Questions from the Storm

Scottsbluff, Nebraska.  Almost Wyoming.  I had a conference there this week.  Beautiful country.  Big sky, rolling plains, semi-arid, grasslands.  And crazy cool rock formations.  As a runner & outdoor lover, I was looking forward to the chance to get run trails in Scotts Bluff National Monument & Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area.  Monday evening, after waiting out that afternoon's thunderstorm,  I “ran the rock” as a friend said of the imposing Scotts Bluff.  Tuesday evening, with storms clouds to the south looking as if they’d blow to the east, I set out to run the longer, trickier Wildcat Hills.

Near perfect.  Sixty degrees & breezy, I exulted in the single-track through forests, across meadows & along rock formations.  About an hour into my run, at the farthest point out from my car, I was greeted by dark clouds creeping over the hills as I turned south.  Five minutes later I stopped to compose the photo above.  A few minutes past that I was hunkered under a cedar-treed ledge as torrents of rain unleashed.  Then hail.  Drenched already, I prayed that the hail would let up so I might run for cover in a shelter house I believed was up the now slick hillside above me.

The hail subsided.  I thanked God & charged up the hill reaching the welcomed shelter soaked to the bone.  There, thankful for three walls & a roof, I waited for the rain to stop.  I prayed, sang, thought, & moved around to stay warm.  An hour later.  Just about dried out.  The rain stopped.  I took the cue & ran the sticky access road as quickly as I could one mile back to my car.  Reaching the parking lot, the sky opened up once more.  But I made it.  Thankful for the beauty of creation.  Thankful for the adventure.  Thankful for the ability to run.  Thankful for God’s grace.  Even in rain & hail.

Life is like my Wildcat Hills run.  Ups & downs.  Beautiful & fearsome.  Smooth & rocky.  Gorgeous & ugly.  Hot & cold.  Exhilarating & painful.  Breezy & stormy.

Was there ever a moment in that run when God didn’t know where I was?  What I was doing?  That He loved me?  Was there ever a moment in which He could not control the natural forces He created?  Yet, for whatever reason, he allowed me to experience every minute of it.  And I wonder, why is it so easy for me to doubt God’s love or question His purpose in the hard times?  Yet I am not so quick to acknowledge His blessing in the good times?  Why can’t I accept the storms as part of life?  Seek the shelter I can?  Make the best of the time?  And ask God what He wants me to learn from it?

Herbie Claus


From: Santa Claus

To: All Residents of Nebraska

I will no longer be able to serve the Cornhusker state on Christmas. I do, however, have a replacement for you: my third cousin twice removed, Herbie Claus.

His side of the family lives not at the North Pole, but in North Platte. In order for you to get to know him better, here are a few differences between us.

Herbie drives an old, red Chevy truck with rusty wheel wells (rather than a shiny sleigh with jingle bells). I made the mistake of loaning Herbie one of my reindeer – its head now hangs above his fireplace. Eight flying beef cows pull Herbie’s truck on Christmas Eve.

Many people, including me, prefer classic Christmas movies like “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but Herbie’s favorite holiday films are the “Game of the Century” and any Cornhusker Orange Bowl win.

Instead of cookies and milk from a plastic jug, Herbie asks that you leave him a hot Runza and milk in a glass bottle. I’ve tried the Runza and agree it warms me up more than cookies.

Like me, when he comes to your house, he’ll be wearing a red and white suit, but don’t be alarmed by the addition of his striped bib overalls – required attire for the truest Nebraskans.

Instead of hearing “On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen,” you’ll hear “On Rodgers, on Rozier, on Crouch and Frazier.” And finally, you may be used to me exclaiming, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night,” but Herbie Clause will be sure to say, “Merry Christmas to all and to Pelini a championship.”

Merry Christmas, Nebraska.

Your friend,
Santa Claus

Author's Note: To show the love of this Texan for Nebraska, I wrote this to share with my congregation last Christmas. It is the good, old Nebraska mascot, Herbie Husker, pictured above, that lends his name to this special Nebraska cousin Claus.  Many thanks to Chris Amundson of Nebraska Life Magazine for his editorial work & permission to use this copyrighted version here. "Memo from Santa to Nebraska" was published in the November/December 2008 issue on page 27. Merry Christmas indeed, Nebraska!