience in love, family, places to live, food, etc. God is the object of our thanks; our praise; our gratefulness.

The writer of Hebrews instructs us: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29for our “God is a consuming fire.”” (12:28-29). The phrase, “God is a consuming fire” is from Deuteronomy 4:23-24 and it almost sounds like a warning! Maybe it’s something we should take more seriously.

In the middle of family, food, football, and shopping make sure to set aside time to sincerely thank God for who He is; for His gift of Jesus Christ; for the presence of the Holy Spirit. God loves you with such passion that He is jealous when ignored. Be still. Be silent. Listen to Him.

Enjoy Thanksgiving.


Somehow I failed to get everyone to ignore my most recent birthday. As much as many of us would like to skip these annual events they happen – ready or not! Thanks to all who sent cards, left voicemails of singing, called, posted greetings and congrats on Facebook, and told me in person. I do appreciate each of you and thank God for such an amazing group of friends and family.

For me, this particular birthday is significant because it marks the beginning of my second year as pastor at Northgate! A year full of learning new names and faces; listening to the stories of scores of people; growing in an understanding of what God is already doing here; and praying, laughing, and crying with many as we do life together. There are three things I am taking with me from the past year and three things I am praying for in the year to come.

Lessons from the first year

  1. Northgate is a family not an address or a building. We are just a small part of the world-wide body of Christ but a major participant in all God is doing in our community.
  2. We are not the only lighthouse of truth but a sincere gathering of Christ-followers with moving, personal stories of forgiveness and restoration, mercy and grace.
  3. We are learning to connect with Jesus in communities that care. These core values are not just words; we are living them out together.

What I am trusting God to do in the year ahead

  1. Give us a vision for our community so big it will require outrageous faith and irrational generosity.
  2. Help us exploit our strengths both as individuals and as a household of faith.
  3. Give us an insatiable desire to see lives changed. The transforming work of Jesus is the only hope for this crazy, hurting, messed up world.

Heavenly Father, I pray as I begin another year of life and my second year at Northgate, that you would make me more and more like your Son, Jesus, who is everything! Amen.