Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing. Proverbs 20:4 (NIV)
Here in the state of Iowa Spring is beginning to appear. The temperatures have been slowing creeping into in the 60s and 70s during the day. The last of the giant mountain of Winter’s snow piled up in front of our house was finally completely melted this week. Our brown lawn is starting to “green-up” and the bare trees will soon have a green hue as the leaves begin to bud.
Friends, clients, and colleagues who have never experienced life in the Midwest will often tell me that I’m crazy to live here. It’s like spending your Winter in the arctic and your Summer in Death Valley. There is some truth to the face that we get to experience weather in all of its extremes. But, we also get to experience all four seasons in their unique, diverse distinctions in ways my friends never will.
Along my Life journey, I’ve come to understand that there is a spiritual lesson to be gained in the seasons of a year. Life, death, resurrection, renewal, struggle, trial, perseverance, change, and contentment. They are all part of creation’s perpetual story from Spring to Summer to Autumn to Winter each year.
As I read the proverb above this morning, I was struck by the word “season.” If I’m not disciplined to put in the word and plow in the Spring, then when Autumn’s harvest arrives and I need what is necessary to survive Winter, I have nothing. This means I might not survive to the next Spring.
But it wasn’t nature here in the agrarian land of Iowa that the proverb made me think about.
God’s base language is metaphor. Metaphor is layered with meaning. Here is the layer of meaning that the proverb surfaced for me in the quiet this morning…
Even as a successful farmer is disciplined in cultivating, planting, weeding, pruning, harvesting and storing, so there are spiritual disciplines that are required throughout the seasons of Life to prepare for the unknowns of future seasons.
As a young man, I was taught and mentored in spiritual disciplines such as quiet, study, Word, contemplation, prayer, introspection, sacrament, worship, fellowship, generosity, and service. These disciplines in life’s Spring-like seasons when things are good and life is easy are spiritual seeds. It takes mindfulness, time and discipline to sow them, cultivate them, and tend to them daily. But, they eventually grow and bloom into spiritual fruit such as love, joy, peace, faith, perseverance, and self-control. This fruit will be required when, eventually, Life’s harsh seasons of death, trial, and tragedy blow in unexpectedly.
In the quiet this morning I find myself thankful for those who taught me, schooled me, mentored me, and exemplified for me spiritual disciplines. Along Life’s road, I’ve witnessed and walked along-side individuals who had no spiritual reserves when seasons of tragedy caught them by surprise. Winter gets long if I have nothing stored up. Spiritually, I might not survive.
<— Click on Solomon for an indexed list of previous chapter-a-day posts from this series from Proverbs!
About This Post
These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.
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.
Wendy and I have greatly missed our friends, Kevin and Linda, who packed up their possessions in Pella and moved out to Palm Springs, California a few months ago. So, when Wendy happened to see that our airline had some super-saver deals we jumped at the chance to fly out to spend a few days with the snowbirds this past week. And, as the weather has been unseasonably cold, windy, and snowy in Iowa, it came at a great time.
We were supposed to arrive mid-day on Tuesday, but travel delays meant we got rerouted and spent much more time in airports than planned. Nevertheless, we arrived at 7:45 pm and enjoyed dinner with Kevin and Linda. We enjoyed playing with Linda’s dog, Ginsberg, and talking way too late into the evening, or wee hours of the morning as was the reality for our midwest bodies.
It was a gorgeous day on Wednesday. So much fun to sit in on the deck and look out at the sun on the mountains as I got a little work done. Once everyone was up and going we walked the mile from their condo to the main strip in Palm Springs, taking time to browse through some shops. The chorizo queso at Maracas has become a favorite of ours, so we had lunch there. Kevin and I picked up cigars to enjoy after dinner that evening. We walked back and napped in the afternoon. Dinner was on the patio at another Palm Springs favorite, Tropicale. We enjoyed cigars around the pool in the evening and even dipped our feet in the hot tub.
Thursday was unseasonably cold and rainy for Palm Springs, but we didn’t let it dampen our day. Our friends gave us a tour of mid-century modern architecture around Palm Springs and we grabbed a burger at a local grill. The afternoon was spent visiting, napping, and reading. We took in the Palm Spring Art Museum in the evening for dining at Kaiser Grill.
The trip was all too quick. It felt like we blinked and it was over. We enjoyed brunch together at Pinocchio’s along with Kevin and Linda’s friend, Michael, who had flown in for a visit late the previous evening. Then, it was back to reality. We met snow in our layover in Denver. Ugh.
Blessed to have gotten a few days of r&r with our friends, however. Can’t wait for the next time.
Wendy and her friend, Ginsberg.
Gorgeous day for a walk uptown.
Kevin & Linda at Tropicale.
Lunch at Maracas!
A room tiled with chocolate at Palm Springs Art Museum.
Palm Springs Art Museum.
This is NOT an example of mid-century modern architecture.
It has been a while since I’ve posted anything but my chapter-a-day. Forgive me. I’m feeling good just to get that done most days. Nevertheless, I’m well overdue to, at the very least, post a brief synopsis of all the events of autumn.
Summer ended and our fall began with what has become an annual adult weekend at the lake with the VLs and JPs. It’s so much fun with this crew and there is never a dull moment when the six of us get together, which we did again a few weeks later with dinner in Ankeny for JP’s birthday.
A quick update on the girls. Madison continues living and working in Columbia, South Carolina as an area sales and training coordinator for Laura Geller cosmetics. She loves it there and we don’t foresee getting her back to the midwest without an act of God. She’ll also be home for a week at the holidays, which we’re ecstatic about. She and her boyfriend, Garrett, made quite a turn as “The Incredibles” for Halloween this year.
Taylor, Clayton and Milo moved to Edinburgh, Scotland early this fall. Clayton is finishing up his Doctorate from the University there. Taylor was hired part-time by Storii, a fabulous company helping senior care centers tell, and utilize, the stories of their residents who are struggling with dementia. They’ve had a busy few months with travels to Sweden, Denmark, London and the Scottish highlands. Thankfully they will be home for a few weeks in December for the holidays, and we can’t wait to have them here.
Sadly, the kids weren’t the only ones we had to say good-bye to this fall. Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, left for Mazatlan, Mexico where she is attending Discipleship Training School with YWAM (Youth With a Mission).
We also bid farewell to our dear friends Kevin and Linda as they moved to Palm Springs, California. While the snowbirds promise to come back and spend summer in Iowa, it was hard to watch them pack up all their belongings and head west (though we are headed there to visit them soon!). I was also glad I was able to enjoy Kevin’s turn as host of the Pella Opera House’s first-ever Scotch and Cigar night. Almost 50 men attended, and Kevin did a fabulous job.
Farewell lunch with Suzanna. We’re so much fun, our server wanted to get in on the photo!
Scotch & Cigar night at Pella Opera House. Greeted by a piper.
Kevin hosting Scotch tasting.
I have been kept busy in leadership of my company including a major rebranding from C Wenger Group to Intelligentics. There will be more responsibility transferred my way with the start of 2019. I’m excited to see where it all leads.
Wendy and I stepped down completely from leadership in our community theatre after nearly a decade and a half. We’re taking an indefinite hiatus from community theatre with all the other things going on in life. That said, Wendy was honored by Union Street Players for her years of service by being inducted to their Walk of Fame during the group’s annual Awards Night on October 6th. Here’s a little clip I put together of some of my fave photos of Wendy over the years at USP. I’ve also, for posterity sake, posted a video of my introduction and her acceptance speech.
We were scheduled to be part of an independent production of Freud’s Last Session in October at Central College with our friends Kevin and Linda. We were forced to pull the plug on the production at the last-minute because of unforeseen and ultimately insurmountable scheduling obstacles placed in our way. It’s a long story both sad and frustrating. Not only for us, but also for the Central theatre students and professors who were looking forward to being involved in the show and with whom we were excited to work on the production. We are discussing an attempt to resurrect the project next year.
You know what fall means? Vikings football!! SKOL!
Pella Opera House Gala
Autumn at the lake with Kev n Beck.
Me and the ladies, out for Chad’s birthday.
Chocolate always makes her smile. Celebrating Chad’s birthday at Malo.
Or Pella. It’s a regional thing.
The fall included some annual events such as a fall weekend at the lake with our friends, Kev and Beck. Fall means you’ll find Wendy and me in purple and gold every Sunday afternoon cheering on the Vikings. We also enjoyed the annual fundraising gala for the Pella Opera House. And then there was an evening out with the VLs and JPs to celebrate Chad’s birthday. A wonderful dinner at Malo and nightcap in Des Moines.
Our support of Pella Historical Society included a couple of new experiences this fall. Wendy and I once again found ourselves portraying our town’s founding couple, H.P. and Maria Scholte, in a cemetery walk. There were a number of costumed actors stationed around the local cemetery portraying historic individuals from our town’s past. As visitors approached we delivered a short monologue. It was a cold, blustery fall day, but at least the sun was shining to provide a little warmth.
Just this past weekend I had the honor of being Master of Ceremonies for the annual Tulip Queen Announcement Party. Twelve young ladies were finalists in the annual festivities that select a Tulip Queen and four members of the Tulip Court who will preside at Pella’s annual Tulip Time festival in May. As M.C. I spent Friday evening and Saturday morning in rehearsals, then got to join the candidates at a special luncheon on Saturday. At the Saturday evening event I introduced and interviewed all of the candidates before a packed audience in the high school auditorium. Each candidate did a three-minute presentation and were interviewed by a panel of over 30 judges representing a diverse cross-section of our community. It was a tough decision as all twelve of the young ladies were exceptional and would have been great representatives of the best our community has to offer. Then I got to make the big announcement at the end of the evening. It was a lot of fun, and I’ve already been asked to M.C. next year’s event, so I guess I did okay.
Wendy and I have also been focusing on getting some projects done around the house this fall. We finally completed a DIY project that’s been in the works for a couple of years. We made a console table out of old dock wood from the lake to sit behind the couch downstairs in the Pub. We also designed a sign for the pub and actually had one made by the local sign company.
With the world progressing at breakneck speed, it’s nice to know some things never change 😉
The Vander Hart name lives on!
No one starves at a Vander Hart gathering.
A house full of Vander Harts.
Wendy and I also enjoyed playing host to her mom’s family this past weekend. The Vander Hart clan descended on us Sunday afternoon. There were 20+ of them for a potluck lunch and hanging out. Wendy’s cousin, Ethan, and his wife, Kim, recently gave birth to the only Vander Hart male to carry the family name into the next generation, so it was fun to meet him and celebrate.
Of course, then there’s the regular activities of both physical and spiritual exercise. I’m more involved than ever as a teaching leader. Wendy and I were asked to present at a fall retreat on our experience with the enneagram, which prompted another opportunity coming up in December. Wendy has been faithfully doing yoga and I continue to show up at CrossFit.
Wow. Writing this post reminds me just how busy we’ve been. But, life is good and we are blessed. Next week the holidays begin, and Wendy and I both have hearts full of gratitude ready to give Thanks.
If a woman conceives and bears a male child, she shall be ceremonially unclean seven days…If she bears a female child, she shall be unclean two weeks…. Leviticus 12:2, 5 (NRSV)
I am going to be honest. There are still many things that cause me to scratch my head as I journey through God’s Message. I am content to accept the fact that my 21st century American brain cannot completely fathom the realities of life in the middle east c.1500 B.C. It does not stop me from being curious and inquisitive.
In today’s chapter, we read the Levitical system’s prescribed purification rights for women after they’ve given birth to a child. If a woman gave birth to a male child in the that culture she was deemed “unclean” for 40 days. If she had a female child, the period of being “unclean” doubled to 80 days. Even the scholarly text notes in my study Bible states: “It is not clear why the period of uncleanness after the birth of a baby boy (40 days) was half the period for a girl (80 days).” [cue: scratching head]
There is no doubt that ancient cultures, by-and-large, valued male births more than female births. It was a brutal period of human history. Daily life was a bloody, violent version of “king of the mountain.” Wars between tribes, clans, and towns waged non-stop. Power ebbed and flowed through never ending battles of local conquest. Boys became warriors and hunters required to protect, provide, and conquer.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. In the past year there has been a lot of press about China’s infamous program of population control, and the Chinese government’s moves to change the policy now that its unintended effects are shaking their society. Over the years China has gone to horrific lengths to control the birth rate of their people. Hearkening back to the misogynistic practices of history, male births were preferential to female births. According to one report, by 2020 there will be 30 million more men in China than women. A certain amount of societal chaos is now anticipated.
Beyond the natural, cultural considerations, however, there is a spiritual context that has to be considered. Going back to the Garden of Eden, to original sin, and to the harsh spiritual realities that were unleashed at the beginning. God speaks to the Serpent, to Eve, and to Adam of the consequences of their willful disobedience.
Among the woeful, core consequences is “hatred” between the serpent and the woman. Misogyny is evil, and at the very beginning of the Great Story we see that Evil (a la, the Serpent) is expelled from the Garden with a core, misogynistic hatred of women. The never ending power struggle between male and female is also alluded to as a foundational spiritual consequence of the Fall and continues to be a hot topic in our society, our political campaigns, and our current events.
This morning I am, once again, amazed that God saw fit to surround me with strong, beautiful, capable, intelligent, wise women. I will confess to you that, in certain moments of life, I have experienced pangs of that common male desire to have a son and occasional pangs of grief that it was not part of the plan for me. Fascinating to think about in the context of today’s thoughts. Nevertheless, I have been blessed to be surrounded by females, and it has made me a better man.
This morning is one of those mornings when I walk away from my quiet time with more questions than answers, more curiosity than certainty. I am, however, thinking about the women in my life. I’m thinking how much I truly honor and appreciate them and their femininity. I am again inspired this morning to continually root out deep seated misogynistic tendencies in my own heart, and to seek ways to join the struggle against the enmity against women that has been present from the Fall. I have been surrounded in this life journey by women, and I love ’em.
The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Resume your journey….” Deuteronomy 1:6-7a (NRSV)
There is a chill in the air this morning as I sit in my office and write out this post. The blast furnace of midwest summer has given way to the crisp mornings and cool north breeze remind me of what is to come. The past couple of weeks have brought about our annual transition from what Nat King Cole crooned about as those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” to the realities of routine school and work schedules.
Suzanna was home from college for the first time this weekend. When it came time to head back to school yesterday afternoon there was a fair amount of emotion expressed. Wendy and I surrounded her with hugs and prayer and reminded her that this is a normal part of life’s journey in which we learn the necessity of pressing on.
In this morning’s chapter, I picked up the retelling of the story of Moses and the tribes of Israel. As we pick things up in the first chapter of Deuteronomy, they’ve been camped out on Mount Horeb and have received from God the laws and commands about how they are to live as a nation. After the craziness of their exodus from Egypt, the mountain top experience of Horeb had been a welcome respite from their journey. But, God sends word that the respite is over. It’s time to break camp. The journey must continue.
Today, I’m reminded that the long, leisurely days of summer eventually give way to cool days of autumn and the realities of harvest. Summer vacations end and routines resume. Weekends in the familiar surrounding of home offer a respite from the anxieties of an unfamiliar college environment, but classes start again on Monday. Mountaintop experiences are wonderful, but eventually you have to break camp, leave the mountain, and resume the journey.
“I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will burn up your chariots in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions. I will leave you no prey on the earth. The voices of your messengers will no longer be heard.” Nahum 2:13 (NIV)
U2 rose to fame during my college years. The iconic band that now fills stadiums and cuts deals with Apple to release their CDs was just an avant garde group of punks from Ireland when I first heard of them. One of the early songs that was extremely popular on my campus is now largely forgotten in their repertoire. It is quite simple and short:
October And the trees are stripped bare Of all they wear What do I care
October And kingdoms rise And kingdoms fall But you go on…and on…
I thought about that song this morning as I mused on Nahum’s prophesied fall of the Assyrian empire. The Assyrian empire (a.k.a. the Neo-Assyrian empire) was one of three empirical legacies of the Assyrians. It was their final empire which lasted just 300 years, roughly from 910-612 B.C. It is ranked 119 out of 214 historic world empires on Wikipedia’s charts.
Nahum was a prophet of doom for the Assyrians. Though they had risen to heights of regional power they were now to be silenced once and for all. And, Nahum’s prediction came true when an alliance of their vassals rose up to destroy the capitol city of Nineveh a few years later.
Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. But You go on…
As a lover of history, I often think about the ebb and flow of human kingdoms and empires. As the Great Story plays out from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, there is a constant rise and fall of kingdoms and empires. Hundreds of them. How many of them thought that they were it. How many claimed to be the greatest? How many claimed that they would never fall? How many rulers claimed divinity or divine right?
Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. But You go on…
This morning, I’m humbled. I am suspicious of any claims of divine right, invincibility, or superiority whether that come from an ISIS propaganda video or a presidential candidate’s propaganda ad. There is a larger story being told, and the kingdoms of this world are all merely playing their part.
Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high? Job 39:27 (NIV)
When I was a child in elementary school, I remember studying the American bald eagle and how near they were to extinction. I have memories of thinking that I might never see one and how sad that would be. The few that did exist, I was told, were in the wild of Alaska or the Rocky Mountains far from my home on the rolling plains of Iowa.
Much to my joy, bald eagles have become a fairly common sight near my Iowa hometown in recent years, though the sight never ceases to stop me in my tracks and fill me with wonder. Conservation efforts have worked. At our place on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri there are eagles which nest in the back of our cove. There is nothing quite like the sight of that giant raptor with it’s snowy white head and tail soaring right over you. This summer we even had the treat of watching a young eagle dive into the shallow water at the back of the cove over and over and over again learning to catch fish.
God’s questioning of Job in today’s chapter focuses on His sovereignty and care over creation. I find it interesting that creation has a natural order to it which God set into motion. It fascinates me how the animal and plant kingdoms operate in symbiotic relationships and function amazingly well in the propagation of life and the natural environment. Humanity has a way of coming along and messing things up more often than not. I would argue that it is a consequence of the Fall, and perhaps that is part of God’s point to Job.
I’m looking forward to seeing the eagles again at the lake this summer. They remind me that there is hope of redemption, even at the brink of extinction. A eucatastrophe in nature. This summer there will be an added layer of meaning as I remember God’s questioning of Job, and me.
But even if you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you crashing down,” says the Lord. Obadiah 1:4 (NLT)
I am a lover of the underdog. I don’t know why it is that I have taken this scourge upon myself, but I have. In baseball season I cheer for MLB’s “loveable losers” the Chicago Cubs who have been cursed to have not one a World Series since 1908. During the football season I cheer for the Minnesota Vikings whom I watched lose four Super Bowls in my childhood and have never seen them return. Even in our own collegiate, in-state rivalry here in Iowa I tend to pull for the underdog Cyclones over the more popular and historically successful Hawkeyes. People will often ask me why I just don’t switch allegiances and go with a “winner.” It takes faith to cheer for the underdog. You gotta believe that the big victory is so much sweeter when it happens.
Of course, the corollary to cheering for the rare underdog victory is the sweetness of watching the mighty fall. I have always enjoyed watching the “sure thing” fall apart. I remember as a kid when the headline on the sports page proclaimed Houston as the winner of the NCAA basketball finals before the championship game was even played. That was before NC State pulled out one of the most improbable upsets in recent sports history. I love it when the “sure thing” proves not to be so sure.
That’s exactly the theme of Obadiah’s message. The nation of ancient Edom built their homes in a network of caves high in the cliffs of the local mountain range. An invading army had no good way of assailing them successfully. And so, the Edomites felt smug and secure in their cliff top caves. Survival was a “sure thing” because no one could reach them up there. Obadiah’s message was a reminder of a constant theme throughout God’s Message: pride comes before the fall.
Today, I’m reminded to be grateful for all of my blessings. There is nothing that is a “sure thing” in this life. I pray I never get to the point of feeling a smug sense of security (at least I have both the Cubs and Vikings to remind me of that throughout the year).