can you rewind the tape please?

I used to live with my grandparents during my elementary years. I remember my reward for good behavior was a trip with grandma to the mall and visit to McDonalds. Now McDonalds back in the day was not like the massive metro-play-lands that they are today. It was just a sit-down meal in a box with a toy, commonly known as a Happy Meal. I would always get the fish filet, fries, with orange High-C. I loved those Happy Meals with grandma.

The Bible talks about another Happy Meal [John 6:1-14]. Jesus had performed a fish filet and French fry Hebrew Happy Meal miracle for 5000 people. His popularity was at an all-time high. After this miracle everyone wanted to crown Jesus King [not the burger King, v.15]. Jesus had something else in mind. How about taking a boat trip? What? So Jesus’ 12-followers boarded a boat across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum and Jesus meets them later taking a stroll on the water [6:16-24].

Meanwhile all the people who received the Happy Meal were looking for Jesus. What about another free meal? The crowds caught up with Jesus on the other side of the sea. Jesus was not looking to draw a big crowd. When crowds showed up Jesus would get all OCD [Operation Crowd Deduction]. Jesus says something really strange, “I know why you are here. You want another free meal.” [6:25-26] I could imagine what the disciples were thinking, “Jesus cool it. You got all these crowds captivated and you go ahead and say something crazy like this?” Jesus continues to talk about food, rather spiritual food and what really matters is relying on eternal food that on He can offer [6:27-29]. This brings about some serious questions in their minds:

“What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” [6:30-31] This brings up a Hebrew History 101 lesson. Do you remember the Sunday School lesson when the people of Israel were wandering in the wilderness and God miraculously feed them? The manna miracle proved to the Jewish people that Moses was their leader. The people were making the same connection with Jesus, but wanted more proof. However, Jesus was not interested in being some miracle producing David Copperfield, rather he answered their doubts and corrected their wrong thinking [6:32-33]. Doubts or questions either draw us to God or away from Him.

Jesus now gets controversial by removing the cape from a Jewish superheroes: Moses. And makes one of the most radical claims of all that either labels Him a lair, lunatic and/or Lord: He says He is the cosmic carbohydrate [6:35]. The disciples must have thought He flipped out. He even goes on to say cannibalistic things like, “eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Surely Christ’s career is over.

Sometimes it would be nice if life and God’s plans were recorded on DVD. Could I have season 8 please? There are times when watching a movie that I miss an important line or did not completely understand something. It is easy to rewind and replay. At times you want to fast forward to the good part. What happens when God does something you do not understand? What on earth are you doing here God? How should we respond?

Don’t press pause [6:60]. Don’t get all bent out of shape over unanswered questions. For Jesus’ followers it was a tough day. They had a lot of questions. I have felt like that after reading some of Jesus’ words. Pausing in our questions and doubts can handicap us. If you are in a boxing match and you pause for a moment you will become a TKO. Why pause? Is it because you do not want God to look under your hood and see all that is broken?

Don’t push eject [6:66-67]. Many bailed on Jesus even after they saw His miracles and heard His teachings. They were not ready to commit after counting the cost. Stay to the course.

Press fast forward [6:68-69]. Look ahead. Consider the long-term benefits of following Christ: Life eternal. What are the alternatives? “The only thing more difficult than having a personal relationship with an invisible God is having no such relationship”—Phillip Yancey. Is it a personal relationship? Yes, really personal.

Press rewind. Look back. Remember what God has done. He has a proven track record. For Peter the changes were dramatic—from fish to following Jesus. What is your story? How has God changed your story? [ie. David; 1 Sam.17:37 & Ps.77:11-12]

Push play. Press on. The best remedy for questions and doubt is “faith.” In the boxing match and blows to your faith, when you are against the ropes faith is the where we can regain strength. Sometimes God and our faith are difficult to understand. Like many who have gone before you and will come after have said, “God this is hard for me to accept, but I have faith you are who you say you are and you will do what you say you will do because you have already done so much.”

Does God really care for me? Even when my life seems to be falling apart? He cares more about me than I care about myself [1 Pt.5:7]. During my freshmen year of college I had major doubts. Why am I here? Does it really even matter? I have distant friends, my grades are collapsing, my family is splitting again, and God seems distant. I was to the point of taking my own life to escape the misery. I was at a crossroads: I am either going to throw away my faith and life or come running to God. I had a heart to heart with a professor. In that moment, my pride crumbled, I didn’t have the answers. I wept in relief, broken before God. God has given us the church to encourage our faith, to ask questions to one another and build on our faith.

stop it

I remember sitting in my Grandma’s wood-paneled living room as a youngster watching the Bob Newhart Show. She use to laugh so hard that it would make her cry. Every now and then I will watch Newhart reruns on TV. It brings back fond memories of those evenings with grandma and a bowl of popcorn.

Now grandma was a tough woman and would not let me get away with my little idiotic kid-spells. She would say in her tactful tone, “stop it!” Good times! Good times.

I often feel the same way when counseling people for change. I suppose it is those Joan Rothe genes in me mixed with a biblcial perspective on life. Simple lesson: we must see sin the same way God sees it and STOP IT!

Thanks to the seminary guys I see each week I found this funny clip…

the watering bucket

I am the proud owner of a green water bucket. Sure the bucket is missing its white sprinkler cap and is quite girly for a guy like me to trot around the yard with, but I am honored to water my flowers with it and I’m confident they appreciate being watered.

I inherited the bucket from my Grandma Rothe. In fact, I remember when she bought it at Steins Greenhouse. It is hard to believe it has been nearly 10 years since she past away. She was know for her green thumb and red petunias. I’d like to think I inherited that too.

These are a few pictures of my spring and summer flowers:

The History of Huttsinski

3 generations ago my Polish Great Dziadzia (Gramps) and Babcia (Grandma) stepped off the boat from Poland into a new land. They took the train and settled in Milwaukee because it looked a lot like home (Warsaw area), but had a hopeful future because of the prosperous factory jobs.
At Ellis Island they were forced to change their names from Hutzinski to Hutts. I have grown to be proud of my Polish (and German) roots. I still remember spending time with Babcia Stella and my German great-grandma Alice. They would tell wonderful stories about life in another world.JUSTIN
You know you’re Polish-American if.. 
-You come from Chicago, Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Hamtramck, or Milwaukee. 
-There is a large church called “Saint Alphonsis’,” “Saint Hedwig’s,” or “Saint Casimir’s” within one block of your childhood home.
Your knowledge of the Polish language is limited to ‘quirky’ words (e.g., dupa, gowno, gatki, etc), names for food (e.g., pierogi, kapusta, etc), and toasts (e.g., na zdrowie, sto lat, etc). 
You occasionally add the suffix “-ski” to English words for no apparent reason (e.g., “I’m gonna go put the car-ski in the garage-ski”). 
You call your grandma “babcia” or “busia” and your grandpa “dziadzia.”
-You know how to dance the polka, but you only do it at weddings. 
-You have one grandma that wears a babushka and galoshes every single day of the year and another grandma that wears a lot of chintzy jewelry and too much make-up. 
-You have a grandma who occasionally kills animals and uses every single part of their carcasses to make sausages, soups, dumplings, etc. 
You know more Polish jokes than all of your non
-Polish friends combined.
You have at least one uncle named “Stan,” “Stas,” “Casey” “Al,” or “Joe.” 
You have at least one relative who works, or used to work, in a steel mill. 
Your relatives exhibit fanatical devotion to local sports teams (e.g., Packers, Badgers, etc.)
Your grandma has a shrine in her broom closet complete with votive candles and a picture of the “Black Madonna of Czestochowa.”
Your parents have at least one crucifix or religious picture mounted on a wall in their house with palms tucked behind it. 
-Your grandpa and other older men in the family habitually kiss women’s hands. 
-You regularly attend Friday fish fries, harvest festivals, parish carnivals, and/or bingo. 
You like to put sour cream and horseradish on everything you eat. 
Your family likes to play card games like hearts and sheep’s-head, and this often culminates in full-scale brawls. 
You always prefer rye bread to white or wheat. 
Your dad has forced you to eat horseradish, claiming that it will “put hair on your chest” (even if you’re a female!). 
-People in your family have their wedding receptions at places called “Polish Legion Hall,” “Sacred Heart Center,” etc. 
You know the words to “Sto Lat” and sing it at birthday parties.
-You’ve waited in line at a church or bakery to buy pierogi….  we make our own pierogi!
Words like kiszka, kielbasa, and kolaczki actually mean something to you.
You know the difference between Czechs, Slovaks, and Slovenes, and you think they’re all inferior to Poles despite the numerous glaring similarities.You actually know who Kosciusko and Pulaski are, and why they’re important. 
You mention Nicholas Copernicus, Frederic Chopin, or Marie Curie (no, she’s not French) whenever people accuse Poles of being stupid. 
-You have at least one relative who plays the accordion.  
You’re either completely overdressed or completely underdressed for every occasion.
-[If you’re a woman], you wear make-up at all times – even if it’s 90 degrees outside and you’re 88 years old. 
You make or are forced to listen to unnecessary speeches before proceeding with any group event. 
You like corny expressions, puns, and/or stupid, infantile jokes. 
-You have a potato-shaped face, a huge dupa, and/or a ‘Polish nose.’
[If you’re a male], you’re either as hairy as an ape or as hairless as a baby gerbil.
-[If you’re a male], you have a mammoth gut and legs as thin as sticks. 
-[If you’re an older male], you have an exceptionally large, Stalin-esque mustache and/or an affinity for gaudy jewelry (e.g., pinkie rings, ‘miraculous’ medals, etc). 
Your family bickers constantly.-You have at least one bar in your house – usually in the basement.
-Your front yard is filled with lawn ornaments – (e.g., pink flamingos, jockey, Mary in the half shell, etc.)
-You have relatives who are priests and nuns.
You collect “prayer cards” from funerals.
-You add a possessive “apostrophe s” to the name of EVERY business (e.g., Burger King’s, Blockbuster’s, etc).
You or someone in your family owns at least one beat up, highly outdated Dodge (e.g., Aries, Aspen, Dart, Shadow, etc) or Plymouth (e.g., Acclaim, Reliant, Sundance, Volare, etc). 
-Your family owns a deli, bakery, sports bar, or funeral parlor (you know, to serve all the people who eat sausage and kolaczki!).  
You’re haven’t been a practicing Catholic for years but everyone in your family insists that it’s “just a phase.” 
You generally talk too much. 
-You listen to polka music and other “ethnic programming” on the radio.
You cross yourself whenever you are shocked or disgusted.
You honestly believe that Poles are the brightest, most beautiful people in the whole world. 
People often have trouble pronouncing your last name. 
-You know that “head cheese” isn’t really cheese.
You like, or know people who like, pickled pig’s feet and raw herrings in sour cream. 
-Your family is so loyal that even a second cousin would take a bullet for you.  
You typically insist on doing simple, routine tasks in the most difficult, time-consuming manner possible
You always point out that names ending in “-sky” are Russian, not Polish. 
You make fun of everything you see on TV, but this doesn’t stop you from watching it for 8 hours straight every night. 
Your family has 7 or 8 meals on major holidays and they always bake way too many desserts!

belly dancer for hire

In Memory of Grandma.
As a few of you know my late grandma, Joan Rothe, was a dancer. She could twirl a baton, do the polka, and wax any wedding reception with her grooves. And of course, who can forget grandma’s sweet skills in belly dancing or as she would tell us grandkids, “middle eastern dancing”. Ah yes, those were the days…watching grandma wiggle her hips on stage, balancing that sword on her head with a dozen other grandmas. It would make most young boys squimish, but for me, I was proud. I mean, who can brag on their grandma’s belly dancing skills? It made for a great show and tell in elementary school!?
In deed, I did inherit my grandmothers genes. I may not have the hips, but I do have the famed belly roll. The past few nights I have been honing my practice of belly dancing by watching instructional videos gifted to my by Amy and Charity who admittedly see potential in my future of male belly dancing. I know some of you may laugh, but if you are ever in need of a belly dancer I will soon be on the market. I could perform for your kids birthday parties, church potlucks or holiday business parties. I dont cost much, but I will promise you a good show.
In all seriousness, thanks grandma…
 for loving on me like a mother,
for your patience with my kid-ish spells,
for the weekend rides to great grandma Stella’s,
for trying to cook and laughing about the mistakes,
for being a clean-aholic,
for your willingness to see the world and travel and share your adventures,
for demonstrating to me unbiased compassion,
for always having a fun and giving personality,
for never complaining even in the mist of deadly cancer,
and for instilling within me a desire to dance.