The Old Man in the Crowd

"If you want to feel young, hang around with young people. If you want to die young, try to keep up with them." - Carl Bales
“If you want to feel young, hang around with young people. If you want to die young, try to keep up with them.” – Carl Bales

Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
    they will remain vital and green.
Psalm 92:14 (NLT)

Most people that I find myself around are younger than me. Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of friends who are my age or older. Most of the time, however, I find myself around younger people and I am the unmistaken “old man” in the room. Because my hair started to gray at an early age and I inherited the hearing loss gene from the Vander Well side of the family, it sort of puts the proverbial frosting on the cake. “Who’s that gray haired, deaf guy hanging out with those young people?” 

I’m exaggerating, but the truth is that sometimes I feel it acutely.

When I was young I often felt marginalized and dismissed by older people because of my youth. I memorized a verse from Paul’s letter to a young Timothy: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” I worked hard to earn people’s respect and trust.

Now that I am older, I find that young people can just as easily marginalize and be dismissive of those who are older. I now look back at my younger self and realize that while I was feeling dismissed by older generations I was just as dismissive of them for being “out of touch” with my generation and the times.

Age is a funny thing. I’ve come to the conclusion that the suspicious dismissing of the young by the old, and the suspicious dismissing of the old by the young is a natural part of life. It will never change. The bottom line is that I want to cultivate life and produce good fruit every step of my earthly journey until I cross the finish line. Every generation has much to contribute and much to teach me if I’m willing to listen (and if I have my hearing aids in) and engage in life giving conversation. I can’t do anything about what other generations think of me other than be an example in my love and life. I can, however, act to appreciate and honor the generations that came before me and the generations that are coming up behind me.

I’m sorry. What was that you said?

Fallen Petals

2013 07 25 McNay Flower1

This is another picture from the courtyard of the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. I loved the way this gorgeous bloom sat perched on the end of a branch over the water. The two fallen petals, still colorful, lay as a nearby reminder that some of life’s most beautiful things are momentary and fleeting. We have to enjoy them in the moment.


crossroadsabc via Flickr
crossroadsabc via Flickr

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 (NIV)

Wendy and I love our little house. Because we both work out of home offices, this house is where you will find us most of the time. With the exception of stay-at-home parents with young children and those who are retired, the average person spends most of their waking hours away from their house in school, in an office, or on the job somewhere. He or she only comes home to eat and sleep and maintain some of the other necessities of life. It is the opposite for Wendy and me. We live together in this house most all of the time. We may go out to church, go out to socialize, and go out to recreate. I am required to make business trips to other cities and we will visit our dwelling at the lake. But, when we’re home we’re generally right here in our house 24/7/365. We eat, sleep, work, rest, and recreate right here with one another pretty much all the time.

The lyric to Psalm 91 recognizes blessings and benefits to those who dwell in God’s shelter. I thought of this in light of Wendy and me and our little house this morning. I tend to believe that most of us approach God much like a convenience store or fast food restaurant. We dwell someplace away from God 99 percent of the time, but we pay a visit once or twice a week for spiritual supply and provision, or perhaps simply out of a sense of obligation. But this is an altogether different paradigm and is exactly opposite of the word picture painted by Psalm 91 which calls for us to co-habitate with God day and night. The picture presented in Psalm 91 is us dwelling in God’s presence. We are present with God and God is present with us in our work, our sleep, our meals, our recreation, our hanging out, our chores, and our rest.

Today I’m grateful for my life and the blessing of getting to live and work the way we do. I want my relationship and life with Wendy, here in our little house, to be a reflection of my relationship and life with God…dwelling together.

Spotlight on Cezanne


It was late last night as I walked through the McNay. Some of the galleries are lit by natural sunlight through the windows. Since darkness was descending I loved the way this Cezanne was highlighted on the wall. I thought the dramatic lighting silhouetted the portrait in a beautiful way. Loved the way the photo turned out.

McNay Courtyard


I don’t often go out when I’m on the road, but last night I realized the McNay Art Museum was open late. Wendy and I first discovered the McNay on our honeymoon in San Antonio. It’s a gorgeous, small museum with a surprisingly magnificent collection. The museum itself is fascinating and there it a courtyard that is so beautiful and peaceful I think I could spend an entire day just sitting in it.

I snapped this pic last night as the sun was waning.

Des Moines Farmer’s Market

2013 07 Farmers Market Wendy and TayWendy and I had a great time in Des Moines last weekend. I had a Board Meeting for work during lunch and we opted to stay in Des Moines that evening. It was a quiet summer evening with Kevin and Becky grilling out and enjoying some wonderful wine. As usual, conversation with the two of them went into the wee hours.

Wendy and I stayed in a hotel that night. On Saturday morning we headed down to the Des Moines Farmer’s Market. Taylor met us and joined us in wandering the streets and taking in the vendors, the food, the people and the spectacle. We had delicious breakfast pizza and couldn’t pass up pastries from LaMie. It was wonderful to spend the morning with Taylor.

Wendy and I ran some errands and stopped by a friend’s graduation open house before heading back to Pella. We were both extremely pooped, but enjoyed a wonderful couple of days with friends and fam!

The Legacy of Family

Salmon - Boaz - Obed
Salmon – Boaz – Obed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. Ruth 4:17 (NLT)

My grandparents came of age as the Great Depression hit America. Times were hard and both my maternal and paternal grandparents got married quickly in small ceremonies with nothing but the official who married them and a pair of witnesses. My Grandpa Vander Well told me that he and my grandmother got married the weekend he finished up his teaching certificate at Iowa State University. My grandmother had traveled to Ames to see him graduate.

When they returned home to northwest Iowa, they did not tell anyone they were married. My grandmother lived with her elderly father. He getting up there in years and her was an alcoholic. Family tradition says that he could be quite a handful. My grandmother lived with him to take care of him, and I can only surmise that there was some fear in telling him about the marriage and what it might mean to leave him and who then would become responsible.

After a couple of months being secretly married, Great-grandpa Bloem asked my grandmother, “When are you going to marry that Herman Vander Well?” My grandmother told her father, “I already did,” and proceeded to tell him about their marriage in Ames months before. His reply: “Well then, get the hell out of my house!”

I love old family stories. They give us a glimpse into the people and the systemic family dynamics that were the foundation for what we experienced as children. They provide context for our own lives.

In today’s chapter we learn that the story of Ruth and Boaz is the story of King David’s great-grandparents. This story is David’s family story that I’m sure he heard told as a child. Once David became king and the great monarch of a unified Israel, I’m sure that interest in his family and in the fascinating story of Ruth grew. It was eventually written down. We’ve seen in recent weeks how interest in the affairs of Royals capture the attention of the masses as Queen Elizabeth II’s great-grandson was born.

Today, I’m thinking about Ruth and Boaz and their story. I’m thinking about my own life story. How might it resonate with and impact the generations that, God willing, might follow after me? I’m thinking about the fact that just as my Grandparents coming of age in the Depression helped shape my own life experience, how might my life and times shape the experience of my own grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

Striving and Awareness

Ruth, Naomi and Obed. Pen and brown ink over p...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for.  Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. Now do as I tell you—  Ruth 3:1-3a (NLT)

As I read through the story of Ruth, there is no doubt that something was clearly happening between Ruth and Boaz. Ruth chooses to gather from Boaz’ fields. Boaz shows Ruth kindness and Ruth finds herself returning to join Boaz’ harvest each day. I find it fascinating that Naomi saw what was happening. Perhaps it was simply an old Jewish lady seeing that Boaz had the hots for Ruth and taking a chance to play matchmaker, but I believe that Naomi was a wise woman. She was aware, and she discerned that this was a specific moment in which God’s hand was moving in their lives.

Over the past several years Wendy and I have experienced the pain and frustration of striving to make things happen in life only to be disappointed time and time again. We have also, even in recent weeks, experienced being aware that God’s hand is moving and discerning that things are happening as a part of God’s great story.

This morning I am contemplating the places of life in which I am striving, and the places in life in which I am aware things are happening. God, grant me the wisdom to know when to strive, and when to stop striving. Grant me the awareness to sense when you are moving – to discern my role and to play my part well.

Charitable Work

English: Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 2:2-20) Русский: ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”
Ruth 2:5-6 (NLT)

Part of the story behind the story in today’s chapter is an ancient practice of charity. In the days before a central government and welfare, the society itself had to find a way to provide for the poor. In keeping with God’s laws, Farmers would leave part of their crop unharvested, or would allow the poor to follow behind the harvesters and pick up grain that was missed. Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, both being widows, had no choice but to depend on this charity. Ruth followed behind the harvesters Boaz sent into the fields and gathered the scraps they left behind.

I am largely of Dutch heritage, and I sometimes think that “the Protestant work ethic” is knit into my DNA. There is honor in working hard. If you work hard as though God is your employer, you will be blessed. That’s what I’ve been taught since I was young along with being reminded of another simple teaching from God’s Message: “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

I find it interesting at how this simple principle was put into practice in ancient days. There was no entitlement. Ruth and Naomi had a recourse to get food, but it required labor and Ruth was working hard to provide for herself and her mother-in-law not realizing that she was about to be blessed in unexpected ways.