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May 29, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Job 31

 Weighed and found wanting. Weigh me on a set of honest scales so God has proof of my integrity. Job 31:6 (MSG)

I always loved it when teachers graded on a curve. I knew I would be well ahead of most people in my class without having to put forth much effort!

We love scales, don't we? There's something in my innate human nature that likes to mentally and spiritually measure myself, especially when I can then place myself on the curve ahead of a lot of other people I know.

"Well, I might not be perfect, but at least I don't [name a sin here] like that guy!"

"Yes, I secretly struggle with that, but I'm not publicly disgracing myself by acting like [name a person here]!"

As I thought about Job's request to be weighed, it strikes me that Job's argument all along has been one of measurement. "Weigh the evidence," he's asking. "I'm not like the wicked, and my goodness should account for something."

I, of course, have the luxury of viewing Job's ancient arguments from this side of Jesus' teaching on the subject. Jesus taught that we can keep the entire law, yet fall short in one small, insignificant sin - and we're still as guilty as if we broke every rule of the book. God doesn't grade on a curve. In his scales, not one of us measures up.

That's why we need a savior.

That's why he sent His Son.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Capt Kodak

May 28, 2009

Tom & Taylor at Al's

Taylor came with me on my business trip to the Twin Cities. It was a quick trip. We were up early for our return trip. We grabbed breakfast at Al's in Dinkytown before hittin' the road.Tom & Taylor at Al's

May 27, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Job 30

Tantrum. I know you're determined to kill me, to put me six feet under. Job 30:23 (MSG)

Every parent knows the sounds of screaming tantrums that give way to some of the most ridiculous exclamations. "I hate you!" I remember my sister screaming at my parents. "I'm running away and never coming back! Then you'll be sorry!" Even as children become teenagers, you find that their minds process life in very creative ways. Walking through the break-down of their parents marriage and subsequent divorce, I was often surprised by some of the conclusions to which my daughters minds jumped. I suspect that there are some things that they will always misunderstand.

Children have a tremendously narrow world-view and a near-sighted perspective skewed by limited understanding and lack of experience. They don't see the big picture and their minds come to conclusions based on a lack of sufficient evidence.

I've always said that, as adults, we are really just little children in grown up bodies. I hear Job uttering the same childish exclamations. "I know you want to kill me, God!" Job screams like a toddler. He knows only his momentary pain and does not see the big picture of good and evil, nor does he perceive God's ultimate plan for his blessing.

I don't blame Job for his tantrum. I have them regularly, too. As a parent, I was never surprised by my childrens tantrums and I didn't take them seriously. I know it's good for them to get out their emotions, I know they will get over it, and I know that they will someday understand and appreciate what I did for them. Similarly, I think our heavenly father can handle our occasional outbursts just fine.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and sean dreilinger

May 26, 2009

Memorial Day 2009 @ I-Cubs

Our friend, Mark, gave the Vande Lune's and Vander Wells skybox tickets to the I-Cubbies yesterday. It was a cool, sprinkly afternoon, but we had a lot of fun. We even saw our nephew, Sol, who was in the skybox next to us with his friends! Jeff Samardjia, the Cubs pitcher, showed us why the Chicago Cubs sent him packing for Iowa. The I-Cubs played a horrible, error-riddled game of baseball and lost 5-3. despite Chad wearing his rally cap. Nevertheless, we were at the ball game on a Monday afternoon! You gotta love it!

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Chapter-a-Day Job 29

Scrapbook. Job now resumed his response: "Oh, how I long for the good old days, when God took such very good care of me. Job 29:1 (MSG)

Over the past few months, I've caught myself making several trips down memory lane. There are several life events that have prompted the mental excursions. My birthday and the continuing reality of middle-age, for one. Then there's a daughter graduating from high-school, going half-way around the world, getting engaged and planning a wedding. There's also another daughter scheduling senior pictures and preparing for her final year in high school. All of these things tend to send me into various meditations on "where has the time gone?"

And yet, I'm aware that the siren song of the "good old days" can easily tempt me into shifting my focus on the past, when there is so much waiting for me on the road ahead. I once heard a a wise, spunky old gentleman who was speaking to a group of young people. "I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR SCRAPBOOKS!" he began in a loud, pointed exclamation. I got the message loud and clear. In fact, it's the only thing I remember from his talk. His voice and his exclamation have been a regular mental check for me through the years. Come on, Tom! Don't spend so much time looking back at yesterday that you lose sight of what God has for you today and tomorrow.

(Of course, the opposite is also true. I've known a few people who spend so much time looking ahead to tomorrow that they get nothing accomplished today. But, that's another chapter for another day.)

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and NateSteiner

May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend 2009

It's been a quiet holiday weekend. Wendy has been suffering with a cold, so she's been staying down and trying to get some rest. Friday night and Saturday were work days around the house. Our screen doors are old, custom made doors. The screen was broken out of the back door, so I had to replace it. Of course, this required a complete replacement of the molding on the outside. So, we were cutting, painting and nailing that in. The front screen needed some weather stripping. Taylor and I also went over to the graduation reception for Maddy's boyfriend, Greg.

It was an impromptu Memorial Day weekend cookout at the Halls yesterday (Sunday). Wendy's mom called us on Saturday and invited us up to their place after church. So, after hearing Maddy sing in the worship team at the 10:30 service, Wendy and I jumped in the car and drove up to her folks place. Jesse, Heidi and Sophia made the trek from Iowa City.

It was a gorgeous afternoon on the back porch. We enjoyed burgers, hot dogs, and tuna on the grill before settling in for an afternoon of laughter and conversation. Wendy and I shared our pictures from our London trip with her folks. Mr. Ed has also been intrigued with the possibility of a trip to Israel, so I brought my Israel pictures to share, as well.

The folks have several bird feeders in  their back yard and we also had fun watching the birds. I snapped a few pictures for Mom Hall.

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May 22, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Job 28

Man and Woman. "God alone knows the way to Wisdom, he knows the exact place to find it." Job 28:23 (MSG)

My first crush was in kindergarten. I remember it vividly to this day. As a five-year-old stud I was completely enamored by a girl in my class. I wanted her to be my girlfriend and I pursued her for about four years. She was not exactly captivated by my attention or affections. This was frustrating and agonizing at the time, but was really for the best in the grand scheme of things. How amazing that my God given masculinity revealed itself, even as an unwitting boy who just learned to tie his shoes. The man-child enchanted by the woman-child, driven to pursue.

I find it interesting that God's message, from beginning to end, continually speaks of Wisdom as a treasure to be sought after. Beyond that, Wisdom is treated as a proper noun (capitalized),and personified as a woman.

Consider these words from King Solomon's proverbs:

Lady Wisdom goes out in the street and shouts.
   At the town center she makes her speech.
In the middle of the traffic she takes her stand.
   At the busiest corner she calls out: 

"Simpletons! How long will you wallow in ignorance?
   Cynics! How long will you feed your cynicism?
Idiots! How long will you refuse to learn?
   About face! I can revise your life. Proverbs 2:20-22 (MSG)

What an amazing word picture, rooted in the depths and mystery of creation. Man, wild at heart, is enamored by the woman. Man becomes the pursuer, driven to seek out the object of his affection, to woo her, to captivate her.

It is with that same natural drive and desire we are challenged to pursue Wisdom in all of her mystery. In fact, it could be argued that life's road is one great quest for Wisdom, who is aptly described as a woman. Just when you think you've got a handle on her, she enigmatically slips away and leaves you scratching your head.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and JYF

May 21, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Job 27

Dead Sea Scrolls. The evidence is right before you. You can all see it for yourselves, so why do you keep talking nonsense? Job 27:12 (MSG)

While in Israel, I spent some time in Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The scrolls were a huge archaeological find in the mid-20th century. They are the oldest manuscripts we have of the Old Testament scriptures. They revealed to a skeptical, modern world that the scriptures have been hand-copied and handed down through the centuries with astonishing accuracy. They also provided other archaeological insights.

It has been argued over the past century that the book of Isaiah, for example, was actually two different books written by two different authors. You see, the latter chapters of the book contain many prophesies regarding Jesus that many scholars would like to ignore. So, the scholars declared that those chapters were written by another author and tacked on in recent centuries. This allowed them to diminish their importance or dismiss them all together.

Ancient scrolls transcribed each book of the Bible on one long sheet of parchment and then sewed the separate books together to make the whole scroll. When the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, the book of Isaiah was complete and there was no stitching between the earlier and later chapters. The archaeological evidence revealed Isaiah was written by one person. It is one complete book.

I asked my friend and guide how the skeptical scholars, who continue to maintain that Isaiah was two books by two authors, explain this. "They don't," he replied, "they just ignore the evidence." Like Job's accusation of his friends, the evidence is right there before them and they keep talking nonsense.

Human beings have a tremendous capacity for ignoring truth.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and LouisePalanker

May 20, 2009

Photo of the Day

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My sister, Jody, and mom taken at my surprise birthday lunch 04/25/2009.

Chapter-a-Day Job 26

Listen to the thunder of his voice. 

Thunder crashes and rumbles in the skies. Listen! It's God raising his voice! Job 26:11 (MSG)

I love a good thunder storm. I especially enjoy laying in bed at night and having the windows cracked open. The cool breeze brings clean fresh air into the room, wafting over me. The white noise of the constant rain fall lulls me towards sleep. The thunder always reminds me of Job describing it as God raising His voice. Rather than fear the thunder, I find it speaks to me.

There is something about a thunder storm that whispers to me of my relationship with God. The incredible power of lightning, water and wind remind me of how massive and potent my God is. And yet, in the midst of that awesome display of force, I sleep like a baby.

How wonderful it is to know that the God of the universe holds me safely in the palm of His hand.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and David W