I Haven’t Been Bald Since High School

I’ve been relatively bald twice in my life. First, when I was born (though there was some hair there). Then, when I was a swimmer in high school, I shaved my head for the conference and district swim meets. I haven’t been bald since.

Is the third time coming?

Last night I auditioned for the role of Daddy Warbucks in USP’s production of “Annie.” There were a ton of people at auditions. More than I expected and a lot more men than I expected, which was great for USP.

It’s always hard to tell how you do at auditions. I felt pretty good about it. I haven’t been in a musical since “The Christmas Post” in 2006, and singing always makes me nervous. But, what a fun show to be in if it works out.

Call backs are Thursday. I’m sure we’ll find out next weekend or early next week.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and toddhiestand

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 11

At the same time the word of God came to Shemaiah, a holy man, “Tell this to Rehoboam son of Solomon, king of Judah, along with all the Israelites in Judah and Benjamin, This is God’s word: Don’t march out; don’t fight against your brothers the Israelites. Go back home, every last one of you; I’m in charge here.” And they did it; they did what God said and went home. 2 Chronicles 11:2-4 (MSG)

Anger. Pain. Loss. Those are the ingredients for rash decisions and tragic reactions.

When Jeroboam rebelled and took half the kingdom with him, Rehoboam’s first instinct was to march to war and take back what he felt was rightly his. The carnage would have been unbelievable. We saw it in our own country’s civil war.

I’ve seen this same reactive “take back what’s mine” anger in many different situations:

  • Siblings fighting over toys when they are young, inheritance when they are older
  • People stalking boyfriends/girlfriends who’ve ended the relationship
  • Parents grasping after rebellious children
  • Spouses punishing their mates when they feel their spouse has taken advantage of them

I’ve always been struck by the story of the prodigal son. The father in the story didn’t run after his son and demand that he come home. It didn’t mean the father didn’t care or didn’t desperately want his prodigal to return. The father simply knew that reacting in anger and making his son return by force would never work. So, he chose to respond to his son’s hurtful, selfish decisions by staying home, sitting on the porch, waiting, keeping an eye on the road and praying.

We can’t control what others do. We can only control how we respond.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and kacleaveland

Full Weekend

It was a full weekend for Wendy and me. Saturday was the beginning of auditions for our community theater’s production of Annie. Wendy is Assistant Director (that’s her in blue in the above picture standing with the show’s director), so we were at the community center early. Saturday’s audition was just for young girls, and the place was packed with them. There were almost 60 who auditioned for the role of Annie and/or her fellow orphans. It was 1:00 before auditions ended and then we went with the production crew to grab lunch and help the director weed through all of the audition forms.

I’m thinking about auditioning for the show. Auditions are tonight.

By the time we got home, we only had a couple of hours until the community theater’s annual awards dinner. As President of the group, I get to be MC of the annual event. So we cleaned up quick, got dressed up and headed to the dinner. It was late before we got home.

Madison came home this weekend, but Sunday morning was the first we really saw of her. She went to church with us and then Taylor and Clayton joined us for brunch. It was nice to have the whole family together. It’s going to be more and more rare as time goes on.

After a little nap while watching the Cubs lose, Wendy and I said good-bye to Madison. We got some work done in preparation for the week and did some scheduling for the fall and winter.

On to a new week.

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 10

But he rejected the counsel of the elders and asked the young men he’d grown up with who were now currying his favor, “What do you think? 2 Chronicles 10:8 (MSG)

For the past two years, I’ve helped our daughters make the transition from living at home to being out on their own. The process of leaving the nest is a fascinating one. Given complete independence and autonomy, it’s interesting to watch the decision making process. Sometimes they listen and heed your wisdom. Sometimes, like Rehoboam, they defiantly choose their own way.

I’ve had to discover new levels of discernment as a father. When do you give unsolicited advice? When do you press for them to make the right decision, knowing that it will be best for them? When do you step back and let them make foolish choices, knowing that they will have to learn from the consequences?

I’ve done my best to bite my tongue when appropriate, and have resisted the urge to offer an “I told you so” when it would feel so satisfying to say it. I can thank my own parents who, I know realize, bit their tongues plenty of times as they watched my own foolish decisions and observed me ignore their advice.

And, even though I’m a parent I think about my never ending relationship with my Heavenly Father. Despite all of the wisdom I’m supposed to have at this point in the journey, how often do I still find myself ignoring the advice of God’s message and going it on my own?

Today, I’m conscious of my heeding the wisdom of God, my eternal Father – even as I continue my role of helping our children navigate their own fledgling paths.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and pauldcocker

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 9

King Solomon, for his part, gave the queen of Sheba all her heart’s desire—everything she asked for. She took away more than she brought. Satisfied, she returned home with her train of servants. 2 Chronicles 9:12 (MSG)

Wendy and I enjoy entertaining. When we embarked on our project to take over my parents place at the Ozarks and build a new Playhouse there, we were motivated by the desire to have a place we could share life with family and friends.

When I read the verse above this morning, I thought what a great guiding principle it is anytime we entertain or welcome guests into our home. I want people to take away more than they brought. Obviously, in Solomon’s case, he showered physical gifts and blessing on the Queen of Sheba. The gifts don’t necessarily have to be material.

When people come for dinner, or visit the Playhouse, I hope that they walk away with their hearts more full than when they walked through the door.

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 7

When Solomon finished praying, a bolt of lightning out of heaven struck the Whole-Burnt-Offering and sacrifices and the Glory of God filled The Temple. 2 Chronicles 7:1 (MSG)

I believe that we all desire a little lightning from heaven to strike in our lives. In fact, sometimes we desire it so much that we begin to doubt when it doesn’t happen. One of the things I’ve had to discern along my pilgimage is keeping my spiritual expectations appropriate. I read about the incredible scene in today’s chapter. Lightning and fire from heaven falls on the offering. The glory of God fills the temple to the point that the priests can’t see to get in. What an amazing moment for those who were there to experience it. But, that’s just it. It was a moment. It was just one day.

As I journey through God’s message, I have to remember that centuries of human experience are summarized in one small volume of work. God’s message only hits some key highlights in human history. As a result, it’s tempting to think that worship at Solomon’s temple was all lightning, cloud and fire from heaven all the time. But, that just wasn’t the case. This exceptional beginning we read about today was followed by years and years of mundane, everyday, business-as-usual, 24/67/365, go-through-the-motions religious rites.

Most of life’s journey is spent in relatively quiet, mundane stretches on uninspiring paths. It’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing. God calls us to be ambitious about leading a “quiet life, minding your business.”

Today, I look ahead to a long stretch of analyzing phone calls for work. It does not look to be much of a spiritual mountaintop. I don’t forsee any lightning from heaven. But, that’s okay. I will quietly get the work done to provide for my family knowing that God is present, even in the monotony of daily routine.

A New Stretch in the Journey

It was a momentous day last Friday. Wendy and I helped Madison pack up our beloved, beatup old Dodge pickup truck (named Tabitha). The forecast was for rain so we wrapped all of Maddy’s belongings and the bed she was taking in garbage bags and plastic tarps. At 7:00 a.m. Wendy and I climbed in to Tabitha’s cab while Madison entered into her faithful Geo Metro, named Squirt, through the only one of the four door handles that worked (front passenger side). We headed for Minneapolis, making a brief stop in Des Moines so that Madison’s mom could give her a good-bye hug.

Madison’s new leg of life’s journey began with the 350 mile trip to Minneapolis. With one minor misdirection (there is a difference between County Road 36 and State Highway 36), we arrived at her new apartment building. We had successfully avoided rain the entire trek, but it began to come down after we pulled under the overhang in front of her building (Thank you, God ,for small blessings).

It took less than an hour to unload Tabitha and Squirt and move all of Madison’s belongings into the apartment she will share with three other college girls. Tomorrow she starts classes.

Wendy and I took Madison to our family’s favorite restaurant, Buca Di Beppos, for a nice lunch. Wendy and I then climbed back into an empty Tabitha for the long trip home while Madison headed to her new apartment to begin the task of unpacking and organizing for this new adventure.

It’s a new stretch of the journey for all of us. I wasn’t sure how I was going to react when it came time to say good-bye. I’m a soft-hearted person and some of these special waypoints along life’s road stir a lot of emotions. I didn’t feel too sad as I hugged Madison outside of Buca’s. She’s ready and I’m proud of her. I raised her to release her on her own path. It is as it should be.

I imagine that the emotion will be felt more acutely in the quiet of the house staring out the door of my home office at Madison’s empty bedroom. There are certain crossroads in life which provide a hard reminder that you can’t go back. I cannot retrace my steps and take a Mulligan on raising my daughters. They are grown. and I’ve played my part to the best of my abilities. Obviously, my role isn’t over. It will just be different. I will watch Maddy Kate walk her own road.

You go, girl.

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 6

Can it be that God will actually move into our neighborhood? Why, the cosmos itself isn’t large enough to give you breathing room, let alone this Temple I’ve built. 2 Chronicles 6:18 (MSG)

I stood in line there in Jerusalem and I walked up to the ancient wall. It’s called the Western Wall though it’s known by most people as the Wailing Wall. It’s at the foot of the temple mount in Jerusalem. It’s right there where the events of today’s chapter took place. I prayed at the wall with a throng of others. Prayers are offered there without ceasing. 

A while back I was introduced the Celtic concept of “thin places.” The basic premise is that there are certain locations where the veil between the spiritual realm and the physical realm is thin. In these thin places, prayers take on greater power.

I thought about thin places as I read Solomon’s dedication prayer to the temple. Reading between the lines, I believe Solomon knew that the temple he built could not contain an immeasureable, almighty God. He seemed to hint at the understanding that God was establishing a thin place where the confession and prayers of the people would receive a special hearing.

There is no doubt that Solomon’s Temple was (and is) a special place, a thin place. God moved in to the neighborhood. Over ten centuries after Solomon’s prayer, people are still flocking to the site to pray. The temple was destroyed long ago, and the mount is now capped by a mosque, but there at the uncovered footings of Solomon’s Temple, people still come from around the world to offer prayers.

Solomon’s prayer was answered.

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 5

The choir and trumpets made one voice of praise and thanks to God—orchestra and choir in perfect harmony singing and playing praise to God: Yes! God is good! His loyal love goes on forever! 2 Chronicles 5:13 (MSG)

I grew up singing choral music. When I was a kid I sang in a robed church choir. Each Sunday morning we would make a processional up the center aisle to the altar before taking our place in the choir loft. We sang classic and choral music. In high school I sang in the robed choir as we belted out classics, many of them sacred pieces.

Today, the worship I experience on Sunday morning is contemporary and I enjoy playing my electric bass and rocking out. But, I do miss the sacred atmosphere of the traditional liturgical service with its formal processional, order, and sacred rhythm. I still have sacred music and gregorian chant playing during my personal quiet times. I get chills hearing certain sacred pieces.

I read today’s chapter about the triumphant procession bringing the ark of the covenant into the temple. I picture the pomp, the ceremonial grandeur and imagine the sound of the sacred music. It reminds me of my love of what contemporary worship often lacks. It’s not that contemporary or traditional is “right” while the other is “wrong” (despite advocates and critics on I hear on both sides). It’s just different, and they each have their strengths when it comes to a worship experience.

Tonight I go to worship rehearsal. I’ll plug in my bass, play with my whole heart, and experience the blessing of worship. At the same time, a part of me will wish I was standing in a mass choir singing a beautiful, sacred choral piece.

The worship of an omniscient God can’t be confined into one box. Worship of the Almighty, by necessity, must come in all sorts of styles because God can’t be defined by a single standard. The key is not to find the “right” way to worship, but to appreciate and experience the worship of an unlimited God in worship’s ever expanding form and style.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and danagraves

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 4

 He made the Bronze Altar thirty feet long, thirty feet wide, and ten feet high. 2 Chronicles 4:1 (MSG)

In my worship community we don’t think much about altars any more. Most of the churches I’ve attended have called the front of the church “the altar” but it’s more of a general term. There is no physical altar. I have mixed feelings about that.

One one hand, God’s message tells us that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice “once for all.” In that sense, it’s a good thing to remember that there is nothing else I can do to add to what Jesus did. His sacrifice paid the price for my sins. Finished. End of story. There’s nothing I can do to add to it. The absence of a physical alter reminds me that there is nothing else I can add to what has already been done.

On the other hand, I recognize that my journey is a process of dying to self, and sacrificing my own desires for those of Jesus. The act of building an altar, or having an altar, is a phyical and metaphorical reminder that while Jesus has made the ultimate sacrifice, I must daily lay down my life, take up my cross, and follow in His footsteps.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and paullew