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October 21, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 40

Whenever the Cloud lifted from The Dwelling, the People of Israel set out on their travels, but if the Cloud did not lift, they wouldn't set out until it did lift. The Cloud of God was over The Dwelling during the day and the fire was in it at night, visible to all the Israelites in all their travels. Exodus 40:36-38 (MSG)

God is a god of metaphor. He expresses Himself in what He makes. He gives us word pictures that speak of deep, spiritual truths through every day objects. Bread and wine are  Christ's body and blood. The water of baptism is Jesus, the "Water of Life," who washes our sins away. The cloud and the fire in Exodus are metaphors God's presence. They were a constant reminder to the Israelites that God was with them.

Metaphorical reminders are a good thing. They keep us mindful of important truths.

This past Saturday, as we celebrated my daughter's wedding,  I wore a ring on my right hand. It was my grandfather's ring. I don't wear it a lot. I pull it out on special family occasions because it helps me to be mindful and grateful of those generations who have gone before us and made these celebrations possible. There is nothing magical about it. It's just a tangible reminder of loved ones who cleared the path for us.

The Israelites, wandering in the Sinai desert, needed tangible, visible reminder of His presence. I don't think we're any different in our own wanderings. We all need tangible reminders of God's truths as we make our own journeys through this life.

October 20, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 39

That completed the work of The Dwelling, the Tent of Meeting. The People of Israel did what God had commanded Moses. They did it all. Exodus 39:32 (MSG)

There is something satisfying about bringing a project to completion. It is gratifying to finish what you started and to know that you successfully crossed the finish line. I look around my office and my house and I see projects I have completed and projects that sit where I dropped them. There are other projects (like cleaning) that are perpetually and agonizingly unfinished.

I'm glad God promises to finish what He started, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6).

Today, I take heart that God isn't finished with me yet, and He promises to complete the task.

October 19, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 38

How many screws does it take to turn on a light bulb. This is an inventory of The Dwelling that housed The Testimony drawn up by order of Moses for the work of the Levites under Ithamar, son of Aaron the priest. Exodus 38:21 (MSG)

Just the word "inventory" creates deep groans inside of me. As a boy of 12, I was hired by my dad to help with inventory of the sign company in which he was a partner. I was excited at the prospect of working for my dad's company and getting a paycheck. Then, my dad took me back to this dark corner of the shop. There were, what seemed at the time, endless rows of shelves (think of the final shot in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and you get the picture). On these shelves were boxes. In the boxes were screws, bolts, nuts, and washers. Lots of them. Different sizes. Different shapes.

And they had to be counted. One by one they had to be "inventoried."


Taking inventory is not a task that elicits celebratory cartwheels in average folk . It's one of those detail tasks that right-brained people, like me, would rather avoid like H1N1. It's boring to do, and it's certainly boring to read about in the book of Exodus.

Nevertheless, taking inventory is an important task. I need to stop once in a while to take stock of where I've been, where I'm at, and double-check where I'm headed. It's good to figure out what's essential, what's important, and what's not. Determining where I'm investing wisely (with time, energy, finances, and relationships) and where I'm investing poorly is crucial to making mid-course corrections.

Taking "inventory" in life sounds about as exciting to me as counting a giant box of screws, but it's never proved to be a waste of time.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and dawnvgilmore

October 18, 2009

Father of the Bride...The Big Event

It is with some fear and trepidation that I sit down to write this post. It's hard to encapsulate such a momentous day in a such a brief blog post. The bottom line is that Taylor and Clayton are married and the wedding and reception went off with no major complications.

Some of the high points from this father of the bride:

  • I was so glad that Taylor and I were both up early before the rest of the house. We got to enjoy coffee and breakfast together at the dining room table. It was one of those quiet memories I know I'll treasure.
  • I had no idea how much time, effort and energy would be expended running errands, attending to last minute details, and taking care of small fires. At one point I was sent home from the church for clothing tape and a bra. I was waiting for a call to add tampon to the list and the feminine trifecta would have been complete (the joys of being the only man in the house).
  • Taylor looked absolutely beautiful in her dress.
  • Clayton and his groomsmen, in their uniform grey suits, looked like a scene out of Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.
  • The tears started as Taylor and I stood in the long line of parents, grandparents, and bridesmaids. Wiping our tears through our joyous laughter and having Madison help "dab" Taylor's tears is another moment I'll always treasure.
  • Walking Taylor down the aisle was a surreal mixture of joy and grief. I held it together (pretty much) and was proud to hand her to Clayton and give them my blessing.
  • Everyone in the congregation received a candle on their way into the sanctuary. The kids wanted to acknowledge the light and love that each person in attendance had played in their lives. So the lighting of the unity candle started at the back of the Sanctuary. As God Moves Through You (youtube video of the song embedded below) was sung, the candle light made its way towards the front (the stage left side of the sanctuary was a little poky...c'est la vie). The mothers carried the light to Taylor and Clayton who then lit the unity candle. The sanctuary was bathed in the candlelight of almost 300 people as wedding party gathered around the couple to pray for the bride and groom.

  • It warmed a father's heart to watch Taylor and Clayton's friends bathing them in prayer, and to watch both Taylor and Clayton break down in tears. After successfully handing Taylor off, I thought I was done having to hold it together. Then Pastor Kevin handed Clayton's dad and me microphones and asked us to pray. Had a hard time making it through that one.
  • Mission Accomplished, Taylor and Clayton made a quick exit to the reception hall while the congregation watched their slide show. Most people didn't see them get into "Tabitha," the 1991 Dodge Ram pick-up which Wendy and I bought for the girls to use before Taylor got her driver's license. Taylor balked at the idea of driving a beat-up old pickup to school. Almost four years later, I laughed to watch her drive away from her wedding in it.
  • I thought that it was only the bride and groom who are so busy talking to guests that they don't have time to themselves. Wendy and I discovered that there was not enough time to talk to all of our guests as we wished. We barely got a bite to eat.
  • Clayton's favorite is "fun-fetti" cupcakes. So, en lieu of a wedding cake, there were fun-fetti cupcakes for all.
  • We rented an old-fashioned photo booth for people to take their pictures at the reception. It was a big hit and there was a line at the photo booth all night. Taylor and Clayton will get a CD with all of the photos taken that night. I can't wait to see them all!
  • I have never seen Taylor "glow" like I did last night. Our father-daughter dance (to Frank Sinatra singing "Just the Way You Look Tonight") is another memory I'll always cherish. I've never seen her more full of joy. It radiated off of her.
  • We sent the new Mr. & Mrs. off to their bridal suite at the hotel and cleaned up the reception all. Wendy and I were absolutely beat when we finally unloaded at home last night.

Mission accomplished.

Tay & Clays Wedding 101709 001 (42)
Tom & Taylor 101709 LR
Tay & Clays Wedding 101709 001 LR
Tay & Clays Wedding 101709 001 (72) LR
Tay & Clays Wedding 101709 001 (71) LR Hall Family @ Taylors Wedding 101709 LR

Tay & Clay in Truck 101909 LR Tay & Clays Wedding 101709 001 (98) LR

Tay & Clay photobooth LR
Tom & Wendy photobooth LR
Tom & mom photobooth LR

Welcome to Marriage, Dude

Clay 101709 LR Yesterday was my daughter, Taylor's, wedding day. The errands and busyness of the day's preparations were already in full swing when, late in the morning, my cell phone rang. It was my daughter, Madison, calling.

"Dad? Do you have a nose-hair trimmer?"

Granted, it was a rather odd question. It was also Madison. I've learned over time just to roll with these kinds of phone calls from her.

"Yes, I have a 'personal grooming tool,'" I answered, preferring the proper nomenclature for an implement that trims unsightly hair from inside certain dark cavities of your body. I continued to wonder where this was going.

"Okay. Clayton will be over in a minute," she said, referring to the groom.

The line went dead. My curious wife asked me what the call was about.

"Clayton's coming over to borrow my personal trimmer," I responded.

We stared at each other.

"That's kinda gross," she said slowly, "but, whatever. I don't want to know."

I went to the bathroom, got out the little electronic trimmer and returned just in time to hear the back door open. My future son-in-law walked in with what I would describe as a controlled scowl on his face. He looked at me. I handed him the tool. He stared at it.

"I'm going to use your bathroom" he said quietly as he walked past us towards the hallway.

"This wasn't my idea. I'm doing this for Taylor," he said as he rounded the corner and disappeared out of sight.

And so, it begins.

Welcome to marriage, dude.

October 17, 2009

Father of the Bride...The Rehearsal

The bride to be. The wedding festivities got off to a great start. Taylor and her friends had the bachelorette party on Thursday night, so I wasn't sure when I got up early yesterday if they were even home yet (they were). The crew was, however, fairly slow getting up and Wendy had a kitchen full of goodies for them to feast on for breakfast. She was surprised and pleased to receive a beautiful arrangement of flowers from her "Dutch" family! The morning was pretty laid back and it was fun to talk to Taylor's friends from YWAM and hear about their trips around the world and where their journeys have taken them since last Spring.

Wendy and I spent much of the day in preparations. One of my tasks was to put finishing touches on the requisite autobiographical slide show of the kids' baby and childhood pictures (a task given me by Taylor). Taylor and I have been working on that together all week, and I got to unveil the finished product to Taylor and her friends. Speaking of veils, Wendy ironed Grandma Jeanne's veil, which Taylor will wear today. I was surprised how quickly the day flew by and we suddenly found ourselves needing to be at the church for the rehearsal. The last few minutes before we left for the church were full-out stress and panic mode remembering everything we needed for the rehearsal and dinner. Wendy made cheesecakes for the rehearsal dinner so we had to grab those. Taylor called just before we left to ask me to bring her birth control pill (Oh my goodness, Taylor, you CAN'T forget to take your birth control pill!). We arrived at the church one minute before 4 o'clock and got out of the car.

"Holy mother of God, I forgot to pick up the programs from the printer!!" Wendy exclaimed as we walked to the church. So, back to the car we went to head to the printer. The programs were ready, but we realized that in our rush to get out the door neither of us remembered our money or wallets. Fortunately, the printer knows us well and, as he said, "knows where to find us." Crisis narrowly averted, we headed back to the church.

Despite the rush to get to the church I drove slowly, watching the speed limit, because I'd forgotten my license along with my wallet). That's about the time my hearing-aid battery went out. Oh well, hopefully I don't need to hear any detailed instructions.

We arrived at the church and walked in to greet family and friends. We sat down, and that's when I remembered that we were supposed to show the slide show at the rehearsal dinner. I'd left my laptop. projector, screen and speakers at home. Guess we'll be stopping back there on the way to the dinner. 

The rehearsal went off without a hitch and we had a good time meeting Clayton's family and greeting our own families. I had a chance to pull my son-in-law aside and give him a little fatherly reminder that, if his wife doesn't faithfully take her birth control pill at the same time every day SHE WILL GET PREGNANT. His first duty as a husband will be to help her remember this.

Rehearsal over. Back home to pick up laptop, projector, screen, speaker, requisite chords, and serving knives for the cheesecaked (Wendy remembered she'd forgotten those, too). Back in the car. Dangit! Forgot the hearing-aid battery again. Back to the house for that. Back to the car. Off to the rehearsal dinner.

Clayton's parents had done a fantastic job organizing the rehearsal dinner. Before the dinner, Clayton's mom, Brenda, read a poem she wrote called "A Mother's Blessing". It was really sweet and she held it together until the last couple of stanzas. Clayton and Taylor got up and Clayton spent some time thanking everyone (no, seriously, he thanked EVERY-ONE) before we eventually got to eat [love ya, Clay!]. The parents all sat together at one table and chatted during the dinner, and we played the slide show which brought out the appropriate laughter and, I'm sure, a few tears.

After the rehearsal dinner, it was time for us to head to the reception hall to decorate. Taylor has planned these really creative table decorations of bird cages. At the bottom of the cages is a bed of moss on top of which there are candles. Now when I say "moss" I mean that Taylor bought a box of "Super Moss" (not sure how it compares to mild-mannered Clark Kent type moss, but I'll take the box's word for it).  Where she got it, I don't have a clue, but as we began to assemble the decorations it sort of became clear that moss is green fungus growing on DIRT. You don't get the Super Moss without the requisite Super Dirt. So, dirt was getting everywhere. On the floor and on the tables. (Soooooooo, guess who got to go back home to get some wax paper to line the bottom of the bird cages?)

The wax paper worked really well and a crude assembly line was created. We we able to get the room decorated as much as possible and headed home to get a good night's sleep (not before making a detailed to-do list for today so that we wouldn't forget anything!).

The house is stirring. Time to get ready. Today is my daughter's wedding day.

October 16, 2009

Getting into the Spirit of the Wedding Weekend

My ol' Judson College buddy, Elaine, sent this to me through Facebook. She sent it as stress relief for the wedding weekend as I prepare to marry my daughter off. I just had to share it! 

If you can't see the video because you're getting this via e-mail or feed, just click here.

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 37

Bezalel made the chest. Bezalel made the Chest using acacia wood: He made it three and three-quarters feet long and two and a quarter feet wide and deep. Exodus 37:1 (MSG)

There is nothing more agonizing to a parent than the disobedience of a child. Whether it is out of defiance, neglect, or forgetfulness doesn't really matter. There is nothing that makes your heart sink more than when a child does not do what you ask him or her to do. And, there is a reciprocal effect when they are obedient. You're proud. You're grateful. You feel increased trust. You just want to pour out blessing on them.

As I read Exodus 37 this morning, my first impression was "this is one of those really boring chapters of God's Message that make you wonder 'why is it there?'". As I read through all that Bezalel did in making the chest, the table, the altar, and the lamp stand, it struck me that he made all the furnishings for God's Sanctuary just as he'd been instructed and just as God had prescribed. The message for me in Exodus 37 is not within the verses, but in the sum of the whole. God gave a description of how each piece of was to be made. Bezalel was obedient and crafted them just as God wanted them.

As I sit and think of my own children and what their obedience and disobedience make me feel, I'm struck by the reality that my own obedience and disobedience has affected my parents - and it affects my Father in Heaven. God has told us that he desires our obedience. I get it now more than ever.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and ArchieMcPhee

October 15, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 36

Harvest time in a land of plenty. All the artisans who were at work making everything involved in constructing the Sanctuary came, one after another, to Moses, saying, "The people are bringing more than enough for doing this work that God has commanded us to do!" Exodus 36:4-5 (MSG)

It's harvest time in Iowa as I write this post. For those of us who have grown up in the mid-west, harvest is woven into our sub-conscious tapestry of our experience. An army of green, red, blue and gold combines and tractors spread out across the fertile hills and valleys. Each day the entire landscape changes hue and texture as grain is harvested. The tall, golden stalks of corn that were there yesterday are gone tomorrow. Fields are laid low as mountains of harvested grain appear outside of towns and local co-ops.

Another bumper crop. A bountiful harvest.

I thought of that this morning as I read of the offerings for the Tent of Dwelling. "More than enough." What a great message to receive. We have an abundance. Needs are met. Coffers are filled. Grain bins are bursting.

We are so blessed and I, too often, take it for granted.

God, I have all that I need, and then some. I have more than enough. Teach me contentment. And, by the way, thank you.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and newshour

October 14, 2009

A Precious Gift

Tay & Clay Stained Glass 101109 LR I come from a family of artists and craftsman. In one way or another, we're all have our own creative outlets. My dad took up working with stained glass many years ago. He's done some fantastic work. Yet, as the number of grandchildren multiplied like arrows in his quiver, stained glass took a back seat to other activities and priorities.

On Sunday night, my folks came down to have dinner with Taylor and Clayton. Mom and Dad wanted to make the journey to spend some time with the happy couple before the wedding, and to give the kids their wedding gift early. Wendy and I were a bit surprised when Taylor called to announce that the four of them were coming over. My folks requested that Taylor and Clayton open the gift in our presence.

So, they arrived and opened the package. Inside was a stained-glass piece that my father had created and framed by hand. It was awesome to see him back at it. The result was gorgeous.

It's the kind of thing money doesn't buy.