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March 20, 2010

Moving in the New Playhouse

I'm up early. Can't sleep. It's been a blur of activity as we've moved things in to the Playhouse, gotten things set up, and made arrangements for things to come. The deck was completed yesterday and it was a beautiful evening, so we pulled some chairs out on the deck and sat in the sun to enjoy the moment and dream of the summer to come.

The level of the lake is lower than the folks have ever seen it in the years they've spent their summers at the lake. The lake has been lowered in anticipation of the floodwater moving this direction from the north after record snowfall this winter. The dock, which normally floats in 8-10 feet of water was sitting on the bottom of the lake.

We made our first meal in the new kitchen. Wendy threw some baked potatoes and garlic bread in the oven while Dad and I pulled the grill out of mothballs and fired it up for the first time of the season. Garlic-herb chicken on the grill was the menu for the evening. We opened a bottle of wine and went to work discussing the to-do list for the weekend and planning the finishing of the lower level.

I should be tired, but my brain is buzzing. So I'm up posting these pics.

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March 19, 2010

Old Things Pass Away...New Things Come

Playhouse old and new

Speaking of old things giving way to new, Wendy and I are at the lake with my parents this weekend. Over the winter the old Playhouse (a 1973 single-wide trailer home) was replaced with a new Playhouse. We get to move things in this weekend. There's still a lot to be done, including the finishing of the lower level, but we're really excited to experience the lake in this new space! Stay tuned. Updated pics coming this weekend!

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 4

Life springs up. And that's when God's Branch will sprout green and lush. Isaiah 4:2 (MSG)

I write this post on the back end of one of the longest, and most brutal winters my hometown has experienced. We shattered the record for the amount of snowfall we had. Each week brought more snow, ice, wind, and cold. And then, it was over. In one week the snow melted, revealing green grass that had been well inslated under a thick blanket of snow. The tulips immediately began to shoot from the ground. Life springs up in the wake of deathly winter.

There is a pattern, a theme, that runs through God's message. It is a message of hope and redemption. We see it in today's chapter and we will see it throughout Isaiah's prophecy. Doomsday and judgement are followed by salvation. Winter is followed by spring. Valleys give way to the next mountain top.

Believe. Press on.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flick and natmeister

March 17, 2010

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 3

Taken for granted. [God's] withdrawing police and protection, judges and courts, pastors and teachers, captains and generals, doctors and nurses, and, yes, even the repairmen and jacks-of-all-trades. Isaiah 3:1b-2 (MSG)

In 1993, massive spring floods deluged downtown Des Moines. The Des Moines Water Works was under water and my family was among over 100,000 people who experienced life without the blessing and convenience of water. Life was radically different without fresh water right from tap with which to cook, clean, shower and use the toilet. Ten days without water, which I previously taken for granted, was an eye opener.

Think for a moment of all the things we take for granted. Contemplate all of the things that make up the unconscious infrastructure of our day. Clean water fresh from the tap. Clean bathrooms and toilet paper. Heat in the winter. Air Conditining in the summer. Access to transportation. Stocked grocery stores. Waste removal. Meditate on the unseen throng of professionals on whom you depend from civil utilities to business to law enforcement to health professionals. Imagine all of those daily support systems breaking down and disappearing.

The verse above reminds me today that one of the ways God brought judgment was the simple peeling away of societal support systems. I don't want to take for granted all that God has blessed me with. I'm mindful and grateful for the people and systems that support my daily existence. I don't even want to imagine what would my life would be like if they were suddenly stripped away.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and pinksherbet

March 16, 2010

Spring Break in Pella

Pella. It's Spring Break, and the weather is thus far cooperating with the term. It was gorgeous and sunny yesterday. That made it a perfect day for Grandma Jeanne, Jody, Sol and Emma to buzz down to Pella for a day of shopping, eating Jaarsma goodies, walking around the square, eating Jaarsma goodies, visiting family and friends, and eating Jaarsma goodies.

We all met at Monarch's for lunch along with Taylor. It was fun to have a laugh and catch up. Madison wasn't able to join us. She and her friend, Anna, headed to the Twin Cities to catch her favorite band, Copeland, who is breaking up. She didn't want to miss the farewell tour.

The manager of the restaurant called our house later that afternoon to let us know that someone in our party left their jacket at the table. I had to laugh. Only in a small town would the restaurant manager know their customers well enough to put together who left a jacket, who was in the party, and would take the time to pick up the phone to call you. I called my sister who was still in town and they picked up the jacket before heading home.

The spring weather is lifting my spirits, as well as the tulips. The heavy snowfall this year insulated the ground so well that it didn't freeze like normal. The tulips are already sprouting. Looks like Pella Tulip Time could be a "stemfest" this year!

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 2

The people we idolize. Quit scraping and fawning over mere humans, so full of themselves, so full of hot air! Can't you see there's nothing to them? Isaiah 2:22 (MSG)

The world of celebrity and fame is a whacky place. I never ceased to be amazed at the tabloids that grace the grocery store check out line. I don't know whether to be impressed or depressed that there is actually a market for them. The "legitimate" television news isn't much better. Most recently we "scrape and fawn" over Tiger Woods. His every word, action, and decision is analyzed, scrutinized, and hypothesized by every media outlet. We watch it, read about it, talk about it, argue over it.

Before there was Tiger, there was Brangelina, Bennifer, Michael, and O.J.. You can keep going back, if you want to do so. Every generation has them. Every culture has them. How fascinating that our human nature, throughout history, is perpetually intent on turning normal, flesh-and-blood human beings into "stars," "gods," "goddesses," "icons," and "idols."

Today, I'm mindful of people and things in my life to which I've attached greater worth than is truly merited.

 

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and roobee

March 15, 2010

The Hope of Spring in Winter's Fading Dreariness

I was gone all of last week on business. I left cold and completely snow-covered Iowa on Monday. I was in San Antonio where it was sunny and 80 degrees. It was glorious. I stood outside my hotel room in the evening and just let the sun wash over me. I returned to Iowa on Wednesday and was surprised by the amount of "green" I saw on the ground as the plane descended into Des Moines. Spring's thaw had begun, though it was still cloudy and chilly. Wendy met me at the airport and, after a wonderful lunch to celebrate Mom Hall's birthday, we immediately drove to the Twin Cities were I had two full days of meetings. The change from sunny San Antonio to dreary, cold and rainy Minneapolis was immense.

Wendy and I were pressured with a lot to do while we were in the Cities (apologies to our friends, whom we didn't have time to hook up with), but were able to treat ourselves by sneaking over to the Guthrie Theater's production of MacBeth. While a wonderful production, Shakespeare's tragedy was as dark, dreary and depressing as the Minneapolis weather.

However, by the time we returned home on Friday evening the only snow left in our yard were a couple of lumps by the end of the driveway where the snowplow and snowblower had made Everest sized mountains of snow this winter. It was wonderful to see our lawn, though the record amounts of snow left the yard a matted, brown, ugly mess. Unfortunately, that was a good metaphor for the weekend which was largely spent catching up on office work that I had to put off while on the road working. Kind of depressing and dreary, I know.

It was, however, wonderful to see the sunshine of Taylor and Madison's faces yesterday evening. Clayton is off on a spring break road trip. so Taylor came over for dinner. We threw burgers on the grill for the first time this year. While we certainly missed Clayton's good humor, there was something warm and familiar to the four of us sitting down together in our old seats at the dining room table. That hasn't happened since before Taylor's wedding last October and we all kind of enjoyed the moment as we joined hands to bless the meal.

Here's to the continual fading of winter's dreariness and the emergence of spring's sunshine and warmth!

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 1

Light in the distance. "Quit your worship charades. I can't stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings— meetings, meetings, meetings—I can't stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You've worn me out! I'm sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning." Isaiah 1:13-14 (MSG)

The theme yesterday, from the message I heard in morning worship until the quiet pillow-talk with Wendy at night, was of forgiveness and repentance. I wake to read Isaiah's prophecy and the theme continues. There are days when, no matter where you turn, God keeps hammering a lesson home.

Pastor Andrew had a brilliant illustration yesterday of the child who has learned that "sorry" is the prescribed response to wrong-doing and turns it into life's get out of jail free card. Apologies are profane in the absence of repentance.

When faced with a choice of what to do about the darkness in my own soul, I can recount three different ways I've responded. One is outright rebellion and the willful choice to embrace the darkness. Another is repentance; literally the willful choice to turn the other direction and take clear and conscious steps towards the light. As I take intent, sometimes painful, steps towards the light, the darkness is exposed, examined, and its potency fades. The third response is to remorsefully turn towards the light while remaining fixed in place. I deceptively feel the light's reflection on my face and experience the warmth of it washing over me in the midst of my confession. Without stepping towards the light, however, the darkness can steal away deep inside to a place I can reach the next time I need a fix.

The power of light is realized and darkness fades in increasing measure as we move ever closer to the light source. Turning towards the light and stepping towards the light are often two very distinct decisions.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and adavey

March 12, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 25

The carrot and the stick. But then, afraid of what the Babylonians would do, they all took off for Egypt, leaders and people, small and great. 2 Kings 25:26 (MSG)

In my daily vocation I spend a lot of time and energy helping companies and their individual employees measure and improve the quality of the customer service they deliver in daily interactions with customers. It's been an interesting lesson in human nature. I always approach my role as coach and encourager. If a person is open and willing to change, then the process is generally a lot of fun. It's a win-win-win for client, customer, and coach. There are, however, always those who stalwartly fight the process. A few people will always refuse to change, build up anger, and spread a contagious bad attitude.

One of the things that I've learned in years on the job is that encouragement and positive reinforcement only work to change behavior with a certain segment of the population. There are some who will only change if and when they feel the fear or consequences of negative reinforcement. Sad, but true.

Isn't it interesting that a considerable amount of God's message is dedicated to warning that there are negative consequences to our unchecked poor choices and bad behavior? I would love it if God could get away with simply spouting encouraging platitudes and inspirational epithets. No matter how much we want positive change to be motivated simply by dangling a carrot in front of us, the truth is that some will only respond to a swift stick on the backside.

God's message to us, and His work in our lives, is a mixture of both.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and bthomso

March 11, 2010

Baby, it' K.O.L.D. Outside

Kold_poster Yesterday it was announced that Wendy and I will play the lead roles in Union Street Players production of K.O.L.D. Radio, Whitefish Bay in April. K.O.L.D. is the radio station in Whitefish Bay, Minnesota located in the corner of the local tap: Carl & Lena's Place for Beer. I play Lars Knudsen, a local widower with a teen age daughter and a love for Crappie fishing. Lars' radio show, Crappie Talk, has no listeners and so he loses his one and only sponsor, Ole's Bait Shop and Deere Petting Farm. Wendy plays Martha Bjorklund (who beat Lars in a legendary 50 yard dash race in elementary school) whose radio show, Book Beat, has all the listeners and the sponsors. Things do not get any better for Lars with the sudden and mysterious arrival of Brooklyn native Sal Carducci who buys the radio station.

We've got a hectic five weeks of rehearsal until the curtain goes up April 15-18. We're looking forward to being on stage again and the show is hilarious. Put it on your calendar and join us!