ArtFest Weekend

Enjoyed art, dinner, and wine with these good ...
Enjoyed art, dinner, and wine with these good friends tonight! via tomvwell

It has been raining A LOT around here of late. Wendy emptied our rain gauge yesterday which had 5 1/2 inches of water in it. There’s a couple of more inches in it this morning. Ugh.


Rain put kind of a damper on the Des Moines Art Festival this weekend. Wendy and I usually find ourselves at the lake on the DMAF weekend, so we were kind of excited to be in town for it until the rains threatened to ruin the afternoon. We arrived in Des Moines Saturday morning and met Taylor at Gateway Market for lunch. She was on her way to volunteer at one of the beer tents for the afternoon.

We ran a few errands and met Kev and Beck at their house. By the time we were ready to head downtown the rain was imminent, so we chose to go to “The Other Art Show” at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. It’s inside the Varied Industries Building, so we figured we could enjoy the art without getting wet. It was a good choice.

We spent a couple of hours wandering the art show. Here are a few of our favorite artists from the show. There could be so many more, but this is a diverse list among our favs:

It was pouring rain by the time we were ready to go. We headed to P.F. Chang’s for dinner and made a stop at Vintage Wine & Spirits for an after dinner glass of wine and a cigar on the patio. We ended up back at Kev and Beck’s for a night cap before heading back to Pella.

Suzanna was up and ready to talk when we got home, so late night conversation in the kitchen ensued until way too late.

Yesterday morning I delivered the morning message on in the auditorium services at Third Church. It went really well. Message should be on the Third website by mid-week. I’ll post a link when it is. We returned home to work and prepare for our departure to the lake for a few weeks.




Perspective in Victory

david victorius

King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold he had taken from all these nations: Edom and Moab, the Ammonites and the Philistines, and Amalek. 1 Chronicles 18:11 (NIV)

It was very common for rulers in ancient times to declare themselves “God” and to force people to worship them. Egyptian Pharaohs were the first to do it and did so from as early as 3000 B.C. until around the time of Christ. Naram-Sim was the first Mesopotamian ruler to do it (2255 B.C.). We read in the book of Daniel about Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon demanding to be worshipped in the dramatic fashion (Daniel 3). The trend continued through history around the globe with Roman emperors, Chinese emperors, and Inca emperors all being worshipped as God.

In today’s chapter, David stands in stark contrast to his contemporaries. Instead of making himself into a god, he humbles himself before the one true God. Instead of taking the glory of victory for himself, he attributes his victories and fortune to the blessings of God. The spoils of war are offered and dedicated to the God. Several of his psalms were songs of victory dedicated to God (Psalm 20).

When things are going well, life seems to be going our way, and life’s victories pile up, it’s easy to feel good about ourselves. David provides a good example of the power of humility, faith, and praise to keep us from pride that, we are told elsewhere in God’s Message, “comes before a fall.”

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Responding (Not Reacting) When the Answer is “No”

9731139389_f244ca7b9c_z“And now, Lord, let the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house be established forever. Do as you promised.” 1 Chronicles 17:23 (NIV)

When I was coming into my teen years, I remember observing exchanges between my peers and their parents. My friend would ask for permission to go here or there to do this or that. The parent would say “no.” My friend would blow up and start arguing. The parent would dig his or her heels in and the argument would escalate. In the end, my friend would  never have won the argument, the parent would be even more pissed off and distrustful of their child than they were before, and nothing of any positive value resulted from the argument.

Mulling this over in my mind for a while, I made a decision not to argue with my parents. If they said “no,” when I asked for something I would not argue, complain, roll my eyes, throw a tantrum, or indicate that I was angry in any way. I would simply respond “okay,” and walk away. It was a conscious choice not to react to my natural emotions but to willfully respond in a predetermined way. Sometimes I would walk to my room, shut the door and vent my frustration in private, but I vowed not to let my parents see me rattled. I’m sure I didn’t have a perfect record with my willful compliance, but I did pretty well.

I remember the first couple of times I did this I could see my mother brace for an argument and the surprise when I simply said “okay.” I could imagine her confusion and wonder, thinking “Wow, what’s up with him?” as I walked away. In the end, I think my strategy had a positive effect in a handful of ways. Things were more harmonious at home without the arguments. Because there was less escalation of arguments there was less of the regular punishments that came from yelling or being defiant with my parents. While I can’t quantify it, I also think my parents became more likely to say “yes” when I asked permission because of the way I handled their “no.”

I thought about that this morning as I read of David asking God to let him build a permanent temple in Jerusalem to replace the tent (or tabernacle) that the nation had used for centuries since the time of their wandering under Moses. David’s response was “Okay.” He didn’t throw a fit. He didn’t get angry. He didn’t rebel. He praised God, he thanked God for blessing him in so many ways, and he went along with the plan.

Today, I’m thinking about my own attitude and response to God when things don’t go my way. I think that perhaps I sometimes act as if I have forgotten the lesson I learned in my youth. I wonder if I’m a more petulant child with my Heavenly Father as an adult than I was with my earthly parents as a child.

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Five Ways I Try to Bless My Family

IMG_7694Then all the people left, each for their own home, and David returned home to bless his family. 1 Chronicles 16:43 (NIV)

This little verse at the end of today’s chapter hit me like a ton of bricks this morning. David intentionally went home to “bless his family.” It’s a simple truth: I can be a blessing to my family, I can be a curse to my family, or I can be a non-factor. Which I will be is determined by my daily life, words, actions and decisions. I have found through experience that being a blessing to your family does not happen without intention.

I am really imperfect as a husband and father, but I do approach the roles with conscious intention and effort. Here are a five ways I consciously try to bless my family:

  • Keep my own spiritual life healthy. It starts with me. If things aren’t right in my own heart and life, I will not have the spiritual reserves to pour out to my loved ones.
  • Be considerate. This one is perhaps one that requires a lot of conscious mental effort for me. It’s as small and simple as taking a second to see if they need anything when I get up to refill my own glass. I’m a dreamer and a thinker. I get tunnel vision very easily, get lost in my own world, and forget to think about anyone else. I’ve learned that being a blessing to my family requires me to constantly and consciously cut through the fog of my own self-centric thoughts to consider, in the moment, what my family member needs and wants.
  • Speak words of love, gratitude and affirmation. Along the way I have come to realize just how important it is that my family hear me actually say what I feel and mean. How simple is it to say a few little words that go a long way:
    • I love you.
    • You look good. That looks good on you. You look beautiful
    • Well done.
    • Good job. I’m proud of you.
    • Thank you for _________ (dinner, doing the laundry, taking good care of me)
  • Serve them with a willing heart. One of the customer service skills that I’ve taught for years is an “ownership statement.” It’s one thing to do what the customer asks, but it makes an even stronger impression on the customer when you say, “Absolutely! I can do that for you.” I’ve always tried to make it a point with my family when asked to do something to respond “I’d be happy to do that for you.” Serving my loved ones is not a burden, it’s a blessing.
  • Send postcards. When I was in college and away from home for the first time, I learned the utter joy that comes with going to your mail box and finding a personal letter or postcard from a friend or family member. Realizing that my friend or loved one had taken the time to write a personal note, find my address, put a stamp on it and put it in the mail to me, that postcard became a tangible symbol of love. Now that the girls are grown and out on their own, I still try to send the occasional hand written postcard or personal note via snail mail. E-mail is easy, but a postcard is a little blessing.

Blueprints, Planning, and Appreciation

Sewer LineIt was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that theLord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.” 1 Chronicles 15:13 (NIV)

For the past three months, Wendy and I have been working on plans to build a house.  We’d vigorously pursued a plan to renovate and update our existing home for the past few years. However, very much in the spirit of what I wrote in yesterday’s post, the answer to our prayers was not what we had anticipated. So, we suddenly find ourselves pouring over blueprints and contemplating an endless number of decisions regarding the most minute details.

When it comes to these types of projects, the stark differences between Wendy and me become readily apparent. Wendy’s brain works very logically and methodically. She is great with details, processes, plans, and methods. My brain works in imaginative, big picture vistas and doesn’t sweat the details. Within this contrast lies both our strength and our struggle.

Despite the conflicts that arise out of our differences, I have a real appreciation for the logic and details which stimulate Wendy’s brain, and I understand that when things are not done properly then bad, or at the very least frustrating, things can happen. When we planned the lower level of the house at the lake (which we finished ourselves with the help of family and friends), Wendy had the floor plan mapped out perfectly. The contractor didn’t read her plans carefully, however, and ran the sewer line in the wrong spot. We had to alter our plan and change the dimensions of the bathroom. To this day, we don’t walk in the bathroom on the lower level without noticing the wrong proportions.

Through the years I’ve come to realize and appreciate that God is the epitome of both the left brain and right brain that he designed into we humans who are “made in His image.” God is both artist and engineer. He creates in an endless stream of big picture imagination and, at the same time, designs things down to the sub-atomic level. There is a place, purpose, and a need for both.

In today’s chapter, David realizes that in his big picture idea of moving the Ark of the Covenant to his newly establish capitol of Jerusalem, he had missed the details God designed into the proper way the Ark was to be handled and moved. Realizing his mistake, David goes back to the drawing board and makes sure that everything would be done properly according to the detailed instructions God had laid out.

I can confidently say that my brain will never work like Wendy’s. I doubt there will ever be a time in which I will be excited and stimulated by planning processes and minute details. I can, however, confidently say that I’ve learned to appreciate and value those like Wendy who are wired that way. I appreciate that God reveals Himself to be intimately concerned with details. Sometimes, I am required to consciously adjust both my thoughts and my attitude accordingly.

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Asking and Seeking Daily

ch_davidso David inquired of God: “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” 1 Chronicles 14:10a (NIV)

Wendy and I spend a fair amount of time in conversation about our lives. We give consideration to where we’ve been, where we’re at, and where we’re going. In our prayers we ask for guidance and in our day we attempt to be mindful of seeking answers. We are sometimes surprised by the result.

In 2007, Wendy and I purchased my parents place on Lake of the Ozarks. It has been a special place for our family for many years. Wendy and I wanted to continue that legacy for the next generation. We prayed about building a new house on the property that would be large enough for larger gatherings of friends and family, and began making plans. By the spring of 2009 the plans were laid and we were ready to proceed with construction, but the great recession had hit the economy hard. The banks cinched up their purse strings. Timing and circumstance seemed to provide a resounding answer of “No” to our prayers for God’s blessing and provision for the project. Disappointed, we scuttled our plans and moved on.

Several months later, on a rainy October morning, I was driving to a meeting in Des Moines when my cell phone rang. It was a loan officer from New Century Bank in Belleville, Kansas and he said he’d received a loan proposal from our contractor at the lake. He liked what he saw, he said, and he was presenting it to the bank’s loan committee that afternoon. On the drive home from Des Moines that afternoon, my cell phone rang again. This time it was the bank President. “I’ve got your proposal for a construction loan to build a house on Lake of the Ozarks,” he said. “We’d like to loan you the money to make this happen!

Not believing what I was hearing, I mentioned the recession, the plummeting housing prices, and all the other excuses we’d heard from banks who’d found the proposal for a second home too risky amidst the worst economy since the Great Depression. “What happens if we get this house built and the housing prices have fallen to the place that it’s not worth what we need it to be worth?” I asked the bank’s president.

Well then,” he said without skipping a beat, “We’ll just have to live with each other for a while, won’t we?”

When I arrived home, I pulled up the website for this little bank in nowhere Kansas that I’d never heard of. I read:

The name New Century Bank is taken from the beginning of the first century AD from the event that changed the world, the birth of Jesus Christ. The star in our logo represents the Star of Bethlehem that announced the birth of Jesus. Faith gives us Life” What is faith?… It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see. (1) Conviction is Faith in the Present and Hope is Faith in the Future. Our Hope is for your life in the future and that of our Community. If we help you build your life our community will benefit. “It is through faith that a righteous person has life. Our purpose is to be an example of this Hope by standing for something greater than we are… by being a servant to you and the community. We can model our banking services with this purpose as well. Our emphasis is not on the banking product, but how it is delivered and how it benefits you. We offer hope for our customers through Faith Based Financial Counseling.

The loan papers were signed a few days later and construction began immediately.

One of the things that marked David as a “man after God’s own heart” was the fact that he was constantly mindful of God in his decisions and actions. In David’s day it was common for kings and rulers to claim themselves to be gods and make their people worship them. David was the antithesis of that. He lived by a different set of rules. While not perfect, David consistently humbled himself and sought God’s guidance and blessing.

Wendy and I have tried to emulate that spirit in our own lives. The story I’ve just shared is an example of how God can dramatically provide the answer we sought after. The truth is that often the answers don’t make themselves so readily apparent. Sometimes we are left waiting for an answer that never seems to come. Other times the answer is not at all what we wanted or wished for, and that creates intense internal struggles.

We still keep seeking. We still keep asking. We still keep trusting.

That’s what faith is all about.

Faith and Praise: David’s Personal Relationship With God

David bearing the ark of testament into Jerusalem
David bearing the ark of testament into Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets. 1 Chronicles 13:8 (NIV)

For the better part of this year, we’ve been journeying through the story of David and before that the psalms which are ancient song lyrics attributed largely to David. In a bit of synchronicity, the group of believers with whom Wendy and I worship on Sunday mornings are starting a series of messages on the life of David next week. It flows out of a five week series in which we’ve been looking at the “chain reaction of praise,” and I’ve been asked to give the lead off message of the series.

The connection between the two series is the fact that, no matter the circumstances, David was a man of praise and faith. David the hero, David the warrior, David the outlaw, David the sinner, David the King, David the victim — no matter which part of David’s life you study you find him seeking God, praising God, crying to God, and consulting God. You can almost always find a psalm that corresponds to a particular episode in David’s life. Throughout his long journey David was always translating his daily life experiences into songs, poems, and prayers of faith and praise.

I thought about that as I read this morning of David the King who was not embarrassed nor ashamed to worship and dance “with all his might” before God and the ark of the covenant. He was not concerned with what it might look like to others. He was not worried about looking cool, kingly, and above it all. He was not one to order others to do his praising for him. For David, his relationship with God was not just “a part of the job.” David’s relationship with God was personal from the time he was a boy until he was uttering his last words on his death bed.

Today, I’m thinking about my own life and David’s example. I don’t want my faith and praise to be a compartment of my life which I take out on Sunday morning and sundry, appropriate occasions. I don’t want my faith to fit neatly into others sense of propriety. I want my praise to be with “all my might” and my relationship to be intensely personal each and every day of my life.

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Joy of the Dance

2014 06 13 Kennedy Roose Dance 035 (1)

Wendy, Taylor, and I had the pleasure of attending our friend, Kennedy’s, dance recital. We were in the back of the auditorium so I was forced to shoot with my 300mm telephoto lens which is never ideal. Nevertheless, I was able to capture a few shots that made me happy. This is, perhaps, my favorite. The girls in their classic ballet costumes reminded me of a Degas painting. I was struck all evening, as I zeroed in on Kennedy, just how joyful she was in each dance. I thought this pose of Kennedy’s captured it beautifully. Watching Kennedy grow up and knowing her heart, I felt that her eyes at this moment were lifted heavenward to the Lord of the Dance, whom had to be pleased with His young dancer.



Natural Born Leaders

Davids armyDay after day men came to help David, until he had a great army, like the army of God.
1 Chronicles 12:22 (NIV)

Ever since I was elected captain of safety patrol for Woodlawn Elementary School in sixth grade, I have found myself in positions of leadership, of one kind or another, pretty much my entire life. I have experienced being a leader, and I have lived and worked under many different leaders in business, church, organizations, and community. I would rate myself a capable leader, but not a great leader. I am painfully aware of my own human flaws and shortcomings.

There is a certain leadership trait I have seen at work in many individuals which I find hard to quantify. I think it’s what people mean when they call someone a “natural born leader.” It can be applied to good leaders who serve groups, peoples, and nations to the betterment of all. It can also be applied to leaders whom others will follow to evil and destructive ends. Great responsibility is placed on any leader who finds that others will follow him or her.

I believe David was a natural born leader. We see it throughout his story, but especially in today’s chapter as the scribe chronicles the names of the soldiers from every tribe who joined David in his wilderness stronghold. Given a choice between the manic mental issues of King Saul (who had originally been the peoples choice based on the fact that he was tall and looked the part) and the rugged, successful young general (who was God’s choice based on the condition of David’s heart) the soldiers threw their lot in with David. His path to the throne was planned by God, but was clearly paved by his army. David controlled the loyalty and will of the nations warriors, Saul’s family was largely decimated, and there was no one left to contend for the throne.

Today, I’m thinking about leadership. I’m thinking about the things I admire and respect in leaders and reevaluating my own leadership roles in family, business, church, and community. I desire to be responsible and accountable in the leadership roles I have been given – and I have a long way to go.

Small Detail; Big Implication

The Uriah Letter
The mighty men were…

…Uriah the Hittite
1 Chronicles 11:26a;41a (NIV)

Great stories, both real and fiction, are layered with complexities and meaning. As both a reader and a writer, I am always fascinated and inspired with small details that add meaning to the overall story.

Weeks ago we read the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), in which David sleeps with the next door neighbor he’d been voyeuristically watching from his roof. She became pregnant and, to cover up his sin, David conspires to have her husband killed so that he can marry her. Her husband was Uriah, the Hittite. In today’s chapter we come across a small detail that adds layers of complexity to the story. Uriah’s name is listed in the roles of David’s “Mighty Men,” a group of elite special forces. Think about it: Uriah wasn’t just come random, no name infantryman. Uriah was one of David’s most trusted warriors and a member of “The Thirty.” When David arranged to have Uriah killed, it was a man he knew and with whom David had fought battles side-byside. Uriah was one of the best of the best, and a man in whom David entrusted his life. Killing Uriah wasn’t just a king using his power to whack some nameless peasant. Killing Uriah was a personal and professional betrayal in the most heinous sense. This is Judas’ kiss. This is Michael and Fredo. This is Iago and Othello.

I love that a little factual nugget buried in a “boring” chapter of lists can spark my imagination to contemplate so many additional layers of complexity to a story I thought I knew so well. No wonder Uriah lived in a building next to David’s palace. As a member of “The Thirty” he was the king’s body guard. David wrote orders to his commander-in-chief, Joab, to have Uriah killed and then sent it with Uriah back to the front line (talk about a Hollywood moment). This was probably a common. As a member of David’s body guard, Uriah was likely used to carrying messages. I also wonder if David’s orders created an erosion of respect from General Joab. There is a camaraderie among soldiers that is even tighter among special forces. Having Uriah killed would not have been popular move among his men. David’s mistake with Bathsheba was tragic failure on multiple levels.

Today, I’m thinking about how life imitates art and art imitates life. I’m thinking about David’s epic failure in light of my own epic failures. I’m enjoying thinking new and fresh about an old story I’ve known for years, and what that means to both the story and its meaning for me.