Tag Archives: Feast

Thanksgiving 2015

Our first Thanksgiving here at Vander Well Manor in the Pella Theatre District, and the family from both sides came our way to break in the digs. It was my first time cooking the Thanksgiving turkey, but I’m happy to report it went really well. By the time the family arrived the house was filled with an amazing aroma.

Anyone who know Wendy knows m’love does hospitality right. We had appetizers and wine as the house filled with the din of family conversation. The kitchen and the dinner was well planned like the D-Day invasion. Because there were 16 of us, we had to split the crew. The elders feasted in the dining room while the five youngest (along with Uncle Scott) dined nearby in the Great Room.

Dessert was a splendid spread of goodies provided by all. The men enjoyed a little nip of single-malt downstairs at the V-Dub Pub. I had several family members who came into the studio for a little photo portrait, which was a lot of fun. Madison, who was spending Thanksgiving working on a term paper in an Asheville, North Carolina hotel room, joined us for a FaceTime visit.

Driving rain and falling temps chased everyone away far sooner than we would have preferred. I get it. They wanted to get home before the rain turned to ice and snow. So did we, really. We’ll rest easier tonight knowing that everyone is resting, all snug in their beds, with visions of Christmas dancing in their heads.

After a generous dose of clean-up, Taylor, Suzanna, Wendy and I watched This is Where I Leave You which was a wonderful way to end a family holiday. We then settled in for a little Thanksgiving football and relaxation. I didn’t get a Thanksgiving nap, so I think an early bedtime will have to do.

So thankful today for family, friends, loved ones, and blessings innumerable.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

It’s early Thanksgiving morning. As usual, I’m up before the ladies. In a couple of hours the house will be bustling with preparations. For now, it is so quiet that my increasingly deaf ears can hear the wind and rain hitting the house.

It’s a very different holiday this year. In that past 15 months my mom and dad were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and cancer, respectively. This summer they moved into a retirement community. We have so much for which to be thankful despite present circumstances. Medication has slowed progress of mom’s illness. While dad’s cancer will require ceaseless cycles of oral chemotherapy, tests show that the cancerous proteins in his blood are now held at bay. They are in a wonderful retirement community filled with warm and enjoyable new friends. We are so thankful.

It has been a huge year of transition. Madison, sadly, will be flying the friendly skies today and is unable to join us. She has been working tirelessly and will graduate from UCCS in a few weeks. Taylor returned from Scotland with a master’s degree and diligently continues the job search. Suzanna is kicking it in her first year of college. Wendy and I sold a house, built a house, and moved. We’ve been more intentional with our local gathering of Jesus’ followers and stepped down from leadership in the community theatre. There has been so much movement on everyone’s respective life journeys.

All that said, I find my heart struggling to find equilibrium in the pre-dawn hours of this Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for everyone being relatively healthy and happy, yet I acknowledge the intense and painful struggle required for some of us to be able to report that. I am grateful for the blessing of family to be together, and still feel the heartache of missing family I have not seen for far too long. I am giving thanks for our wonderful new home where 16 of us can gather comfortably, and at the same time grieve the passing of family traditions that have been woven into the tapestry of our lives for so many years.

Yesterday I read about the relatively unknown story of Squanto. The native American who became a miraculous life-line to the Pilgrims in that first year in America had actually been abducted and sold as a slave in Europe. Given his freedom by Catholic friars in Spain, he lived in London for a time. He found his way back to America on a trading ship, agreeing to provide his interpretation skills in the new world in exchange for passage. When he returned, however, he found his tribe had been wiped out, likely by disease. He found his way home only to find himself alone in the world.

When Squanto wandered into the Pilgrim’s camp, he was uniquely prepared to help them. He had lived in London longer than some of the Pilgrims. He spoke their language. He understood their ways. He was uniquely qualified to teach them the skills they would need to survive the American wilderness. The Pilgrims had been through hell on their voyage and that first deathly winter. They were unprepared for life in the new world. Having lived through enslavement and a decade of struggle to get home, Squanto needed a tribe and a family. Having lived through the struggle of voyage and a terrible year of death, the Pilgrims needed someone to teach them how to survive in the New World and to communicate with their new neighbors. How miraculous that they found one another.

This morning in the quiet I find myself thinking about that first Thanksgiving. I find it fascinating that the gratitude for both Pilgrim and Native came at the end of a period of incredible challenges, struggles, defeats, and transition in their respective life journeys. And yet, they stopped to feast and offer God thanks in the midst of it all. They’d found each other, and in one another they’d found God’s gift of hope. It seems oddly familiar this year.

I hear Wendy in the kitchen. The rattling of pans has begun, and it’s time for me to start preparations for the feast and for family. Thanks to all who join me on this blogging journey and who, from time to time, take a moment to read my early morning rambling and meandering of heart. I’m grateful for you.

It’s time to roast a turkey. Blessings to you all.

After Dinner Blessing

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
Deuteronomy 8:10 (NIV)

The harvest here in Iowa is in full swing. Gorgeous, dry fall weather means that the corn and bean fields are full of combines and grain trucks bringing in the land’s bounty. When you live in Iowa, even if you have nothing to do with farming, you feel a keen connection to the land and the seasons of cultivating, planting, growing, and harvesting. It’s part of the fabric of daily life in the heartland.

Wendy and I love our meals with family and friends. We love setting the table, making a good meal, opening the wine, and sharing long hours of laughter and conversation over the food and drink. Especially during the harvest season there is a extra sense of gratitude I feel for God’s provision, the land which produces the abundance we enjoy, and those who labor to produce it.

The verse above is one that I have memorized and, quite regularly, at the end of a good meal it will come to mind as we sit in the contented afterglow of our feast. It is tradition at our table to say a prayer of blessing at the beginning of our meal, but this verse has taught me that it is every bit as appropriate to say a word of thanks and gratitude after “you have eaten and are satisfied.”

chapter a day banner 2015

The Most Amazing Dinner

Table Set for ValentinesHere I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

A few years ago a friend came over for dinner and made an interesting observation. “You guys are the only people I know who actually use their dining room regularly, even with your kids.” It’s true. Of course, part of that reality is due to the size of our house, which is small and affords little space other than the dining room for a group of people to eat. The point our friend was making, however, was that we attempted to make time and space for real meals around the dining room table. The television is turned off, though dinner music is usually on. It is quite normal for dinner conversations at our house to go on for hours.

As I read through this morning’s chapter, I came upon the verse above, which was one of the first verses I memorized when I was a kid. The voice is that of Jesus, who is dictating the message to the seven churches through John. The door of which he speaks is the door of the heart. When a person spiritually hears Jesus knocking on the door of his or her heart and opens their heart to invite Him in, Jesus enters and indwells that person.

Here’s where the perception goes wrong for so many people. When Jesus enters a persons heart, the result is an amazing spiritual feast complete with the most intense and challenging dinner conversation you’ve ever experienced. There is give and take. Relationship is established. Life flows like wine. You are constantly challenged and forever changed by the experience. And I have also found that communing with Jesus is like the many times that we and our guests have looked at our watches and discovered that it’s well after midnight and we’ve been at the table for hours. Time flies. It has been 33 years since I invited Jesus into my heart and life, and the spiritual feast is just starting to get really intense.

I love great meals with great friends, great food, great wine, and great conversation that goes on for hours. One of the reasons I love it so much is because it is a shadow and a taste of the spiritual meal I have been enjoying with Jesus for over three decades.

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A Guy’s Getaway

For the past four years I’ve talked about and desired to have a winter guy’s getaway to the lake. Even though there is relatively little to do on the lake, the opportunity to get out of Dodge and have a little of R&R with the boys is a good plan. This year I was finally able to pull the trigger and make it happen.

Matthew and I headed down late in the day on Thursday. The thermostat at the Playhouse is set on 40 degrees during the winter while we’re not there and I knew that it would take a while to warm up the house. In addition, there were beds that needed to be made, supplies to buy, and you never know what problems you might encounter after three months. The thermometer inside the house read 42 degrees when we arrived, but the thermostat’s LCD display was blank and wouldn’t come up. I hit the button that should kick on the furnace and the fan kicked in, but I couldn’t get the display to work.

Matthew and I headed to the grocery store to pick up our list and figured we’d see if things were warming up by the time we got back. It was still 42 degrees when we returned, so I pulled the thermostat apart, changed the batteries, tried to warm it up with a hair dryer in case the liquid crystal display was frozen, and prayed. After about 15 minutes of wrangling the display suddenly worked and we were able to get the furnace working. Even then, it was a chilly few hours waiting for the house to warm up.

Friday was spent in preparing for Paul and Chad’s arrival. We also went into Osage to get a new thermostat and caught a matinee showing of “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” After returning to the Playhouse we threw two whole bbq rubbed chickens on the grill with some hickory smoke. By the time Paul and Chad arrived, we had a huge spread ready for them. The theme of the evening was “Who am I?” Dinner conversation around the table went until about 10:30-11:00 p.m. before we moved to the more comfortable living room. It was interesting as the conversation revolved around the men who were (or were not) mentors for us that shaped who we’ve become. It was almost 1:00 a.m. before we called it a night.

Saturday morning we had breakfast together and immediately the conversation from previous night launched into further give and take. About mid-morning we called a halt and went into a few hours of individual quiet time. I took my camera outside and walked down the shoreline, spending some time in prayer and taking a few pictures of the winter landscape. We reconnected for lunch and then sat down to watch “Captain Phillips” on DVD and ended up downstairs playing eight-ball on pool table Wendy’s grandpa made.

Dinner on Saturday evening was surf and turf. We had salmon and steak on the grill (mesquite smoke this time). The theme of conversation on Saturday was “Where am I?” and we each shared where we find ourselves in the journey and what are some of the questions, concerns, joys, and dreams with our current waypoint. Once again the conversation went into the late hours before we called it a night.

Sunday morning came early and we fixed one last big meal as we packed up. The conversation over breakfast was “Where am I going?” and we shared ways that we could pray for and encourage one another as we returned home. We switched things around for the return trip and Paul rode with me, allowing us the opportunity to connect during the drive.

Looking back, it was everything I wanted the weekend to be. Relaxing with a handful of men, eating well, having fun, watching good movies, and having great conversation as we share the journey together. I think this might be the beginning of a tradition.

Cravings and Appetites

Christmas GoodiesChapter-a-Day Genesis 3

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. Genesis 3:6 (NLT)

It is early January and we’re just coming out of the holiday season. The holidays are a time of feasting and I while I am happy to feast as much as the next bloke, I entered the holidays with a different mind set this year. Over the past year I’ve worked hard to drop a little weight and develop some healthy habits. One of the things that has changed for me in the past year is my appetite for food. Over time I’ve found contentment with much smaller portions and far fewer sweets.

Entering the Christmas and New Year’s holiday this year, I was mindful of how quickly the feasting could derail the good habits I’ve tried to establish. On top of Christmas and New Years we celebrate Wendy’s birthday (Dec 21) and our wedding anniversary (Dec 31). So along with all the Christmas gatherings with family and New Year’s parties with friends was the celebratory dinners out to celebrate Wendy and our wedding.

The food looks so delicious. The plates full of colorful cookies and handmade candies. The huge spreads of food at family gatherings. Look at all the goodies that you get only once or twice a year. Live a little. Have a little nibble. Take a little taste. It’s amazing how quickly the heart, mind and body can react to the cravings of our natural appetites. Once you start pushing the boundary markers, it’s hard to pull them back in.

According to God’s Message, it was our human appetites that got us into trouble in the first place and the human condition hasn’t changed. I talked about it a month or so ago in a message I gave. We are told that there are three core cravings. Our other appetites flow out of them.

  • Lust of the eyes (“She saw that the tree was beautiful…”)
  • Lust of the flesh (“…its fruit looked delicious…”)
  • Pride of life (“…she wanted the wisdom it would give her [to be like God].”)

In retrospect, I didn’t fall completely off the wagon during the holidays. I did, however, let my appetites get the best of me on more than one occasion. I think about the past few days, I think about my choices, and I realize how slowly and subtly I can give in to my cravings until my appetites are once again controlling me.

Razing the Walls of Social Convention

2012 12 23 VH Family GatheringWhen you meet together, you are not really interested in the Lord’s Supper. For some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk. 1 Corinthians 11:20-21 (NLT)

This week has been a veritable plethora of Christmas gatherings and feasts. On Sunday, we enjoyed a huge multi-generational family gathering here at VW Manor. Our cozy little brick house was packed with family of all ages, from two to 85.

It’s always interesting to see what happens socially at large gatherings whether its family or community. Some people hang tight with certain people seem to avoid others. Some people are social butterflies while others are wallflowers. I spent a good part of the afternoon Sunday with the younger generation at the dining room table while most of the adults kept to themselves in the living room. It was fun to hang out with and talk to younger family members I don’t see or often speak with, especially as many of them are making the transition from young people to adults. It was great conversation and I enjoyed my time with them.

In today’s chapter, Paul was addressing similar social situations that were negatively affecting the local church potluck in Corinth. The early gathering of believers had a tradition called “love feasts.” All believers would gather and share a meal together, then end with serving the “Lord’s Supper” a which ceremoniously imitates the eating of bread (metaphor for Jesus’ broken body) and drinking of wine (metaphor for Jesus’ shed blood) which Jesus instituted the night before he was crucified. In the early church there was a huge social disparity at these Love Feasts. There were rich and poor, slaves and free peoples, Greeks and Romans and Jews.

Because of the diversity of peoples in the church, social tensions arose as people gathered in their cliques. The  wealthier believers brought good food and hoarded it for themselves, eating quickly while less fortunate believers waited for what amounted to the leftovers. In many cases, by the time everyone had eaten and the church was ready to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, some had consumed too much wine and were visibly inebriated.

People are people. As much as some things change, human nature doesn’t change all that much over time. I see shadows of the same social struggles at a church potluck or a family gathering today as the situation we read about in Paul’s letter. Today, I’m thinking about the gatherings yet to come this holiday season and social gatherings in which I regularly participate. I don’t want to passively regress into comfortable social conventions, but let love motivate me to tear down walls between peoples, generations, and social groups.