Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 3

NYC - Brooklyn Museum - Auguste Rodin's The Pr...
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The sound of voices comes drifting out of the hills, the unhappy sound of Israel’s crying,
Israel lamenting the wasted years, never once giving her God a thought.

“Come back, wandering children!  I can heal your wanderlust!”

Jeremiah 3:21-22 (MSG)

There are multiple paths from which to choose in life. Each day we make choices which way we are going to go. Which one of us have not, at one time or another, willingly chosen the road we know is wrong for us? Who among us has not found ourselves in places we regret?

I think it’s a good reminder on New Year’s Eve, as we all consider where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. No matter where this day finds us and no matter how lost we might be (as the prodigal son discovered) it is never too late to turn and head back home.

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 2

SLOW two
Image by -= Bruce Berrien =- via Flickr

“Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry?
   Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? Jeremiah 2:25a (MSG)

Slow down. Take a deep breath.

I needed to read those words this morning. Despite the fact that the holidays are supposed to be a time of rest and peace, I feel stretched out. Sometimes the holidays feel like a flurry of activity that empty the tank instead of fill it.

Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?

That’s really the question, isn’t it? What am I after? I put life on auto-pilot. I set the cruise control. I go through the same motions the same way with the same results.

The eve of a new year approaches and I find my spirit looking forward, looking back. I find myself asking what I am after.

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Christmas 2010

The Hall Women

Another Christmas has come and gone. Here’s a quick recap of this year’s celebrations.

Wendy and I flew to Denver on Dec 22nd. Wendy’s sister bought a house there this past year so her family decided to meet there for Christmas. We spent Wednesday through Friday there with plans to fly home on Christmas morning. The visit was mainly spent hanging out with family. We did a lot of laying around watching movies, shopping, and chatting with one another. As a Christmas gift to everyone, Wendy and I took the family to Buca Di Beppos on Thursday night. Most of them had never been there, so it was fun to share the experience with them. We opened gifts on Friday afternoon and shared a meal together.

The schedule Christmas morning was to fly back to Des Moines, arriving in time for Christmas with the Vander Well clan around 1 p.m. Mechanical problems forced numerous delays and, long story short, we didn’t get to the VWs until 5 p.m. By that time, we missed Taylor and Clayton (who were already off to the next of 3,567,923 celebrations). Everyone kind of had been hanging around to see us, so after a few hugs and a quick opening of our gifts (they had already exchanged earlier in the day) everyone left. We headed home for Pella.

Sunday (Dec 26th) was a great day. I played bass for both services that morning and Wendy came to the 11:00 service with Madison. Around mid-afternoon Taylor and Clayton arrived and we exchanged gifts. We then sat down to a wonderful dinner Wendy had prepared as a belated birthday dinner for Madison (who had the flu on her birthday). Salmon steaks, baked potatoes, homemade rolls, and Grandma VW’s marble cake for dessert. It was awesome. As usual with dinners at our house, we sat for a couple of hours and talked before the kids had to depart.

Wendy opens Suzanna's Gift
Lucas and Becky Hammin' it Up
Wendy loves her new scarf. A gift from Madison.
You shoulda seen Clayton's face when he opened his Kindle!

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 1

Raod to Pangong Tso 1
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“Before I shaped you in the womb,
   I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
   I had holy plans for you:
A prophet to the nations—
   that’s what I had in mind for you.”
Jeremiah 1:5 (MSG)

A friend called and left a message on my phone yesterday. The words were a typical voice mail message, but the tone of my friend’s voice said something completely different:

  • I’m down
  • I’m tired
  • The weight of the world is on my shoulders

When I finally spoke to my friend in person, I discovered the reason for his depressed tone. He fiinds himself walking a leg of the journey that has suddenly become difficult with an overload of cares. Over a few short days his financial stress, work stress and relational stress have skyrocketed from normal to off the charts difficult.

As we talked it through, we came to the same conclusion from our previous experiences. These perfect storms of life are cyclical. We all encounter these times in the journey when seemingly everything goes wrong at once. We get through them. The momentary circumstances change, and the seemingly unmanageable stress of the moment fades.

Perspective is a good thing. Big picture helps put our temporary tunnel vision in perspective. Today I’m reminded that God knew us before we were a glint in our parents’ eyes. He has a master plan for our entire journey.

Don’t get tripped up by the tough road you’re walking today. Look out at the horizon. Press on.

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Chapter-a-Day Luke 24

“Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words. Luke 24:6b-7 (MSG)

This past week I wrote about my college age daughter refusing to heed my warning about the weather, and finding herself in a ditch in her new [used] car in the wee hours of a cold, wintery night. I have enjoyed hugging her this week, knowing that she is safe, and have fought the urge to remind her of my words. It would be so easy to say, “I told you so. Why didn’t you listen to my warning and wait until the storm passed?”

As I read today’s chapter I noticed a theme:

  • Angels remind the women at the tomb that Jesus told them exactly what was going to happen. vss. 4-8
  • Jesus, in frustration, reminds the disciples on the road to Emmaus that what happened to him was exactly what the prophets foretold. vs. 25
  • Jesus reminds the disciples that he revealed to them that the scriptures said he must suffer, die and be raised. vs. 45-46

As I read, I thought about my own experience as a father this week, and remembered the countless times my Earthly father and my Heavenly Father could have said “Didn’t I tell you? Weren’t you listening? Don’t you remember what I said?”

We are all just children in the never ending process of growing up. Maturity is revealed in each of us as we remember, via the hard way or the easy way, the lessons we’ve been taught and apply them to our current circumstances.

God, remind me of what I’ve been taught, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Give me the wisdom, grace, and maturity to apply those lessons as I walk through my day.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and jakekrohn

Chapter-a-Day Luke 23

A cropped version of Antonio Ciseri's depictio...
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The Temple curtain split right down the middle. Luke 23:45 (MSG)

Torn. Ripped. Split asunder.

There are so many things that were ripped apart that day. Jesus’ flesh was torn with the soldier’s scourge. His face ripped with long Judean thorns. His body ripped through with nails. His heart torn with a Roman spear.

Then, the Son was ripped from the Father. Carrying the sin of the world, the beloved son became an anathema. The Father turned away from his own. Sin split asunder the unity between God the Father and God the Son. Jesus died alone and isolated. Because of my sin.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

At the same time, the curtain of the temple was torn apart. The temple curtain separated the “Holiest Place” where God dwelt in the temple apart from sinful man on the outside. But with Jesus carrying the sin of the world and paying the penalty for our sin, the gap between God and man was bridged. God himself bore our sins. God himself made a way for us to enter his presence. The curtain of sin that separated us was torn asunder. Jesus paid the price. Jesus separated himself from the Father so that we could be united with the Father. Jesus paved the way for us to enter God’s presence.

That’s why the angels sang:

“Glory to God in the highest.
And on Earth: peace. Goodwill to men.”

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Merry Christmas

Christmas 2003: The Nativity
Image by DUCKMARX via Flickr

A few months ago my pastor asked me how many people read my blog. The honest answer was that I didn’t know. I can see how many people are subscribed. I can see how many “hits” my blog gets, but I rarely look. Besides, the question of how many people actually read it can’t really be answered. The posts go out through email, through feed readers, onto Facebook and Twitter. They get forwarded and passed around.

What I do know is that it’s relatively few people in the grand scheme of the blogosphere. I know a small circle of family and friends read regularly. I hear from some of them that they know this person or that person who reads my posts regularly. Apart from the few who comment now and then, I simply don’t know how many people will read this post. 

Besides, I think the question my pastor was really trying to ask was “Why do you do this?” The answer is no less difficult to answer. The truth is that there are multiple reasons. It’s an easy way to keep loved ones up to date on our lives. It’s a way to express things that are on my heart and mind. Knowing that a few people out there will wonder why I haven’t posted my chapter-a-day provides a little accountability. I like to write. I like the creative outlet.

Anyway, whoever might be reading this wherever you happen to be, I want to take a moment to say thanks for tagging along and for taking the time to read a post now and then. This morning, I’m thinking about you and praying that God’s peace might surround your heart and mind in the midst of holiday craziness and family dysfunction. I hope that somehow we can all have at least one moment in our day today in which we catch a glimpse of the “peace on Earth, goodwill towards men” that came wrapped in swaddling clothes, laying in a manger.

Merry Christmas.

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Parenting, Like Good Friendships, Never End

A few days ago I called my friend, Scott, to wish him a Happy Birthday. Scott is my most tenured friend. We met when I was four or five years old; it was so long ago that it predates my conscious memory. He lived a few houses down the street from me and our friendship began with Big Jim and G.I. Joes. It carried on through Schwinn Spyder five-speeds with banana seats, through paper routes, games of freeze-tag and after school basketball games on the Johnson’s driveway. We went through high school together, got in trouble together in Dr. Kober’s Hermeneutics class in college, and were in each others weddings. While our adult years have come and gone with relatively little contact, we can always connect and immediately pick up where we left off.

So it was with our brief exchange on the phone the other night. When Scott asked how life was, I remarked that I feel as though parenting is requiring more of my time and energy now that my girls are grown and gone and out of the house – more time and energy than was required when they were in high school and living under my roof. Scott laughed.

It’s almost 2:00 a.m. and I’m writing this post from the lobby of my hotel in Denver, Colorado. Knowing that my daughter was planning to drive home from the Twin Cities tonight, and hearing about a big snow storm bearing down on the Midwest, I texted Madison to make sure she’d checked the weather.  I told her that I didn’t want her and the car she purchased this week in the ditch of I-35 in the wee hours of the morning.

The phone woke me and Wendy up at 1:25 a.m. The ditch from which she was calling me was just south of Albert Lea, MN.


And so, I sit here in the lobby praying and waiting for her call to tell me the Minnesota State Patrol has arrived, that the tow truck is not going to cost more than the low limit on her credit card, and that she is safely back on the road. That accomplished, I will sit here in the lobby and pray some more until I get the call that her car is running and she has found the nearest safe, warm place to ride the storm out.

So, I am finding that parenting never ends, though the responsibilities and demands ebb and flow through the changing stages of our children’s lives. With his knowing laugh, I’m guessing Scott has found the same to be true.

A Few Things I Love About Wendy

  • They way she feels more deeply than anyone I know
  • Her beautiful blue eyes
  • The way her knowing glance makes me tingle
  • The passion with which she lives
  • How well she partners with me in everything: in life, in play, and on stage
  • The way she cries at movies and books
  • The selfless ways she cares
  • Her curly hair
  • Her deep appreciation for beauty in all forms
  • The way she sees God, and reflects Him to me
  • That she is totally a woman in all of her strength and fragility
  • They way she loves me so selflessly, and so well
  • And… several things it would not be gentlemanly of me to mention in a public forum 🙂

Happy Birthday, my love.