Thanksgiving Weekend Begins!

A weekend of Thanksgiving celebrations kicked off on Wednesday night with Taylor's arrival home from Colorado Springs where she's been preparing for her upcoming three month mission trip since September. Taylor's boyfriend, Clayton, arrived to with a comical homecoming surprise. He had his hair cut in a mullet! (Yes, it was a joke).

Clayton joined the four of us on Thanksgiving morning for our annual excursion to Grandma Jeanne and Grandpa Dean's in Des Moines. The entire family was gathered together for the first time since Grandpa and Grandma's 50th Anniversary celebration in September 2007. The day was spent devouring Grandma's cinnamon rolls, eating, playing games, eating, watching football, eating, and more eating. We even celebrated Madison, Bonnie and Ellie's birthdays.

Wendy and I returned home late in the afternoon with Madison. Taylor and Clayton left earlier in the afternoon to visit Clayton's family. The girls and Clayton headed to celebrate with their mom's family in Osky, while Wendy and I settled in for a quiet evening together. We watched a movie, played Wii bowling, spent some time looking through old family photos and fought to keep our eyes open.

Claytons Mullet 2008 11  Cuzzes 2008 11  Tay and Wendy 2008 11  Thanksgiving feast 2008 11  Thanksgiving bday celebrations 2008 11  Thanksgiving lovers 2008 11  Thanksgiving afternoon 2008 11

Thanksgiving Weekend Begins!

A weekend of Thanksgiving celebrations kicked off on Wednesday night with Taylor's arrival home from Colorado Springs where she's been preparing for her upcoming three month mission trip since September. Taylor's boyfriend, Clayton, arrived to with a comical homecoming surprise. He had his hair cut in a mullet! (Yes, it was a joke).

Clayton joined the four of us on Thanksgiving morning for our annual excursion to Grandma Jeanne and Grandpa Dean's in Des Moines. The entire family was gathered together for the first time since Grandpa and Grandma's 50th Anniversary celebration in September 2007. The day was spent devouring Grandma's cinnamon rolls, eating, playing games, eating, watching football, eating, and more eating. We even celebrated Madison, Bonnie and Ellie's birthdays.

Wendy and I returned home late in the afternoon with Madison. Taylor and Clayton left earlier in the afternoon to visit Clayton's family. The girls and Clayton headed to celebrate with their mom's family in Osky, while Wendy and I settled in for a quiet evening together. We watched a movie, played Wii bowling, spent some time looking through old family photos and fought to keep our eyes open.

Claytons Mullet 2008 11  Cuzzes 2008 11  Tay and Wendy 2008 11  Thanksgiving feast 2008 11  Thanksgiving bday celebrations 2008 11  Thanksgiving lovers 2008 11  Thanksgiving afternoon 2008 11

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 88

The blues. Abandoned as already dead, one more body in a stack of corpses, And not so much as a gravestone— 
I'm a black hole in oblivion
. Psalm 88:4-5 (MSG)

The road of life has as many dark valleys as hilltop vistas, and every wayfarer through life will walk through his share of them. Everyone gets the blues. One of the major symptoms of a bad case of the blues is the sense that you are utterly alone. When you've got it bad, you are convinced that you alone know this depth of isolation, pain, and suffering. "Just one more body in a stack of corpses."

Psalm 88 is an ancient blues tune.

I love blues music. Not only does it move both your heart and your feet, but it's a place where you can find companionship and camaraderie in the midst of your your own personal struggle. Two are better than one, we're told in the book of Ecclesiastes, because you have someone to, at the very least, help keep you warm in the cold. The blues give us an antidote for that feeling of isolation in our pain. Someone else has been to a dark place like the place I'm in, and they wrote a song about it.

Everyone needs a good dose of blues music now and then, just to help keep us company on tough stretches of the sojourn.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 87

Jerusalem from Mt. of Olives LR He founded Zion on the Holy Mountain— and oh, how God loves his home! Loves it far better than all the homes of Jacob put together! God's hometown—oh! everyone there is talking about you! Psalm 87:1-3 (MSG)

When you live in Iowa, a common question you are asked in any introduction is, "Are you a fan of Iowa or Iowa State?" My answer is always "yes." In fact you can add me as a fan of Northern Iowa and Drake, too. I went to college in Chicago with many students from Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin who playfully looked down their noses at Iowa (joke I heard far too many times: "Hey Tom! Did you know that Iowa stands for 'Idiots Out Walking Around?'"). I cheer for any Iowa team who plays any team from Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin.

Most of us have a certain spot in our hearts for home. We know that it's a special place. Special places get songs written about them. It's not surprising that many psalms sing praises to Jerusalem and the hill of Zion where the city and Solomon's temple was built. It is a special place for many reasons.

How interesting that Korah prophetically pointed to the most important reason. Almost a thousand years before Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem, Korah references all those who will be born anew there, those whose names are written in God's book. It's not because of the city itself, but because of the One who would be sacrificed there for our iniquities. The descendent of David who, in Jerusalem, would conquer the grave.

Which brings to mind another song…"Start spreading the news!"

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 86

Hearts and minds. Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I'll worship in joyful fear. Psalm 86:12 (MSG)

In the city where I grew up, at the time I was in high school, there were two large churches with large youth groups. They were the churches to attend if you were a kid who wanted to be involved in church. The church I attended was focused on helping us learn and grow in our faith. We were provided with a plethora of Bible study options. Discipleship classes taught the spiritual disciplines of study, prayer, meditation and scripture memory. Our minds were being fully prepared.

The other youth group, down the street, was focused on emotional, ecstatic worship experiences. They were encouraged to throw their whole heart into worship each week. The music was excellent and lent itself to a great worship experience.

I thought about this dichotomy when I read Psalm 86 this morning. It's not that either group was right or wrong. There was just a different emphasis. One emphasized the discipline of the mind while the other focused more on the heartfelt experience. I sometimes feel my mind engaged in worship, though my heart isn't in it. Other times I feel my heart swept away in a wave of ecstatic emotion, leaving my brain somewhere back on shore. I want both my mind and heart engaged and united when I worship.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickrand mad paul

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 85

Just one step. Why not help us make a fresh start—a resurrection life? Psalm 85:6a (MSG)

I remember standing on the end of the three meter diving board as a child. I stepped out to the end and curled my toes around the end of the board. Then I looked down at shimmering stars of sunlight reflecting off the bright turquoise water of Northwest Municipal Swimming Pool. My heart was beating. Fear gripped me like a vice. Only one step and I would feel the exhilaration of nothing but air, the excitement of plunging into the cool, crisp depths, and the satisfaction of finally taking that one step. I couldn't do it. I went running back to the ladder.

"You don't understand the terrible things I've done" someone once told me as they fought against God calling them to follow. Just this week a woman said to me, "there are skeletons in my closet that I would never want anyone to find." I know the feeling. I believe we all do. Past mistakes grip me like a vice. I feel unworthy. The weight of guilt and shame keeps me standing in shadow. I hate hiding in the darkness, but I'm also terribly afraid of stepping into the light.

Just one step and I can confess these things and let them go. One step and I can feel the Light surround me, chasing the shadows away. One step and I can feel the exhilaration of freedom from my burden and the plunge into God's love, forgiveness, and unmerited favor.

Just one step.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickrand John Curley.