Meals from the Heartland: Delivered!

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Meals from the Heartland is a huge Midwest charitable operation. Here in the breadbasket of America, where a huge percentage of the world’s corn, beans, pork and beef are raised, thousands of volunteers have spent countless hours packaging simple meals to be shipped to needy, hungry children around the world. Those who’ve volunteered their time may wonder where the meals go and if they truly get delivered to those in need. 

This is a picture of Wendy’s dad. He organized a Meals from the Heartland event in Boone, Iowa and is now in South Africa overseeing distribution of meals. Wendy and I are so proud of his efforts. Those who know “Mr. Ed” know how overjoyed he has to be at this moment. This is what he lives for, to be the hands of Christ feeding the hungry. I fought back tears of joy when I saw this picture. How very, very cool.

For those in central Iowa, a member of the channel 8 news team is with the team and will be reporting back in early Feb (the 8th or 9th, I think).

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 21

The sacrifice of an evil person is detestable, 
      especially when it is offered with wrong motives.
Proverbs 21:27 (NLT)

When we hear the question “What’s my motivation?!” we tend to think of some cheesy character in a television show obsessing about an acting role. It stems from the acting method which teaches actors to get below the surface of the lines in the script – the words that the character say, and to think about what is driving the character to think, act, and say certain things.

All joking and mocking of actors aside, I’ve actually found the question itself is quite pertinent to almost any situation in life. I find myself asking the question of myself all the time:

What’s my motivation here; Is is positive or negative?
Am I doing this selfishly or selflessly?
What is motivating my words right now; Am I building up or tearing down?

I also find the question useful in discerning the words and actions of others. If I am perplexed as to why a person would say this or that, I look for his or her motives. What is driving them? What is it they want? What are they hoping to accomplish?

I have found that when I take a moment to thoughtfully examine my motives before I act or speak, I save myself from doing and saying a lot of stupid, hurtful things that I would regret and would cause me more pain that it was worth. When I examine the motives of others and understand why they act and say the things they do, it often allows me to respond with grace rather then react with irritation.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 20

Many will say they are loyal friends, 
      but who can find one who is truly reliable?
Proverbs 20:6 (NLT)

Who are you gonna call at 2:00 a.m. when the world is crashing down around you and you are at the end of your rope?

That question has been asked at various men’s gatherings I’ve attended over the years. It’s is a worthwhile question every man should answer. As men, we tend to retreat into our man cave, switch on ESPN, fire up the video game, break open a cold one, and zone out. With other guys we talk sports, we talk cars, we talk babes, we play poker, we ride Harley’s, we hunt. But all the man cave manliness can easily distract us from developing relationships and having crucial conversations that get to the important stuff of life.

What does it really mean to be a man? How do I love my wife well? How do I do right by my kids? What do I really do with this whole “God thing?” When you’re not having those conversations with other men, then the shit hits the fan at 2:00 a.m., we need to pick up the phone and cry out for help, but there is nothing but a blank stare and a feeling of panic. I’ve got no one I can call.

Today, I’m thankful that I not only have a guy I can call – I have a list of guys on speed dial. I have a list of guys starting with my family, to my oldest friend, to guys from high school, to guys from college, to guys with whom I’ve walked this journey the past few years. I am so blessed with friends with whom I can live it up in the man cave having a blast being guys, but then I can then pour a cold one, stoke up a stogie, and wade fearlessly into the deep weeds of life.

Those kind of relationships are generally not stumbled upon. They aren’t the pay out of a relational lottery. They are sought after, cultivated, and consciously grown over time. If you live in my area, this is a great place to start the search.

Who are you gonna call?

“Ham Buns and Potato Salad”: Shipped

So, I’ve written this play entitled Ham Buns and Potato Salad. It’s kind of been in the works for a couple of years. It’s the first full-length play I’ve written and it’s been a fun labor of love.

The play is set in a small Iowa town. A tragic accident has taken the lives of a local couple. Their son, Thomas, is coming home for the funeral. Thomas left home immediately after high school graduation in the midst of one of the small town’s biggest scandals. He went to school in New York, found unexpected success as a writer, and never looked back. Now, he returns home for the first time and the town is literally buzzing with anticipation and curiosity. All of the unanswered questions from the old scandal begin bubbling back to the surface at a full boil with both funny and touching results.

The play is about small town and all the lovable, quirky characters who make up a rural community. It’s about facing our past and choosing our future. It’s about death and life, love and loss. It’s about grace and forgiveness.

Last year I was part of a small creatives group with three other artists. Our mutual mantra to one another was to “ship” our work (i.e. don’t just work on your song/play/book/CD – get it done and “ship it” out). So, my goal was to finish the first draft and have an initial table reading of the script, which was accomplished last summer. I finally got the rewrite done and had a 2nd reading last weekend. More rewrites this week.

It was time to ship.

There’s probably more work that needs to be done, but I suddenly felt that it was time to send my baby out. So, this weekend I’ve submitted it to a handful of theaters, contests, and workshops. I have no idea where it will go, if it will ever be published or produced.

But, it’s shipped.

Next!

First hardback edition of book (1968)
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve had people asking me what’s next for Wendy and me with regard to our humble theatrical activities. Next up for Union Street Players is a fun little courtroom drama by famed writer Ayn Rand. It’s a murder trial whodunnit set in the 1920s. The murder victim was a Bernie Madoff type swindler. What’s cool about her Night of January 16th is that 12 members of the audience get to be the jury. Depending on how the jury decides, there are two different endings to the play.

Wendy and I both have minor roles, but I’m looking forward to playing Irish mobster “Guts” Regan. Aside from being on stage I’m also producing the show while Wendy handles the box office (you gotta love community theatre!). Rehearsals will start this week. Performances are March 29 – April 1.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 19

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 22:  Treasury Secretary'...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD—
      and he will repay you!
Proverbs 19:17 (NLT)

A month or so ago Wendy made an off-hand comment in the midst of a conversation. I can’t remember what we were talking about, but I remember the short comment she made. “You never regret giving,” was the gist of what she said and it stuck with me for the simple truth of it.

Throughout life there are many crossroad moments when the bills, the debts, and the stack of monthly payments seem overwhelming. The idea of giving a portion of my paycheck away to church, a friend in need, and/or a worthy charity suddenly seems ludicrous.

“My donation’s not much. It won’t really make a difference in the grand scheme of things.”
“I would feel better if I had a little more change in my pocket this month.”
“It’s my money anyway. Why should I give it away?”
“I can’t afford to be generous.”

But, I’m reminded of Wendy’s comment. In the end, I’ve never regretted writing that check or handing over that cash. We are so blessed and the act of giving is a regular reminder that it’s really not my money.  Giving is a way of counting my blessings, being thankful for all that I’ve been freely given, learning to be content, and consistently considering the needs of others rather than only thinking about myself.

Beyond that, I’ve experienced exactly what King Solomon was getting at in the proverb above. God always seems repay financial generosity (and does so with some very interesting examples of compounding spiritual interest).

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Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 18

The tongue can bring death or life;
      those who love to talk will reap the consequences.
Proverbs 18:21 (NLT)

Last week my dad and I made a quick run down to the lake. There were a couple of things that had been left undone for the winter when Wendy and I scuttled a trip in November. Plus, to be honest, I simply wanted to check on the place. Even in the depth of Winter I found it a peaceful place of refuge. Even though the trips’ purpose was to “winterize,” for this final stretch of the season, my spirit felt like I was opening up the place for the impending spring.

And so, my mind has been drifting back there ever since I’ve been back. Friends and family are already talking about the lake, making plans and setting dates for coming down this summer. As I think about this place of sanctuary, the thing that I perhaps appreciate most about it is life giving conversation. There are meals that find people still talking around the table three hours later, quiet morning conversations over coffee on the glider rocker, and sitting together on the dock talking the afternoon away. Wendy and I purposed not to have a television signal or a lot of radios. We want people to talk.

When I read the proverb above this morning I thought of this passage from our journey through Deuteronomy:

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

Our words and our conversations can build or tear down. They can bless or curse. They can breathe life into another person or sitaution, or they can infect with a viral capacity to lead into deathly places. We choose.

Today, my spirit is repeating an ancient prayer: “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be pleasing to you, O Lord.”