Top Five: Thanksgiving

Wendy and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year and the house will be packed with both my family and hers. For Top Five Tuesday, here are the Top Five Things I’m looking forward to on Thursday:

  1. Gathering with loved ones, quieting our hearts for just a minute, holding hands, and thanking God together for the abundant blessings He’s showered on us.
  2. Making the Thanksgiving turkey for the first time (say a prayer…for all of us!).
  3. Having so many family members together around the table (there will be 16 of us! Yikes!).
  4. The pre-feast goodies, the feast, and the dessert.
  5. Afternoon games, conversations, and naps.


featured photo by Satya Murthy via Flickr

Continue in What You Have Learned

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of….
2 Timothy 3:14 (NIV)

When the weight of the world seems to land on your shoulders,
Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.

When doubts nag, and scurry about your mind like pests,
Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.

When negative circumstances fall around you like dominoes,
Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.

When prayers seem to hit  the ceiling and bounce back in an echo,
Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.

When the way is cloudy and the future uncertain,
Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.

When the day lies ahead, and it looks to be an uphill stretch,
Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.

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featured photo by Ewan Cross via Flickr

The Latest 11-22-2015

Madison has her wings!
Our birthday girl!

Today is our daughter Maddy Kate’s 24th Birthday!! I have to send a shout out to her. Madison has diligently focused her life on graduating from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in December. Between school and flying the friendly skies, she’s been such a busy girl. We’re so proud of her and can’t wait to see where God leads her in her impending new stage of life. :-)

It seems like I’ve been unusually haphazard with posting the last couple of weeks. To be honest, the switch back to regular time from Daylight Savings Time has thrown my body off more than usual this year. I’ve always been a morning person, but I’ve been having a hard time pulling myself out of bed in the mornings and so I’ve missed a few mornings.

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Wendy and I enjoyed celebrating her brother, Lucas’ Birthday at Hickory Park in Ames. We also had the opportunity to meet his fiancé, Brooke, for the first time. After dinner we got a tour of the Greek Orthodox Church that he is helping to fix up in Ames and the parsonage where he lives with a couple of other guys from Iowa State.

My friend, Matthew Burch, and I were scheduled to present our More Than Conqueror’s men’s conference at Westview Church in Waukee on Nov 13-14, but it was rescheduled due to a tragic death in the Westview family and the funeral that had to be scheduled that Saturday. We’re looking at a date in January or February. Stay tuned.

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Pella’s Tulip Court for 2016.
Me with my fellow judges Doug and Chad. We were three of about 30 or more judges for the evening.
Me with my fellow judges Doug and Chad. We were three of about 30 or more judges for the evening.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to be a judge for Pella’s Tulip Queen. We got to meet each of the 13 ladies for a brief personal interview. We then judged their presentation before the Tulip Queen and her court were announced at the end of the evening. It was a great experience, and I was amazed at the amazing group of capable young ladies. Any one of them would have represented our community well. It was hard having to see eight of them be disappointed, but so proud of our 2016 Hollandse Magdz.

Speaking of Pella, a shout out to the boys’ football team who won their second State Championship in a row on Thursday night. Wendy and I had to record the game, but we stayed up late to cheer them on. Well done, boys!

Even though the men’s conference got cancelled, I had plenty of opportunities to speak this past week. I gave the morning message in the Auditorium at Third Church last week. On Monday I left at 4:30 a.m. to make the four hour drive to Sioux Center where I presented two training sessions for a client. Then drove home. Long day. Then on Wednesday evening I spoke to the high school group at Third.

We headed to Theatre Central’s production of Lion in Winter on Thursday evening. A few of the cast members were in Ah, Wilderness! with me back in 2013 and it was fun to see them on stage.

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On Friday night Wendy and I had our Open House and Stock the Bar party here at VW Manor. Murphy’s Law struck and Iowa got pounded with our first snow storm of the season. We forged ahead with our party and were pleased at the number of hardy souls who braved the elements to join us. We got the chance to meet several of our neighbors whom we had yet to meet. Our house was packed, and the bar definitely got broken in. Of course, Wendy had an amazing spread of snacks and desserts and everyone had a good time!

Social Media, Rights, and Responsibility

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
2 Timothy 2:23-24 (NIV)

Just yesterday morning my daughter was sitting in my office and we were discussing how much life has changed in the past ten years. We were musing on how life has changed simply in our circumstances, but I also marvel at how social media and technology have changed the landscape of our daily lives.

Like everyone else, I have my own thoughts and opinions about all sorts of topics. I am also a huge proponent in every American’s first amendment right to free speech. In ten years I’ve published over 3,300 posts on this blog sharing my thoughts on all sorts of topics. In many ways social media is like the soap box that sat on the town square back in the day. Anyone and everyone was welcome to stand up and have their say to any who wanted to listen. Hear, hear. That’s freedom. God bless America.

However, I am increasingly aware that instead of one soap box sitting in a corner of the public square, today everyone has their own soap box within easy reach. Whereas I once had to make a point of going to the town square if I wanted to listen to what others had to say, today I can’t look at my phone without being barraged.

I find that as I read posts on Facebook and Twitter, as I read comments to blog posts and on-line news articles, I am struck at the vehemence, the snarkiness, the disrespect, and lack of meaningful discourse that takes place in this most public arena. The color of Christmas cups blows up into national debate. Jabs and insults are hurled non-stop from behind the disguise of pseudonyms and avatars. So much time, energy, and emotion gets wasted on things of such little consequence.

That’s the thing we once taught our children about rights: rights come with responsibilities. Because I have a right to my opinion and my say in the public square of social media doesn’t mean that it is beneficial for me, or anyone else, that I entangle myself in the endless petty conflicts, arguments, debates, and  that erupt ceaselessly in my feed.

Three times in today’s chapter, the wise mentor Paul gives first century advice to his protegé Timothy which rings with 21st century relevance:

  •  Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.
  • Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
  • Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.

This morning I am mulling over the fact that I am more and more willing to have meaningful, face-to-face discourse and debate with respectful individuals who share very different opinions than my own. I am less and less willing, however, to waste my time and energy entering the ceaseless petty quarrels in the arena of social media.

chapter a day banner 2015featured image: jasonahowie via Flickr

Standing in the Gap

To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
2 Timothy 1:2 (NIV)

Last night I had the privilege to speak to a packed room of high school students. They’ve been working their way through a book called God Distorted by John Bishop, and the premise of the book is that we often take the heartache and shortcomings we’ve experienced with our own fathers and project them onto God the Father. The book explores different father types (e.g. absent, passive, controlling, and etc.) and last night I got to unpack the ways in which demanding fathers affect their children and the reality that God is not a demanding Father.

Along life’s road I’ve come to accept the reality that all earthly fathers, myself included without question, fall short of perfection. As my friend Chadwicke shared a week or so ago, “you can’t give away what you haven’t received.” Some fathers certainly do a better job than others, and all who are given the mantel of fatherhood have a responsibility to our children to diligently work at being a good dad. Nevertheless, we all fall short in some areas. It just is what it is. At some point every father must depend on the grace of his children to forgive his shortcomings.

Timothy’s father is absent from mention in God’s message. History does not share with us the reason why, but whether through death or circumstance Timothy seemed to have a gaping hole in his life when it came to the father department. Timothy was raised by his mother and grandmother. Enter Paul, who becomes a mentor and father figure to the young man. In today’s chapter, Paul begins his letter by addressing Timothy as his “dear son.” Sometimes fathers (and/or mothers) have nothing to do with DNA.

This morning I am thinking about the room full of high school students last night. I’m thinking about Paul’s mentoring of Timothy. I’m thinking about my ever-present dad and the ways my life was launched by his love and provision. I’m thinking about the men and mentors who were, nevertheless, like a father to me in so many ways. I’m thinking about my responsibility to mentor others, to stand in the gap, and to provide a father-like presence for those with a gaping chasm in the dad department.

Things I Can’t Control and Things I Can

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.
1 Timothy 6:1 (NIV)

It is hard, I believe, to understand with our 21st century experience what daily life was like for those who followed Jesus in the days of Paul and Timothy. I have often heard individuals criticize the fact that God’s Message does not specifically condemn slavery, and those arguments come to mind when reading today’s chapter. I have a lot of historical, cultural, and contextual thoughts about why this is the case. Nevertheless, I will admit that it’s only one of many questions I have about the things God says and the subjects on which He chooses to be silent.

What I take from today’s chapter, however, is a human challenge that is as relevant today as it has ever been. At different waypoints along life’s journey we will all find ourselves in situations we cannot escape and that will not be fair. It could be a situation at work, a family relationship, life tragedy, or a legal obligation.  Sometimes in life we are powerless to change our circumstances.

Paul’s entreaty to those who follow Jesus was to manage those things that we can control in otherwise unmanageable situations. We can choose how we act, how we respond to others, what words we choose to use, how we will think, and the attitudes with which we will approach a situation.

Paul was powerless to change slavery in his day. It would be 1800 years before humanity began to address that issue in earnest and it still plagues our fallen world today. What Paul, and his friends who were slaves, could address was how they lived their lives each day within their given circumstances.

Today I am reminded that I cannot always control my circumstances, but I can control my mind, my tongue, my eyes, my ears, my feet and my hands. What I choose to do with them is what matters.

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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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