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April 30, 2008

Cooooooooooold Start to Vacation

Opening_the_playhouse_0408 Well, vacation hasn't exactly been what we expected. Our hope was that heading south for a few days would bring warm weather and give Chicago a few days to warm up before we headed north for a three-day stint at Wrigley. We headed for the the lake Saturday afternoon. The folks arrived a few hours before us to discover that the well had issues and the propane tank had a leaked over the winter and was bone dry. That meant no water and no heat with unseasonably frigid temperatures.

So, we were roughing it for a few days as we raked/burned leaves and got the playhouse opened up for the summer season (if summer actually arrives - the jury is out on that one). The day time temps were in the 50s but the night got down to just about freezing. We were able to finally get water on Sunday, but with no propane we couldn't heat it. We ate out and spent Sunday evening down the cove at Captain Ron's listening to a bluegrass band and staying warm. The propane truck finally arrived late Monday morning and we finally got some heat. So, our weekend was a lot like camping. We gathered fire wood and kept a fire going for warmth.

Things didn't get any warmer when Wendy and I headed to Chicago. Last night was Wendy's first visit to Wrigley Field and it was the Windy City's idea of a sick joke. Our seats were high on the left field upper deck and the cold winds off the Lake were blowing right in our faces as the wind chill dipped to freezing as the Cubs lost to the Brewers 10-7.

Things are supposed to warm up today...but not much (sigh).

Happy Birthday to me.

Let the Graduations Begin!

SamsgraduationSaturday morning was the beginning of a month of graduation celebrations. Wendy, the girls and I headed to Des Moines for the graduation reception of our newphew, Sam. Sam is the eldest of the grandkids for our little part of the VW clan, followed closely by Taylor who is three months younger. We had a great time on a cold spring morning helping wish Sam well.

As you can see, we're a silly bunch. But we have a lot of fun :)


Madison Ends 2008 Show Choir Season

Madison_carnaby_club_2Last Friday night was the year's last hurrah for Madison's high school show choir. Each year the school's jazz bands, show choirs and percussion ensemble have an evening of cabaret style entertainment called Carnaby Club. The show choir did well for themselves this year. They won the 3A competition at every contest they entered and were named the best 3A show choir in the state.

While the schedule of rehearsals and performances is, at times, grueling, Madison does a really nice job. I'm not just being a proud, biased parent when I say she has great presence on stage (gosh, I wonder where she gets it?!).

April 25, 2008


Today is the last day of work before I take a week off (so, for anyone following the chapter-a-day posts - don't expect anything next week!). This week I've been experiencing that principle whereby taking a week off means working twice as hard the week before and twice as hard the week after. Long hours and little sleep for me.

Nevertheless, I'm ready. It's going to be a three-part, week long sabbath. Three days at the lake helping my folks open up the playhouse for the summer, three days at Wrigley Field watching the Cubs beat the Brewers, and three days back in Pella for Tulip Time. I can't wait.

But first, I better get back to my last day of work.

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 11

HandshakeGod saw to it that the Egyptians liked the people. Also, Moses was greatly admired by the Egyptians, a respected public figure among both Pharaoh's servants and the people at large. Exodus 11:2-3 (TM)

The other day I was training some folks for a client and we took a simple personality test. I've taken this test and many other personality tests over the years, but each time I take it I'm always reminded anew how God made me. For example, my personality gives me the tendency to be a people pleaser. Looking back, I can see how that part of my personality has affected me - both positively and negatively - on life's journey.

One of the lessons I've had to learn as "a pleaser" is that I shouldn't try to make people like me. I always end up becoming something other than who I am, and then whatever relationship develops is built on a foundation of deception. I've had to learn to be who God made me to be and be content with that - even if that means there are certain people who don't particularly like me.

In the process of giving up trying to make others like me, I learned that I could trust God to grant me favor with those to whom He wanted me to have favor, just has He granted Moses favor with the Egyptians. And, if there is a Pharaoh in my life who stubbornly wants nothing to do with me - I can trust God with that, too.

April 24, 2008

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 10

ContractPharaoh called in Moses: "Go and worship God. Leave your flocks and herds behind. But go ahead and take your children."  Exodus 10:24 (TM)

Faith is not a negotiation. Our relationship with God is not like the process of coming to terms on a long-term contract.

Picture you and your agent in the bargaining room with God:

Agent: Okay, Big Guy, let's get down to business here. By the way, I like the bright shiny thing you got going there. That whole glorious glow look - it's fabulous. Works for you. I'm just saying. Now, as for this faith contract. We like the eternal life stuff - the heaven clause - we'd like to keep that, of course. Love, joy and peace we like as well. That's boiler-plate. Do unto others, yada, yada, yada, that's all fine. Now, faith is something we can live with, but come on, there's got to be some addendums added here. No moving to Africa. No asking to give up worldly possessions. No vows of poverty or, certainly not chastity. My client won't stand for any of that. I've attached a list. That's what we don't like in the faith department, however, faith that you'll come through in tough times, faith that you'll heal any disease, faith that you'll give good return on the investment - those are fine. That reminds me, while we're on the investment issue, we want a five percent tithe. No one gives ten percent anymore. That's so yesterday. You don't have that kind of bargaining power anymore. So, let's nail this faith stuff down, Big Guy, or my client ain't signing. And by the way, the whole "take up your cross" and "lay down your life" clause is out. Period. We won't budge on that. And, let's face it God. Can I just say this? You need my client on the team. You may not know it sitting up here on your glorious throne in the sky box, but people on the streets are talking. You're out of touch. Just look at you. You're team is losing. Your starters are old and got nothin' left in the tank. You've got nobody, and I mean nobody, on the bench. Your clubhouse is a mess. It's no secret that your teams spends more time bickering with each other than playing the other team. You're outnumbered on the field. Islam is kicking your butt in the draft. The odds of you even making it to the post-season are slim to none. Snowballs chance in hell, if you'll pardon the expression. Big Guy, come on, seriously, let's be real - you need my client on the team. You're in no position to make demands here.

I know it's silly, but as I think about it I realize that I try to negotiate with God all the time - just like Pharaoh. Yet, like the story of the Exodus, God doesn't negotiate terms. We are simply asked to obey. He is, after all, well, you know...God.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and jk5854

April 23, 2008

Support Taylor & Madison; Young Women Making a Difference!

Madison_thailandSpeaking of those with simple faith, willingness and potential...I couldn't be more proud of my daughters. While most kids might be contemplating a summer of sun, swimming, laziness and parties - Taylor and Madison are contemplating a summer following God's call to make a difference in the world.

Taylor is headed to Romania for a month to share God's love with the children and youth there. Madison is headed back a month in Thailand, her second missionary trip there.

I've had a lot of people asking how they can help the girls. If you would like to support their desire to make a difference, you can make a tax deductible, on-line donation to their trips. As of this post, both girls have raised over half of what they need but are still in need of $1000-$1500 each.

Here's how to donate:

  1. Taylorpanama0107Click here to visit the Global Expeditions donation page or visit www.globalexpeditions.com and choose the "support a missionary" link.
  2. Choose "Search by Missionary ID"
  3. Taylor's ID is 2438883; Madison's ID is 2402609
  4. Follow the steps to make an on-line donation


By the way, the boy Madison is holding in the picture above was in an Thai orphanage. The place was so poor they couldn't afford diapers for the children. The boy pooped all over her. Talk about a willingness to get dirty!

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 9

HomestretchBut Pharaoh stayed stubborn. He wouldn't release the people. Exodus 9:7 (TM)

Am I maturing or am I just getting older?

As I stand on this stretch of life's road, I can look back and think of those whom I have watched walking the final leg of their journeys; I'm struck by the differences I've seen. I've watched modern day Pharaohs - proud, stubborn, and petulant. They finish life's journey as much a self-centered, strong-willed child as when they were toddlers.

I have watched others who are constantly maturing, growing, developing. Even in the last stages of their life you can see the rough edges of their character being sanded off. With each step of the journey they are changing. Pride, selfishness, and stubborness gives way to humility, love, goodness, gentleness and self-control.

I want to be the latter. My birthday is next week. I'm getting older (not old, mind you, just getting older). My thoughts are shifting. My perspectives are changing. I can feel it. I pray that from this day to my final step I am maturing, growing and developing. I hope that the depth and intimacy of my relationship with God and my loved ones is greater with each passing day - until I reach the journey's end.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and foxkat

April 22, 2008

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 8

Broken_promiseBut when Pharaoh saw that he had some breathing room, he got stubborn again and wouldn't listen to Moses and Aaron. Just as God had said. Exodus 8:15 (TM)

When I was about ten years old my older twin brothers were in high school. There was a group of high school girls who liked my brothers and would regularly stop by our house to see if my brothers were around. My brothers were rarely there. So, these high school girls would stop to talk and dote on me - the "cute little brother." Being an impressionable, girl-crazy boy, I fell in love with all the attention I was getting. I can still remember summer evenings sitting on my Schwinn Sting-Ray five-speed bike (complete with the banana seat) literally praying that "the girls" would stop by to talk to me. My pitiful prayers were the bargaining desperation of a child:

"Please God. Pleeeeeeeeeease. Make them stop by. I'll do anything you want. I'll [enter any number of hollow promises here]. Just pleeeeeeeeeease make them drive by."

I may have grown up, but if you'd listened to my prayers through the years you could easily argue that I may not have matured all that much. I know that there have been plenty of times in life when I've bargained with God in prayer. "Do this for me and I'll [enter any number of hollow promises here] for you."

It's easy to look down my nose at hard-hearted Pharaoh for not keeping his promises to let the Israelites do their thing, but to see the speck of Egyptian dust in Pharaoh's eye I've got to ignore the big ol' Iowa Oak branch in my own. How many promises have I made to God through the years and then reneged on those promises - even when God blessed me and answered my prayer? Just kidding, God - but thanks for the blessing anyway!

God, I'm more like Pharaoh than I care to admit. Forgive me.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Katie Tegtmeyer

April 21, 2008

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 7

FrustratedYet Pharaoh was as stubborn as ever—he wouldn't listen to them, just as God had said. Exodus 7:13 (TM)

As my daughter, Taylor, gets ready to graduate in a few weeks and head off to college in the fall, I've been thinking a lot of about parenting and the life-cycle of family. One of the most frustrating realities for me, as a parent, is that a child is his or her own person. You can be a great parent and your child could still choose to rebel and go her own way. It's a scary thought. Yet, I get up each day and love my kids to the best of my ability; I pray for them, I try to teach them, I try to prepare them for life, and I do my best to show them the way by example. I can only do my best to uphold my end of the bargain; what they do with their end is up to them.

Moses and Aaron were called to a similar task. They did what they were called to do, even though Pharaoh's hard heart was not going to change. It had to have been frustrating for them, even when God told them that Pharaoh was not going to believe them, they were asked to do it anyway. God is like that. He goes out of His way to love us and provide a way, even knowing that many will choose to ignore all that He's done.

So what's the point? Sometimes it's not about the results in others but the results in us when we are obedient to what God called us to do. Sometimes God's ultimate purpose is fulfilled though the seemingly immediate purpose is not. Either way, our job - like Moses and Aaron - is to be obedient to do what we're called to do. The results are out of our hands.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and blah_oh_well