Tag Archives: Des Moines

Jesus and the Religious Rule Keepers

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
Mark 2:27 (NIV)

As a child, I did a lot of walking and playing outdoors with the kids in my neighborhood. The neighborhood around the 3100 block of Madison Avenue was pretty much a virtual playground for us. I still remember who lived in most of the houses on our block and several of the houses on the blocks around us. We knew all of the “shortcuts” between garages, through fences, and how to quickly both get to other places and to disappear in need. We also knew the quickest routes, by foot or bike, to the woods, creeks, and green spaces that surrounded our neighborhood.

As we would play tag, hide-and-seek, or walk to the woods, I can remember nonchalantly playing with whatever plant I happened to walk over or past. Dandelions could be turned into a woven bracelet, and their dead blooms could be blown to the wind as a natural form of confetti. The leaves from corn plants in people’s backyard gardens could be held tightly between your thumbs like a diaphragm and made to make the most unusual noises when you blew through the hole between your thumbs. Of course, apples, cherries, and other fruit could be picked as you walked by for a quick snack. If you could spot one, a four-leaf clover was always a must-grab for luck in our next game of Freeze Tag, T.V. Tag, or Kick-the-Can.

What struck me in today’s chapter was the fact that, as Jesus and his followers were walking, “they began to pick some heads of grain.” Of course, they did. They were no different than me and my neighborhood friends as we walked through a neighbor’s yard. If you’re on a walk and you walk through a field your hands naturally reach out and caress the heads of grain to feel the softness across your hand. Your hand unconsciously closes around one and your fingers rub the grain loose from the head. You let the chaff fall from your palm or blow it like the natural confetti of a dandelion. You pop a grain into your mouth without thinking much of it. I learned as a child that interacting with creation as you walk through it is as natural as breathing.

How silly, then, that the religious people of Jesus’ day thought the natural act of picking heads of grain to be breaking “the Sabbath.” The “Sabbath” day was simply a day of rest each week. It follows God’s example in the creation poem in Genesis. God creates the universe in six days and then takes a day off. God later told His people in the Ten Commandments: “Do just like I did. Work six days, but make sure you take a day off, a sabbath.” The rule was meant to help perpetuate a healthy life. I need sleep each day. I need a day off each week. I need a few weeks of vacation each year. It’s part of the healthy physical rhythm that promotes mental and spiritual health, as well.

Along my life journey, one of the things I’ve observed is that religion likes to translate spiritual principles into strict, prescriptive rules of behavior. I remember one Bible college a friend of mine considered attending desired that their students stay sexually pure, so the rule was that if a member of the opposite sex is sitting in a chair and vacates it you must allow time for the chair to cool from that person’s body heat before you sit in it. I wish I was making that up. Without the rule, I would have never even thought about residual female body heat on a classroom chair. The legalistic rule intended to keep me “pure” actually ends up creating the illicit thoughts it was intended to prevent. The religious rules intended to ensure that I keep the spiritual principle actually become more perverse than the sin it’s trying to keep away from. It’s a perfect illustration of what Paul told the followers of Jesus in Rome in his letter to them:

The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of “forbidden fruit” out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me.

Read Romans 7:8-12 (MSG)

So, let me come back to today’s chapter. Jesus and the disciples walking through a field casually picking off a head of grain. The legalistic, religious rule keepers confront Jesus and point to the behavioral rules they’ve manufactured to give clarity to the earlier code of conduct which was born out of the one rule God gave them in the Ten Commandments in order to adhere to a spiritual principle of making sure you get some rest and stay healthy.

Jesus, in reply to the religious rule enforcers, simply points out an exception to the rule that those same legalistic rule enforcers chose to ignore (e.g. “You’re condemning me for doing the same that King David and his men did, but I don’t hear you condemning him.”) Jesus then cuts to the heart of the matter: the Sabbath was made as a principle of rest to help give you have a good life and keeping your heart, mind, and body healthy.

In the quiet this morning I find myself thinking of all the ways I once adhered to religious legalism. I confess, there was so much about what Jesus was teaching and getting at that I didn’t get at all. But, that was my journey. I had to walk through those stretches in order to learn, fail, struggle, persevere, grow, and mature in my own heart and mind. As the old hymn says: I was blind, but now I see. I have come to perceive that I, as a religious person, can be more spiritually blind than the “sinner” I believe that I am trying to save.

In this season of Lent, as I walk towards the annual memorial of Jesus’ death and celebration of His resurrection, I can’t help but think of the confessed thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus. The confessed sinner went with Jesus to paradise while the religious rule-keepers, who condemned and had Jesus executed, stood there hurling insults and condemnation at Him. They were blind, as I once was. Even Jesus said in those moments as he looked down at his executioners and the good religious rule-keepers condemning him: “Father, forgive them. They have no idea what they’re doing.”

I’m left thinking that this wayfaring stranger would rather hang on a cross, a confessed sinner next to Jesus, than religiously stand in condemnation of others for their breaking of the rules that were addendums to the previous code of conduct, which were additions to the one ancient rule, which was originally intended as a principle to spiritually guide people to Life.

I think I’ll go for a walk today. No dandelions out yet to blow to the wind, but I can pick a few leaves, and just maybe a four-leaf clover.

Anyone up for a game of kick-the-can?

All of Tom’s chapter-a-day posts from Mark are compiled in a simple visual index for you.

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The Latest: Kick-Off to a Chaotic Season

Wendy and I knew that we were entering into a fall and winter 2019-2020 that was going to be jam packed with events and travel. We didn’t plan it that way. It just sort of evolved. So, we’re embracing it.

We considered last weekend the kick-off of the chaos. Long ago we’d planned a Twin Cities getaway. It just so happened that the Twins and Vikings had home games on the same weekend. Wendy and I got a hotel in between Target Field and U.S. Bank Stadium.

Friday night was unseasonably hot and humid as we trekked about a mile to Target Field. We had seats right behind home plate and found ourselves surrounded by professional baseball scouts with their stopwatches and clipboards. We had a fun evening watching the Twins beat the Royals.

Saturday was a day of simply being together. We walked about a mile to have a wonderful breakfast at Eggsy, then trekked back to the hotel where we hung out and watched the Iowa State football game. We dressed to the nines in the late afternoon and took an Uber to the Red Cow for dinner. There was a gorgeous, cool breeze and we walked back to the hotel, stopping at Finnegan’s Brewery for a pint.

Sunday morning we headed to the “mother ship,” U.S. Bank Stadium, and really enjoyed watching the Vikings beat the Raiders. It was a really fun getaway to launch a busy season.


Earlier this year we’d heard about an occasional event at one of Des Moines’ breweries, the Foundry, called “Hymns at the Hall.” We put it on our calendar to attend the next one, which was this past Thursday. We joined our friends, Kev and Beck, and ordered some food truck pizza for dinner as we waited for the festivities to begin. We didn’t realize that one of the organizers of the event is a good friend of Taylor and Clayton’s, and we ran into some of the kids’ peeps which was a lot of fun. A very festive evening of singing great hymns and enjoying some great craft brews.


Last night was our community theatre’s annual Awards Night. Last year Wendy was inducted to Union Street Players Walk of Fame. This year it was my turn. We were surrounded by our friends and I was given a wonderful, honoring introduction by Doug DeWolf. It was a really fun evening with our theatre community. Lots of laughter and reliving memories. I was both humbled and honored. We retired to the Vander Well Pub afterwards for some enjoyable conversation.

Belated Birthday Boys’ Day Out

My friend, Kevin, and I have April birthdays. His is before mine. This year I told him, “For your birthday I want to treat you to a boys’ night at the Iowa Cubs.” On my birthday he told me, “For your birthday I want to treat you to a boys’ pub crawl in downtown Des Moines.” Why not kill two birthday birds with one stone?

It took three months to arrange, but this past Saturday Wendy and I met Kev and Beck at Exile Brewing in Des Moines for lunch. The ladies then took off to do shopping and other things that ladies do. Kev and I spent the afternoon sampling some of the best craft brews that Iowa has to offer (and Iowa has a lot to offer in this arena), along with a few stand-bys.

After Exile we hit the tap room at Confluence Brewing and then headed to Peace Tree Brewing’s new location in Des Moines’ East Village. It was a tortuously hot summer afternoon, but we persevered as only courageous old men can do in these situations. From Peace Tree we walked the 251′ (thanks Google Maps) to the Iowa Tap room where we found their 160+ taps of exclusively Iowa brews.

After quaffing the best the stylish East Village has to offer, we drove to the ball park and got an early parking spot. We headed north to the High Life Lounge which is a shrine to beer I remember from my youth (you know, the beer my dad and older brothers drinking). I actually talked Kevin into drinking an actual Miller High Life from the tap (he was scared). I felt so nostalgically at home that I could have easily decided to spend the rest of my weekend there. But, there was more to be experienced! We headed next door to El Bait shop where we watched the Chicago Cubs finish off the Cardinals (call it a belated birthday present). We finished our pub crawl with a stogie at 300 Rooftops.

It was a short walk to Principal Park where we grabbed the requisite ball park grub and watched the iCubs take out the Oklahoma City Dodgers. It was a great afternoon. Yes, I remember all of it. (Old dudes learn the value of hydration, moderation!)

Character and Life Contributions

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 3:8 (NIV)

The other day I was going through some old photographs and came upon my class photo from first grade. There was Mrs. Avery in her cat-eye glasses and all of us lined up on the risers in the gymnasium of Woodlawn Elementary school. I tried to remember the names of all my classmates. Believe it or not I can still recall all but two or three.

Just a week or so ago I shared with a group of friends my gratitude for Mrs. Avery. Back in those days our kindergarten classes were half-days and I absolutely hated my kindergarten experience. More than once my mother had to drag me kicking and screaming to school. So it was that I was nervous about attending first grade and having to spend all day at the dreaded school. Then I met Mrs. Avery.

For whatever reason I still remember the first moment walking into that classroom and meeting Mrs. Avery. I was immediately at peace. She was kind and gentle. There was a spirit about her than put me at ease. I spent that year developing an enjoyment of learning.

It was much later in life that I went to Mrs. Avery’s home to thank her for the subtle but significant impact she had on my life. She was still just as kind and gentle and loving. She told me that day, looking over that same class photograph, how she used to pray for each of us students every day.

I happen to be at a place in life at which I can look back and contemplate many, many relationships I’ve had along my journey. My mind is contrasting my experience with Mrs. Avery with that of the acquaintance I mentioned in yesterday’s post. It brings to mind the characteristics of individuals who made a positive contribution to my life journey contrasted with the characteristics of individuals I would just as soon forget.

In this morning’s chapter, Peter behavioral instructions for life and relationships. Here are some of the characteristics he commands followers of Jesus:

Purity
Reverence
Gentle and quiet spirit
Considerate
Respectful
Like-minded
Sympathetic
Loving
Compassionate
Humble
Repaying evil with blessing
Reverent
Gentleness

Not a bad list. Come to think of it, these words describe Mrs. Avery pretty well. They also describe a host of other family, friends, associates, and individuals who’ve made positive contributions in my life. Then I think about those individuals in my life who’ve characterized the antonyms of these words. Rather than making a contribution of Life, it seems to me they’ve had the opposite effect: drain, deplete, tempt, and trouble.

This morning I’m once again taking stock of my own heart, life, words, and actions. I’d like to think that the character qualities Peter commands are how others would describe me. I hope to make Life contributions to others. Basically, I’d like to take a little bit of Mrs. Avery’s contribution to my life and pay it forward. Today, even.

 

The Latest 05-01-2016

This past week was a bit of a return to normal after the long slog of production on Almost, Maine and then a long week on the road. I feel like I’m still trying to catch up on rest. Unfortunately, this week wasn’t much help as we ramped up to celebrate my 50th birthday.

The early part of the week was focused on getting caught up on work in the home office. Mom Hall came down to Pella on Monday to help us get ground cover on the flower bed (currently a weed bed) in the front of the house. I’ve had to mow a couple of times this week. Our new lawn (planted last fall) is still patchy. I’m not very good with green things. I’ve had a “brown thumb” my whole life. Almost every time I’ve tried to grow botanical things they die. So, I’m trying to do right by the lawn and do it right.  I can tell you that mowing a half-acre lot with my trust Lawn-Boy push mower takes a little more time and effort than our old postage stamp lawn on Columbus.

Me and a baby goat.
Me and a baby goat.

Mid-week I had to make a quick turnaround trip to northwest Iowa for business. My co-worker, Nick, is from that neck of the woods and I got treated to some local hospitality with a trip to the farm for steak dinner. I even got to meet the baby goats and the chickens in the barn. I also got a quick visit with friends Trav and Julie Else. It’s been so fun to reconnect with them since the old days at Westview when I played on Julie’s worship team and we were in “Supper Club” together.

The biggest focus of the week was my 50th birthday on Saturday. We actually started celebrating on Friday afternoon. I had a Board Meeting for work mid-day, then knocked off and we joined up with Kev and Beck. Becky’s birthday was Friday the 29th, and Kevin’s birthday had just been on April 17th. The past few year’s we’ve made a tradition out of celebrating all three birthdays together. The girls went for pedicures and to do some shopping. Kevin and I met at Casa Roose to watch the Cubs and enjoy a few birthday stogies on the patio.

The girls returned and the four of us headed to downtown Des Moines for drinks and dinner at Malo. It was an enjoyable time as we exchanged cards and gifts and consumed the scrumptious latin edibles. After dinner we stopped by the Plaza Pub to visit with some old friends of Kev and Beck. We capped off our birthday celebration at Casa Roose with a nightcap. It was the wee hours when Wendy and I returned home and got to bed.

Weather certainly did not cooperate with our birthday plans. The entire midwest was socked with perpetual rain and chilly temperatures. For my 50th Wendy had planned a baseball themed party for a handful of our good friends. The plan was to party here at Vander Well Pub while we watched the Chicago Cubs playing an afternoon game against the Braves. Those who wanted to join us would then head to Des Moines for the Iowa Cubs game against the Colorado Springs Skysox. The blanket of rain across the upper midwest resulted in both games being postponed.

The party commenced as scheduled. We put on the recording of Jake Arrieta throwing a no-hitter last week. Wendy did an amazing job with the baseball themed party. We had hot dogs, peanuts, cracker jack, snack pizza, and chips with salsa. Then there were the cupcakes she made to look like baseballs and a sundae bar. We ate  way too much!

We had specified “no gifts” but it was generally ignored. Let’s just say that the bar at Vander Well pub is better stocked than it had been before the party. The Parkers and Vande Lunes also went together on a framed poster of Shakespearean insults. It was perfect and will have an honored spot among the decor (which we still haven’t hung). I felt both blessed and honored by all of the cards and wishes I received in the mail and on social media. It was a good day.

Capping my birthday with friends at Kaldera.
Capping my birthday with friends at Kaldera.

By the time everyone left we had just enough time to get things cleaned up before our dinner reservations. Instead of the I-Cubs game, we gathered for dinner at Kaldera with the Burches, VLs and McQs. It wasn’t what we had planned, but it was wonderful to enjoy a laid back dinner with friends and get home at a decent time. We had a brief night cap at McQuade Pub before calling it a night.

From Madison's Facebook post wishing me a happy 50th

We are looking forward to having both Taylor and Madison home next weekend for Tulip Time. I heard from both girls yesterday as they called with birthday wishes. Taylor had a very nice post on her blog honoring my big day and Madison added an equally honoring post on Facebook. I missed having them here with me, but will enjoy a belated celebration next week.

Tulip Time is Thu-Sat of this coming week. The cold, rainy weather has ensured that we’ll have a few tulip left for Pella’s annual festival. The weather forecast is sunny and 75 degrees each day, and it will be perfect weather for the celebration. Wendy and I are, once again, playing Pella’s founding couple. We’ll be Dominie H.P. and Mareah Scholte and will be found at the Scholte House museum late morning and early afternoon. We’ll be riding our horse drawn carriage in each of the six parades. It should be a fun time. Come see us if you’re in town!

TBT: Meredith Junior High Student Council 1978-79

Meredith Junior High Student Council  1978-1979

I was deep into the archives when I came up with this gem from the fall of 1978. This is the Student Council from Meredith Junior High School in Des Moines, Iowa. (L-R) Eric Creach, Bruce Vertanen, Julie Peterson, Andy Muller, and yours truly.

Yes, I was wearing white overalls.

TBT: The Big Dance!

Tom Taylor Register State Tournament

It’s March and that means State High School Basketball tournament in Iowa. It’s our Big Dance. It’s a right of passage. Just this past week The Des Moines Register published a photo from waaaaay back at the 1983 girls basketball tournament. There I was in the back, arms raised in momentary triumph. About a quarter century later it was our daughter, Taylor, who made it onto the pages of the paper when they published a photo of her and friend, Andrew Lopez, cheering on the Pella Dutch.

So, for Throwback Thursday, here’s the Big Dance addition thanks to The Des Moines Register.

Top Five Local Des Moines Restaurants

For Top Five Tuesday, I thought I’d bring a little local interest. Wendy and I love a great meal out, and Des Moines offers a host of unique, local options for dining out.

Here are my current Top Five local Des Moines eateries:

  1. Start the day with breakfast at The Waveland. The world continues to suffer from a lack of great greasy spoon breakfasts, and The Waveland has been doing it right in Des Moines for a long, long time.
  2. Noah’s Ark was the place my parents and grandparents loved to go when I was a kid. Not only does that windowless “supper club” ambiance take me back to great childhood memories, but the Italian cuisine has never ceased to satisfy.
  3. Django has become a favorite for Wendy and me. The bar is top notch and the food offers a great twist on some staple American favorites. Best of all, no corking fee for brining your own bottle of wine to the party!
  4. One of the things I love about Tumea and Sons is the neighborhood feel. First, you have to find it, which says something. Then, when I enter the place, I kinda feel like I’ve just crashed a neighborhood party. You can tell from this list that Wendy and I love Italian food, and this place offers some authentic Italian family cooking straight from Des Moines’ south side.
  5. We just ate at Cafe Di Scala for the first time last week, but it’s quickly made it on my top five list after one visit. One of the things I appreciated, as one who has hearing challenges, was the quiet atmosphere. The food, wine, and service were top notch. It’s certainly the most expensive place in my Top Five, but for a special meal out this is a winner.

The Latest 08-16-2015

Our week was full and the highlight of the past seven days was the wedding of our friends Matthew and Sarah Burch on Saturday night. The week began on Sunday afternoon at the house Matthew and Sarah are moving into in Hunter’s Ridge outside of Pella. It was Lincoln’s 7th birthday and they were having a a gathering of family and friends for a cookout to celebrate. It was a the first chance Wendy and I had to meet some of Sarah’s family.

Union Street Players annual meeting and Potluck Picnic.
Union Street Players annual meeting and Potluck Picnic.

On Monday night Wendy, Suzanna and I all headed to West Market Park for Union Street Players’ potluck picnic and annual meeting. It was a gorgeous evening and we had a great turnout. I have just completed my 10th year as President and Wendy just completed her 11th on the Board, most of those years serving as Treasurer. We decided earlier this year our time of service on the Board has been fulfilled. Time to let others step up and step in to leadership. Elections were held and we officially entered lame duck status until September 1st when the new officers will take over.

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The gorgeous summer weather would continue on Tuesday and it was a great night for baseball. For the second year in a row, the Vande Lude boys treated me to Dude’s Day as a birthday present. We headed to Des Moines and had pizza at Scornovacca’s before heading to Principal Park to watch the I-Cubs take on the Nashville Sounds. The I-Cubbies dropped the game 3-2 but a good time was had by all.  Throughout the evening Chad and I plied Nathan and Aaron with “Dude’s Day Questions.” Two of my favorites:

Tom: Dude’s Day Question. Blonde, brunette, or redhead?

Nathan: Redneck.

Tom: If mom was a superhero, what would her super power be?

Aaron: Kissing daddy.

Thursday night was supposed to be a bridal shower for Sarah at our house and a Guy’s night out with Matthew and the boys. Matthew’s guy’s night transitioned to just a dinner between Matthew and me, then late in the afternoon Matthew bailed on me to spend some time with family who had arrived for the wedding. So…..while Wendy and the ladies celebrated Sarah I walked down the block to McQuade Pub and enjoyed drinks and stogies with Kevin and Linda which is always, always a great way to spend the evening. Wendy had a great time with Sarah and her friends.

On Friday we enjoyed a quiet day at VW Manor. Late in the day Taylor and I enjoyed a nice time of conversation downstairs in VW pub watching the Cub’s and White Sox and Kevin McQuade joined us late in the game to watch the Northsiders win their eighth game in a row. Taylor took off to join Emily Boyd and her boyfriend, Zac at George’s Pizza for dinner. Wendy made wonderful Tilapia filet’s for a quiet dinner just the two of us.

Before Patio Deck

Patio DeckIt was a hot one on Saturday, but I was determined to tackle one of my summer honey-do projects before heading to Des Moines for the wedding. I had stained some green treated 2x4s late in the week and spent Saturday morning building a deck step outside our patio doors on the back patio. Felt very manly.

It then felt manly getting cleaned up and donning my tux. Wendy, Taylor and I drove to the Temple for Performing Arts in Des Moines where Matthew and Sarah’s wedding was scheduled for 5:30. It brought back a lot of memories for Wendy and me as we got married  at the Temple on New Year’s Eve 2005. We arrived about 4:00 and checked in with Matthew and Sarah who were taking pictures in the Grand Ballroom. After snapping a picture or two we met Taylor and Kevin & Becky Roose at the Centro bar for drinks.

The grand ballroom is an unbelievably gorgeous venue for a wedding. Matthew and Sarah were stunning and the wedding was really meaningful. Matthew had asked me to stand and provide a brief introduction of him for those who may not know him. It was fun to share a few words. After the ceremony everyone moved into the Recital Hall for drinks and appetizers as they readied the ballroom for dinner. I enjoyed conversation with Matthew’s friend from his grad school days at Fuller and we also hung out with Chad and Shay.

The dinner was amazing and it was a wonderful feast. When the feasting was over the dancing began. So much fun was had by all. Late in the evening Matthew and I stole away to the guy’s dressing room where we had a few minutes of quiet time and I got to pray over the groom. By the end of the evening it was the Vander Wells, Rooses, and Vande Lunes who were the last ones on the dance floor. It was midnight before we got home.

This morning it was back to Des Moines where I had the privilege of sharing the morning message at Westview in Waukee. Taylor came with her friend Curtis. After the service she and Curtis headed to the Des Moines Art Center for a lunch date. Wendy and I had lunch at the Roose’s with Keith and Tanya Wilhite.

TBT: Life Under the Umbrella

Tom Travelers Teen

Archaeologists recently uncovered this gem (I found it in a tub of my parents’ family photos) from c. 1983. An early work by photographer Reed Davis (www.reeddavisphotopraphy.com). Anyone from the Des Moines area will recognize the iconic Traveler’s insurance sign that is a signature piece of the Des Moines skyline. The Traveler’s umbrella has been in a few different photos over the years.

tom travelers adult

About ten years or so after the first photo was taken, it was photographer Eric Smoldt  (http://ericsmoldt.com) who snapped this black and white photo of me under the umbrella on a downtown Des Moines photo safari.

Tom Travelers Wedding

Add another ten years or so, and it was Jeff Bokhoven (http://www.designerimagesphotography.com) who took this awesome photo of me and my best men on New Year’s Eve 2005, just before Wendy and I said, “I do.”

What’s really cool is that in the late 1970s and early 1980s my dad was partner in Eagle Sign Company who, at the time, owned and leased the Traveler’s Umbrella sign. So not only is the umbrella an iconic landmark, but I kinda get to claim it as a family heirloom.

What can I say? I love Des Moines.