Grandpa’s Big Red Truck

Dedicated to Robert Eugene Frieden (my Grandpa)
April 19, 1920 – November 13, 2013
Whenever I see an fuel/oil delivery truck I think of my Grandpa.
For that matter, whenever I smell gasoline, I think of my Grandpa.
You see, I spent many a summer day riding in his big red truck as he made his oil and fuel deliveries. These are some of the words I shared at his funeral 6 years:
There are moments in one’s life that no one wants to experience, but in living them you simply acknowledge that you are honored or privileged to be a part of the moment … my experience with my grandfather’s life was just that … an honor and privilege.
We shared something … a name … more precisely initials … REF.  F – Frieden; E- Eugene; and my R was Rodney. That’s REF like my Grandpa (Robert) like my Dad (Ronald) and like my son (Riley).
I haven’t always embraced that commonality.  There was a time I didn’t want to be a Rodney … I wanted to be Rod and I certainly never wanted to be a Eugene.
The important thing in all of this is that growing up I wanted to be like my Grandpa (not my Dad).
I wanted to drive a big red truck like my Grandpa. 

I wanted to be as strong as my Grandpa.

I wanted everyone to like me like they liked my Grandpa. It seemed everyone knew him and that everyone was his friend.

I hoped to one day know as much about everything like my Grandpa seemingly did.

I even wanted my hair to be wavy just like Grandpa.

My Grandpa was one of the coolest people I knew and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.

After all what’s not to like about a man that makes ice cream and fudge, hides candy by his bedside, and drives a big red truck!

As I grew older, dreams of driving a truck changed. I even gave up on having wavy hair – the length of my hair became an ongoing debate for me and my Grandpa (it was never short enough for him). I also discovered my own interests and those weren’t always the same as Grandpa’s.  Heck, we didn’t even root for the same baseball team – He the Cubs and me the Reds!  But even as my dreams grew and changed, one thing remained the same – I still wanted to grow up to be just like my Grandpa – honest, caring, selfless, strong of will, gentle of spirit, a man of quiet yet strong faith – a man of integrity.

Today (like most fathers), I struggle with the task of raising a son who thinks his Grandpa is way cooler than his own Dad. But the lessons I learned growing up have become the key to living with that frustration.

What I have learned is that if I can teach my son to be proud of his name Riley Eugene Frieden and the stories and heritage that have come before it … If I can remember to teach him about the man who started this tradition — not what he did, but who he was and what he stood for … If I can do that, I will succeed in teaching my son the most important lessons in life:

When you grow up, Grow up to be just like your great grandpa and your grandpa – that’s what I have tried to do. Learn to say your name with pride and hold your head high.

You are a Frieden … an R E Frieden and that means you share a something with the man I have called Grandpa all my life.
Learn to be like him and you will become a man of Honesty, a man of Caring thoughts, a man of selfless action, a man who was strong of will and gentle of spirit, a man of integrity, and a man of quiet yet strong faith.

Some will ask what’s so important about a a name?

The answer is not much unless that name was R E Frieden and then it can mean everything.

Thanks for that lesson Grandpa.

You never taught that to me … you just lived it every day.

Something Good …

Today is James Whitcomb Riley’s Birthday.  If you don’t know who he is – you should.
I Ran across this poem by Riley today and I think it expresses my concept of preaching and the thoughts I try to share in this blog.
Somep’n Good
Somep’n ‘at’s common-like, and good
And plain, and easy understood;
Somep’n ‘at folks like me and you
Kin understand, and relish, too,
And find some sermint in ‘at hits
The spot, and sticks and benefits.
We don’t need nothin’ extry fine;

‘Cause, take the run o’ minds like mine,
And we’ll go more on good horse-sense
Than all your flowery eloquence;
And we’ll jedge best of honest acts
By Nature’s statement of the facts.

So when you’re wantin’ to express
Your misery, er happiness,
Er anything ‘at’s wuth the time
O’ telling in plain talk er rhyme–
Jes’ sort o’ let your subject run
As ef the Lord wuz listenun.

Happy Birthday Mr. Riley and thanks for all the great words and stories!

Searching for the Good Life

I ran across a lost and found box today and it had me thinking … If only the lost and found box was where all that we are looking for could be found … Even if the box existed, could we even find it?

Enter Professor Solomon. He is, according to his biography, a magician with a degree in English from Harvard, but Professor Solomon is also a findologist—an expert at finding lost objects. He has a book about finding lost things and in it he lists 12 principles for finding anything that is lost.

Principle One: Don’t Look for It

Something’s lost, and your first thought— your basic instinct—is to look for it.
You’re ready to start rummaging about.
To hunt for it in a random, and increasingly frenetic, fashion.
To ransack your own house.
This is the most common mistake people make.
And it can doom their search from the start.
I know you’re eager to find that lost item. But not yet. Don’t look for it yet.
Wait until you have some idea where to look.

You can check out the other 11 principles and make up your own mind if it works. I was enthralled with the first principle, especially as it relates to Finding the Good Life.

We all want the Good Life. We all are seemingly searching for the Good Life and so few of us are finding it. Perhaps, Professor Solomon is onto something … Don’t look for it yet. Wait until you have some idea where to look. Maybe in our zeal to find the Good Life … we all have started looking for the Good Life without any idea of where to begin the search? Thank you Professor Solomon for the reminder and the practical advice.

Now before you going telling everyone about how wise the professor is, let me remind you of the words of the Great Master Teacher:

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things (The Good Life) shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 (my addition)

Not only did Jesus tell us how to find the Good Life, but he also told us exactly where to look.

See you Sunday … I’ll be the one smiling … good to know in my search for the Good Life that I am looking in the right place! How about you?

9-11 and 3 lingering Questions

Where were you?
September 11th has become one of those days – Pearl Harbor – JFK – We ask “Where were you?” and we each have a story. We need to tell these stories. By telling the stories we remember and we honor.

We tell our stories and in so doing we discover that life has gone which leads to Question

Where was God?

This is a question that is uttered even today in the midst of destruction and devastation – State Fair Stage Collapses, Hurricane, Tornado, Earthquake, a Car Crash, a terminal illness, and more . . .

But on this day years ago, even one police chaplain working at the site in NYC was overheard to say, “Where is God in this?” I don’t have a problem with the question. I have a problem with the bad theology that often results from the answers.

The answers like . . . God punished America or this was God’s wake up call to us or all things work for the good of God; therefore, God must have caused this to happen. Really? We needed a wake of call. God used this as punishment . . . all these thoughts leads us to affirm that somehow God wanted this to happen. Too many good people died that day for it to have been a good thing . . .

This was a tragic and sad day for everyone . . .

So, how do you reconcile a loving God with the events of 9-11?

First, I do not believe God caused 9-11. These events were not meant to teach us or America or the world nor were they meant as a means of punishment. We may not completely understand what motivated the individuals involved, but we certainly know a lot more about terrorism and what motivates terrorists. We don’t have to agree with them, but at least we have an idea of what motivates them. The events of 9-11 were driven by the actions of these individuals.

But that can somehow lead us to believing then that God was absent on this day. But, if we completely remove God from the equation we are left with an empty and hopeless situation. This event was not empty and we gather today because I believe it was not hopeless . . .

I saw God in the many people that responded that day treating people in the midst of the rubble and chaos . . .

I saw God in the medical and rescue teams who were moved by the tragedy and immediately left their homes to go and assist . . .

I saw God in the outpouring of supplies, prayers, all for the people we did not know . . .

A story that emerged from the rubble came from one of the rescue workers who found a cross two days after the collapse of the twin towers. The cross was from World Trade Tower One, and was found in World Trade Building Six. He actually found several crosses standing upright in the smoldering wreckage days after the attacks. Crossbeams that had fallen from the top of the collapsing north tower landed in this unusual position. “The crosses were just shards of steel that came from Tower 1, and went right through the roof of Building 6 and destroyed the entire center of it,” he explained. He marked the site by spray-painting on a nearby wall the words “God’s House,” and a directional arrow. In the days that followed this site became a place of quiet comfort and strength to all who entered.

God was not the source of the events. But God was the source of generosity that saw the outpouring of people giving to aid the victims.

God was not the source of the events. But God was the source of comfort and strength for those who lost loved ones and waited for news.

God was not the source of the events. But God was the source of the comfort and the hope that people found as they buried their dead.

God was not the source of the events. But God is the reason we gather as church communities united in faith to remember the sacrifice by so many

You see, if you take God completely out of the equation of 9-11 – – – you still have all the death and destruction, BUT you will have removed the single most important source of comfort and hope!

We need to be reminded: That no what happens or what we have done we cannot out distance ourselves from God.

I believe then as now, God was there every bit as much as He is here with us this day. But even the discovery of God in the midst of tragedy leads us to one final question.

So what? What difference will it make?

We each are left with a need to respond. That need to respond in part brings us together this day. What will come of this day? How will we be different because of this day? What will we learn?

My hope as we gather this day and as we continue to seek an appropriate response to the actions on 9-11-01 is that we will continue to:

1. Show Respect and Gratitude for those that run towards and not away from danger. We are thankful for the safety and peace we have each day. To sleep at night. To live in relative peace. We are more apt to say thank you to those who serve and have served to keep this peace.

2. We continue to remember. The tragedy would be for us to not learn and to just forget. The tragedy would be to forget and not be changed the events. The events of this day 10 years ago give us perspective; help us to recapture hope/resolve for a better tomorrow; and they strengthen our need for community and unity.

3. We continue to Respond

We Pray for those who protect us, give us a sense of peace.
We Pray for peace, the end of war (that has been in part our on-going response).
We Pray for wisdom and unity as we continue to respond as a country.

We Act by volunteering to make this world better.
We act by sacrificing our time for the greater good.

We Give by living even more generously.

One last personal observation as we seek to respond:

This day provides a stark reminder this day for Jesus’ words in John 15:13

“Greater love has no friend than to lay down his life for a friend”
When I visited NYC I was drawn to St. Paul’s Chapel right by the World Trade Center.
In that Chapel that became a resting place for the rescue workers is a memorial plaque right by the entrance:

May it be said of us all that we died in the midst of our usefulness …

As Christ died for each of us might we live for Him …

Never forget the great sacrifice made on your behalf.

The Fresh Fruits of Summer are here!

The summer tent is back up on Allisonville Road by the Church. And with the Tent all kinds of fresh produce are once again available.
When we lived in Oregon, I would drive by a large fruit farm everyday on my way to the office. The sign listed every kind of fruit imaginable that the farm produced. In the cold and damp winter the trees and fields looked pretty bleak, but in the spring everything turned green and began to show promise for the harvest. I was really looking forward to the harvest season when all the fresh fruit right from the vine would be available.
I never tasted that fruit as we moved back to Indiana before the fruit was ready for harvest. But seeing all the fruit got me to thinking . . .

In the Bible (Galatians 5:22-23) we read about the fruit of the Holy Spirit that God wants to grow in our lives. These fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  We each would like to have these characteristics, but it’s hard to always love, or be good or self-controlled when things aren’t going our way or we are tired or some one is giving us a hard time.

I have news for you. God doesn’t even want you to try to be these things all by yourself in your own strength. He wants to grow these characteristics in you. He does that when you spend time with Him. Just like you are influenced by other people when you spend time with them and become kind of like them, you are influenced by God when you spend time with Him and become like Him.

You can spend time with God by reading the Bible and listening to what He wants to say to you. You also spend time with Him when you pray to Him or when you go to a Bible Study or Prayer time at church with your friends. The more time you spend with God the more fruit the Holy Spirit can produce in your life.

So, as you spend time tending your garden, shopping the produce department of your favorite grocery, visit a Farmer’s Market, shop under a Tent and take time to enjoy that Indiana-grown cantaloupe and then stop for a moment and ponder what fruit is being produced in your life.

Take time this summer to spend time with God and ask Him to begin to ripen some new fruit in your life.
After all, we could all use a little more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
May God bring us each and abundant harvest this summer!

Learning to play the Fool …

Working in Septic Tank in Guatemala
If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.  Leviticus 25:35 NIV
Serving Food to the Needy


Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  James 1:22-24 NIV

Over the years, I have done many things in pursuit of serving Jesus.  I have tried many things in trying to be more like Jesus.  Too often though the things I do are respectable, honorable, and (well let’s face it) they make you look good. But not everyday.  I confess that I have been made a fool more than once while trying to  serve and live like Jesus.
A few years ago on a bitterly cold day I was part of a community food distribution and despite our best efforts we had food left over.  The leftovers were to go to the Community Food Pantry.  There was leftover frozen meat, but there were no boxes to put the meat in.  I suggested that we use a grocery cart from inside the church (used to collect food pantry donations) and transport the meat the 3 blocks to the Pantry.  I never gave a thought to what I would like in the process – in looking at the pictures I was a fool.
On another occasion while serving in Guatemala with Mission Guatemala, I had the opportunity to spend two days in the belly of a septic tank as part of our project to expand the restrooms in a community school.  I can tell you it was not my number 1 or 2 favorite jobs, but someone had to do it.  What a fool to volunteer!
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”            I Corinthians 1:26-31 NIV

Perhaps we if we spent more time being foolish and less time being honorable, we would understand what it means to truly live and to LOVE like Jesus.

Here’s to more days of being the fool for Jesus!

And now we begin . . . again

31416_426471080179_582995179_5896140_5420886_n.jpgIn the world of baseball the first month of the season is coming to an end this week.
Spring Training is a distant memory. All those games played – the wins and the losses – do not matter.  Now the long season has begun and everything counts and everyone started equal.

Shoot … even what you did last season doesn’t matter.

What you did yesterday will not determine the game today.
Each game is a do over in this long season of baseball.
Every spring optimism is abundant within every player and every team. Scott O’Connell, director of new ballpark development for the Minnesota Twins, once told me, “Optimism is what every team has during spring training. Reality is what every team knows by July.”

Every player strives to get ready during spring training, but at the same time the veterans know that the games don’t count and the real season begins with Opening Day.

Players that have struggled all spring will play like All-Stars in April and All Star players with great springs will struggle.
The Good News is that today, like each day stretched out this season, will offer the opportunity for redemption.  An at-bat following an inning with an error. A fielding chance after striking out. And a game tomorrow after today’s loss.

The day after Easter is the beginning of season as Christ-followers.

What will you do with the resurrection?
Everything up to this point was a dress rehearsal for this moment.
God’s plan for salvation and relationship was finished and now it is up to us to respond.
What will you do in this season after Easter?

It doesn’t matter what has taken place in the past.

Today everything is new.

So, Batter up!

The time is NOW to live your faith.