I am wondering how many Thursdays ago it was that I said I would get my phone fixed that day? You might recall my frustration was growing daily as it seemed to have a mind of its own - and a spirit that had no interest in cooperating with mine. Well, by noon that day it was cooperating, so, you guessed it, I put off having it fixed. It was not until yesterday that it finally pushed me over the limit.

When I walked into the Apple store, the first thing the tech asked me was, "Who replaced your screen?" I am thinking, "Who told you I had my screen replaced?" But he could tell. He also told me he could fix it - in only 1.5 hours - for $129.00. I now have a phone that promises to follow my instructions (which means I have no more excuses for random calls, crazy texts, and other forms of phone irresponsibility).

The question remains, though, "What took me so long?" The answer is, simply, "I have always been a little bit sloooooow." (or, more than a little bit, as some would tell me). Here is an example.

Way back in the fifth grade, after our 3 Lutheran one-room schools were consolidated into one, I was given the opportunity to read the Scriptures during weekly chapel. Afterwards, someone came up to me and said, "Mark, you really should consider becoming a pastor some day." I politely said (at least this is how I remember it), "Thank you, but I intend to be a Lutheran school teacher, and perhaps, some day, a principal."

During my days in public high school, on different occasions my friends offered the same advice to me. When I was attending Concordia Junior College, most of my best friends were preparing to go to the seminary, and repeatedly encouraged me to join them. When I graduated a little early with my BA in elementary education, the same suggestion came from others. Through all of those years my response never changed from what it had been in fifth grade.

I stayed in college a fifth year, receiving an MA in school administration, while Monica got her BA (also in elementary education). The plan was for us to get married in the summer (this worked out) and for us to start teaching somewhere in a small town in the Midwest that fall. What do they say about 'telling God your plans'?

Monica was placed in a Lutheran school in metro Detroit (small town?), but a teaching job could not be found for me - in the entire metropolitan area! Finally, just a couple weeks before our wedding, I was interviewed by a church in Detroit itself. The church had no school, but was looking for someone to help out with children's and youth ministries. I was not really trained for what they wanted, but they took me on anyway.

About four years later, God finally hit me in the side of the head with a 2 by 4, and I went to the seminary. A little over a year later he placed me back in that same church in Detroit, where I served as pastor until I came to STL in 1995. Many times I have wondered, "How would things be different if I had listened earlier to what I was being told?"

While I do not know the answer to that question, I have learned a couple things over the years. First, there are no 're-do's in life. What's done is done. And we move on. Second, we do not need any 're-do's' in life - the Lord provides, whether we are following his plan or not! He has used the path I have taken (whether it was his path or mine, I really know not) to mold me into the person I now am. And he has placed me into settings where I can serve him in his kingdom.

And the same is true for everyone reading this. Our God is so creative that he is able to take all of our decisions and actions (good, bad and otherwise) and shape them into blessings. And then he actually uses that as a platform from which we can be a unique blessing to others. ... Or, as I like to say, "Whenever I look back and see all of my questionable decisions, there stands Jesus saying, 'I got it covered.' He turns my head to the path in front of me and says, 'Now don't be sloooooow. Come see what I have planned for you.''

Or, in the words he has given us long ago: "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore you." (Jeremiah 29.11-14). And, if you think it is too late ... that you have blown it too many times (like, maybe, since the fifth grade) remember, "We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."(Romans 8.28) and "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8.31-32)

I know this got a little long today (my life-story seems to be getting longer every day), but I did not even get to tell you how my parents wanted me to be an engineer or a CPA! What can I say? Oh, yes, I still am a little bit sloooooow! (or more) ... and, unfortunately, feel as though I have affinity with the Tigers' bullpen!