Madison Graduates!

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It has been a holiday weekend of graduation festivities. On Friday night, Grandpa and Grandma drove down from Des Moines with Uncle Bud to gather for Madison's commencement. It was a beautiful, warm night. Taylor and Clayton joined us, along with Madison's boyfriend, Phil. Earlier that day, Madison had been voted by her class as having "the best hair" (I told her she can thank her mother's genes for that one). Maddy Kate was beaming as she crossed the stage and received her diploma.

On Saturday, we headed to Des Moines for our nephew, Solomon's, graduation party.

On Sunday afternoon, we held Madison's graduation party in the basement of Third Reformed Church. Wendy outdid herself making three cheesecakes, two chocolate cakes and a mess of ham sandwiches (that everyone raved about). Grandma Wanda brought gorgeous flowers from her garden to adorn the tables. We had a full house of family and friends from all over. Wendy's family ventured down from Boone. The whole Des Moines crew were present including Tim and his girlfriend Kumi. Madison was well celebrated.

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Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 50

It's your sins that put you here, your wrongs that got you shipped out. Isaiah 50:1b (MSG)

We wouldn't have a healthcare problem, were it not for these bodies slowly returning to dust.
We wouldn't have war, were it not for hatred, prejudice, covetousness, and pride.
We wouldn't have a welfare and poverty problem, were it not for selfishness, greed, sloth and corruption.
We wouldn't have divorce, were it not for self-centeredness, resentment, brokenness and infidelity.
We wouldn't have an problem with obesity or STDs, were it not for appetites out of control.
We wouldn't have tragedies, were it not for poor choices married to imperfection.

We wouldn't be lost if our own imperfect actions, words, choices, thoughts, and motivations hadn't brought us to this place.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 49

Tantrum But Zion said, "I don't get it. God has left me.
   My Master has forgotten I even exist."
Isaiah 49:14 (MSG)

What an interesting contrast this verse gives to the previous section. God paints a beautiful word picture of all that He is doing for his children to provide, protect, honor and establish them. Then, in a one verse temper tantrum, the children turn their backs and cry out that they are victim of a Father God who has abandoned them and done them harm.

Wait a minute. I know this one. I've experienced it on both sides of the relational ledger.

I've been the child crying "foul!" in my circumstantial pain, blinders over my eyes that keep me from seeing so many things around me. Ignoring the part my own choices played in finding myself in that particular place. Ignorant of the larger perspective my parents and my Heavenly Father possessed. Relishing, for the moment, the deceptive satisfaction and empathetic attention I receive from choosing my victim status.

I've also been a father hearing his children cry out in anger and resentment. I've witnessed the tears. I've seen the icy stares and received the relational indictment. I understand the frustrating mixture of compassion, confusion, and consternation that a father feels with an irrational child.

Today, I'm reminded that in life's painful moments there is a larger perspective. God has a bigger picture He's painting. We can choose to believe it, step back from our temporarily powerful negative emotions, and wait for the picture to emerge and reveal itself. We can also choose to deny it, turn our back, and resentfully lick our wounds. I've tried both. The former, a more difficult choice in the heat of the moment, has proven itself more beneficial in the long run than the latter.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and jakevol2

“I’m done!!!”

22771_1118094252653_1835919990_241087_2740015_n I got the text message on my phone at 12:53 p.m. yesterday: "I'm done!!!"

Madison finished her final high school class. She walks across the stage on Friday, and on Sunday afternoon we gather with family and friends to celebrate her accomplishment and this rite of passage.

Last night was a smaller celebration as Wendy, Taylor, Clayton and I took Madison out for dinner. It was fun to gather and sprinkle Madison with cards, gifts and encouragement. It's fun to watch her finish well and to have all of the fun that goes with graduation. I'm proud of her, and pleased to see all of her well-deserved excitement.

I've been reflecting on this moment for the past few weeks. I'm struck at how amazing both of the girls are in their own unique ways. It's hard to believe that the day has arrived that our youngest is through high school. Parenting changes at a million different stages in a child's development, but this one is a pretty major shift of life's tectonic plates. Letting go is, at once, satisfying and terrifying. You realize in a moment that your child is capable of acheiving anything they set their heart and mind to accomplish while being unbelievably clueless about how life really works. You think about all the things you may have forgotten to teach them, and all of the lessons they will have to learn on their own.

Her path now branches off from mine in a very real way. She will learn. She will grow. The good work God began in her will continue until it's completion. It's all part of the journey.

You go, Maddy Kate. You go.

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 48

Sleep better. "There is no peace," says God, "for the wicked." Isaiah 48:22 (MSG)

The pizza joint was packed after a high school basketball gang and I was there with a bunch of my friends. I was the youngest of the group of teen boys. It was loud. It was smokey (you could smoke anywhere in public in those days), and it was extremely busy with teenagers and families celebrating the basketball team's victory.

I don't remember there being any discussion. In the midst of the din, the eldest of my group of friends looked around and said "Let's go." We got up and followed him out of the restaurant without paying the check. I still remember the look on his face and his laughter as the group reveled in pulling one over on the restaurant. We all laughed as we sprinted towards my friend's house, but underneath the laughter my conscience had already kicked in.

I remember hating that night. Guilt and shame have a way of magnifying paranoia, anxiety and fear to ridiculously huge proportions. I spent the night at my friends house in utter fear of police raiding the house and hauling me off to jail. I can still remember the panic in my head each time I heard a police siren in the distance.

There is no peace for the wicked.

It was about four years later that I stopped by the pizza joint after school and asked to speak with the manager. I still remember his confused expression as I explained what I'd done and handed him money from my paycheck to cover the old debt, and then some. The look on his face told me he thought I was crazy. I'm sure people walk out on checks regularly, especially teenagers, and it's all part of the daily routine of the restaurant business. Looking back now, 30 years later, I laugh at the silliness of it myself. But it taught me a good lesson.

Do the right thing. You sleep better.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and drakeguan

5th Annual Summer Kick-Off

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After five years, it has become an annual "rite of seasonal passage." Late in May we head to the lake with our friends Kevin & Becky to spend a weekend relaxing and kicking off the summer. This past weekend was certainly one to remember. It was the first kick-off weekend spent in the new Playhouse, and the weather cooperated. It was a wonderful weekend.

While Wendy and I have made numerous trips to the lake already this year, they have not been relaxing. We've been finishing the lower level, dealing with construction issues, organizing, moving, and cleaning. With Kevin and Becky, we ignored the half-finished lower level and simply relaxed (props, however, to Kevin who helped me do a few light chores!).

Much of the weekend was spent on the deck under the umbrella, though we couldn't help enjoying the sun and getting out on the water. We had both waverunners going and enjoyed darting around the lake. On Saturday night, the waxing moon was more than half full and we took a slow, moonlight cruise around the lake in the boat. As usual, we brought way more food and drink than we could possibly consume, and still had to make our requisite stop at Captain Ron's for dinner.

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Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 47

One phone call away. Ruin descends— you can't charm it away.
Disaster strikes— you can't cast it off with spells.
Catastrophe, sudden and total— and you're totally at sea, totally bewildered!
Isaiah 47:11 (MSG)

The phone call came on a warm summer evening. I was in the basement (where it was cool), watching television.

Pack something quick. Get in the car. We're going
.

Grandpa and grandma were on a walk. There was an accident. They were struck by a car. We don't know anything more. Let's go.

There are scenes from that night that are indelibly etched in my memory. I remember the long drive to northwest Iowa. In pre-cell phone days there was no instant communication. You drove. You waited to find out. You agonized. You prayed. I remember hearing the nurse at St. Luke's hospital say that my grandma was dead. What a strange concept for my ten year old brain to grasp. I'd just seen grandma weeks before, and now I'd never see her again. I remember seeing my father cry for the first time and my mother comforting him. My vision of parents expanded that night. I saw humanity in them that I'd never perceived before.

I learned an important life lesson that warm summer evening. It was not anything that any person said. Experience was my teacher. I learned that we are all, every one of use, just one heartbeat, one breath, one teenager's momentary distraction, one unexpected phone call from tragic, life altering circumstances beyond our control.

It's good to know who holds the future.

It's good each night that I lay my head on the pillow and can thank God that the phone didn't ring that day.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and qole