Tag Archives: Construction

Edifice Complex

drawer pulls 1

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide,and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.

Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
Daniel 3:1, 4-6 (NIV)

When I was a kid growing up in Des Moines the tallest building on the skyline of our city was the Ruan building. “In rust we trust,” was the phrase I heard muttered by locals back in the day, inspired by the rusted steel skyscraper. Then, The Principal company built their even taller marble and glass skyscraper at 801 Grand. I will never forget that, as the new Principal building was completed, Mr. Ruan held a press conference to announce plans for a new building that would be even taller (it never happened). I believe that’s what is colloquially referred to as an “edifice complex.”

Last night I kicked off a Wednesday night class in which we’re exploring how God uses metaphor (something that represents something else without using “like” or “as”) to effectively express Himself and communicate Truth. We are also pushing into how we express ourselves metaphorically and how we can use metaphor to become better communicators. My assignment to the class in this first week was to look for metaphors in our daily life and bring one example back to class to share. One of my class-mates asked me for an example.

Wendy and I are in the final weeks of watching our house being completed, and yesterday I spent an inordinate amount of time contemplating knobs. We had to pick out the drawer and cabinet pulls for every room in the house. Talk about much ado about nothing. It was not an enjoyable process for me. Nevertheless, as I considered the endless options and how we were ever going to decide, I came back to some guiding principles that have emerged as we have designed our new residence.

“Clean, simple lines” is the phrase that always comes to my mind. From the start we have wanted our house to have a peaceful yet beautiful simplicity that invites people in to rest, to dine, to drink, to converse, and to comfortably be. So, I found myself looking for knobs that were simple, with clean lines and yet beautiful in their simplicity. That’s metaphor. The knobs we chose are an expression of the environment we desire our home to be. If we had chosen solid gold decorative knobs encrusted with gems and inlaid painted ceramic highlights we would have been expressing something much different with our choice.

nebuchadnezzars statueThose knobs came to mind again this morning as I read about Nebuchadnezzar’s great statue. How fascinating that in just the previous chapter King Neb has a dream about a statue and Daniel interprets that God is eventually going to replace Neb’s kingdoms with other kingdoms culminating in an eternal one. Now, the king builds a real statue and tells everyone to worship it. Why? Because he can. The statue of his dream and its interpretation rattled his pride, ego, and false sense of power and security. He responds by creating his own statue and making everyone bow and worship it in order to shore up the cracks in his fragile ego. The statue on the plain of Dura expresses is his own version of an edifice complex and becomes a metaphor expressing both his ego, power, as well as his fear and insecurity.

Today, I’m thinking about the edifice that Wendy and I are building out on the edge of town. I’m praying that it will express what we have talked about and intended all along: invitation, warmth, beauty, cozy hospitality, creativity, peace, and love.

House Project Update

The most common question I get these days is, “How’s the house coming?” So, I thought I might as well fill everybody in. After the long holiday hiatus, work on the interior has been progressing fast and furious. The 2nd level and lower level have cabinets installed, trim installed, and trim painted. Trim is currently going on the main level along with finish work on the mantel and shelving/coat racks in the mudroom and front entry.

My dad made us a gorgeous stained-glass piece that will hang in the transom above the kitchen/dining room entryway. We were ecstatic to see that get set in place. It’s not trimmed out, but it’s going to be beautiful. Sorry, no pictures. We’ll wait until it’s framed out and finished!

Wendy and I can feel the pace picking up. Details, details, details are the daily grind as we move quickly toward the February 28 move in date we’ve been given.

Under Construction

Speaking of the house we’re building, we’ve had a lot of friends and family asking how it’s going. The framing is in full swing and last Friday the trusses began going up. In the next few weeks it will be completely framed and enclosed. It’s been fun to watch it going up. I’ll admit that there’s hardly a day that goes by that I’m not driving by to see how it’s going.

Wendy and I have been working around the clock to get our house ready to sell. Got a call from a realtor yesterday who has a couple leaving town today and wanting to see our house before they leave. While we’re not really ready, we scrambled late last night to make things presentable. So, here we go.

I’m still finishing out the website I put together for our house. I’ve been taking pictures and adding them as we clean and get rooms ready to show. Here’s the link:



Foundational Inscriptions

2010 03 Playhouse BasementUnless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Psalm 127:1a (NIV)

When I was a teenager my parents began making regular summer visits to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. When I was just out of college and the girls were babies, my folks would rent a house for a week or so each summer and invite the family to join them there. I can remember taking long sunset boat rides during those years. Dad would gun the engine and we would jet off across the water. Conversation was nigh unto impossible, so I would sit in the bow of the boat just dream. I would day dream of owning my own place on the lake someday, though at the time I considered it a pipe dream.

By the time the girls were in elementary school my parents had bought a small trailer home on a lakeshore plot there. Just over a decade later they were ready to sell, and Wendy and I were in a position of investing in the place. What had only been a pipe-dream a decade or two before was actually becoming a reality. We pulled the trailer home off the land, had a walk out basement foundation poured and put a manufactured home on the foundation. In the spring of 2010, a group of friends gathered in the bare basement to begin a summer long task of finishing it.

The first morning of construction I gathered the guys together and handed them each a black Sharpie. With the above verse fresh on my mind, I asked each of them to pray for the place, to pick a verse from God’s Message and to write it somewhere on the bare cement foundation. The verses they each wrote on the walls are covered over with insulation, framing, and drywall, but we will never forget what is written there.

Next weekend I’m taking a small group of guys for a little winter retreat at the lake. In another month or so Wendy and I will begin making regular trips down to prepare for another season of family, friends, fun, rest, relaxation and sun. It’s become a part of the seasonal flow of life for us. I don’t know about Wendy, but I still shake my head with wonder from time to time. We have been blessed, and I don’t want to lose sight of the source of our blessings nor cease to forget what is written on the foundation. I want the love, laughter, tears, and conversations which take place in that house to have eternal value. I never want our labor to have been in vain.

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Bricks and Mortar

English: Cornerstone from first Naponee, Nebra...
English: Cornerstone from first Naponee, Nebraska school, dated 1936. The brick structure containing the cornerstone holds the school bell. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
Psalm 118:22 (NIV)

When constructing a building made of bricks and mortar, the cornerstone is the most important brick of the entire building. The cornerstone is the first brick placed on the foundation. All other stones are placed in reference to the cornerstone and the placement of the entire structure is derived from the position of the cornerstone. Since ancient times, the cornerstone has had metaphorical resonance in multiple ways.

We build our lives day-by-day. Our thoughts, words and actions are bricks with which we give structure to our lives which others see and which influence those around us. In the end, the whole becomes a legacy of who we were. Every brick in the structure of our lives is derived from a cornerstone. If my cornerstone is self, then my life will reflect my own self-centered desires and intentions. If I choose to place Jesus as the cornerstone of my life, then my thoughts, words, and actions will ultimately reflect the cornerstone from which their placement is ultimately derived.

This morning, as I prepare to spend a week on the road serving clients, I am thinking about the thoughts, words, and actions with which I will serve, and coach, and consult, and train this week. I think about the thoughts, words, and actions with which I will interact with my employees and team members. I think about the thoughts, words, and actions with which I will interact with family and friends from afar. What will they say about cornerstone I have chosen for the placement my life?

An additional thought:


The lyric above, from an ancient songwriter, became an important prophecy to Jesus and his followers. Jesus quoted it in reference to Himself. Peter quoted it when giving testimony in front of the religious leaders. Both Peter and Paul quoted it in their letters. I love the on-going theme in God’s story in which God uses the rejected, the broken, the youngest, the least, the overlooked, and the weak to accomplish His special purposes.

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Building Projects

blueprintBut you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith….
Jude 1:20a (NLT)

For over a year, Wendy and I have been dreaming and scheming to make some major renovations here at Vander Well Manor. Our little brick tudor is a cute old house and we love it. However, the garage is rotting, the wiring and plumbing are ancient, and the boiler appears to have been installed sometime during the Roosevelt Administration. We realize that it is going to take a fair amount of work to bring our house into the 21st century and make some desired improvements. Over the months we’ve been working with an architect to plan the changes we want. Now we’re in the stages of figuring out just how much it’s going to take and cost. To be honest, at times it seems overwhelming.

Building something, and doing it right, is not an easy task nor is it a simple one. It requires planning, thought, investment, and a lot of hard work. In the end there is a cost, and when you’re doing renovation work there is always the question as to whether the resulting outcomes will be worth all of the cost in the end.

So it is with building people. God’s Message tells us that we are to “build one another up.” This, too, does not happen without planning, thought, investment, and a lot of hard work. There is always the question whether your hard work will have been a worthwhile investment. Yet, we are not told to consider the outcome nor is it in our control. Building up other people is simply part of the job description for those who follow Jesus. To be honest, at times it seems overwhelming.

This morning I am reminded that building up a home and building up people have many similarities. There is, however, one major difference. If we succeed in building up our home it will result in some nice and needed improvements, but the house will simply need more renovation in another forty or fifty years. If we succeed in building up people it can have eternal results.

God, help me be a people builder.

Easter 2012

Panorama of our basement walls covered in protective waterproof sheeting. Sump pump can be seen along with edge of a pile of our stuff on the left.

I feel like I haven’t posted much but my chapter-a-day for a while. To be honest, it’s been a little crazy around the Vander Well household. We’re experiencing the busiest season of work we’ve had in several years (that’s a good thing) and trying to keep up. We were crazy busy with the play. And then, a construction crew showed up to accomplish a long due project of waterproofing our basement which necessitated us moving everything in our basement into piles in the center of the room, taking anything off the exterior walls (like paneling, insulation, etc. Last week was phase one and it went really well, but now we have everything in piles that has to be put back, and our entire house is covered in a thin layer of concrete dust from the jack hammering and cement pouring, etc. More of that to come in two weeks when phase two shores up the foundation.

Easter Worship from my camera perch at the back of the sanctuary.

Easter services at our church were great. Wendy and I once again helped out on the tech crew. Easter worship at our church is actually a bit of a technological challenge. We have people in two different rooms. Half the worship band is on one stage in the sanctuary and the other half of the band is on the stage in the auditorium on the other side of the building. So, from my camera in the sanctuary I could hear the lead guitar and bass player, but they were actually playing from another room. The rhythm guitar and keyboard were on stage in front of me, but the folks in the auditorium couldn’t see them other than the video feeds going back and forth. Everything is simulcast between the two rooms. For anybody who’s an audio-video geek it’s a pretty cool thing to be part of and it makes for an interesting experience to pull it off.

L-R: Clay, Tay, Emma, Wendy, Jody, Scott, Grandpa Dean, Grandma Jeanne

After worship Wendy and I headed to Des Moines for Easter dinner with my family. It was blissfully low key feast this year. Tay and Clay were there, though we missed Maddy Kate. We got to see her when I called her with FaceTime and she got to see everyone. She got a little taste of home by having Easter dinner with Brett and Micki Strait and the Diehls who just moved to Colorado Springs from Pella. It was nephew Sol’s birthday, so a little birthday cake and pie were in order after dinner.

In the evening we headed downtown to celebrate two more birthdays. Wendy’s friends Shay and Sarah are both celebrating birthdays so we gathered with friends at Django for a wonderful meal and conversation.

It was a wonderful Easter Sunday. The tulips here in Pella are in full bloom about a month earlier than normal. The cloudless, perfect sunny Easter Sunday could not have been more beautiful.

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 46

Under construction
Image via Wikipedia

“No, I’m not finished with you yet.” Jeremiah 46:28 (MSG)

I am bankrupt both financially and spiritually.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
I am utterly alone. There’s no one to help me.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
My dream lies in fractured pieces around my feet.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
I did it….again. I’m such a wretch.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
I’m always a finalist, but I never get the job.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
Old age is upon me. My body is wasting away.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
My every attempt to have children is a miscarriage.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
My body is wracked by incurable disease.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
I am nobody, nothing, going nowhere.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
My life counts for nothing. I’m a squirrel in a spinning wheel.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”


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Chapter-a-Day Amos 7

hang plumb
Image by suttonhoo via Flickr

God said to me, “What do you see, Amos?”
I said, “A plumb line.”
Amos 7:8 (MSG)

Having been through a sizeable construction project in the last twelve months, I’m very familiar with levels, plumb lines, and chalk marks. When you’re raising walls, dropping a ceiling or hanging a door, you better make sure things are good and level. If you’re just a half-bubble off plumb in one spot, you’re going to have a whole mess of problems down the line. And when things get out of plumb, it takes a great work to get things back on the level. Either that, or you tear everything down, throw it out, and start from scratch.

A plumb line tells you how you measure up, and whenever God pulled out His plumb line in the days of Amos, it was not a good thing for those being measured. It generally meant that things were getting ready to be torn out and scrapped.

God’s Message is clear. In and of ourselves, there is no one who measures up to God’s exacting standards. We all start life a half-bubble off plumb, and if we’re not careful our lives end up entirely out of balance from God’s master blueprint.

When life gets crooked, unbalanced, and out of whack, just remember that Jesus was a carpenter by trade. Through His great work, the work of Life’s master carpenter, our out-of-balance lives can be brought back even with God’s plumb line.

You just have to turn the entire project over and let Him be the foreman.

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Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 14

2010 05 03 Playhouse Construction Weekend 005 God answered, “This time don’t attack head-on; circle around and come at them out of the balsam grove. When you hear a sound like shuffling feet in the tops of the balsams, attack; God will be two steps ahead of you….” 1 Chronicles 14:14b-15a (MSG)

We just finished a(nother) weekend of construction on the lower level of our playhouse at the lake. We had a stellar crew helping us with doors, flooring, and electrical work. I am, admittedly, not a real do-it-yourself guy. I can do some basics with a hammer and screwdriver, but I’m pretty clueless when it comes to some of the intricacies of construction.

One of the blessings of this project has been having family and friends who know what they are doing helping out. As we’ve worked on this project, I have often come to a point in the project where I’m perplexed. Many times I’ve gone to my dad or one of my knowledgeable friends with a question and have heard in response, “Yeah, I noticed that and I’ve been thinking about it. I think what we need to do is….” It’s been amazing to have people two steps ahead of me, looking out for my best interest and sharing their wisdom.

Daily taking time to seek God’s guidance and wisdom in the perplexing steps my journey, there is something comforting in the knowledge that He is two steps ahead of me, looking out for my best interest, and willing to guide me.