Right Here, Under the Rainbow

Right Here, Under the Rainbow

We’ve always believed this to be a special place and a thin place. Tonight, as the sun went down and the storm receded, God smiled on us to say, “Yes. Yes, it is.” I grabbed my camera to take this picture. Still, as we stood in the rain and took in the breathtaking sight of a full horizon to horizon arc of double rainbow Wendy said to me, “A photo couldn’t possibly capture it.” She was right. But, hopefully I caught a glimpse of it for you. Cheers.

Memorial Day Weekend 2013

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It was a gorgeous Memorial Day weekend at the lake with the VLs and the VWs sharing in lots of sun and fun. The weather was cool and the water a little chilly, but the sun was warm and the moon was full.

Tom & Wendy arrived on Thursday evening and the VLs arrived late that night. The sun was out despite the air being a little cool for most of the weekend. Tom spent most of Friday fighting with two Waverunners that were fresh from the shop but still weren’t working right. One eventually did work for the weekend but the other one ended up back at the shop. Friday afternoon was spent at Captain Ron’s with dinner on the patio there. Tom received a visit from an old school buddy and his friends in the late afternoon who joined in the excursion to Cap’n Ron’s. The adults huddled out on the deck in the evening as the full moon rose.

Saturday morning was spent playing Disc Golf and enjoying the gorgeous weather. A boat ride to Bulldog’s Beach House was the perfect lunch excursion. The afternoon was spent  with afternoon naps a definite requisite. We enjoyed a leisurely dinner and conversation.

Sunday was a day spent in the sun getting sunburned. Tom inflated the Relaxation Station and we enjoyed floating on the water and soaking up the rays. Chad manned the grill for a burger and hot dog feast and the adults watched a movie together in the evening.

Memorial Day dawned with a run to Sunrise Donuts with the whole crew. The men then managed kid duty while the ladies went shopping in town. We enjoyed one last meal together before the VLs packed up and headed home.

Catching a Glimpse of the Great Story

English: Books
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What sorrow awaits Nineveh,
    the city of murder and lies!
She is crammed with wealth
    and is never without victims.
Nahum 3:1 (NLT)

We have been at the lake over the long holiday weekend, and I have been thinking big picture thoughts this morning as I write my morning pages. Such is the power of this place. Everyday busyness and the whirr of the daily grind give way to the whisper of water and wind. Perspective broadens from the to-do list on my cluttered desk to the sunrise on the horizon. Thoughts and intentions have room to move and find their being here.

It is sometimes difficult reading the words of the ancient prophets like those in this morning’s chapter. The message from a semitic writer in the middle east from two millenia past seems so distant and remote as read on an iPad in a 21st century modern world. What does it really mean to me?

In the big picture frame of mind this morning I catch a glimpse. Nahum told of the fall of a kingdom which had stood on top of the world. Kingdoms rise and fall. That’s part of the Great Story which gets easily lost in the minutae of my daily grind. But there is a Great Story  being told, and I am in it just as Nahum was in an earlier chapter. If I lose sight of the Great Story then I’ve missed the point entirely, and then it becomes a tragedy.

Sometimes I desperately need the soul elixir offered by the quiet of this place. I need to step back and gain a different, and much larger perspective than the myopic lens of my moment-by-moment, day-to-day realities. Nahum watched kingdoms rise and fall. So have I. We are both part of the Great Story.

Do I know my part?

FYI… I’m taking the rest of the week off to watch the sunrise and listen to the whisper of the wind and water. We’ll take up the chapter-a-day journey next week. In the meantime, don’t forget there’s an index of old posts if you’d like to click on a few. Cheers!


Front Stoop Construction1Even though the destroyer has destroyed Judah,
    the Lord will restore its honor.
Israel’s vine has been stripped of branches,
    but he will restore its splendor.
Nahum 2:2 (NLT)

Eight years ago this summer Wendy and I bought our little brick tudor house just a block north of the town square. I dubbed it “Vander Well Manor” on Foursquare, which never fails to make my heart smile. It is such a quaint little home that I have a hard time not romanticizing it. When I look at our house from the street I think of how Obi Wan Kenobi described the light saber: “an elegant [house] for a more civilized age.” It was about seventy years old when we bought it and was showing significant signs of age and wear. It has no central air conditioning and an ancient boiler from somewhere near the Eisenhower administration. We have slowly been updating and fixing what it desperately needs in the moment. We have done a lot, but there is so much more to do.

Over the past couple of years Wendy and I have engaged in a long, on-going conversation about the investment required in continuing to fix our little house up to bring it to the state we both really want it to be. Do we keep pumping time, energy and resources into the old house or do we invest in building something new from the ground up? It’s hard not to look at the numbers and think that selling this place and building something new might be the wiser investment. We have gone back and forth, but we keep ending up choosing restoration over replacement. We love this house. The girls come back and call it home. It is in this place that we’ve shared so much of life.

Beyond that, there is something spiritual in the theme of restoration that resonates deep within me. Throughout God’s Message we see God restoring what is old, broken and discarded and bringing out of it something more precious and powerful. The ancient, childless couple Abram and Sara become parents of the nations. The old and dishonored Moses is transformed into a leader for the ages. David, a scalawag bandit with a price on his head, who wanders in the desert for twenty years rises to unite the nation and  rule for 40 years. In today’s chapter Nahum envisions the restoration of Israel. Jesus’ bloody, crucified body is raised to new life of eternal splendor.  Twelve largely uneducated men of questionable character carry Jesus’ message to the nations and literally turn the world upside down. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. Restoration through God’s amazing grace.

So, perhaps I’m over spiritualizing it. Perhaps I’m waxing poetic so as to feel better about the money we just spent to pour a new front stoop and patio. The truth is that I love word pictures. They speak to the depths of my soul. Each time I drive home and pull into the driveway and then into the rotting garage with a door that won’t close, I am reminded that I too am a work in progress. Restoration takes time, energy and resources. God is not finished with me and, thankfully, hasn’t given up on me.

Refuge Amidst Rough Stretches of Life’s Path

Ubari Oasis in the Category:Wadi Al Hayaa Dist...
Ubari Oasis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lord is good,
    a strong refuge when trouble comes.
    He is close to those who trust in him.
Nahum 1:7 (NLT)

Life’s journey takes each one of us through many different emotional terrains. Mountaintop passes offer breathtaking vistas. They are wonderful and inspiring, but the reality is that the path leading to the mountains usually contain long stretches of flat, barren plain in which each day seems much like the last, leaving you to wonder daily if you’re moving or making any progress at all. In contrast to the mountain tops, each life’s path eventually (often repeatedly) descends through dark valleys and rocky terrain that test our faith, will and perseverance.

We should not marvel at this. This is life. It’s a journey and a pilgrimage. If we don’t experience the emotional breadth of it, we’re not really living and making progress.

I have to be honest. I found today’s chapter to read like a dark valley through rocky terrain of anger, wrath, and judgment. I laughed to myself as I began to read. There’s no real reason why I picked the ancient prophet Nahum to start reading today. It has three chapters and there are three days left in the week. No big spiritual discernment in that choice. Still, the vitriol and dark words of judgement seem an emotional enmeshment for my own path in recent weeks. Just great. It’s not enough that I’ve got an acute case of the blues, I thought to myself, now God has to pile on.

Then, as I’m reading through the haunting words of Nahum’s message to Nineveh and groaning under the weight of my spirit, I run headlong into the verse above which sits nestled in the middle of a message of woe. An oasis of fresh living water in the midst of a desolate, barren wilderness. Just when we need it most, we find a life giving way-station for the soul. A message of refreshment. A reminder of the reality that if we have faith, God is a true place of refuge amidst the difficult stretches of our journey.

Faith and Acting: They’re Both About Our Motives

Ah Wilderness Rehearsal[Believers] should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. Titus 3:1b

[God] saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5 (NLT) [emphasis added]

In acting you learn to study a character’s motivation:

  • “Why does my character say this?”
  • “What is driving my character to do this?”
  • “What is it that my character wants when he walks over here?”

Motivation is also critical in understanding our real life and relationships. It is essential, I believe and have discovered, in understanding my relationship with God.

I believe one of the most important lessons we can know about God’s Message to us is this: Entering a relationship with God, attaining eternal life, and receiving forgiveness for our tragic choices and mistakes cannot be earned through “doing good” or “living a good life.” It comes as a gift through what Jesus did when he suffered, died, and rose from the dead. All we do is humbly acknowledge it, receive the gift, and ask Him to come into our life.

For me, it was a simple conversation with God I quietly had in my head and heart in which I said, “God, I know I’ve blown it a million different ways. I need you. I believe that you died for me, and I want you to in my heart and life. I give my life over to you.” Once I took this step and received the Gift, I was inspired and motivated to do good works in response to this extravagant gift of Life I had been given.

The critical differentiation is in the motivation of the good that we do. We do good, not out of a motivation to earn God’s favor or stack the spiritual ledger in our favor with the hope that it might be enough to get us into heaven. Our motive for doing good is overflowing gratitude for the Gift we have been freely given through God’s kindness and mercy.

As with acting, if you don’t get the motivation right then our faith is only a poor attempt at going through the motions.

The Playhouse Opens for the Summer!

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Summers mean sun and fun on the water for Wendy and me. This is the time of year that we’re chomping at the bit for summer and the beginning of regular migration of family and friends to join us for time at the Playhouse on Lake of the Ozarks. Wendy and I have already made a couple of trips to get things out of storage, do spring cleaning, and prepare for the season. The weather in March and April was too cool and wet for our liking. And, while Memorial Day weekend is the official start to the summer season at the lake, we got an early start on the festivities when our friends Matthew and Sarah joined us last weekend.

Friday was overcast and drizzly with a cold north wind, but we still found our way down to the dock for snacks and chat while huddling in jackets and blankets. We headed to Cap’n Ron’s for pizza in the evening and then returned to watch Midnight in Paris. More conversation followed while Matthew melted into the couch. This is not surprising. We call it the “Lake Effect” when guests (as Grandma Jeanne puts it) melt into little puddles. I had to give Matthew a hard time because he’d been talking about looking forward to an early morning cup of coffee on the dock, but he slept far later than anticipated!

The sun came out Saturday. While there was a stiff, cold north wind the temps were in the low 70s and the sun was hot. We went out for a long, slow boat ride down to Bare Bottom and back, then ate lunch on the deck and chatted the afternoon away while getting nice and sunburned. We stoked the grill, opened a nice bottle of wine and had surf and turf for dinner: Prime Rib and smoked salmon. While we had discussed watching another movie, the dinner conversation kept us at the table until almost 11:00 p.m.!

As always, time flew too fast and the time to come home came too quickly. We got the place cleaned up and headed home on Mother’s Day. Wendy got calls from the girls and we arrived at home to find a nice card from Madison in the mail and gifts left at the house from Taylor and Clayton.

Let summer begin! The Playhouse is open!! 🙂

Men Who’ve Made a Difference…In Me

In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely.
Titus 2:6 (NLT)

Last Sunday (Mother’s Day) I was inspired by our daughters who both did a nice job of honoring, not only their mother, but also the women in their lives who have been “motherly” examples to them and made a difference in their lives. It caused me earlier this week to think of Father’s Day which is coming up in a few weeks and the men who have had a profound influence on my life over the years.

I love little moments of synchronicity in life. As I read Paul’s letter this morning and his admonishment for men to mentor young men and women to mentor young women, it seemed to flow naturally into the stream of recent thought. So, despite the fact that Father’s Day isn’t until June, I’m striking while the iron is hot. Here’s a little shout out to the older men in my life who were significant in teaching me through the years and making me the man I am today….

  • To my teachers like Mr. Parks, Mr. Danielson, and Professors Larson and McFadzean who inspired me, put up with me, and stoked my passions for history and the arts.
  • To Chuck who brought me up in the faith, challenged me, encouraged me, and gave me incredible opportunities that molded my character and my entire life journey.
  • To Andy who was the greatest youth pastor in this history of the universe and has been a life long example of humility, love, and living like Jesus.
  • To my grandfathers who each put their unique brand on my life.
  • To my brothers Tim & Terry who let me hang with them as a bratty little brother, whom I respect to this day, and who inspired me in a million ways they probably don’t even realize.
  • And of course, to my ever present father who never ceased telling me he loved me, who blessed me by telling me he was proud of me, who taught by example the character qualities of discipline, hard work, honesty, and integrity. And, who has shown me that God’s work in your heart and life is never finished. He’s never stopped growing, learning, asking, seeking, and knocking. And, God willing, neither will I as I follow in his footsteps.

Women, teach younger women, and lead by living example.
Men, teach younger men, and lead by living example.

The Right Person for the Job

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Rather, [an Elder] must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life.
Titus 1:8 (NLT)

I’ve recently been reading Good to Great by Jim Collins. In the book, Collins and his research team studied the qualities of leadership among a small handful of executives who had led their companies from a status of mediocrity to rising above the competition and realizing long term success. Among the list of qualities these leaders displayed was the ability to put the right people in the right positions to maximize their strengths. Any business leaders knows that getting the right people in the right jobs is a critical component to prosperity.

In the decades following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, His followers spread out around the known world to share their story so that others might believe. Paul (a.k.a. Saul), who began as vehement enemy of Jesus’ followers, had an encounter with the resurrected Jesus and quickly became a passionate believer and follower. Paul journeyed all through Greece telling people about Jesus and organizing believers into local churches.

Titus is a letter from Paul to the man for whom it is named. After Paul had shared the message about Jesus with people on the island of Crete, many of them believed. Paul left Titus behind and charged him with the task of organizing these groups of believers on the island of Crete. One of the most critical tasks in this rapidly growing organization of followers was finding capable leaders. In today’s chapter Paul provides Titus with a description of the type of leader to look for in an effort to find the right man for the job.

As I read through the description this morning I thought of a good friend of mine who was recently asked to consider the possibility of being named “Elder” in his local congregation. After two centuries, the practice of finding and appointing capable leaders among believers is still an on-going practice. My friend was honored by the request, and I thought of him as I read Paul’s description. As I reached the above verse I thought of the countless times I have been a guest in his home for meals, for refreshment, and for meaningful conversation. I thought of the goodness and life that he earnestly seeks after. I remembered words of wisdom he has shared with me over the years and the example he has been to me of a devout and disciplined life in his pursuit of being like Jesus. I was happy for him, and blessed to know a person who is a perfect fit for the job Paul described two thousand years ago.

Fill ‘er Up

2011-10-21 Autumn Boat RideShe brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:12 (NLT)

In the book His Needs Her Needs, Willard Harley presents a very simple word picture to describe the give and take that happens within marriage on a moment by moment, day by day basis. He asks couples to picture an internal “love tank” that we all have. With our thoughts, words, and actions we can either make deposits in our spouses love tank that fill them up and produce an increasing sense of love and well being or we can make withrawls that slowly deplete the love tank until our spouse feels empty and drained, and depleted.

Wendy and I talk a lot about marriage. We talk a lot about our relationship and relationships in general. Like every marriage, ours is a union of two broken people living in a fallen world. We are in a unique situation. We work together for the same company out of our home office. We serve together in the visual tech ministry of our church. We re-create together as board members and participants in the local theatrical community. With little exception Wendy and I are around one another 24/7/365.

Ask Wendy or me about the other’s shortcomings and we can supply you with an ample list. We are far from perfect people, and being around one another all the time produces no shortage of opportunities to see one another at our worst. A good friend of mine recently asked me about his observation that there is a genuine loving-kindness he witnesses between Wendy despite the fact that we are around one another all the time. It’s really pretty simple I told him: she fills my love tank, and I do my best to fill hers.

Wendy has chosen in to the things I love. She’s joined the tragic ranks of Cubs fans. She switched allegiance from her Denver Broncos to make my Vikings her favorite team. To be honest, I know she really doesn’t care that much, but she knows that I do and that’s the point. She is considerate of the things that trip my trigger and makes an effort to trip my trigger on a constant basis. I am so knocked out, blessed that I want nothing more than to return the favor and consideration by discovering what trips her trigger and returning the favor. It’s been a process, but I think I’m getting there. When things get tense between us, and they do, the anger and ill feelings quickly drown in our love tanks which are overflowing.

I have observed many marriages which operate in a daily tit-for-tat game of competitive love tank withdrawl: “If you get to do this, then I get to do that. It’s my turn. Let me check the ledger and check the tally. You owe me. It’s time to pay the debt, baby and believe me the interest on that debt has been compounding daily!” Rather than viewing the fulfillment of their spouses need as a good thing for the relationship as a whole, they begin to view it as a diminishment of their own love tank.

I know that this is a simplistic word picture in the complex relationship that is marriage. Yet when I read the above verse, my soul says “That nails it. That describes Wendy. She makes constant deposits in my love tank that far outnumber the withdrawls.”

Today, I’m reminded that I can’t control my spouse, but I can control my own thoughts, words and actions. I want to do good, and not harm. I want to make deposits into Wendy’s love tank, not withdrawls.