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April 30, 2009

My Masterpiece

A few years ago I set about to write my Crash Davis Belief Statement. It was a little experiment going around the blogosphere back then. It's a great exercise in which people share, in creative terms, what they believe. In my belief statement, I wrote that I believe "my children are my life's masterpiece."

I do believe that.

And, I was reminded of it this morning when my girls took me to Smokey Row for a little Daddy-Daughter Birthday breakfast. What a great time to be with my girls. How amazing to have watched these amazing human beings grow from helpless infants to gifted women. How beatiful. How strong. How complex. How mysterious. How inspiring.

How loveable.
How valuable.
How very, very capable.

And, what's really, really cool is that the work isn't finished! The masterpiece is yet emerging. The colors mixing. The texture shifting. I'm in continuous awe as I see it steadily unfold before my very eyes.

You go, God. Thanks for letting me be a participant and spectator in these two miracles.

Selah.

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Chapter-a-Day Job 14

Spring has sprung! If we humans die, will we live again? That's my question. All through these difficult days I keep hoping, waiting for the final change—for resurrection! Job 14:14 (MSG)

It's spring as I write this. April showers are falling, and the tulips are up and waiting for a little sunshine before they explode open in a palette of bright colors. Today is my 43rd birthday. It's a good day.

You start thinking about things differently when you begin to realize that actuaries would statistically quantify that you're over half-way done with this life. There are no guarantees, of course. Today could be it. There could be the proverbial Mack truck with my name on it rolling down Highway 63. However, the actuaries would lay odds that I'm really in the back stretch of this race. It still means that there are, most likely, fewer days ahead of me on this Earth than there are behind.

I read Job's despair, his questions, and his hopelessness. It makes me happy for spring. It makes me thankful for new life springing up from winter's death march. It makes me abundantly joyous that Jesus answered Job's question once and for all:

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; John 11:25 (MSG)

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Russ Morris

April 29, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Job 13

Tom's Friend Grid You graffiti my life with lies. Job 13:4a (MSG)

I was struck by Job's line about his three supposed friends, "You graffiti my life with lies."

Over the past year or so, the number of friends I've connected with on Facebook seems to have grown exponentially. It's been a hoot to reconnect with hundreds of friends and acquaintances from childhood, elementary school, high school and college. Many of whom I have not spoken with for 20-30 years.

A teacher once told me that "some friends are friends for a season, while some are friends for life." That always stuck with me. People flow into and out of my life. Some for the better and, unfortunately, some who I'd rather forget. As I look at all the good friends and compare them to the few painful ones, I notice an interesting contrast.

Good friends are genuine and honest. True to themselves and true to me, even if our lives only briefly touch. There is, however, something ingenuine about painful friends, rooted in unthruthfulness.

I'm glad I have so many true friends.

April 28, 2009

The Big 43

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I turn 43 on Thursday. It's not exactly a special birthday. You can't divide the number by ten, or even five. I'm just marking my 43rd year of existence. So, I had very low expectations for the celebration. A few cards in the mail. Maybe a cheesecake from Wendy or a lemon cake from mom. A hug and traditional donut run with the girls.

But, I totally underestimated my lovely bride's resourcefulness and creativity! Wendy had told me a few weeks ago to plan on celebrating my birthday on Saturday the 25th and not to plan anything that day. Cool. I can do that. I wondered what she had up her sleeve. As the day approached and she told me to be ready to leave the house at 7:30 a.m., I knew something was up. Wendy doesn't leave the house at 7:30 a.m.unless she is forced, at gunpoint, to get up that early.

I had been on the road all week last week. I came home with the usual road-warrior weariness and the sense of being behind in everything. When Wendy suggested we have a date at the local Sport's bar for dinner and the Cub's game on Friday evening, I was all up for that. We settled in front of the big screen in the bar area and ordered our dinner. Then our friend, Ann, showed up to join us and celebrate my birthday. Ann was followed by Mat. Then came Pat and Peg. Then there was Holly. We had a great evening, despite the Cubs losing!

The birthday celebration had started before it was even supposed to start!

Saturday morning came early and we were on the road after hitting Jaarsma's bakery for a treat. The first stop was our friends, Kevin & Becky's, house where Kev waited in the drive way. Wendy told me she'd see me later with a big grin on her face. I jumped in the car with Kev.

First stop, the man spa! Almost three hours of pampering while watching the NFL draft. Massage, hand detailing, and foot detailing. I was feelin' fine.

Kev took me back to meet up with Wendy, who then drove over to my folks. Surprise! There was a bunch of my family and Wendy's family gathered for lunch. Lot of laughter and food. Gotta love it.

In the car once more, we were off to the mall to grab a few items. Wendy ushered me to the door of the mall where Kev, once more, was waiting to wisk me off. The Cubs game was about to start and it was time for a few hours with the guys. Off to Cub's bar where a bunch of my old Westview Church friends waited to share a beer and watch the game. Guy time. It was a great afternoon, despite the fact that the Cubs lost (again).

After the game, Kevin took me back to his house where Wendy waited. Time to change clothes. Put on something nice. We're headed out for the evening. We headed to Urban Grill with Kevin and Becky where Wendy told the host we had reservations for seven. Seven? Yep more friends. My high school buddy, Doug, and another couple who are good friends from Westview, Curtis and Tyra, joined us for dinner. Not only did we have a great meal, but we sat and talked and laughed until we were the last people in the place (see picture above).

It was a great birthday. Not bad for a birthday you can't divide by five or ten.

I have an awesome wife. 

Chapter-a-Day Job 12

I'm walkin'. "True wisdom and real power belong to God; from him we learn how to live, and also what to live for." Job 12:13 (MSG)

"There's more to life than this."

That was the thought that ran through my head as I lay in bed as a teenager. I was a good student. I was a good kid. There was this nagging emptiness inside. I looked at my hand and watched it move. I was a living being inside this body. I was a person with thoughts, feelings, passions, intentions and dreams, residing inside a body living in Iowa at this particular moment in time. What is this all about?

That was the thought that spurred me on my faith journey. I set out on the path to find some answers, and that is where Jesus found me. He invited me down this narrow way I've been walking ever since.

I have been educated. I have read what the most brilliant minds have written. I have heard some of the most eloquent people of our age with my own ears. I have met those who are considered powerful.

Yet, nothing compares to that which I've learned and experienced from simply walking with Jesus.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and terriko

April 27, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Job 11

Guilty. "But the wicked will see none of this. They're headed down a dead-end road with nothing to look forward to—nothing." Job 11:20 (MSG)

I've met people who lied and cheated their way to wealth, power and prosperity and never got caught. I've met a few people who have been sent to jail for cheating. I've met good people who have been blessed with what appears to be a charmed life, and I've met good people who have faced the most horrific of unexplainable tragedies.

I have no doubt that the wicked will get their eternal just desserts. But, there are plenty of wicked people who make out like bandits in this life, just as there are plenty of good people who face the most difficult of circumstances. Z lays out a common argument: if you're good you'll be blessed with health & wealth, and if you're wicked you won't prosper. It seems he uses this argument to say to Job, "You must have done something bad to have these tragedies fall upon you. If you were good, you'd still be blessed." But, all my life experience tells me that's not necessarily true. For every Bernie Madoff who gets caught, there are hundreds of scheisters who get away with their crimes. For every believer who seems to have it all together, there are those faced with horrific tragedies.

It's just not that simple.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and robertodevido

April 23, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Job 10

Despair. "I can't stand my life—I hate it!" Job 10:1a (MSG)

My friend recently shared with me that her son was in utter teen depression. One of his best friends betrayed him and moved in on the girl he liked. She chose the friend. What's worse. They all work together and he must watch the object of his affection and his friend flirting it up all night at work. Ouch. At this moment, the poor kid surely identifies with Job's wish that he'd never been born.

I wonder how many times the thought, "I can't stand my life" has flit through they synapses of my brain. How many times I've groaned under my breath, "I can't take it anymore." I'm not one given to despair, but there have been many times throughout life that I've felt the weight of circumstance and considered it nearly unbearable. It's one thing when you face the consequences of your own actions. It's another thing when circumstance turns against you for, seemingly, no reason.

Yet, I look back now and realize that each dark valley in the journey eventually gave way to a rise in landscape. What's more, I did eventually emerge from the valley. My spirit had been refined by the process. I couldn't see it at the time, but there was progress in my pain.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and fakelvis

April 22, 2009

Night in Old San Antonio

I'm in San Antonio this week with my teammates Nick and Bene'. Our client asked (well, insisted really) that we go with her to the annual NIOSA (Night in Old San Antonio) festival. For all of my family and friends in Iowa, picture all of the people, food vendors, drink vendors and stages at the Iowa State Fair packed into an area about the size of the Midway. That should give you an idea of the insanity.

It was so loud you couldn't carry on a conversation. It was so crowded that you could hardly move. When the crowd did move you could hardly stick together. Twice our group got separated and had to use cell phones to try and find each other. Part of the fesitivites involves people taking hollowed out egg shells filled with confetti and smashing them on your head so that the confetti and shell fragments fall down your shirt, in your drink, etc. And, of course, you can't actually enjoy your drink because people are bumping into you and spilling it down your shirt (see bottom photo).

We definitely have a few stories to tell that will become of the stuff of company lore years from now.

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Chapter-a-Day Job 9

"God and I are not equals; I can't bring a case against him. We'll never enter a courtroom as peers.
How I wish we had an arbitrator to step in and let me get on with life"
Job 9:32-33 (MSG)

There is a great scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry has been accused and is facing expulsion from his school, Hogwarts. He is called to a trial and feels completely at a loss. Just as the trial is about to begin, his schoolmaster, Dumbledore appears to represent Harry and intercede for him. The charges against Harry are eventually dropped.

It's nice to have an advocate, someone who will step in on your behalf. That's what Job is wishing for as he feels totally alone as he pleads his case to his friends and the heavens.

As I read Job's complaint, I suddenly realized that I, that we, have access to the exact arbitrator which Job wished for. In the spiritual court of law, God provided his own Son to step in and stand in our shoes, to take our punishment, and to intercede on our behalf!

but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:24-25 (NIV)

April 20, 2009

"Letters from Pella" Set for Tulip Time Peformance

Letters from pella cast 041309 Several people have been asking about the current Union Street Players production on which Wendy and I are working. "Letters from Pella" is a one act play that I wrote and which will premiering at Pella's annual Tulip Time festival May 6-9. I play the part of Pella's founder, Dominie (that's Dutch for "pastor") H.P. Scholte and Wendy plays Scholte's wife, Mareah. The play is based on actual letters written between Pella's first residents and their families back in Holland. It tells a forgotten story of the intense conflict between some of the early settlers.

The play will be performed at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday May 6th and at 4:30 p.m. each day of Tulip Time (Thu, Fri, & Sat May 7-9). Prior to Tulip Time tickets for the play are sold at the Pella Historical Village. During Tulip Time tickets are available at the Ticket Booth on the SE corner of the square and can also be purchased at the door. Tickets are $7.00. Running time is about 50 minutes.