For any who might be interested, this is the message I delivered at our local gathering of Jesus’ followers this past Sunday.
Happy first day of Spring everyone! Wendy and I came down to the lake on Friday morning. It’s our first trip down together this year and it’s nice to think about warmer days and fun that’s ahead this summer. I’ve enjoyed a little spring break this week from blogging, though a getaway wasn’t really in the cards for us this year.
We’ve been busy in rehearsals for Almost, Maine. It’s been a really fun show and we’re looking forward to performances in a few weeks (Apr 14-17… seriously, you need to come to this show!). It’s a small cast of really talented folks who have been working hard to make it a stellar production. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that every production has a personality of its own. While its fun to be in the big musical productions with tons of people, there is a certain amount of stress and chaos that grows in measure with the number of people involved. So, it’s nice to experience a show with a smaller cast of focused adults. Wendy and I have been loving this group of people and we’re really excited about the challenges and what we see developing on stage. This will be a great date night at the theatre or the perfect evening out for your small group or social group. Put it on your calendar. Make it happen. You won’t regret it.
One of the scenes in Almost, Maine takes place in the mythical town’s pub, The Moose Paddy, in which there is a party being thrown for one of the ladies in the small town. Our director, Kevin McQuade, wanted to create some ambient sound effects for the scene. It just so happens that a new craft beer pub opened in Pella a few weeks ago, so we ended rehearsal early on the night of the local pub’s grand opening and ventured over. We gathered in a corner of the pub and set up a microphone. Kevin handed out some loosely scripted conversations and we made a recording amidst the din of the festive environment. I can’t wait to hear how it sounds with the scene. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
It’s the season of Lent and our church put together a community service project packaging meals for the hungry through Meals From the Heartland. Wendy’s dad has been involved with the group in recent years and organized some packaging events in the Boone and Ames area. He even traveled to Africa and helped distribute meals a few years ago. Wendy and I put in a shift last weekend. It’s a pretty amazing operation. We worked with a team of nine people. Wendy held a bag into which a vitamin packet was placed. She then put it under a funnel. Three of us, in turn, poured in measured amounts of dried vegetables, soy protein and rice. The bag is then handed to another two team members who weigh the bag and add rice to bring it to the prescribed weight. The bags are then sealed by another team member, laid out and counted by and another, and then packaged in a box and sealed. Another team of volunteers constantly moved around the various packaging teams to replenish our bins of supplies and the church had energetic music cranked which made it a festive environment. Pretty amazing the thousands of meals we were able to package in a short time.
It was St. Patty’s Day this past Thursday, which we celebrated at the previously mention new brew pub in town, The Cellar Peanut Pub. It’s been quite a hit and the place was packed for the annual wearin’ o’ the green celebration. The McQuades picked Wendy and me up and chauffeured us into town. The local theatre community was well represented that night and we ran into a number of friends and neighbors. It was a really enjoyable evening. The pub serves just drinks and peanuts (you throw the shells on the floor), but you can bring in your own food. We ordered pizza from George’s across the street to enjoy with the 50 different craft beers (most of them local Iowa brews) on tap.
Our daughter, Madison, made her move to Columbia, South Carolina a week ago. There’s a lot of transition in her life right now. Just a day or so before moving she bought a new (used) car, had a trailer hitch installed, and then packed up all her possessions for the long cross-country haul. Her boyfriend, Matt, accompanied her on the drive and then flew back to Colorado. They broke up the 24 hour drive by stopping at the lake and spending the night at the Playhouse. Madison has a nice apartment in an old house near the USC campus and has already been busy with her job at Laura Geller cosmetics.
I had a strange event this week when I got a message on Facebook from Dr. Bob Leonard asking me if Taylor was our daughter and if he thought she would be open to an interview for KNIA/KRLS radio. After few more exchanged messages I found out that Bob had wrestled at UNI with the founder of the Catholic Worker community in Des Moines and he reads their newsletter. Taylor had written an article for the newsletter (“I didn’t think anyone actually reads it,” she confessed to me later), and Dr. Bob wanted to interview her about her experiences. I don’t know if it’s actually happened.
Taylor continues her life as nanny, ghost writer, and entrepreneur in Des Moines. Her experiences in the Catholic Worker Community continue to entertain and challenge her. There was a gang shooting in their neighborhood a week or so ago and bullets hit one of the Catholic Worker houses a couple doors down from where Taylor lives. She called and wanted us to know about it before we saw it on the news. It was an isolated incident and she said that she wasn’t too concerned. The police stepped up patrols in the area.
Another transition happened for us in the past few weeks as Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, made the decision to quit school in Cedar Falls and to move back home with her folks in Ankeny. She is working at a book store and trying to decide next steps on her own journey. Wendy’s mom came down to Pella with Suzanna to pack up her things and move them to Ankeny. Suzanna has been with us for two and a half years and it was a bit strange to have her move on, but we’re really proud of how much she has grown. We’re excited to see where life takes her.
So, Wendy and I are truly empty nesters once again. Work has been keeping us busy. I had a quick business trip to the Twin Cities last week and Wendy joined me. We took the opportunity to see a show at the Guthrie Theater (The Critic and The Real Inspector Hound) this past Sunday afternoon. I then worked on-site with our client on Monday and Tuesday while Wendy worked in the hotel room. We buzzed back home on Tuesday evening. I’ve arranged my travel schedule to be home the next few weeks until Almost, Maine is over. As soon as the show closes I’ll hit the road for a week.
I’ve been asked to step up my role in the auditorium services at Third Church starting in April. For the past couple of years the church has been growing a team of lay teachers and I’ve been helping to train and mentor them. I’ve been preaching every 6-8 weeks or so. Starting in April I’m going to “anchor” the teaching team and will begin giving the Sunday message every fourth week or so. We’re beginning a series going through the Gospel of Mark starting on April 17th. I’ll update my schedule on my Upcoming Performances and Appearances page for anyone interested.
It’s been a nice trip to the lake, even though the weather has not been particularly nice. We went into Osage last night and watched Iowa State beat Little Rock in the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament while having a bite at Buffalo Wild Wings. Wendy and I will pack up and head home after breakfast this morning so we can get settled and prepare for the week ahead.
As years go, 2016 is off to a frantic start. It’s hard to believe that January is almost over! Business travel dominated the first two-week of the month with trips to Minnesota and Texas, respectively. Work, in general, has dominated a lot of my time and energy as our group scrambles to finish up some late 2015 business and get 2016 projects off the ground.
The busy work schedule hasn’t slowed down our equally busy social calendar. A few highlights:
Rehearsals began in earnest for Union Street Players production of Almost, Maine. The play is a series of nine vignettes stitched together that all take place at the same moment on a winter’s night in northern Maine. It’s a wonderful play. I’m in five scenes playing five different characters. Wendy is in three of them. The show is being directed by our friend, Kevin McQuade. We’re really enjoying getting back on stage together. Performances are April 14-17.
My friend Matthew Burch and I have been presenting a four-week series on Overcoming Shame in the auditorium services at Third Church this month. Matthew and I are doing a workshop for men called More Than Conquerors at Westview Church in Waukee next weekend on the same topic.