Throw Back Thursday: Members Only

TBT Members Only

“Jump back!” Here’s a little blast back to the 1980′s. This is a picture of me sitting in Prof. Satre’s office at Judson College. Gotta love the turned up Izod collar (back when Izod and Lacoste were one) and the Members Only jacket.

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Learning to Please

Celebrating Wendy's Birthday with the VLs at the Lyric Opera

Celebrating Wendy’s Birthday with the VLs at the Lyric Opera

…and find out what pleases the Lord. Ephesians 5:10 (NIV)

In many ways, Wendy and I are the epitome of the adage “opposites attract.” Several months ago, prompted by Taylor, our entire family took the Enneagram personality test on-line. Since that time we’ve often found ourselves in family conversations about how we are alike and how we are different. According to the test (and validated by loved ones) I am a #4 (Individualist) and Wendy is a #8 (Challenger).

While visiting a few weeks ago Taylor mentioned that someone had told her that 4s and 8s “should never get married” to which Taylor laughed thinking of Wendy and me. The truth is, there are challenges with almost any mixture of people and personality types. Part of being married is learning where there are gaps of communication, expectation and choosing to meet the other where they are at.

The first year of marriage, I made the mistake of being thought-less and inconsiderate about Wendy’s birthday. In my family, birthdays are never a big deal – but I’ve learned with my wife and with my friends that others view birthdays as a much bigger deal than I do. I’ve had to regularly retrain my thinking to realize how important it is for others in my life. I’ve learned that it pleases Wendy when I’m prepared for the birthday-Christmas-wedding anniversary trifecta that descends on us every December 21-31.

I was struck this morning by the little verse (above) that’s crammed into a chapter filled with meaty teaching about life and relationships. Having been reminded of my need to be more considerate of what pleases other key relationships in my life, I am now reminded to apply the same principle to God. How often am I thoughtless and inconsiderate of what pleases God? If I am motivated to change my thought patterns and behaviors in a way that shows love in a way pleasing to my wife and friends, wouldn’t I also be willing to learn what pleases my Creator?

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Easter 2014

This year Easter came crammed between production weekend of Ham Buns and Potato Salad and three scheduled business trips. To be honest, we were desiring a quiet celebration. It was the first time in many years that Wendy and I were not scheduled for tech at church, so that helped tremendously.

Wendy, Suzanna and I headed to the 11:00 service at church. Taylor travelled down to Pella with her friend Emily and joined us at church. Worship was great. Music was awesome and there was an amazing dance featuring Ridge McGinley. It was about 12:30 before we got back home.

8 oz. cuts of filet mignon on the grill were our Easter dinner. While eating Emily showed up with another friend for a few minutes and joined us for a glass of wine and a chat. We simply hung out in the afternoon after dinner. Taylor headed back to Des Moines with Emily and Ann Wilkinson dropped by to pick up her Director’s gifts from Ham Buns. She also joined us for some wine and conversation. It was a lovely afternoon.

A week-long business trip meant that I had a lot of packing to do which I accomplished in the early evening. Still feeling the effects of our Easter steak, Wendy and I opted for a light dinner of popcorn on the couch while we watched a little television.

Not exactly what I would call a rip-roaring Easter celebration. I didn’t even take any pictures (which I realize is rare for me), but for us it was restful and that’s just what the Great Physician ordered.

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I Haven’t Arrived, but I’ve Got a Good Set of Directions

source:  Cornelia Kopp via Flickr

source: Cornelia Kopp via Flickr

until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13 (NIV)

I so regularly use the word picture of “journey” because it captures so perfectly for me the reality of movement, progress, and destination in this life.

When I was a young man I felt a compulsion to be and to appear perfect. I didn’t want others to see or honestly know me with all my human failures. My sense shame and the appearances I put on to mask it only weighed me down and hampered my progress. Somewhere along the way, however, I came to realize that while entering a relationship with Jesus immediately changed my eternal reality, here on Earth I was still the same bozo on the bus that I’d always been still trying to find my way home.

Following Jesus didn’t result in me getting immediately teleported to my destination. I still have to slog through the journey day-by-day like everybody else. The real difference is that now I have a trustworthy Guide and a great set of directions. Honestly accepting this truth allowed me to have a little more grace with myself and with others. I haven’t arrived, and neither has that guy who pisses me off or the lady over there who irritates the crap out of me. I haven’t reached fullness, wholeness, or maturity and neither have they. We’re all bozos on the bus together, and I’ve got to have realistic expectations of myself and others. I know I’m pointed in the right direction, I’m following Jesus, and I’m making progress.

Just keep moving. It’s not a sprint, it’s more like an Iron Man marathon.

Slow and steady wins the race.

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“Yes, You Can”

Way to go, Taylor! Way to go!

Dad & Madison @ Graduation 05 2010

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…. Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)

When our daughters were growing up, I made the choice that my default parental answer would always be “yes.” I believed that one of the most important lessons I could instill in my children is an understanding of how capable they were.

  • “Yes” you can play in the sprinkler, because life is about joyful everyday experiences
  • “Yes” you can stay up and read in bed, because reading will expand your world
  • “Yes” you can go on a missions trip to the other side of the world, because God doesn’t put an age limit on spiritual gifts or who He can/will use for His purposes, and neither should I.
  • “Yes” you can try out for [fill in the blank], because I believe you can do it, I want  you to believe in yourself, and even if you fail you will learn an invaluable life lesson that will benefit you the rest of your life.

Don’t get me wrong. The answer was “no” on occasion, but as a parent I wanted my “no” to have good reason that I could clearly articulate. I’ve seen too many parents whose default is always “no,” and the negative impact on their children:

  • “No” you can’t because I don’t trust you
  • “No” you can’t because you’re a kid
  • “No” you can’t because I never could
  • “No” you can’t because I don’t want to have to deal with it

I live in a world of fellow adults who have no idea of how capable they are or the difference they could make in the lives of others because the default answer they’ve known all their lives has been “no.” I wanted the default answer in my home to be “yes” so that my children would realize that they are even more capable than they themselves realized, and that I believed in them. More importantly, I believe that God believes in them, has gifted them uniquely, and can do immeasurably more through them than they could ask or imagine.

This past weekend we had the joy of spending some time with Taylor. She shared with us what’s been going on in her soul of late, which she put into her blog post on Sunday. She quoted from Rob Bell’s sermon which dovetails nicely with this morning’s post:

If you are a disciple, you have committed your entire life to being like your rabbi. If you see your rabbi walk on water, what do you immediately want to do? Walk on water. So this disciple gets out on the water and he starts to sink, so he yells, “Jesus save me!” And Jesus says, “You of little faith, why do you doubt?” Who does Peter lose faith in? Not Jesus; Jesus is doing fine. Peter loses faith in himself. Peter loses faith that he can do what the rabbi is doing. If the rabbi calls you to be his disciple, then he believes you can actually be like him. As we read the stories of Jesus’ life with his disciples, what do we find that frustrates him to no end? When his disciples lose faith in themselves. He doesn’t get frustrated with them because they are incapable, but because of how capable they are. 

So Jesus, at the end of his time, tells the disciples to go make more disciples. Then he leaves. He dies. He promises to send his Spirit to guide and direct them, but the future of the movement is in their hands. He doesn’t stick around to make sure they don’t screw it up. He’s gone. He actually trusts that they can do it. God has an incredibly high view of people. God believes people are capable of amazing things. I’ve been told that I need to believe in Jesus, which is a good thing. But what I’m learning is that Jesus believes in me.

“Yes, you  can.”

 

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Appetites and Maturity

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. Ephesians 2:3 (NIV)

I have come to the conclusion that it is our natural appetites that get us in trouble. We all struggle, though which appetite(s) we struggle with varies from person to person. It is easy to point out the obvious appetite addictions in our culture and society. I have always observed a human tendency to rank them in our minds and our social circles.

I’ve always found it both fascinating and hypocritical that the institutional church so vigorously denounces those who struggle to tame their appetites for sex, alcohol and drugs while we feed, pretty much unchecked, our appetite for caffeine, fats and sugar. My local church was literally pushing sugar glazed donut holes on every person walking into Easter services yesterday like drug dealers on seedy street corner. Then we feed gluttonous appetites with more fats and sweets at the after church potluck.

Food has its own mind and physiology altering effects and is no less destructive when appetites are fed unchecked. We choose to, by-and-large, ignore that appetite, however, when it comes to public discussions of destructive habits. There are other appetites I find the institutional church rarely discusses: sloth, gossip, greed, praise, control, power, and pleasure to name a few. It’s easier to point out the obvious in others than dig in and deal with those which might create spiritual sub-dermal discomfort in ourselves.

The further I get in this faith journey the more acutely aware I have become of the link between appetites/craving, obedience, faith, and maturity. I see less distinction between the socially unacceptable appetites people struggle with and the socially acceptable ones we seemingly ignore. All natural cravings and appetites, fed unchecked, are addictive and destructive. I am increasingly convicted of just how out of control my appetites can be despite appearances to the outside world that I have everything in control.

Today, I am seeking to hold in check my cravings and appetites for those things which can so easily become spiritually, physically, and relationally destructive and follow Holy Spirit’s prompting to feed my spiritual appetite to love my Creator, and others, well.

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Ham Buns and Potato Salad: Epilogue

The past week has been spent resting up from the premiere of Ham Buns and Potato Salad. After a flurry of activity getting ready for the show, Wendy and I hit the wall as soon as the show closed and the cast party was over. We’re just beginning to feel like life is getting back to a sense of normal.

The show went really well. Attendance was above average for a spring production, and our final performance had the biggest crowd of the run which is usually a sign of good word-of-mouth. The cast and crew were fantastic and I was extremely pleased with everyone’s performances. I was so impressed with the effort the actors put in to their characters:

  • Jana De Zwarte and Karl Deakyne had a monumental task of pulling of the critical second act scene between Marian and Thomas (It became known as the “mini-play”). They had me in tears most nights.
  • My wife, Wendy, and Arvin Van Zante did an incredible job of taking two extreme characters and making them authentic without losing the humor.
  • Lily Villalobos was amazing in her stage debut, bringing sweetness and charm to her portrayal of Abigail.
  • I was so pleased to get Griffin Hammel on the stage before he heads to grad school. His energy on stage as Matt pushed the rest of the cast to raise their game.
  • Mark Moreland and Doug DeWolf did a fantastic job of creating interesting contrasts in Arl and Dean.
  • Denise Gregory and Cyndi Atkins, likewise, nailed their portrayals of Betty and Lola. They became the archetypical small town mother and aunt many of us know.

Mat Kelly and Anne McCullough Kelly did an incredible job designing and constructing the set. It captured the feeling of Hebron without being over the top. Props to Arvin Van Zante for his light design and Cody Kooi for his work on the sound. Anne McCullough Kelly and Liz Keeney were invaluable stage managers and kept the production on track.

I have to give a ton of credit to the show’s director, Ann Wilkinson. Ann did an amazing job of navigating a new and original script. She contributed so many key touches to the action and worked her usual mastery with the actors. The show would not have happened were it not for her commitment to helping with the script from its early stages and her invaluable encouragement and feedback through the entire process.

Last, but certainly not least, my love Wendy has not gotten near enough credit for the contributions she’s made to the play from the beginning. She has been muse, cheerleader, critic, and contributor. She has believed in the script from the beginning and given constant investment and encouragement from first draft through production. It wouldn’t have happened without her.

It was fascinating for me to sit around the post opening night party and the final cast party and listen to the actors and crew continuing to talk about their characters and the story itself. I loved the after show conversations and debates with family and friends about the end of the play and the characters’ choices. I was quietly pleased that the script prompted such on-going discussions. The truth is that I found those conversations more gratifying than the audience’s ovations. My desire all along had been to write a play that both entertains and prompts post show conversation.

What’s next for Ham Buns and Potato Salad? I’ve already been asked permission for a 2015 production of the play by Newton Community Theatre in Newton, Iowa. I’m hoping that other productions will follow. I will continue to pursue production and publishing opportunities. We’ll see where it goes. For now, I’m looking forward to a little break.

More video clips from the show:

“They were in a love triangle.”
“Old Man Schuler”
“All the tact of an atomic bomb.”
“I’m in the book.”

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