A Contentment Story that Won’t Stay in Vegas

You know the saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?”

Not this time. You’re hearing it.

Don’t worry, it’s not tawdry.

A couple years ago, I was acting as chaperone for a senior trip. My students had chosen Las Vegas for the destination, and despite their penchant for mischief, the week had gone well (i.e. nobody arrested or kicked out of the hotel). Perhaps it was just the desert heat sucking all the energy out of them; after all, they were northern kids. But whatever. They’d had fun, seen things they’d never seen before (water park, amusement park, strip, restaurants, taxi rides), and there we were at the Vegas airport ready to fly home. My trip leader’s only regret was that she hadn’t been able to see the “Old Strip”; apparently there was a former Strip before the current one we’ve all heard of.

But a problem struck. One of our students was not being allowed past airport security. Vegas TSA was apparently deciding that his ID wasn’t sufficient – even though Montana’s TSA had found no problem with it.

So one of our students was stuck in Vegas.

And since the student was male, and I was the only male chaperone on the trip, guess who had to stay with him?

This guy.

The trip leader handed me a benjamin and an apologetic grin. I had to escort an antsy, somewhat reckless 18-year-old back home, across the country, by bus. And to make things better, it was 7 in the morning and the next Greyhound north to Salt Lake City didn’t leave until 10:15pm.

Did I mention that I was already missing the wedding of two good friends – including a former student I’d mentored for four years – to go on this trip?


So the student and I grabbed a taxi to the city Greyhound station, plunked our butts firmly down in some highly uncomfortable seats, and settled in to wait. For 14 hours.

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Six Things I Told My Past Self

timeLast week, on a roadside after a delivery, I found a small, unmarked box containing a time machine.

Weirdly, it didn’t appear in any pictures or videos I tried to take with my phone. It wasn’t a huge device, either, closer to the size of a toaster. Unlike the ones in movies and TV shows, it seems you can actually only do so much with this kind of technology, no fitting in a whole person or any such. It would, however, accommodate a small letter. 

The instant I realized that, I knew what to write.

I had to drive down to Phoenix to take the exact GPS coordinates of my old Union Hills apartment, so the device would land when and where I wanted it. I set the sequencer to place it there in late 2004 (the dial wouldn’t go further into the past than 15 years), hoping that my younger self might find it and. at the very least. face the next few years better equipped. Then I pressed the big red button. Thank goodness for big red buttons.

The device vanished soundlessly. Nothing in my life appears to have changed. Either it didn’t work, or it did work and the result was a separate branching timeline with which we can’t interact. I guess I have no way of knowing.

But I can share what the letter contained. Maybe, if you’re further back on the trail God once assigned to me – well, I just thought it might be of help.



I know things are tough right now. Man, are they tough. Everything feels like a suffocating mattress of isolation and confusion. That “amazing plan for your life” you heard about isn’t materializing, and you’re struggling to readjust to adult life away from home. You feel hurt, helpless, and hopeless.

You are under attack.

That’s how you need to see your present circumstances. That’s the lens you need. Things are actually going okay for you, but the onslaught of lies and fired-up emotions is making it hard to see – and threatening to sabotage it all.

There are six things you really need to hear. I hope you will be willing. Part of you doesn’t want to hear anything except “things will change tomorrow”. But if you will listen, you could find a much better life for yourself in the next few years.

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Would You Like to Become Ironclad?

To my unbelieving friend:

There is a wondrous treasure buried within the New Testament.

Rumors of it reach your ears occasionally, its light glinting for the briefest of moments from beneath the religious dirt. The word “buried” is apt, for reading a massive text like the Bible feels much like digging. Without a map, it’s hard to know where to start. That’s one reason people rarely find it.treasure

But it’s there. And the Apostle Paul says that if you knew what was inside, there’s nothing you wouldn’t sacrifice to find it. 

Haven’t you ever asked yourself what Paul was so jazzed about, so obsessed about, that he would “consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phillippians 3:8)? The man is either bonkers, or he knows something we don’t.

You’re probably thinking one of two things right now. One is, I’ve never heard Christianity described like that. It’s usually just a set of rules, a moral obligation to believe. No. It’s much more. Rules don’t get anyone out of bed in the morning. Paul speaks almost giddily of what he’s found, as if it’s a prize worth losing his very life to seize.

The other is, The prize is heaven, right? Cherubs on clouds with harps? May I say here that it’s tragic that religious imagery has distorted heaven like veal into a gross caricature. So bear with me if, although heaven is the greatest gain, and its true nature is far beyond our wildest dreams, I choose to speak of another treasure.

It is a secondary prize of Christianity, yet one the world itself is constantly chasing and has developed many counterfeits for, one that generates books and magazines and TV segments and entire industries and religions, and astonishingly, one that many of its Christian possessors don’t even know how to use.

It is the ability to become ironclad.

Here’s a map.

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