Thursday, January 30, 2014

Lost and Found

With the Polar Vortex's little brother bearing down on the city of Chicago I sought refuge on an upholstered bench that was getting hit by direct sunlight through some very large plate glass windows at the world's busiest airport - Chicago O'Hare.
Paying attention only to my task at hand, an airport worker walked by the end of my bench, leaned over picked up a book that was abandoned on the floor, looked at it the title and quickly tossed it down on the bench. My eyes quickly drifted over to the title of the book which read, "Priesthood, Pastors, Bishops." My first thought was, "With a title like that, no wonder the book has been thrown to the side!"
But, upon further review, my second thought was, "This book is right up my alley." I crawled on the bench to pick up the book and began flipping through the pages. In the middle of the book was a boarding pass with the name Dinah Dutta on it. She had flown from Kansas City to Chicago. She had sat in first class in seat 3C.
I decided to do a little research. I looked her up on Facebook and voila, there she was. She's the pastor at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Atchison, Kansas. I made the decision to put the book in my backpack and when I got home to Dubuque, Iowa I would mail the book to her.

A couple of hours later I was on my way home after being in the Sunshine state of Florida for the previous week. That was Monday.

In the late afternoon on Tuesday I conducted some more research. I called St. Mark's Lutheran Church only to find a "full" voicemail inbox with no room to leave a message. I checked LinkedIn and discovered that Dinah also served a Lutheran church in Valley Falls, Kansas. I called the church,, only to get another answering machine. There was no need to leave a voicemail this time as the lady's voice on the answering machine offered Dinah's cell phone number.

I quickly made the call to Dinah's cell phone. The third effort was met with another voicemail inbox. Dinah is of Indian descent and her accent was beautiful to hear on the recording. I left a detailed message telling her that I had her book and would be happy to send it to her home.

One minute after hanging up my phone rang.
The called id simply said, "Dutta, Dinah."
I answered the call, "Hello Dinah Dutta!"

My iWitness...

The joy in her voice was more than apparent. She had been looking for the book. She knew she had it in her hand in the Chicago airport and upon arriving at her set destination it was nowhere to be found.

We chatted for a few minutes and I told her that I would be happy to mail it to her.
I inquired, "Where would you like for me to mail it to?"
She replied, "Well, I am at Wartburg Seminary right now."
My jaw hit the top of my desk, "Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa?"
She said, "Yes."
"I am in Dubuque!", I almost shouted.
We both laughed at the impossibility of such a happening.

She told me that she had a break in her class schedule at noon.
"I'll meet you in the chapel at noon on Wednesday", my voice filled with anticipation.

I had one more question...
"Dinah, were you on the 3:30 flight to Dubuque yesterday?"
"Yes" was her quick reply.
My voice almost trumped over her response, "So was I!!!"

The book that was lost was a lot closer than she or I knew...
I wonder how many times in life that I have felt lost I was a lot closer to being found than I thought or knew.

On Wednesday, at noon, in the chapel, the book was reunited with its proud owner.
A new friendship was forged over soup and salad.
And the joy...the joy of having found that which was lost was celebrated!

Perhaps today you will have the chance to restore, return or reunite something or someone who was once lost but is now found.

It is indeed one of life's greatest joys.
Just ask Jesus...He knows better than any of us...

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

So he (Jesus) told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15. 3-7)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Dead Room

I was having lunch the other day with my good friend Eddie. Somehow our conversation turned to the mission work that he and his wife Sheryl have been involved with in China.

Eddie was relating to me how long it took to get to the orphanage that they were visiting. In an almost "matter of fact" voice, Eddie said, "We go over to this orphanage and rescue babies from the dead room."

My mouth was full of food and Eddie was two or three sentences down the road before I could finally halt him in his tracks with, "Whoa, whoa, whoa...What did you say? The Dead Room? What is that?"

Eddie leaned back, paused, took his cloth napkin, wiped his mouth, placed his silverware down on his plate, took a deep breath and with sad eyes said, "David... this is how it works over there. The orphanages take care of the babies for one year and after one year the babies are placed in 'the dead room' where they are left unattended until they die."

The pregnant pause was palpable as I tried to wrap my mind around this seemingly typical practice of placing healthy, active, beautiful children in "The Dead Room."

My iWitness...

Have you ever been put in "The Dead Room?"

I cannot even begin to tell you how many people I have come across in my short lifetime who...
1. Have placed themselves in the dead room
2. Were tossed into the dead room by a teacher, parent, coach, friend or family member
3. Have lived in the dead room for years, not knowing that there was another way to live

This is Jesus at his best!
Rescuing people from "The Dead Room!"

Maybe the reason He is so passionate about this type of rescue mission is that he knows firsthand what it is like to be placed in the dead room.
He also knows first hand what it is like to have the stone rolled away from the dead room and breathe in new life all over again.

Are you in The Dead Room?
I know a way out.
Want to know how I know the way out?
You see... I've been in The Dead Room once before. I know all the nooks and crannies and guess what?...I can show you how to get out...forever! If you'll just grab my hand...I will gently place it in the hand of the One who is called "the Way and the Life" and you will never, ever have to go back to The Dead Room.
Do you know anyone in The Dead Room who has given up on life itself?
How about we throw ourselves headlong into a rescue mission...
Let's call it Operation "The Living Room"...

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life..." (John 14. 6)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Application


It was a bitter cold day as we sought refuge in a Wendy's restaurant for some of their "chili", with cheese sprinkled on top, no onions please. Faith and I snuggled next to each other in the booth as we sat opposite Joshua who was dwarfed by the coats, scarves and gloves that were stacked next to him.

I looked out the window and was a bit startled to see a woman making her way across the vast parking lot wearing only a light jacket to protect her from the below zero temperature. Her hair was disheveled from the wind. She was probably in her early thirties but the "wind chill factor" of life made her look eligible for an AARP card. She came into the restaurant, proceeded to the front counter and then found a seat. She had no food. What she did have before her on the table gave her more than just a few puzzling looks. Both hands, which donned six rings for her ten fingers were firmly affixed to the tabletop. With pen in hand she looked exhausted yet ready to tackle her project for the day.

She leaned forward and began to fill out what everyone of us have filled out at one time or another...
"The Application."

My iWitness...

Has anyone ever had to fill out an application to be your friend?
Doesn't that sound ridiculous?
Yet, how many times have I done just that?
"Thank you for coming into my life, but I am going to need to have you fill out this application before I can accept you and employ you in my world."

What are your qualifications? What is your experience? Have you ever been fired or let go as a "friend" before? Please list at least 84 references? How many friends do you have on Facebook? What qualities will your bring to the friendship? How will my life be enhanced by your presence?
Once you have finished filling out the application please have it notarized!

As much as I am struck by what Jesus says, I am more often startled by what he "does not" say.

Jesus says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11. 28)

Listen to what Jesus does not say...

Come to me once you have your life straightened out.
Come to me after you have some more "spiritual" experiences.
Come to me when you have memorized the Beatitudes (They are found in Matthew 5).

Come to me when you look all beautiful and put together.
Come to me after you have successfully started a company from scratch and have just launched your IPO.

Come to me after you have passed your "background check."

Listen to what Jesus does say...
Come to me...
Just come on over and come on in.
You're hired!
You're on the team!
You're part of the family!

And oh, by the way... get rid of that application in your hand.
No application needed!

I think I will throw away those applications I carry around with me today.
How about you?

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Sunday, January 12, 2014



I was texting a friend of mine yesterday and the most unusual phenomena took place.
I noticed that while I was texting a ten word message, my big thumbs impeded my ability to text so much that I misspelled every word along the way.
The miracle of it all was that when I finished texting my message and looked at the screen...ALL the words were spelled correctly and the message made perfect sense!

My phone, like so many others has this wonderful feature called, "Autocorrect" which insures that my message comes through loud and clear with all the words spelled correctly.

How cool is that!

My iWitness...
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have been approached over the last quarter of a century by someone who asks me to pray to God on their behalf.

I am always more than pleased and privileged to pray for someone. I usually follow up such a request with a statement, "Now... you can pray too you know."

Too many times to mention the response has been, "But I don't know what words to say? You're the preacher. You know what right words to say."

Here's the good news!

We have the Holy Spirit who takes our words and filters them through the  Holy Spirit "Autocorrect" feature and God hears the very deepest desires, hopes, aches, pains and pleas of our heart!

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8. 26-27)

How cool is that!

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

ps - Go ahead and give it a try today!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mighty to Save

I plopped myself down in Chapel next to a seminary student that had become a friend of mine over the last year. I will call him Pastor Elijah.
I had not seen him in months and I was so excited to sit with him and worship with him.

Pastor Elijah is from Africa.
He stands about 6 feet 3 inches tall.
His facial features are so dark that his eyes, his eye brows, his nose, his dark glasses, his high cheek bones all meld into one until he smiles and then there is this mini explosion of "white" that covers the lower half of his face.
His African accent is sharp and I love listening to him talk.

The temperature was in the low twenties that day and I asked him how cold it got back in his home land. He laughed and said, "Maybe 40?"
His easy laugh is the type that relaxes every muscle in your body.

Our faces could not have been more the 24 inches away from each other and I said, "Pastor Elijah, remind again which country you hail from."
The words "South Sudan" that came so confidently from his lips stopped me dead in my tracks.
I responded with, "Wow... a lot is going on down there right now."
He said, "Yes David. In the first two days of fighting 2,000 people were killed. In those early days they came to my sister's home and killed five family members."
My mouth dropped open.
My eyes fixated on his eyes...
His lips spread wide and his explosive smile whispered to me, "Yes David... they go door to door looking for people and then they just kill them right there..."

The worship leader called us to worship.
We stood to sing...
No words escaped my mouth.
The only thing that escaped for the next ten minutes were the tears that leapt over the brim of my eyes and rolled and raced down my cheeks into my awaiting lap.

My iWitness...

I stood and could only read the words to the song.
My friend Pastor Elijah stood next to me with his smiling singing voice full of confidence and joy...
This is what he sang:

Everyone needs compassion
A love that's never failing
Let mercy fall on me

Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a Saviour
The hope of nations

Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

So take me as you find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again

I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in
Now I surrender

[Chorus 2x]

Shine your light and let the whole world see
We're singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus [2x]

The song is called "Mighty to Save."

Indeed our God is mighty to save!
May He save the people of South Sudan...
May He save us...
And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

“Fear not, O Zion;
    let not your hands grow weak.
17 The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing." (Zephaniah 3. 16-17)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

5 degrees

I live in an area of the country that has been invaded by "The Polar Vortex."
On Monday the "high" for the day was 15 degrees "BELOW ZERO"!
The wind chill that morning was 43 degrees below zero.
On Tuesday I went to get the car washed. (Yes! The car wash was open!)
Afterwards I got out of the car and took a little "walk around" to ensure that the car had been properly dried. (What difference would that make? Any water left on the car was immediately turned into an icicle.)
As I moseyed my way around the car I actually thought to myself, "It's kind of warm out today."
The reality?
It was 5 degrees...

My iWitness...

As I sat back in the car I was mesmerized by my "relative" thought process that truly believed it was "warm" outside.

It's amazing to me just how quick we get used to the "relative norm" in our lives.

Today I am going to take a look at some of the "norms" in my life and see how they compare to a more solid, firm foundational base.

This is one of the fantastic benefits of the scriptures.
The Bible offers to us great foundational truths, wisdom and counsel on how to live in the midst of the "reality" of our situation and not be confused, hoodwinked or fooled by our "relative norms."

I really don't want to be walking around in a T-shirt smelling like Hawaiian Tropic when in reality it's 5 degrees!

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12. 1-2)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Game Over

My wife Julie is an official "Cheesehead!" Born and raised in the Dairy State of Wisconsin, Julie is a faithful, dedicated, rabid, passionate NFL Green Bay Packers fan. As a matter of fact, while we were in our embryonic stages of dating Julie accidentally cut her finger and she literally bled "Packer Green and Yellow!" (It was very cool to witness...)

On Sunday night the Green Bay Packers were playing one of their arch nemesis's, the San Francisco 49ers in a Wild Card Playoff Game. We settled in front of the fire and the flat screen TV to cheer on the Packers. In the midst of pizza, snacks, throwing the football to Faith and Joshua, taking the dog out and a host of other interruptions, we decided to take advantage of the DVR (Digital Video Recording) feature on the TV and enjoy the game at our own pace.

With less than two minutes left in the game the score was tied 20-20. San Francisco had the ball and was starting to move down the field. The tension in the house was palpable. We were rooting our hearts out for the Packers. All of a sudden the phone rang and the caller id notified us that it was my mom from Kentucky calling.

My daughter Faith politely and lovingly answered the phone to talk to "Grandma Judy." Faith listened intently as my mom spoke to her...

Then...then... Faith said, "Oh... no...we are still watching the game. The game isn't over yet here in our house."

Faith spoke the truth quite eloquently.
In our "DVR" world the game was not over.
In "real time" it was "GAME OVER" as the Packers had lost the game on a last second field goal.

Once I realized that mom had "blown" the ending of the game for us, I politely declined to talk to her. Maybe next week I will catch up with her. It took about an hour to scrape Julie off the couch with a spatula. She was so devastated by the premature defeat.

My iWitness...

Listen to this incredible bit of good news.

SPOILER ALERT!!! (I am about to tell you who wins the "Game of Life")

When Mary and Mary and the other Mary went to the tomb to offer their condolences to the stone covered tomb of Jesus, they were bewildered and blown away to see that the "Stone" had been rolled away and that the tomb was empty! The angel declared with a hearty laugh, "He's not dead! He's risen! Game Over!"

Jesus wins on a last second field goal, kicking the stone of death aside and raising His arms up in the air to say, "I'm alive! I win! Game over!"

Here's the hard part.
We live in a "DVR" world.
The game is still going on some 2000 years later.
We still get tacked.
We still get knocked down and thrown out of bounds.
We still get thrown for a loss here and there.
We still run for three or four yards and get mobbed, only to get up and do it again.
We still fumble and stumble.
We still play the game with passion, fervor and intensity.

the reality is that Jesus has won and the question over who wins has long been decided.
Jesus wins!
When Jesus wins, so do we!

Push "Play" on the remote of life.
Live out the rest of the game!
Embrace it!
Run with it!
Enjoy it!

We win!
Game over!

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

ps - I did call my mom right back!! We had a hearty laugh about it!

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28. 1-10)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

I didn't stop!

I drove the 180 miles from Chicago to Dubuque yesterday.
I left at 3:20 pm and arrived home around 8:20 pm.
What was typically a three hour drive turned into a five hour odyssey where my speedometer never went over 40 miles per hour.
Snow, sleet, rain, black ice, temperatures in the mid 20's and cars piled up on the side of the road and in the median like bowling pins that had been slung out of their lane made it for a very long trip.
On one quarter mile stretch five to six cars were stuck in snow banks in the median with their headlights offering soft glowing globes against the backdrop of the black night.
Emergency vehicles were in high demand with the good news being that no one looked seriously injured.
With each stranded vehicle I passed, a milieu of excuses and reasons ran through my mind that persuaded me to just "keep on going":

I don't have the necessary equipment to help those that are stranded...
I don't want to be more of a distraction and a potential hazard for causing another accident...
I am tired and really need to get home...

It's really cold outside and I am not properly dressed...
I don't have time to get involved...
I am sure somebody will come soon to help them...

Why were my excuses and reasons so "outcome" oriented?
Why did I feel the need to fix the problem by the side of the road?
Perhaps what the stranded needed more than anything was for someone to be with them while they waited for assistance.

The bottom line?

I didn't stop!

My iWitness...

There is a great parable that Jesus tells about a man that was beaten and left for dead in a ditch.
Twice, count em...One, Two...very religious, devout men saw the desperate man and crossed to the other side of the road only to pass him by. They didn't stop!

And then the Good Samaritan comes along and saves the day.
Note that Samaritans were the enemies of the Jews. So... a Samaritan helping a Jewish man would be quite shocking to the predominantly Jewish audience that Jesus was addressing.

I wonder if the Good Samaritan ran through the same menu of excuses and reason not to stop and help.

The bottom line?

The Good Samaritan stopped!

Be on the lookout for the stranded this week...
They just might need you to pull over and be present with them for a few minutes during their time of need.

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10. 25-37)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


I went to the doctor yesterday.
I have been having trouble breathing lately.
Making a routine walk up and down the stairs leaves me panting and working for each breath.

The doctor ran some breathing tests and showed that my lung capacity was at 40%...

My iWitness...

In the New Year of 2014 what will your spiritual lung capacity be to breathe in the grace, abundant life, love and blessings of God.

If I am only breathing in 40% I will be missing out on an incredible amount of what God is offering me.

What exercises, spiritual disciplines, daily devotionals, readings will we engage in to ensure that we are breathing into our very heart, mind and soul 100% of the abundant life God has prepared for us?

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Breathe on me Breath of God (Great hymn)
  1. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
    Fill me with life anew,
    That I may love what Thou dost love,
    And do what Thou wouldst do.
  2. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
    Until my heart is pure,
    Until with Thee I will one will,
    To do and to endure.
  3. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
    Till I am wholly Thine,
    Until this earthly part of me
    Glows with Thy fire divine.
  4. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
    So shall I never die,
    But live with Thee the perfect life
    Of Thine eternity.
"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!" (Psalm 150.6)