Wednesday, December 30, 2015


What a year! I give all thanks and praise to God for the way He has brought us safe through changes in occupation and residence. I've tried to keep those who read this blog up to date on what's been going on with us, but to quickly summarize: We started the year in Cokato. I was serving as pastor of Crossroads Community Church and driving school bus. Toni was also serving at church and was in her seventh year as the proprietor of Wellspring Massage Therapy in Cokato. Now we're living in Roseville. Toni has moved her business and I've switched to driving Metro Transit bus as my major occupation.

Toni wrote a Christmas letter that goes into a little more detail. We didn't send them out by regular mail this year. You can get a copy at <this link> or just look at it below, complete with pictures.

Once again, all thanks and praise to God!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Rest, Revolution, Romance

Toni and I are enjoying a last afternoon at my in-laws' place in Northfield. Our son Jon & I will be leaving in the early evening; other family members already headed for home and the rest will go in the morning. It's been a sweet time of rest.

During the last hour I intentionally sat down next to our son Dan, wanting to get a list of some of the theologians he's been studying over the past few years. We've been blessed by learning with him as we've talked together and as we've seen some of teachings he's been learning from. Then, on the Sunday before Christmas, Toni and I went up to Northgate Church in Ramsey to hear him preach. (You can watch and listen to His message by clicking this link.) The things he's been learning were clearly in the background of what he taught that day. I'll try to share some more about those "learnings" in the not too distant future.

Dan & the three chairs
For quite a few years Dan's been on a revolutionary journey in relationship with Jesus. His Dec. 20 message focused on the LOVE of God, a love that began even before creation. He used an analogy that has been used before, one where three chairs, facing each other, are used to represent the eternal inter-Personal relationship of God--Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

On the other side of the stage, to Dan's left, he put one lonely chair, representing the picture many of us have of God--an eternal being who is self-sufficient and separate from everyone else... and certainly not interested involved in a passionate relationship that might be described as a "romance." (Dan has romance on his mind these days as he is recently engaged!)
What Dan highlighted in the message was what we see in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, in the Epistle to the Ephesians and in Genesis. God has always been in a relationship -- Father, Son, Holy Spirit -- and God has always desired to have a deep, personal, enjoyable relationship with you. He does not want you to be separate and he's never wanted to be separate from you. He loves you and has done everything needed to have and maintain a face-to-face relationship with you - a relationship like he and Shatera have now.

That's revolutionary! It's revolutionary because the typical Christian understanding of God is one where God turns away from us because of our sin. Scriptures are used to say that God doesn't want to have relationship with sinful people. Verses are picked from here and there in the Bible to say that God cannot bear to be close to us -- not until we turn toward him. But what Dan highlights is the fact that God comes to us first, while we are in our sin, turning toward us before we turn to him.

Dan proposed to Shatera last week. He planned for a moment when they could be together in the same park where they first met. He got down on a knee and proposed. She said yes.

God proposed to us too. On the Cross. He entered into our sin and suffered our wrath. Not because he needed a blood sacrifice, but because he wanted relationship with everyone -- with everyone on earth.

This isn't a very complete summary of Dan's message. Please take time to watch it by clicking here.

It is revolutionary to think that God desires us that much. I hope to post more about this in the days to come.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Light Shines

I'm writing this from Northfield where Toni and I have come to spend a few days. We got here this morning, spent time in worship with family and others, had a good meal, and, while Toni and her family were helping clean up, I came back to the Dahlin home with the dog and had a nice nap. Now I'm refreshed and feel like spending a little time here on this blog.

This was the first Christmas since sometime in the early 1980s that I wasn't involved in leading worship or preaching. Yesterday I was driving bus so didn't "go to church." We sang a few carols and read the Christmas story at my brother's family home, but it wasn't until this morning that I gathered with a group beyond just family to praise and pray and hear the Word--at a church that is still part of the denomination I resigned from 5 years ago.

When I was there I wrote this:
Jesus is God. Thru Him Light shines in dark places. Even in the broken church that proclaims Him.
At the time I wasn't thinking about any particular denomination or church body. Every church is broken in one way or another. Every church group (and every believer!) misses important parts of the truth or focuses too strongly on one thing or another. Churches are broken when they neglect facets of God's Truth, or when they teach things that aren't based on Jesus: traditions and customs or an emphasis on "feelings" that Jesus most certainly rejects because they lead away from truth, as he rejected and dealt harshly with the religious leaders and customs of His day.

However, while I was at the church today, the Lord directed my attention, not toward failings, but, instead, toward Jesus and His Glory. The carols of Faith, the words from Isaiah and the Gospel of John and the Epistle to the Hebrews proclaiming "the Word of God Made Flesh," they broke through and made my heart sing.

I will still pray and work for the restoration of the Truth in Christ's broken church (now from the outside). I will still call out error when I see it and hope for Bible-based debate. But because Jesus is God, He, and His Truth, will come through to believing hearts when God's Word is preached or read when we have ears to hear it.

At worship today the Word was read with all its power. In applying the Word, the preacher shared good things, though, as a family member mentioned afterward, he neglected John 1:11-12, where the Lord speaks to us about the division that's caused when some receive Jesus and believe in His name, and others do not. But even so, the darkness of that omission did not defeat Jesus, who always comes through His Word and works His wonders.

Jesus is God. He will not be defeated. He will not be turned aside. Omissions and errors, feelings and traditions, they will not win. The light will always shine in the darkness, and the darkness will not defeat it. As Martin Luther wrote: God's Word forever shall abide, no thanks to foes who fear it--for God Himself fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit.

So rejoice this day. Oh you fellow crusades for truth, remember: The Truth will always be true, the Word will always live, and in the end everyone will see. Joy! It's forever! Receive now. Don't be overcome with grief over the way the Word is sometimes misused. Just rejoice because He is God, the Lord, the Creator. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Daily Quiet Time with God

Do you feel powerless? Are you swept along from day to day without direction? Or are you wondering if there is a real and good purpose for your life right now?

If that's true for you, do a spiritual checkup. Have you regularly taken time to be quiet with God each day? I've learned how important it is to ask Jesus, each day, to search out the purposes of God in the situations of my life and then purposefully say "yes" to Him. This is the way God gives me love, joy and peace (etc.).

I would like to give you this gift too, but you can't get it from me. Ask (pray) God! And ask for God's help as you do. God will help you! Let me know and I will pray with you. Or ask someone else you trust to pray for you and then share with them what God is teaching you. God doesn't intend us to be totally alone with Him (Genesis 2:18).

I find it helpful to start with a spiritual daily devotion in the morning. I look for one that is written by someone who has a clear focus on Jesus. But I don't stop with that. I ask, and expect, God to apply something from my reading, or from my Bible to what's going on in my life now.

Jesus said: "The time has come, and the kingdom of God is near..." (Mark 1:15). What's the result? "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and power" (Galatians 5:22-23). The traditional translation the Greek 'ἐγκράτεια' ("self-control") is not strong enough to capture the power that God gives with His Spirit.

As you take time with the Lord, Holy Spirit will let you see God's work in your life. What great confidence and power that will give!

Notice: The devil will try to distract you from this! The evil one will focus almost all your attention on other people (John 21:21) or he'll tempt you with various kinds of entertainment. Recognize and resist the enemy of your soul and return to daily one-on-one time with God!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Finding Our (New) Way

Another weekend is here! Toni and I are home. Our daughter Naomi is here too, with other music leaders from Roots Covenant Church. They've been practicing in our living room for an hour or so while I write in our guest room/office. Such beautiful music! They're here because Toni is going to be helping out at Roots on Christmas Eve while I am driving that late afternoon. I'm done that day by about 5:30 -- too late to join her and Naomi/Tim for worship but not too late for dinner at my brother's home.

It sure will be a different Christmas for me! I'm hoping I can get to worship with others beyond family somewhere on the 24th or 25th. We'll see.

Because of my regular split shift I've been able to spend some time at my mom and dad's on the last couple days. My sisters and brother (especially my sisters!) have been tremendously helpful with them over the last few years and I'm deeply grateful. Both mom and dad are getting up in years and neither of them are in the best of health. Yesterday I did a little online research about some medications that have been prescribed for them. Complex!

Strip map includes "pull out" to Northtown Mall,
a detour, and my "pull in" to Heywood.
Yesterday after my morning work I stayed in the driver room re-checking a strip map that I made for the work I'll start on Monday morning. Quite a few others were there too, doing similar things or getting ready to be trained on new routes. Everyone switches around this weekend going forward. I'm learning 6 new routes: 3 that I'll drive regularly and 3 others that I'll drive on Christmas Eve. Route 825 is my regular morning work beginning next week.*

It's good to recognize, and accept, the complexity of life and work. Our son Dan wrote something about this today on facebook. He said, in part:
"... Life is about learning, about new experiences; it is about facing challenges and about growing through them. Life is a journey of discovery and delight that can only be embraced with humility and childlike expectancy. It's not about having everything figured out or trying to be an adult, it's about realizing we are just children who are joyfully discovering life. Don't run from life, but embrace it and become fully alive!"
Route 825
I'm thankful, however, that I don't need to figure it all out by myself. Instructors, the metro transit website, google maps and specialized driver instructions make it possible to get ready. It would be stupid to just go out and think I could do it myself. I wouldn't be able to keep any kind of schedule. Lots of customers would get left behind.

How are you finding your way in the life God has given you? Do you think you can do it yourself? Or are you open to Someone who can help?

I wonder if the Bible is something like the maps and guides that are provided to drivers? The scriptures certainly don't give us every right and left turn, but they do provide an outline, a sense of where we start from, where we're going, and directions. They aren't going to tell us just how the traffic is going to be or just how we're going to need to set up our turns, so we will need to spend time, day by day, learning and studying, and talking with others who are also following the Lord Jesus, asking their prayers and seeking their advice.

There are many new things every day and every year. Working a new job, living now with parents who are getting older and older, finding our way in new local churches and new relationships -- all of these things mean we can't just do it the way we always did. Let's share some of those experiences together so others too will face their challenges and grow.

Yesterday was the end of the last week on the routes I have driven since October. There were many kind words, two official "commendations" and a couple nice gifts from customers. My eyes teared up more than once as I realized I wouldn't be seeing these same people day after day as I have been doing. My colleague Ron said he got choked up too, as he was saying good-bye.

What new ways are you being called to in the next days and in the new year? Going back isn't an option. Let's let each other know what challenges are new for us so we can walk and ride and drive together. Don't go it alone.


* My work will be consistent from Monday through Friday. Drivers who are full time sometimes need to learn all the 50+ routes that are driven out of Heywood Garage. That will be a challenge if I am called to full time.

** Here's the driver map/instructions for the route. We use maps like this to make turn-by-turn strip maps (example above).
Driver Map - not drawn to scale.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Climate Change

from the Evangelical Environmental Network
On these warm December days, I've been interacting with some friends and acquaintances about our responsibility to care for creation and the creatures God has made. Genesis 1:28 is a good starting place for this conversation.You could also check out the verses referred to on the website of the Evangelical Environmental Network:
  • Christ died to reconcile all of creation to God (Col. 1:20).
  • All of creation belongs to Jesus (Col. 1:16; Ps. 24:1).
  • It fulfills the Great Commandments to love God and love what God loves. (It’s hard to love a child with asthma when you’re filling her lungs with pollution.)
  • Pollution hurts the poor the most, and Christians are called to care for the poor and the less powerful (Mt. 25:37-40).
It's raining outside today. The temperatures are way above normal. Weather isn't climate so that will change next week. Still, I continue to be concerned about how we human beings are treating the good creation God has given us. I'm glad there is attention being paid to ways in which we will be encouraged, in the future, to reduce our "carbon footprints," and part of the way we'll be able to do that is to utilize mass transit. (Here's a link to a Wikipedia article about the United Nations Climate Change conference that's going on right now.)

Another kind of climate change seems to be going on at the garage where I work. Today when I arrived there early this morning a new overall garage manager was there, and after my morning route I met the specific manager who is assigned to all of the probationary drivers. I think all but about 2 of the mangers at Heywood Garage have been changed. I appreciated the quick conversations with those who I met and look forward to seeing how things will go in the weeks to come as the new team is in place.

Today I'm doing some online study of Customer Service, using an online learning tool. I completed the first module of the course last month but now I have a particular interest in working this through since I've submitted my application for a full time position in the Metro Transit Customer Relations department. I found out recently that if I were to be offered that position, and accept it, I could do some overtime as a "miscellaneous driver." I'm glad for that because I continue to enjoy the driving and the direct interaction with bus passengers, or, as MT calls them, "customers."

In the course on Customer Service there's a lot of learning about creating a positive "climate" for customers. Beyond just getting people from one place to another, bus companies like Metro Transit want to help customers be positive about their experience, and having good interactions with drivers and other MT employees is important. The customer service department focuses on exactly that. Is this a place where we can put Christ's love into action? Pray that I'll make a good decision if I have the chance.

It's interesting to me how all this is coming together. I see that as the hand of God in my life. I don't know just how it will all turn out. So I'll keep praying and trusting and following God's lead. I'll keep stepping out boldly to witness for Jesus and care for all He has made.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Spiritual Confession

The first part of this was written Friday between 9-10 PM.
So glad now to be home! I've actually been home for more than an hour but only now I'm sitting down to write. I spent 2 hours this morning riding route 3, to and from St. Paul, getting a good look at what I'll be driving on Christmas Eve.* It wasn't required but I know I'll feel more comfortable, and be more able to focus on serving customers, with that extra look. Next Thursday I'll be officially trained on that route, and now that I've seen the work up close, I'll plan to drive it myself, with the instructor riding. I should be well prepared for that day's work.
The following paragraph was started last night too. I was reflecting on the "extra" work I was happy to do, and the "extra" I'm often glad to do in other areas of life, and was considering where that joy comes from. I finished the following paragraph just now.
In 1980 something happened in my life that gave me energy and drive to do my best in what I believe God is calling me to do. There was a moment of surrender and then a time of saying "yes" to Jesus, telling him that he could have his way in my life. That encounter with Holy Spirit has continued ever since. Life is exciting and there is never a time of boredom. There are moments when I'm tired or lack energy, there have been huge hurdles and times of deep pain, but the general direction and a very high proportion of time every day of my life is driven by such joy and purpose... driven by Someone beyond myself, by God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Someone big and exciting and more challenging every day. I want all my friends and acquaintances and family members to experience this too.
As I was reflecting on this last night I was thinking about the way I see some Christian believers wasting their time on things that seem to be less than God's best. I rarely say anything because I know I'm not the one to judge. But inside I am very judgmental. (The words "wasting their time" show that, don't they!) And, worse, I get annoyed and bothered when I feel like I need to participate in other people's less than spiritual interests and activities. I can generally reinterpret those activities to find joy in them, but the truth remains that I'd sometimes like to leave and get on to something more important.

That which God has placed in me reaches to every aspect of my life. And because there's nothing in my life that He doesn't touch, I expect to see the fruit of that in the lives of other believers too. There is nothing outside His influence in me, and I expect that He would be the same way in the lives of others.

Is all that the Holy Spirit too? Or is that sinful judgmental-ism... just me wishing I could make everyone like myself?

This is, truly, a spiritual confession, and I ask for your counsel and prayers, so that I might rightly understand what are the ways of God in me, and what are just my own opinions and feelings. I don't want to be a burden to others -- unless that's what God is calling me to do.

The above was written before I went to bed (quite early) on Saturday night. 

Now, at 1:42 AM, after having woken up, I read the following from yesterday's My Utmost for His Highest:
" ... most of us are much more severe in our judgment of others than we are in judging ourselves. We make excuses for things in ourselves, while we condemn things in the lives of others simply because we are not naturally inclined to do them." 
This, it seems, is just about as clear an answer as I could ask for. I asked for counsel and prayers and voilà, there it is. There are things that I'm not "naturally inclined" toward. I see these things in others and I become inwardly critical. Spiritual pride is an awful thing.

To repeat, there are many things I'm not "naturally inclined" toward. I live a privileged life. And, as the Lord said to Peter when he asked about another disciple, my concern should be to follow Jesus, not to focus on how He (the Lord) is working on others! (In John 21:20-23 notice how Peter gets off track when he turns and looks at the other disciple instead of keeping his focus on Jesus.)

Now I ask your prayers again. As Oswald Chambers says just before the part quoted above:
"Every Christian can have his body under absolute control for God. God has given us the responsibility to rule over all 'the temple of the Holy Spirit,' including our thoughts and desires (1 Corinthians 6:19)."
Pray for me that I would never stand in the place of God in anyone else's life, and that I would focus on God's Word and all that God has done toward me, and reject that awful critical spirit. It is indeed in the realm of thoughts and desires that my Lord is working on--in me.**

I think God wanted to wake me up to teach me that, again... (yes, again because he's taught me that before)... Thank you, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, your ways are perfect and I know that very well. 


*Christmas Eve is a "reduced service" day, and because we can't all drive our regular routes we're given different work.

**Interesting that science in these days is teaching us that the brain is indeed a physical organ and that our thoughts and desires come so clearly (and often) from that physical realm. Think of that when you read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 again.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Fighting with Friendship

In this new Twin Cities life I've been privileged to get to know some men who speak Arabic and who are originally from the Middle East. I've been called "friend" by more than one of them. I stop at their downtown store almost every afternoon.

We haven't talked religion at all, but it seems to me that when we can make personal friends of people who come from Islamic dominated countries from the middle east we ought to do it. Don't shy away. The teachings of ISIS want "us" to be totally separate from "them." We can fight ISIS right here by doing all we can to meet, greet and befriend people who just might be from a Muslim background. Jesus came to bless and save all -- it's just that there's a strategic necessity right now to get to know our neighbors who may have Muslim connections. It all makes me think of John Spaulding and his "Christians Meeting Muslims" ministry. Let's share the love.

Here's a quote from the Wikipedia article on Wahhabism -- the type of Islam on which ISIS is based. "Wahhabism emphasizes... the importance of avoiding non-Islamic cultural practices and non-Muslim friendship no matter how innocent these may appear... Wahhabi scholars have warned against taking non-Muslims as friends, smiling at or wishing them well on their holidays."

So smile away friends! Reach out and fight the good fight with kindness and love.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Meanwhile, on Facebook...

I'm writing a quick "hi" here because I haven't written much lately. I don't know how many of the readers of this blog are connected with me on facebook or twitter but I'd like to encourage you to do that. You don't need to "friend" me to check out what's been going on there. I invite you to just look at especially because almost everything I share there is public.

Here are a few things I posted personally just yesterday:
Yesterday evening:

All night, all day, angels watching over me, my Lord.
All night, all day, angels watching over me.
When I drive that big long bus, angels watching over me my Lord.
In you Lord I always trust, angels watching over me.
(Sung on my bus this evening but I'm sure no one could hear. wink emoticon)


Yesterday afternoon:

Meditating on the word πραΰτης in the "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5:23. "Meekness" or "gentleness" has to do with being teachable, willing to reconsider and even repent when there's evidence that you (or I) have been mistaken, even about a cherished belief. For example, in James 3:13-18 we read (in one English translation), "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the (πραΰτης) meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." This is a warning against stubbornness among Christians. Important to continue to be "open to reason."


Yesterday mid morning:

Corporate leaders are morally responsible for their actions. We need to be informed. ColumbiaU responds to Exxon

If corporations like ExxonMobil were truthful and reliable reporters of the facts, we could have addressed climate change long ago, doing as the Lord would have us do as those who are made in God's image and are responsible rulers over God's creation. The letter linked above was written because instead of admitting their errors, ExxonMobile is attacking those who investigated them.

Here's a quote from page 5 of the letter by Steve Coll, Dean of the Columbia University's Journalism School (linked above), defending his students and their work:

"You state that ExxonMobil told Ms. Rust that 'nobody "knew" with certainty either the dangers of climate change, or its primary causes, in the 1980s,' which of course is true as far as it goes. (Little that hasn't yet happened can be known 'with certainty.') But Exxon certainly devoted extensive resources to understanding the dangers of rising temperatures - indeed its in-house climate science advisor described the company's internal study of the effects global warming as a competitive necessity. In studying these dangers, the Los Angeles Times article reported (and your letter does not dispute), Exxon used the same global circulation models that the company's executives were belittling publicly."

Even though primary sources like this are deep and hard to read, I prefer to cite them instead of just putting up a link to report that I heard about this on the radio today.


Yesterday early morning:

So now that I've overcome most of the hurdles as regards driving bus, including a first experience learning how slow I need to go with the ar-tic on ice, I'm looking toward the next challenges. I've been offered two opportunities - one to start a small group with young adult guys (connected with communitasmn dot com) and another that will probably lead to volunteer work with Bridging (bridging dot org). Also considering the possibility of involvement with the customer service department at Metro Transit -- there's an internal job opening that I'm looking at. And, FYI, Toni has her first appointment today at her new location - Hamline Place, 2585 Hamline Ave N, Suite C, Roseville, MN 55113. God is good.

Each of us, of course, can choose whether or not to participate in the social media world. Those who stay away end up missing out on interesting stuff, and not just from me. The things I post get "liked" or commented on and the conversations are often interesting. I often wish more people were connected that way, but I decided to share just a bit here before I have to run to today's second shift.

God's peace to you today.