Tag Archives: Wheaton college

Life Without My iPhone

iphone and me

iPhone, sweet iPhone

About two weeks ago, I sent in my iPhone for repairs; the port for power connecting had begun working only intermittently. Happily, however, I didn’t have to do without: the folks at U.S. Cellular gave me a old fashioned flip-phone replacement.

Honestly, I thought it would be a good experience. Sort of a forced unplugging, you know…going back to ancient times, when our forefathers could only call and text with their devices. I too would join in their happy throng, smelling more flowers, watching more sunsets, and living at peace in a world without Facebook.

The timing, however…was poor. My new flip phone era coincided with the theft of our GPS right out from under our noses as our van sat in the driveway one evening. This meant that drop-off-your-student weekend at Wheaton College was going to be somewhat GPS-less for me.  Diane had her phone, but we would not always be together…and besides, it was hers, not mine.

Readers of this blog will know that we already have another student, our Junior – Josh, at Wheaton, so you would think we would know our way around by now. Not so. And after all, why should we? We always had our GPS.  Going to Wheaton was almost as simple as selecting 500 College Ave., and tucking in for a three hour nap. Not anymore. Yet truthfully, getting there wasn’t the problem. It was getting around during the long three day weekend to our lodgings and various eateries that would be tough. The positive was that, indeed, by the end of the weekend, I had the Wheaton-Glen Ellyn area more figured out than ever before.

Now…about texting. I’ve grown accustomed to speaking out loud my texts into my iPhone. Though my kids think I’m hokey, I think it’s genius. And oh how I wanted to talk to that flip-phone with its abc and def etc. buttons. Purgatory, if I believed in it, would be mandatory flip-phones and forced texting. And that brings up another problem: Whensendingatextonmynewflipphone,Icouldn’tfindthespacebar. The upside was that Elisabeth received some entertainment from her dad’s flip-phone goofiness and started showing my run-together texts to her new college pals. It wasn’t until we arrived at the school and met up with tech savvy Josh that my messages got a bit easier to read. (# button = space)

Of course I was app-deprived. Email, Safari, Audible books, Olive Tree Study Bible, My fitness pal (apparently without tracking calories, I would just need to eat whatever I wanted). And forget actually watching sunsets, midday, I just longed to consult my Weather Channel app to see whether a sunset would be hypothetically viewable that evening. A very mild depression descended, and I was unable to discern if it came from leaving two kids at college or not having Evernote.

The culmination of my troubles came when we needed to kill an hour before dinner and headed to…Kohl’s. I like to think that Steve Jobs invented iPhones primarily for men whose wives were going to spend more than 5 minutes at a Kohl’s. I once killed almost two hours sitting in a manchair at Kohl’s while reading from the Kindle app on my iPhone. I got at least one good thought for my Easter sermon that day. But nothing either productive or entertaining was going to be happening in this hour. In desperation, I tried to connect to something called “easy edge” on the flip phone, thinking it would provide me with baseball scores or stock tips or the latest news from AP…anything…anything. But the flip phone failed to connect to easy edge. It was just me…and clothes.

My iPhone is back now – actually Apple gave me a new one (or refurbished – I can’t tell) as it was under warranty. And all I can say is that I have a newfound appreciation for that grey rectangle in my front pocket. Dear iPhone, I never knew you, and I’ll never take you for granted again.

And why do I bring all this up? Well, Scripture, of course:

But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 1 Timothy 6:8 (ESV)

And somewhere up in heaven…the Apostle Paul is shaking his head at me.

For tomorrow, Thursday, September 3rd: 2 Timothy 1


Posted by on September 2, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Pray for Me

WheatonI don’t think I usually ask the church to pray for me. And maybe that’s just…dumb.

Oh, I’ll fill in the Friendship Register at church with a prayer request sometimes, though the pace of the service and my responsibilities keep me from it many weekends. But I don’t think I turn to fellow brothers and sisters with prayer requests as often as I should. The Apostle Paul was not so foolish. In both of his letters to the Thessalonians, and in his letter to the Colossians, he asked for prayer:

“Finally, brothers, pray for us…” 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (ESV)

“Brothers, pray for us…” 1 Thessalonians 5:25 (ESV)

“At the same time, pray also for us…” Colossians 4:3 (ESV)

Paul asked people to pray for him not because he wanted others to be thinking warm thoughts of him, nor because he thought it would somehow help their spiritual growth. No, he asked people to pray for him and his partners in ministry…because God answers prayer. That’s why.

So, here goes, if you would pray for me and mine, I would appreciate it.


  1. …for our adjustment to life at home without either Josh or Elisabeth. Pray also for Annie (our high school freshman) that she would have joy through this change. (She loves her brother and sister!)
  2. …for Diane in her role as Children’s Ministry Director at Edgewood, especially for help in recruiting new teachers/helpers, and God’s blessings on an upcoming dinner/fun night/launch event for volunteers.
  3. …for God’s blessing on Elisabeth as a new freshman at Wheaton College, for help with academics, and the blessing of new friendships, and a continued close walk with Jesus.
  4. …for the Lord’s help for Josh as this year he is an Resident Advisor (R.A.) on the sixth floor of Traber Hall at Wheaton College – for strength and wisdom to lead well, and for good relationships with the guys on his floor.
  5. …for God’s blessings on our 8 member search team as we look for and comb resumes for a new Director of Worship Arts, that the Lord would lead us to the right person for the job.
  6. …for wisdom in preparing the marriage series coming up at Edgewood – that the Lord would use it to help and bless marriages at Edgewood. And for God’s blessing on my marriage to sweet Diane.
  7. …for God’s hand on all of our precious staff at Edgewood.
  8. …and always, for help with what God has called me to do at our church: to preach, pray, lead and love.
Thanks so much for praying. It means the world.

For tomorrow, Wednesday, August 26th: 1 Timothy 1



Posted by on August 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


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When a Christian is Depressed

There is an idea going around – and I think it’s been going around for a long time – that true Christians, or at least godly Christians, are never depressed. It’s a wonder where ideas like this come from. I suppose there is a twisted logic to it – Christians are going to heaven, so why be sad, right?

If only life were so easy.

But it’s not…not at all. And the idea that Christians should never be depressed only adds guilt to the problem thus doubling the pain. Thankfully, the Scriptures are not nearly so harsh on hurting brothers and sisters. For instance, the Psalms are full of testimony by God’s people experiencing melancholy…

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Psalm 42:5 (ESV)


The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (ESV)

There are many more such passages, but the point is that God’s people walk through hard times and as a result…feel downcast and discouraged. Let’s call it depressed. Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers in the history of Christendom, famously battled depression, as did the one-time President of the Navigators, Lorne Sanny. And whether or not it’s a chronic problem, all of us have experienced it from time to time. I certainly have.

But those who will admit their sadness, occasional or otherwise, find themselves in good company. For the Apostle Paul also struggled in this area. He wrote…

But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 2 Corinthians 7:6 (NASB)

I quote the NASB because it uses the forbidden “d” word, but the ESV basically says the same thing, only using “downcast”. Whatever you call it, 2 Corinthians 7:6 has hope, because Paul says that God is in the business of comforting the depressed. That’s hopeful, for it tells us that God knows we walk through depression, and He Himself works to pull us through it. This really shouldn’t surprise us, for He is our Heavenly Father, and as such, He loves us His children more than we can know.

Last year the President of the school my son Josh attends (and where Elisabeth is also heading this fall), Wheaton College, sent out an email to parents referencing a chapel address he gave where he talked through his own recent struggle in this area. Wow. Rarely had I heard such vulnerability from someone in a position like his. Dr. Phil Ryken is a noted theologian (you hear me quote from him occasionally if you attend Edgewood; I’m using his Luke commentary in our latest series) and a gifted speaker – the message I’m talking about is below and is well worth a half an hour of your time as he tells how he walked through depression…and God comforted him.

For Friday, June 5th: 2 Corinthians 8 


Posted by on June 4, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Of Hot Stoves and Little Girls

It was many years ago at our first home in Waupun on Church St.  Our two kids were finally in bed (Annie was not yet on the scene), and having fed the little ones earlier, Diane and I were planning a late night frozen pizza/T.V. time as we sometimes did. When the IMG_0755oven timer started going off to indicate the pizza was ready, maybe we didn’t respond so quickly, but we did hear a wee girly voice from the corner bedroom:

“Mommy, your hot stove is beeping.”

Kids say the darndest things, and perhaps especially the one we named Elisabeth.  On another evening I came into her room and called her a princess. Don’t all little girls want to be called “Princess”?

“I not a princess.”

What are you then?

A moment’s hesitation…

“I a goat-pig.”

Well, forgive your father for insulting you.  But we never took up with that name, for which she would thank us today.  In fact, she was a princess, but she was a princess I gave another nickname to: “Littlebit”

Our princess Littlebit is turning 18 today.

So we’re heading to the Windy City this morning to celebrate the big day.  The four of us are hoping to have lunch (Cheesecake Factory?) and then meet her brother outside the Chicago Theater for a “Free tours by foot” tour of the city.  Afterwards we’ll all head back to Wheaton College for Josh’s final Men’s Glee Club concert of the year. It promises to be a full and joyous day.

And speaking of Wheaton, it’s hard to believe but sweet Elisabeth is almost finished with high school and headed there to join her brother next year. It’s early, but right now she is leaning toward a Bible/theology major, which would fit well with her heart for God and love for His Word.

Elisabeth and DadI got scared recently and took her aside and asked her to begin a weekly breakfast date with me.  Time was passing so quickly and I didn’t want to miss her. An intentional date time is necessary with her – so busy with school and work and youth group (birthday party with that gang next week) and scholarship applications and piano…always piano.  For years now she has been taking lessons from a renowned teacher in the Milwaukee area.  My daughter the Maestro.  You’d have to hear it to believe it.

So if you see Littlebit and me out on the town Tuesday mornings, you’ll know what’s up. I’m trying to hold off the inevitable, when we have to pay more attention to the oven…because our little princess has left home.





Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The Missing Peace by Josh Knowlton


Celebrating Josh’s 20th birthday a month ago at Wheaton College

(Note from Roger:Today I have asked one of my favorite people in the world to be a guest blogger.  He is my one and only son, Josh Knowlton. Josh is a sophomore at Wheaton College studying Anthropology.  Aside from academics, Josh is a member of the Wheaton Men’s Glee Club and the acapella group, Thundertones. He’s also a weekly worship leader for three-year-old Sunday School at the Church of the Resurrection and also leads a weekly ministry to teach English to native Chinese speakers in the Chinatown area of Chicago. Lastly, he also occasionally writes a personal devotional from his Scripture reading. So for today…I asked him to go public. Be sure to share freely!)

One of the deepest cries of every soul is the plea for peace. Not having peace is like a restless night’s sleep. You toss and you turn as your bed creaks and moans. Your pillow always has a lump in it; your sheets always have a crinkle. The temperature either makes you shiver or sweat, as nagging frustration runs through your mind. And when you wake up the next morning in a half-sleep stupor, you end up more tired than you were the night before. Not peace.

This “not peace”  is a constant reality everywhere we turn. It happens at home in the sounds of raised voices; it happens at work in gossip or a biting remark; it happens at school in the form of stress and “being left out”; it happens in the world in the ways of Ferguson, Ukraine and Russia, ISIS.

Every night, the world has insomnia. It’s tossing and turning, desperate for some peace it believes should be here. Restless for rest. But every morning we awake to a world that seems worse off than it was before.

And yet, Paul says that because we have been “justified by faith” by Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can have peace! True peace, a “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Although the world may still be broken and restless in endless ways, God wants us to experience his peace by being in a relationship with him, by knowing his grace.

This probably isn’t shocking to you. But it should be. You see, God knows the words you’re going to say before you even think to say them (Psalm 139:4). He’s numbered your days, and knows what each one will be like (Psalm 139:16). He knows you, the real you. He knows your family history and your inside jokes with your best friends. He’s watched and smiled at your most embarrassing moments, and applauded you at your biggest successes. And he knows your sin—the horrible things you wish you could forget and the little things you can’t even remember.

God knows you better than Google knows your search history. And yet he still loves you endlessly. And as Paul says, he lets us, unclean sinners, enter into a peace with him. No more restless nights, right?

Maybe one day. But for now, this isn’t quite the end of the story. We still live in a world full of violent unrest, unrelenting agitation. Not peace: suffering. And even though as Christians, the Holy Spirit has given us peace, there’s still going to battles we have to face—there’s still going to be suffering.

So how does this suffering work into this plan of peace?

Paul, as usual, has the answer. He outlines: “suffering produces endurance…endurance produces character…and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3).

You see, suffering is like a super-charged, rocket-engine fuel that is agonizing to produce, but ultimately launches our hope in God into the stratosphere. Just like rocket science, it’s hard to understand—especially when you’re living through that suffering. But with Christ working through our suffering—we end up producing hope. It’s kinda like putting last week’s garbage in a blender and ending up with the new iPhone 6. It’s wonderful, beautiful, impossible, glorious. It’s Christ working through us.

Without Christ, peace is like a puff of smoke we see but can’t contain, a handful of sand running through our fingertips. But with Christ, peace is a reality that takes hold in our hearts. And it’s here for us—here for you.


For tomorrow, Friday, March 27th: Romans 6

While you’re at it, here’s another story about Josh…


Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Exit Pollster in the Inner City – My Election Day Story

IMG_0092I’ll bet my Election Day was more interesting than yours: while you were busy going to work and voting (of course!), I was hanging out in the inner city of Milwaukee as an exit pollster. Here’s my story:

Two years ago I began my second career surveying exiting voters in Madison for Edison Research. Edison is the national organization that does the official exit polling for the major news organizations on Election Day. When you hear “exit polls” on Election night, you are hearing about Edison Research. Now, I must admit that as a second career, it has its limitations – you only work one day every other year; but, that said, if you like politics (I thought of going into it as a schoolboy) and have a flexible schedule, it’s darned interesting, and for your trouble, they shoot you a check for $300 after a day’s work. As the sage once said, that’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

It wasn’t really on my radar this year, but I got an email a few weeks back and before you knew it, I was assigned to be the Edison pollster at Westside Academy One, of the Milwaukee Public School System, handling voters from Wards 150 and 170 of the big city.

I had to rise early. Edison prefers you to visit your polling place before the big day to be sure you know the way; but that wasn’t going to happen, so I wanted to leave myself plenty of cushion to get there by 6:45.  As it was, I was awake at 3 a.m. thinking about life, and I rolled out of bed around 4.  I was on the road by 5 for the trip which Google maps told me would take an hour and 10 minutes. With a stop for an early morning diet Pepsi (I never picked up the coffee habit), I made it to my polling place around 6:20.

Now, Diane had mentioned slight concerns about the neighborhood (she got her bachelor’s degree from UWM, and knows Milwaukee fairly well), but she wasn’t sure, and I felt a slight trepidation. Arriving in the early hours, as much as you can tell these things, the neighborhood seemed okay, and for all the negative reputation of Milwaukee Public Schools, Westside Academy One sure seemed to be a gem.  The hallways shone with beautifully polished wooden floors and the walls were lined with thoughtful artwork, complete of course with hand drawn turkeys made in preparation for the season.  Pictures of many former students were displayed in the central hallway, and the script on the bottom of each picture was the college each was attending or had attended.  The message was clear: they did it – so can you.

And, perhaps you won’t be surprised to find out that I was a minority for the day. I once heard the white guy Phil Ryken of Wheaton College speak of how minorities wake up every day very conscious and aware of their minority status. I wouldn’t have thought of this, and I suppose Ryken must have had some inside info to come up with such an insight (maybe he was a pollster in the inner city), but walking for a day in minority moccasins, I have no reason to doubt it after my experience.

The first part of the exit pollster’s day is by far the most important for his or her happiness during the next 13 hours: greeting the election official and getting your place to stand for the day. This may not matter for Edison workers in Southern California, but for us question-askers in Wisconsin on the first Tuesday in November, settling the question of inside or outside makes all the difference in the world. Most exit pollsters end up doing their work outside… (continued here)

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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Uncategorized


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The Knowltons Come Home

IMG_20130807_110019_741The Knowlton clan returned last night from a short term mission trip in Xpujil, Mexico. Well, I should say that some of us did – Annie and I had stayed in Waupun to keep the home fires burning – but Diane, Josh and Elisabeth returned with tales to tell.  And though it was late, we gathered to hear stories.  These are joyous homecomings indeed.

There is a certain pattern we follow when someone returns in our family, beginning with a welcome home sign to greet the wayfarers.  Annie the artist spent a good part of Tuesday on this – the results are displayed.  Then after hugs and “I missed you!”s, we settle in the living room to hear about the adventure.  Let’s just say there was not enough sleep last night – at least for me – for all I know the rest of the bunch is still snoring.

It’s been a summer of travel.  Annie and Elisabeth went to camp on different weeks.  Likewise Josh went to a two week conference in Colorado called Summit, an experience that would benefit any soon-to-be college freshman.  And on that note – our oldest child is shedding that designation and leaving in a week on a more long term adventure – to Wheaton College in Illinois.

This may be hard.

Except I know that on a weekend to be named later there will be more tales to tell, more dragons slain and maidens saved.  I look forward to that with relish, as I trust he does as well – the going is all the sweeter for the homecoming that awaits.

For years now, we five have gathered during the school year on 3 or 4 mornings a week to read and memorize Scripture, to pray for the day.  For a time we entered a pattern where we would finish our devotions, head into the living room, and put on Chris Rice’s Circle Up.   And we would dance.

Circle up, circle up around the throne
Old and young saints of every history
Great and small angels all and seraphim
Grab a hand, twirl a dance, circle up, and worship Him

Hear the thunder of unfolding wings
Feel the mighty wind their beating brings
Bring your grateful tears and flood the floor
Rise up and worship like a storm

One morning after the dance I was moved to look my children in the eye and speak of the coming day when we would be separated.  But this would be a harder and more lasting separation than a short term mission trip or 4 years of college or a job that might take them to another city.  The world might call it a permanent separation, but we would know better.  So I said, “In light of that, by faith, let’s plan to meet back around the throne, to circle up…and worship Him.”

For you see, though there is great joy in these short term homecomings, the ultimate homecoming is yet to be. And oh the joy we will have…and the tales we will tell.

I can’t wait to see that sign.


Posted by on August 7, 2013 in Uncategorized


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