Acceptable Choices are Not Always Wise Choices

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,” you may indeed set over you a king whom the Lord your God will choose. One of your own community you may set as king over you; you are not permitted to put a foreigner over you, who is not of your own community.
Deuteronomy 17:14-15 (NRSV)

St. Paul wrote, “all things are permissible for me, but not all things are beneficial.

In today’s chapter, Moses predicts that the Hebrews would one day wish to appoint a king over them as all of the other peoples around them had done. He makes it clear that having a king was not a wrong thing, but goes on to lay down some crucial boundaries for that person. He would have to be subject to God’s law like everyone else. He would need to constantly be reminded of God’s law so he didn’t forget it. He would need to be humble and not be considered better than the lowliest of his subjects.

A few books and a few centuries later, the people would do exactly as Moses predicted as chronicled in the book of 1 Samuel. The people demanded a king and Samuel capitulates but reminds the people that while it was permissible for them to do so, it wasn’t necessarily the wisest choice. And, it would come back to haunt them.

I’m reminded this morning that there are many times in life when we may make perfectly permissible choices for ourselves that will come back to haunt us. We can make decisions that are not wrong, but are not necessarily wise either. We may end up regretting those decisions and living through the painful consequences they bring into our lives.

As I continue to progress in my life journey, I pray that I can be increasingly wise to make the choices and decisions that are good and beneficial for me and my loved ones in the long run rather than those that are permissible and simply feel desirable in the moment.

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TBT: First Time at Wrigley

Tom and Taylor at Wrigley - 1So excited about the Cubs big Wild Card win in Pittsburgh last night. Forgive me if I feel the desire to keep the good Northsiders vibe going. For Throwback Thursday I thought I’d pull this photo out of the mothballs. Taylor and I had a weekend in Chicago visiting my Alma Mater and making my first ever trip to Wrigley Field. As you can see in the photo we were in the nosebleed seats near the top of the stands. Still, it was a gorgeous day and a great memory (I still have the scorecard from that game!). I’ll always be glad I got to see Sammy Sosa make his famous sprint out to right field at the beginning of the game.

Justice (and therefore Wisdom) Needed

You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.
Deuteronomy 16:19 (NRSV)

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I’m sure we all had that question when we were young. Like most people, I think the answer changed for me a time or two. Growing up with the Apollo lunar missions, I think astronaut was on my mind in my earliest years. There came a time later in my childhood when I became enamored with the idea of running for political office.  Growing up in Iowa, we are inundated with the Presidential races every four years and that probably had an influence on my thinking.

As I got older, the idyllic visions I had of political office gave way to the harsh realities. At the highest levels the political game is about money. You generally can’t win the office without money, and to get money you have to put your hand out to big donors and special interests who will expect favors for their “donation.” By the way, corruption is an equal opportunity consequence. It is found in every political camp. That’s just the reality of it.

To stay in office, I watch lawmakers rig rules and pad their war chests. They shun term limits to extend their power and influence. They make sketchy deals and look out for each other and their own.

Somewhere along the way I realized that I didn’t think I could be a part of all that and keep my soul healthy. My political aspirations gave way to other things.

Today I am reminded that from the very beginning God has desired justice, honesty, and impartiality from His people. I didn’t pursue public office, but I still find myself in positions of leadership and authority. God’s call is the same for me in those positions as it was for the judges in Moses day. God desires that I make right and just decisions for the good of the whole. Even in my relatively minor spheres of influence, I continue to need wisdom and a generous measure of grace for that.

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Reflections on Being a Cubs Fan: “You Gotta Have Heart”

On “Remember When Wednesdays” I look back a post from the past and re-post it for newer readers. Tonight our beloved Cubs make their first trip to the Postseason since 2008. That year, Wendy and I made a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field early in the season to celebrate my birthday and our hopes were high. It was perhaps apt that I called the post “You gotta have heart.” The Cubs fell short that year and it’s been a long dry spell since. Hope springs eternal. Perhaps this year things will be different.

Here is my post from early in the season 2008…

Summer2004_025My wife and I have looked forward to the coming of spring and the beginning of another season for the Chicago Cubs. We’ve watched their first three games, and our hopes are high. It’s a new season. The slate is clean. This could be our year.

Opening day was a heartbreaker, as our beloved Cubbies raised our spirits on the wings of a Kosuke Fukudome three-run dinger to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth only to dash them to the ground when they gave up the winning run in the tenth.

The second game was nine innings of frustration as our boys were one-step short, one swing behind, one bobbled-ball late through all nine innings.

That’s okay. I turned to Wendy and consoled her. “It’s a long season,” I assured her.

Good thing,” she said.

YeahGood thing,” I repeated, assuring myself.

We’re good that way – Cubs fans. You’ve got to keep your chin up. You’ve got to put a positive spin on ball four. Optimism is required on the resume. So is thick skin. It takes character to be a fan of Chicago’s Northsiders.

In preparation for the season I watched Ken Burns’ documentary Baseball. It’s a good history of the game if you like an East Coast perspective. Sure, there’s the occasional mention of a Midwest club. There’s the passing nod to Hall-of-Famers from the fly-over states. There’s the off-hand mention that St. Louis or Minnesota won a World Series or two. But mostly it’s about teams from New York and Boston.

Early on the documentary did mention the 1908 Chicago Cubs’ World Series winning, double-play threesome of Tinker to Evers to Chance and then promptly brought in a snooty commentator to explain that they really weren’t that good. The Cubs are barely mentioned in the rest of the marathon East Coast love-fest.

Don’t get me wrong. I acknowledge that the Yankees are the winningest club in baseball. I admit that the story of the Dodgers, the signing of Jackie Robinson and their heartbreaking departure for Los Angeles is compelling. I will capitulate that the Curse of the Bambino and the Red Sox eighty-six year World Series drought is a great yarn.

Yet, the eighty-six year suffering of Boston fans pales in comparison to the Wrigley Field faithful who, this year, celebrate…or is it mourn…an entire century with an empty trophy case. Boston’s storied Royal Rooters have nothing on the indomitable spirit of the Bleacher Bums. Boston survived the Bambino’s curse, but Cubs fans are gutting out an unholy trinity of curses (the goat, the black cat, and the Bartman ball).

Mention that you are a Cubs fan and you receive responses that vary from pity on one end (“Awwww, look at the loveable loooooser!”) to outright gleeful condemnation on the other (“Are you serious?! Dude, I’d show you how many World Series the Cardinals have won but I don’t have enough fingers! Ha, ha, ha, ha!). That’s just part of the program.

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Does that make Cubs fans comparable to Superman or Popeye juiced on HGH? You know that’s not true. What is true is that what hasn’t killed us has given us heart. Our boys of summer have given us a cardio workout like no other team in the Major Leagues. Our hearts have regularly been pounding off the rate charts only to be stopped short just this side of cardiac arrest. 2003, 1998, 1989, 1984, 1969…talk about a baseball fan’s aerobic workout.

“You Gotta Have Heart – miles and miles and miles of heart,” goes Broadway tune goes in Damn Yankees! Yankees?! What do they know? The Yankees don’t need heart. Ask George Steinbrenner.

For my money (and, granted, it’s no where near what Steinbrenner has), I’ll give the award for the most heart to the Chicago Cubs faithful. In fact, think about that – the Cubs’ faith-ful. That’s what being a Cubs’ fan requires – faith. At the root of a Cubs’ fan’s heartsworn loyalty is unwavering faith.

The Good Book says that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for.”

We get that.

The third game of the opening series was a winner. Ramirez homered. Dempster settled down into a solid outing. Wood got his first save in his new role as Closer. The “W” flag was raised above Wrigley Field for the first time this year as the Cubs’ faith-ful sang “Go Cubs, Go!”.

Yep. I believe this is the year.

Living in Community

If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. Deuteronomy 15:7 (NRSV)

Last week our daughter, Taylor, and I were having lunch together. Taylor returned from Graduate school in Scotland this past summer and has been living with us as she applies for jobs around the country. We talked about our move to the small town of Pella from the suburbs over a decade ago and how that move changed our lives.

Growing up in the midwest there is a spirit of community that still exists, even in the cities. When you live in Pella, however, the idea of community is taken to a whole different level. Neighbors look out for one other. Neighbors lend freely and return favors. Almost everyone is involved in volunteering in the community in some way. It’s a wonderful town. “There’s no town quite like it,” I said to Taylor as we ate our lunch, and she agreed.

I was struck this morning by the number of times the word “community” was used in the chapter. The rules and commands were really geared toward the concepts of how to live together in community. The overarching principles that come out of the chapter is goodwill, generosity and forgiveness. As I read, I thought of numerous examples of how I’ve experienced these principle with my neighbors and examples of how I’ve attempted to live out the same.

Today, I’m thankful for community. No community is perfect. We live in a fallen world and even the Hebrews who received the commands through Moses would find that reality always falls short of God’s ideal in this fallen world. Nevertheless, there are places where you find the spirit of community more than others. I live in one of those places, and I’m very grateful.

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Featured photo: Dutch Dancers (all volunteers) entertain crowds and teach traditional Dutch dances on the streets of Pella Iowa during that annual “Tulip Time” festival.

Living with Others on Life’s Big Playground

Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to the foreigner residing in any of your towns, and they may eat it, or you may sell it to any other foreigner. But you are a people holy to the Lord your God.Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk. Deuteronomy 14:21 (NRSV)

One of the lessons I learned on the playeground was that not all kids were raised with the same standards and rules as were held fast at the Vander Well household. Certain words that were unacceptable in our house, were perfectly normal and common vocabulary for some families. What was expected behavior in my home was not expected behavior in friend’s homes. When I quizzed my parents about these discrepancies, I was informed that other families were free to choose their own standards. As a member of our household, however, we were expected to obey the commands of our home.

I was fascinated to come across this addendum in today’s chapter to the ancient rules God gave His Hebrew children. The rule was for His children, with the understanding that not everyone chose, or was chosen, to be God’s children. While God told His children not to eat roadkill, there was the understanding and acknowledgement that roadkill might be considered an acceptable feast for others. His children could give the roadkill away to neighbors or sell it to foreigners. The rule not to eat was between God and His children.
I observe that people in our culture are increasingly intolerant of any who disagree with their beliefs, choices, or the rules of life to which they ascribe. As I read through the news of the day I find ISIS terrorists, politically correct liberals, Christian right wingers, and adherents to any number of religious or political persuasions seem to be given to the same desire for everyone submit to their way of thinking, believing, and living.

I am reminded this morning that the world is a big playground and Jesus readily accepted that people would choose not to follow Him and His prescribed dictates for conducting our lives. In fact, Jesus was downright discouraging to certain individuals who said they wanted to do so. This is consistent with the roadkill rule in today’s chapter. If Father God is accepting of the fact that not everyone on the playground will follow our house rules and our way of thinking then shouldn’t I, as a child of His household, also be accepting of that reality? Loving and accepting those who live life by the same life rules and principles as I do is relatively easy. I tend to believe that the true mark of a Jesus follower is how well we love, accept and treat those who don’t.

The Latest 10-04-15

Summer has turned to autumn. The mornings are crisp and cool. The late summer sun is strong, but tempered with the cool fall breeze. The trees are changing color and looking increasingly bare. Here in the Iowa heartland the combines are out and the landscape changes daily as fields full of tall corn are laid bare with the harvest.

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A few weeks ago we returned from our fall weekend at the lake with Kevin and Becky. While we were in Missouri there had been a big rain back here at home. And, I had been watering our fledgling lawn religiously. Early that week I was sitting in Vander Well Pub with Taylor talking about her day when I looked into the basement family room and noticed that a big pillow sitting on the floor was discolored. It was then that I discovered our sump pump had not been working and our storage room and family room were flooded. When our contractor came over to inspect the issue, he found that at some point the sump pump plug was not flush in the outlet. All he did was push it in and the sump started to work. It was not a good evening.

We had a lot of damaged photos, artwork and other belongings that were still boxed in the storage room from the move. Fortunately, our friend Brad responded to my text and brought over huge fans and a special machine for sucking up water out of the carpet/pad. I was up until the wee hours trying to dry things out. Ugh.

The Latest 10 04 2015 - 1The Latest 10 04 2015 - 4Wendy has been planning a new tat for a long time now, and had vowed to put it off until after the summer (You’re supposed to keep new tattoos out of the sunlight). She finally pulled the trigger and had a gorgeous phoenix inked onto her upper left arm. It’s a gorgeous tat. The phoenix, a symbol of rebirth and glory from ashes, has long held special significance for Wendy. I’m happy that she finally got it done.

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Last weekend was Pella’s Marching Band Festival. Des Moines Christian was marching, so Jody and my folks drove down for it. Wendy and I met them at the field to watch the band, then came back to the house for a quick bite. It was great to have them here and to see both Emma and Harry Roose marching.

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This past week Taylor received word that her Master’s dissertation had been accepted by Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. We uncorked a nice bottle of wine, made a special dinner of grilled salmon, and toasted her acheivement!

Yesterday we were in Ames. My dear friend, Megan, asked me to be honorary dad at ISU Dad’s Weekend. Her mom picked Wendy and me up early in the morning and we drove up to the campus. Megan has pledged to a sorority, so after picking her up at her dorm we went to the house for tailgating and games. We then walked to Jack Trice stadium and sat in the student section to watch the Cyclones beat Kansas. It was a cloudless day and one half of my face got nicely burned! It was great to see Megan and, as always, it was a privilege to be honorary dad.

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Wendy and I have spent the past couple of weeks finalizing our transition out of leadership with Union Street Players. There have been files to transfer, final reports to prepare, meetings with the new Board. Last night was the 2015 USP Award’s Night which was essentially our final major responsibility. Wendy planned the event and made several cheesecakes. I put together the year-in-review video and emcee’d the event. Suzanna came back from school to attend. Our friend Heather MacClennan came down from Des Moines with her trio to provide entertainment. Good time had by all (despite some maddening technical difficulties that just about fubar’d the entire evening for me).

Just another wayfarer on life's journey, headed for Home. I'm carrying The Message, and I'm definitely waiting for Guffman.


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