At the end of U.S. History, our teacher gave us a challenge worth 5 extra points on our next test.  We had to be the first one to come to him with an answer to an obscure frontier history question (I can’t remember the question).  Immediately as the bell rang, I made a b-line to the Library and its reference section – specifically the encyclopedias.  I gladly arrived late to my next class, because I had made it to the U.S. History teacher with the right answer before any of my classmates had.

Today of course, everyone would just whip out their smartphones and snapchat the teacher a picture of the answer with a screenshot.

In woodworking, a reference surface is everything.  In a modern shop, it is usually the bed of the jointer from which flat boarjointer planeds come.  In a traditional shop, it’s the sole of the plane.  This flatness is what everything gets referenced from.  A reliable source of information that transmits throughout the entirety of the piece to be built.  If the reference is flat – the piece will be accurate.

In our lives, we all measure ourselves compared to something.  For some of us it’s our parents’ lives, for some it’s a childhood hero or even a friend we are always trying to best.  The problem is that each of these will mislead us.  While they may be good people – they aren’t perfectly true.

The life of Christ is the only sufficient reference for us.  Every other comparison will lead us astray, even if it only starts as a small degree of error.  The encyclopedias were references because they had been tried and found to be accurate.  Christ has been tried by generations, and those who have used Him as a reference guide have made the most beauty with their lives.

The problem has been as G. K. Chesterton put it, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”  Don’t let difficulty keep you from achieving something of true worth.  Hold the life of Christ next to yours.  Where are you a bit off…in need of truing up?  Keep referring back to Him, and your life will turn out beautifully.

*Picture taken from Lie Nielsen’s website depicting their no.8 Jointer Plane:



How to Pray

How to PrayThere are a lot of questions that I get asked every year about this subject, so I thought I would give my Top 10 on the subject:

10. With Confidence.  “Boldly I approach the throne” is intended within the context of family.  God is overwhelming in every aspect, but he’s my Daddy; So I can talk to him with confidence that he hears my prayers and cares about them.

9. With Humility.  Don’t get so caught up in the confidence part that you forget to whom you are speaking!  The Ancient of Days whose days are as a thousand years, who creates worlds with words and defeats Satan just by showing up.  The Alpha and Omega, the Bright and Morning Star, the Judge and Healer.  I could go on, but just remember that you are not His equal.

8. With Respect.  This is a natural combination of the previous two.  He is worthy of your respect, you are not speaking to a peer.  Growing up in the South, we learned to call adults with Mr., Mrs. or Miss; and to say, “Sir” and “Ma’am”.  It is a way of stating your respect verbally.  Using phrases like, “Lord” are appropriate…

7. With Silence.  Repeating “Lord” 82 times in a five minute prayer defeats the purpose of the term.  It is no longer a term of respect, it is a filler to give you time to think that has no greater significance than, “um” or “uh”.  If you can’t think of the next thing to say, then be quiet for a while.  Who knows, maybe He’ll say something to you!

6. With Sincerity.  You are literally speaking to the One who knows every thought you have had or will ever have.  Faking it is just stupid!  Be honest.  Be real.  Who are you trying to impress anyway?  Express yourself, not the self you think you should appear to be.

5. With Simplicity.  When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, it wasn’t with any flowery phrases or powerful prose.  Ask for what you need, thank Him for what you have and seek His will for your life.  No redactions necessary.

4. Without “Religionese”.  Listening to some people pray you would swear you have to learn a new language.   People suddenly start using words and phrases from the year 1611 that they never use any other time.  Not only does this come off as fake, but as showy and makes new believers feel even more awkward and inept when it comes to praying.

3.  With Brevity.  If I take my time and read with meaning the Lord’s Prayer…it consistently takes me 27 seconds.  That’s it.  If you want to pray a marathon, that’s fine, but our Lord only needed 27 seconds.

2. With God.  Even if you are praying aloud with other Christians, you are supposed to be talking to God…not them.  Don’t preach at them, don’t teach them, don’t speak to them.  Speak to God.

1.  With Submission.  Remember that “to pray” literally means “to ask”.  You are making a request.  It is not a demand.  God chooses His response.  We cannot force Him to do anything.  After all, if we could force His hand, how strong could He be?

There are some obvious other entries: With Faith, With Persistence, With Courage, etc.; but these seem to me to be the big ones that get us into trouble.


“It’s the thought that counts” is a phrase that has always driven me nuts!  I think it’s because it is always used in conjunction with a lousy gift.  Think crocheted underwear – “Now Jimmy, you know your aunt Gracie spent a lot of time working on those, the least you could do is pretend you like them!  You know ‘it’s the thought that counts.’”   Then you throw them away, because really who wants to wear crocheted underwear!!!  Lousy gift.

What if the phrase were used though in conjunction with an awesome gift…like a 3 horsepower cabinetry tablesaw from SawStop that magically doesn’t lop your hand off when you try shoving it through the blade at full speed.  Awesome gift!  “Now Jimmy, you know your aunt Gracie spent a lot of time saving up to get you that tablesaw, the least you could do is…be overwhelmed by the sacrificial love of an aunt who gave up so much that you could have something truly nice.”  Yes, you’re right – that is the least that I could do.

One of my favorite passages in scripture is when King David is going to make an offering to God in atonement for numbering the fighting men of Israel.  David is told by an angel to offer to the Lord a sacrifice on this guy’s threshing floor, who upon finding out why David wants it, offers it for free as well as the oxen and the wood.  David’s response is core to his being a man after God’s own heart –  he says, “I will not…sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

It’s got to cost me something to be meaningful.

What have you been offering God of late?  Has it cost you anything?  Has it been a sacrifice?

After all, it is the “thought that counts”.

What gift have you received that made you aware the giver really knew you and cared about you?