« April 2007 | Main | June 2007 »

May 31, 2007

Take Me Out to the Ball Game - Iowa Cubs!

Iowa_cubs It was a beautiful Memorial Day weekend. Wendy and I headed to tradition-rich Sec Taylor field in Principal Park this past Sunday to watch the Iowa Cubs take on the Oklahoma City Redhawks. We had a wonderful afternoon. It not only brought back great memories of my Grandpa Spec taking me to the same park when I was a kid - it reminded me that Triple-A baseball is an amazing experience and tremendous value.

Thank you to Michael Gartner and the Iowa Cubs for providing such a great venue and family entertainment.

 Here’s why I think minor league baseball is the “IN” place to be:

  1. IN-credible players: I watched a crop of young players motivated to play their hearts out in order to get to the show. I also saw players like Felix Pie and Ronny Cedeno who’ve already cut their chops in Chicago and are looking to get back.
  2. IN-timate setting: I sat towards the top of the reserved seats on the first base side and was still perilously close to the action – complete with dodging foul balls. No handing out oxygen-masks in the “upper deck” or hauling in my binoculars to view the action. This is big league ball in a small park.
  3. IN-viting treats: baseball, hotdogs, and a cold beer. Need I say more?
  4. IN-the-sunshine: I had all the food and fun outside on a gorgeous late Spring afternoon and got a tan to boot. Paying money to sit in a tanning booth never made less sense. 
  5. IN-expensive entertainment: All of this, and more, for a mere fraction of the cost of a Major League game. In fact, I can get a general admission ticket for the I-Cubs for less than the price of a movie ticket. Heck, I can always rent a DVD – take me out to the ballgame!

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 4

"Now, son of man, take a brick and place it before you. Draw a picture of the city Jerusalem on it. Then make a model of a military siege against the brick: Build siege walls, construct a ramp, set up army camps, lay in battering rams around it. Then get an iron skillet and place it upright between you and the city—an iron wall. Face the model: The city shall be under siege and you shall be the besieger. This is a sign to the family of Israel. Ezekiel 4:1-3 (TM)

It's easy to read God's instructions to Ezekiel and wonder what in the world is going on! It's at this point that many modern Christians would close the book and say, "I don't get the Old Testament - let's read Matthew." Why would God tell Ezekiel to get out his erector set and Legos, make a model, and play war? Because, God uses metaphor to communicate to His children.

Metaphor n. - something that represents something else without using "like" or "as" (that would be a simile).

God was producing and staging a theatrical production for Jerusalem. It was performance art - or shall we say performance prophecy. Ezekiel was cast as the villian (Babylon) and a hard-as-stone brick was portraying the hard-hearted residents of Jerusalem. God was trying to send a message of warning - telling His people to wake up and look at what was going to happen to them if they didn't listen.

I find it funny that theatre is often viewed suspiciously or frowned upon by the church.  Metaphor is an extremely powerful medium of communication - which is why God uses it - but it often offends or is lost upon those who don't want to hear the message. It was no different in John 6:47-71 when Jesus used the metaphor (which we now accept without thinking about it) of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. We understand the metaphor today because we were raised with it - but it was so offensive and outrageous when Jesus said it that most of the crowd that had been following him thought he was crazy and left. Even the disciples were thinking about deserting Him at that point.

To understand the Ezekiel - the prophets - the Old Testament - you have to be willing to look for and understand the metaphors.

May 30, 2007

Support Madison's Mission to Costa Rica!

Madison is off on another mission trip this summer. After her amazing experience in Thailand land last summer, she's anxious to get back to the field. This time she's off to Costa Rica. Her support letters have gone out, but I've had family and friends asking me how they can make on-line donations so here you go:

Click here.
Select "search by Missionary ID"
Enter: 2402609 and click "search" (you might have to scroll down and to the right)
When Madison's name appears, click "continue" and follow the instructions.

Gracias!

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 3

He told me, "Son of man, eat what you see. Eat this book. Then go and speak to the family of Israel." As I opened my mouth, he gave me the scroll to eat, saying, "Son of man, eat this book that I am giving you. Make a full meal of it!" So I ate it. It tasted so good—just like honey. Ezekiel 3:1-3 (TM)

I came home last night from a long day of meetings to find that Wendy had made an incredible dinner for us. Roast salmon, wild rice, homemade italian bread with the perfect white wine to compliment the meal. For dessert there was a succulent, fruity Margarita cake. The candles were lit and good music was playing. It wasn't fast food. It wasn't a quick bite. It was a meal to be enjoyed - each bite savoured. It was the kind of meal that nourishes your body and your soul. You sit back from the table at the end of the meal and feel full in more ways than one.

God uses the metaphor of food multiple times. He tells us to "taste and see that the Lord is good" - and he compares His relationship with us to a a long, enjoyable meal together (Rev 3:20). It's a great word picture. Scripture isn't just to be snacked on - it's to be savoured, chewed and digested. God's word should get to the very heart of our being where it can nourish us - body, mind and spirit. It begs the question: When it  comes to God's message - am I a spiritual fast-food junkie - or a spiritual gourmet?

May 29, 2007

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 2

Don't be afraid of their mean words or their hard looks. Ezekiel 2:7 (TM)

Like everyone else, I want people to like me. But, at some point you've got to stand up and speak for what is right - no matter how others respond. Maybe it's my age, maybe it's my experience, maybe it's being the parent of teenagers, but I find myself caring less and less about how people respond to me. If Jesus had cared what people thought of him, he would have continued turning water into wine, multiplying loaves and fish, and would have gone on a world-wide "raise the dead" tour - endearing himself to the masses. Instead, he spoke eternal truths - hard lessons - that goes deeper and further than the temporal concerns of this life. The masses responded with mean words, hard looks - and the death penalty.

May 28, 2007

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 1

"When I saw all this, I fell to my knees, my face to the ground. Then I heard a voice." Ezekiel 1:28 (TM)

I remember many things my father taught me, but most of them came during those "teachable" moments of life. Often, it was because I'd been caught red-handed at something or had blown it in one way or another. It was during those times that Dad had my attention and my spirit was open.

It's really not any different with my Heavenly Father. It's when I find myself on "my knees, my face to the ground" that I hear His voice. When I'm on the go there are too many things happening to get my attention - too many things to think about. There are too many voices competing for my ears. Plus, I don't always hear so well.

The thing is - those teachable moments shouldn't only occur when I'm caught red-handed or have blown it. Taking time to quiet myself, get on my knees, and listen can be a daily experience in good times and bad. I'm working on that.

God, grant me the discipline to rest.

May 27, 2007

Ahhhhhhhh...Vacation!

Those happy few who frequent this blog may have noticed that I haven't posted in almost two weeks. Wendy and I had planned a weekend getaway to my parent's "playhouse" on Lake of the Ozarks with our friends Kevin and Becky. Then, a business trip out West got canceled at the last minute and my week was unexpectedly free. So, Wendy and I decided to take an unplanned vacation.

The weekend with Kevin and Becky was a blast. It's not often that we get to take three days to relax and enjoy conversation with good friends. We spent a lot of time in the sun (I have the burn to prove it) and on the lake. We enjoyed great grub, good drink and live music. Most of all we enjoyed the fellowship of friends. It was so much fun that we already have our calendars marked for next year!!

On Monday, Wendy and I got the playhouse cleaned up and headed to St. Louis for the rest of the week. We've never spent time in St. Louis - so we decided it was a good place to have an adventure together and explore. Wendy found us a Bed and Breakfast called Napoleon's Retreat, which was nothing short of spectacular. We stayed in a private carriage house loft complete with kitchen and balcony. We aren't breakfast eaters - but the food was so good we looked forward to it each morning. The place is nestled in the Lafayette Square district of St. Louis, smack-dab in the center of everything we wanted to do.

One of the great things about being a Dutchman in St. Louis is so much of it is FREE. We went to St. Louis zoo - FREE! We went to the St. Louis Art Museum - FREE! We took the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour - FREE! There was so much to do that we couldn't pack it all in - so we'll have to go back!

A couple of our favorite spots:

Square One Brewery - This brew pub was a short walk from where we were staying. The food was great and they make a Ginger and Lemon-grass brew that was really, really good. The outdoor patio was a wonderful place to enjoy the evening. We ended up going back for more.

Bailey's Chocolate Bar - I never would have imagined that a place could do so much with chocolate. Chocolate drinks, chocolate meals, chocolate desserts - and another wonderful patio to enjoy it in the early summer. It was so decadent - so rich that it made me wonderfully sick.

John McGurk's Irish Pub - Live Irish music every night and an atmosphere so genuine that once the door closes behind you - you think you're in Dublin. Recently voted one of the 100 best pubs in America by Esquire magazine. We spent an entire evening there enjoying the food, drink and music.

We got back late Friday and decided to spend the holiday weekend working on projects around the house before the routine starts again on Tuesday.

May 15, 2007

Chapter-a-Day Lamentations 3

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
   to the woman who diligently seeks.
It's a good thing to quietly hope,
   quietly hope for help from God.
It's a good thing when you're young
   to stick it out through the hard times
. Lamentations 3:25-27 (TM)

I think it's hard to wait in a culture that gives me pretty much whatever I want in an instant. I'm not sure I know how to wait - passionately wait - wait in expectation of what God will do. Patience has ceased to be a virture. I now see it as a vice. I shouldn't have to wait in line. I shouldn't have to wait on dial-up. I shouldn't have to wait for my food. I shouldn't have to wait for that old person in his Buick! Come on! Let's go! Are you serious?!

No wonder we give up so easily on God when he doesn't come through with our every wish in a nanosecond. Everyone else does! Wall Street does. Madison Avenue does. Fed-Ex does. Click, scroll, click - it's on the way! Come on, God - keep up with the times. I want it NOW!

As Bob Dylan sang, "you think [God]'s just an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires. When you gonna wake up?" Our Father in Heaven isn't interested in selling us anything. He isn't interested in our customer satisfaction. He's interested in what's best for us...and sometimes that means having to wait.

May 14, 2007

Weekend Weariness

It was a good weekend, but a busy one. Wendy and I thought that when the Tulip Time show was over we'd have all this time on our hands - guess again. We've both been under a work-crunch and now comes weddings and graduations and all the projects we'd been putting off until after Tulip Time. C'est la vie.

Our weekend started out with the wedding of Wendy's friend, Sarah (who was a bridesmaid at our wedding). Wendy was a personal attendant and I was part of the video crew. So, Friday night was rehearsal and rehearsal dinner until late. Saturday was full of busyness for Wendy and the evening was spent at the ceremony and reception. It was a nice wedding. I appreciated it about as much as any guy can appreciate a wedding. Sarah and her husband are great people and it was fun being a part of their day.

Sunday was, of course, Mother's Day and we enjoyed a visit from Wendy's mom, Grandma and little sibs in the afternoon. They were on their way to a cousin's graduation open house - which we attended later in the evening.

We got home late and the girls were just getting home. Wendy was really touched to get a wonderful card and gifts from Taylor and Madison for Mother's Day. They made her day! :)

Now, the week begins and we've got four packed days until Wendy and I get to enjoy a weekend at the lake with our friends Kevin and Becky. We're ready for a rest!

Chapter-a-Day Lamentations 2

Give out heart-cries to the Master, dear repentant Zion.
   Let the tears roll like a river, day and night,
   and keep at it—no time-outs. Keep those tears flowing!

Lamentations 2:18 (TM)

When my daughters were younger they would occasionally have a melt-down. They were tired, cranky and things hadn't gone their way. So the tantrum would begin complete with tears and wailing - and the occasional falling on the floor. I'm not the perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination - but I remember that these occasional fits of emotion never really bothered me. I understood that my girls were upset and tired and probably needed to let it out. In fact, rather than chastise my daughters for these tantrums I usually encouraged them to cut loose.

I'm the dad, I see the big-picture. The reason for the tantrum was silly and temporal. If my little girl needed to wear herself out crying then go ahead. She would wear down and probably have a really good nap and wake up feeling much better - the episode forgotten. Emotions are a good thing. God gave us feelings for a reason.

God is a good dad. He sees the big-picture of our lives and isn't surprised by all the emotion we feel at the moment. In fact, He encourages us to let it out - cry our eyes out - scream 'til we're out of breath. He isn't surprised by our emotion. He isn't offended by our anger. He can handle the full force of our emotions.

Here, have a Kleenex.