Cards, Math and 121 Holes

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Cancer is a pirate. In the waining days of my Grandpa’s life, bone cancer ravaged his body and turned him into the shell of a man he once was. A body that carried an extra 20 pounds was now depleted to mere skin and bones. A black tongue. A brain that was no longer present. The cancer took away the Grandpa I once knew and left us with six months a slow, life-draining death.

My Dad, Aunt, Uncle, their spouses, my brothers and sisters and our cousins, would take turns providing 24 hour care so that he could stay in his home and die surrounded by joyful memories. I remember him having dreams of being a young man still working at the paper mill he poured 30 years of his life into. His hands would make movements as if he were still operating the machines- the machines that nearly caused him to lose an arm once when it was sucked into a roller. I remember laying on top of him as he would weakly hit me and swear at me because he wanted to get out of his hospice bed; fully convinced he needed to go to work. I remember him snapping out of the hallucination and crying. I remember him asking me to forgive him for what he had just did and said. I remember crying.

Cancer is a pirate. Although these bitter memories are clearly lodged in my mind, the scales still weigh heavy in the balance of the joyful memories I have of my Grandpa. He was a generally happy man that loved his children and loved his grandchildren. His house was a hub of family gatherings in which coffee was always available, cribbage was just around the corner, laughing abounded, and love ran thick. I loved going to my grandparents house. Christmas was off the charts awesome.

His first day of retirement was marked by taking my brother and I to a Minnesota Twin’s game. He and Grandma never moved to warmer lands because to do so was to leave their grandkids and that was just out of the question. I remember their house being a crash site while going to college. Chocolate cake was always on standby as I walked through the door after a long day at work and long evening at school. These memories are the ones that rise to the surface. I remember hearing my Grandpa pray. The quiver in his voice only came on during prayer time and I imagined it was a result of a profound thankfulness to God for justifying him from his sins through the work of Jesus Christ at the cross.

Each year our extended family gathers to honor my Grandpa in a unique way. Our Grandpa gave us all a unique gift- he taught all of our cousins and myself how to play the game of cribbage. The memories abound surrounding this game of fifteen two, fifteen-four and a pair is six. Cutting, dealing and pegging were staples at my Grandpa’s house and he spread his love of Cribbage to us all.

Now, after his death, we gather once a year for a family tournament. It’s an excuse to get together. It’s a special way to remember my Grandpa and Grandma. I love how a simple game has been the catalyst for so much happiness among our family. I love that we serve a God who gives us simple gifts like cards, math and 121 holes as way to create that happiness and family unity. Cancer is a pirate but God is the giver of all good things that far outweigh any temporary pain that he experienced.

I’ll see you soon Grandpa. Not because sentiment says so but because you trusted in the rock solid, complete work of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Thanks for pointing me to him.

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The Comfort of The Gospel

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom shall I see for myself and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” Job 19:25-27

I read this passage during my devotional time this week and had a soul-satisfying time thinking about what it means for me. Grace Church, today, right now Jesus lives. We can know that our Redeemer lives and at the end of this story we are living in, he will stand up on the earth.

Often it doesn’t feel like that. Ten people die in an attack at the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, Libya. Two thousand people were killed by Boka Haram in Nigeria with most of the victims being women and children. Our sinful flesh persists as we do things we don’t want to do. Loved ones die. Sickness cripples. Our bodies are slowly wasting away. In the midst of all this tragedy and ongoing decay, where do we find comfort?

Where did you go for comfort this week when you chose to sin? Where did you go for comfort when you were blind-sided by depression or frustrated with a co-worker or angry at your spouse or just plain tired at the end of a long day? Did you find comfort in food or Netflix or exercise or sleep or anything else besides the gospel? If your soul first and foremost went to anything less than the truth and joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ, your soul was choosing to quench its thirst by drinking from a tobacco spitter instead of the clear and refreshing water that Jesus Christ offers. Anything less than Jesus cannot and will not satisfy because nothing is more real and more true than the fact that Jesus lives and he stands ready to forgive.

Come to Jesus this morning. Behold his face and not another. The only reason you can be acceptable to God this morning and removed from his wrath for your sin is by drinking from the water of Jesus Christ’s grace and mercy through the cross.


Running and The Glory of God

 

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Recently our family returned from a relaxing vacation in Destin, Florida. The warmth, the beach, the pounding surf, time with family and all the other ingredients that make an epic family vacation were stirred into the two weeks we had together, producing a cake of fine memories. We have too many pictures to prove it.

A top memory that I have from the trip was a run I went on in the early morning while we were there. I stepped out into the 67 degree morning thinking about the bone chilling cold that would have been greeting me back home in Minnesota. Instead, the air was slightly sticky, and a gentle breeze greeted my skin as my legs began churning underneath me. Take me places, Asics.

The first three miles were spent running down old Highway 98 which runs parallel to the shoreline on the Gulf Coast. The road is stuffed with high rise hotels and gaudy tourist attractions begging you to spend money at every turn. In a few hours the sidewalks, parking lots and buildings would be swollen with the bustling of people- but now now. Right now the only thing that was greeting me were the infrequent hand waves from a few other runners and the pounding music of Shai Linne in my ears as he sang about the glory of God.

After three miles I turned around and the darkness began giving away to tinges of light as the sun promised that it would be rising again. I ran across a boardwalk that perched me high above the beach and ocean which allowed a panoramic view. I saw a speck on the beach. Slightly bigger than a speck really, but very small set against the backdrop of a sprawling beach and expansive ocean. As I looked closer I saw that it was a single man sitting on a beach chair drinking in the view. He looked so small and what he was observing was so huge.

I shut my music off and began thinking and processing what I was seeing. This is a perfect picture of God and man. God is bigger than we could possibly imagine. More glorious than we could possibly imagine. As big as this ocean and beach is, we can only see a sliver of it. There are still hundreds of miles of this beach that I can’t see and not to mention the mysteries that I can’t see that lay beneath the surface of that blue, rolling expanse called the Gulf of Mexico.

I kept thinking. Not only did this moment remind me that God is bigger than I can possibly imagine but he is always there. The residents and tourists of Destin do not wake up in the morning and wonder, “Hmmm, I wonder if that ocean is still there. Let me go take a look.” No way. They walk out their front step with full confidence that the ocean will be there to greet them with its faithfully pounding surf. Time and time again. God is like that. He is always there, always working his will faithfully, even when we are not directly looking at it or able to see it.

Finally, I thought about God’s wrath. This ocean, given a little more water, a little more wind, could wipe out all that has been built up along this shoreline. Yet it is held at bay along the beach, occasionally reaching a little farther up with its ebbing tide. What looks so peaceful and glorious could swiftly be turned into something powerful, destructive, and fearful. God’s wrath is kept at bay because of what Jesus did at the cross. We all experience common grace each day as the sun comes up. Yet there is a final judgement coming where God’s fury will be unleashed like a hurricane that will bring his justice against those who have not banked on the security of his Son.

As I finished the last mile of my run on the beach I returned from the place I started. I stopped on that beach. My heart pounding, sweat rolling, mind thinking. I had met God that morning in the stillness of the Gulf of Mexico and was thankful for it. He wasn’t done. That day would be another cloud covered one in which the sun would be hidden from view, but I was to catch a glimpse of it. Between the ocean meeting the skyline there was a small gap of clearness and I could see the brilliant rays of orange and red bursting across the horizon. For one minute I saw the glory of the sun and my knees greeted the sugary sand and I worshiped the living, triune God. For sixty seconds a little bit of the veil that we live under had been pulled back.

I run for moments like that.
It’s seen in the stars
Seen in the galaxies, Seen in quasars
Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto and Jupiter,
Mercury, Saturn and Venus and mars
Back to the earth, it shows in the trees
Each of the leaves blows in the breeze
Locusts and bees, oceans and seas
All the result of Jehovah’s decrees
Observe the way his word creates
Preserves and shapes, determines fates
Reverberates at urgent rates
The earth it shakes with fervent quakes

Imagine it
I can’t explain the half of it
Our brains can’t even fathom it
And language is inadequate
To characterize the Lord on the throne
With spiritual eyes his story is known
From Him & Through Him & To Him is everything
Surely to God be the glory alone
From Him & Through Him & To Him is everything
Surely to God be the glory alone

Shai Linne- The Glory of God


Biblical Parties

My wife loves to host parties. For the last several years she has hosted a Christmas cookie exchange that brings women from far and wide to our house, bearing tins and tupperware containing six dozen cookies. The evening is filled with fun, laughter, sharing of cookies, and eating food.

Before we bought our house, we prayed that whichever house we did eventually buy, God would allow it to be a place for people to come and find joy in God. We wanted it to be a place for the weak to find rest, for the discouraged to be encouraged, for the lost to discover the joy of the gospel, and for the glory of God to be more fully known to those who would be our neighbors. He has answered that prayer in ways we could not have expected.

Thinking about my wife’s affinity for parties made me consider what the Bible has to say about parties or as it’s writers refer to it- festivals. Consider II Chronicles 30:22:

And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the Lord. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the Lord, the God of their fathers.

This festival was a result of the call of King Hezekiah to the nation of Israel and Judah. They had turned away from God and turned to idols and false gods. This was a call to gather together as a people and turn their hearts back towards God.

“For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him (II Chronicles 30:9).”

God was pleased to have his people come back to him with repentant hearts so that he may show them his grace and mercy. Mourning for sin and repentance from it are appropriate and right, but God also wanted them to rejoice in the grace and mercy that he promised to them for their return. A festival was an appropriate response to highlight the grace and mercy of God. The festival was supposed to last seven days but they extended it to 14 days and it involved thousands of animals for sacrifice to God.

Living on this side of the cross precludes our parties from filling our homes with burnt animal flesh, but all the aspects of our parties can remind us of the mercy and grace of God. Parties remind us that God wants us to rejoice in him. Cookies remind us that we are to taste and see that God is good. Friends remind us that because of the cross we can have fellowship with God. All aspects of parties are to point towards God.

I hope and pray that our parties are intentional in this way and remind the people that enter our door that God is to be seen and savored.


God in the Manger

“And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:16-20)

As I get older and the Christmas’ stack on top of each year after year, I am becoming increasingly aware of the shallowness with which I’ve approached this time of year. The casualness and the familiarization of Christmas can have a dulling effect on the spiritual senses and I lose sight of the awe in which I should approach this time of year.

This is the time of year that we celebrate God in the manger! Luke writes that the shepherds ran to the manger and saw the Maker of the universe laying in manger; laying in materials like hay and wood that he himself had spoken into existence. The shepherds were in awe. Those who heard the shepherds tell of these things were in awe. Mary treasured these things in her heart.

My wife and I are reading an advent devotional this year by Dietrich Bonhoeffer called God in the Manger. This week we read, “What is going on here, where Mary becomes the mother of God, where God comes in the world in the lowliness of the manger? World judgement and world redemption- that is what’s happening here. And it is the Christ child in the manger himself who holds world judgement and world redemption. He pushes back the high and might; he humbles the haughty; his arm exercises power over all the high and mighty; he lifts what is lowly, makes it great and glorious in his mercy (42).”

Thank God for awakening me to the strength and majesty and glory that is found in this story. It is not a simple, cute story. It is a story of the dawning of our redemption for without the incarnation there would be no crucifixion, and without the crucifixion there would be no resurrection, and without the resurrection there would be no salvation.

Look to the redemption we find only through Jesus Christ. This baby lying in the manger was the lamb that was slaughtered to bring us redemption. Find new awe in it as we come before King Jesus. He is no longer in a manger, no longer on a cross, no longer in a tomb, but now sitting on the throne of the universe holding all things in his hands!


Dossier: Done. Now: Wait.

Many have been asking Johanna and I how our adoption process is going. We love that people are thinking and praying for us as we go through this exciting, boring, tedious, convoluted process. We have just completed our dossier which will be on its way down to an unknown desk in Haiti. Now we wait.

We also learned that Haiti changed some of its requirements. Some of the changes increase costs and some of them add hoops to jump through. One significant change was that our adoption agency can no longer decide which orphanages to work with in Haiti. Our agency, All Blessings, has worked with 4 out of the 63. Now Haiti is saying that we have to accept any placement from any of the 63 orphanages. Because of the difference in the quality of the care children receive in these orphanages we have a greater risk of adopting a child with unknown needs or trauma at the outset.

This does not deter us, and I thank God to be married to a wife that is willing to engage in risky love. Jesus’ love that adopted us into the family of God was risky to the point of death. Because of that we can discard prudence and take this risk of love and be obedient to Him. Below is an update that Johanna wrote at her blog (www.jomegs.wordpress.com) that gives more detail as to where we are at and where we are going, Lord willing.

June – ready to tackle our dossier!
July, August, September – dossier document collecting. Setbacks, mistakes, delays. :P
October – sent dossier to our agency.
Currently – redoing a couple documents for the dossier.

Next steps:

  1. Dossier approved, translated into French and submitted to Haitian social services or IBESR.
  2. Wait. Wait some more. Wait covered waiting with wait filling. Our file will sit on a desk, in a file drawer or in a box (I have no idea how they file dossiers when they arrive – just making this part up) for as long as it takes for it to reach the top of the stack. The front of the queue. The interesting thing is there seems to be no rhyme or reason to who’s file is chosen first, second or third. No centralized, standardized system. So we wait and pray and wait. Probably somewhere between 9-20 months.
    Also in this waiting time, we’re going to learn some basic Creole (the language most commonly spoken in Haiti) and work toward meeting Haitians living here in MN and more families with Haitian children.
  3. MATCH! At some undetermined date, our dossier will be reviewed and chosen to be matched. A child will be chosen for us! The much anticipated, long-awaited and most definitely loved child who will become a Puelston. :-)
  4. Travel to Haiti to meet our child. Once we are matched, we will make a two-week trip to Haiti to meet and get to know our child. We will be able to take any or all of our kids with us to meet their brother or sister – we’ll decide if that’s a good plan or not when the time comes. This will be an exciting and nerve-wracking trip, hopefully full of good opportunities to love and get to know this little person. Then we have to leave them in Haiti and return to the U.S.A. while their adoption processes through the Haitian legal system. Sad/hard/really tough.
  5. More waiting. We wait again, for an undetermined amount of time, for the court system and social services to go through the necessary steps to make the adoption legal. Hopefully, in this time period we’ll be able to send our child lots of reminders of our love, our family and how excited we are for the day we will be together again. There are LOTS of steps in this process, and it can take anywhere from 9-18 months.
  6. Visa appointment! This is the last step in the long process and once our child has been issued a visa from the U.S., we will travel back to Haiti to bring him or her home.
  7. Home. Hallelujah and pass the bonding/attachment phase. Lots of love, family time and learning how our family works with another, amazing person in it.
    So that’s it in a nutshell – we hope and pray that the time frames are shorter, rather than longer, but Haiti is in a time of transition with adoptions and things are slow right now. They could get faster, they could stay slow, they could get slower. We will have ample opportunity to exercise that lesser known beatitude: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape.” And ample opportunity to trust a loving Father with His perfect plan and timing.

Thanks for being part of this journey with your love, thoughts and prayers! We are so grateful for the support, financially/emotionally/prayerfully. This is a bumpy, winding road and we’re so thankful for those who are cheering us on!


Cast Your Burdens

Psalm 55:22

“Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

We come before God this morning and experiencing his mercy and grace not because of a righteousness of our own making. When we read here that the righteous will not be moved, the righteousness that keeps us from not moving in the face of Satan’s accusations is that of the perfect, complete and eternal work of Jesus Christ. So come this morning and feast at the table of forgiveness by casting your burden on the on the LORD for he will sustain you.

We have a Father this morning that beckons for us to come to him as his children because of this work done by our elder brother, Jesus Christ. Because of the gospel we can come before him despite our…

  • Lust-filled choices,
  • pride-centered works,
  • gossip-motivated tongue,
  • confusion-causing circumstances,
  • weak and broken heart,
  • anger-producing hearts,
  • quickly irritable hearts,
  • lazy, self-centered hearts,
  • and selfish producing hearts.

And the list goes on. Come to this table of fellowship this morning with your brothers and sisters in Christ and cast your burdens, cast your sins, on the one who caught them all, killed them all, and paid the price for them all. Come and take full joy in our Abba Father this morning.


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