Tag Archives: Family

The Latest: Winter/Spring 2023

I’m finally catching up on “The Latest” with this post. After the holidays, I made a quick trip to San Diego for a short business summit with one of my partners. It was a great way to kick off the new year. Not only did we get in some great strategy sessions, but we also got to enjoy some very good meals and some very fine cigars on the balcony of the local hooka lounge. When you live your entire life in Iowa, the opportunity to get 60 degrees and sun is a godsend. I laughed at all the Californians walking around La Jolla in their parkas.

My mother moved into Memory Care at the Wesley Life Cottages in Pella just before Thanksgiving. It was an emotionally tectonic shift for both my mom and my dad. Dad struggled with the daily conversation they had when he would get ready to leave and she would ask why she couldn’t go with him. The nurses quickly determined that mom showed all of the signs of giving up, and suggested that allow the Hospice team to take over her care, which we did. She slept more and more and ate less and less. Some days she would sleep all the way through my visits, so I would sit by her bed and read the Psalms to her. She would occasionally open her eyes, look at me, and smile.

Wendy and I enjoyed a getaway to Cabo San Lucas in February. We had never been there before and were planning on having Suzanna and her family join us from nearby Mazatlan, but they had to decline just before we left and it turned out to be a wonderful vacation for the the two of us. We had an absolutely gorgeous view from our room and spent most days watching whales, reading, lounging by the pool, and taking naps. It was glorious. We also had some fun with Milo, who left one of his toys, Paul, at our house after the holidays. We took Paul with us on our various travels and sent Milo photos to track his adventures.

We have been so blessed by the Wesley Life family since my parents moved in last fall. My dad has worked with stained-glass for many years, and they helped him convert an old, unused Computer Room into a shop for his stained-glass. Dad even received a commission for a stained-glass piece from dear friends who are building a new house and who also have a loved one in the same Memory Care unit that mom was in. It has been so good for him to have something to keep his hands and mind busy, as well as a sense of purpose. I’m glad to say he’s already getting interest and inquiries for more projects and commissions.

Mom continued to decline as February gave way to March. All of my siblings made trips to Pella as the amazing Hospice nurses communicated each phase that brought mom closer to the end of her earthly journey. In the final days we spent a lot of time by her bed. She had fewer and fewer lucid moments, but I was amazed how peaceful she was, and in her conscious moments she would make little facial gestures just to crack us up along with the nurses. She was joyful and playful to the end.

Mom left her earthly body behind and crossed over into eternity on March 13th about 9:45 a.m. Her final moment was so peaceful. It was me, my sister, and my dad by her side as she left the Alzheimer’s riddled prison of her brain and body. It was a holy moment. Mom wished to be cremated and didn’t really want people staring at the frail remnants of what was physically left after Alzheimer’s had done its thing. A quick visitation and memorial service was planned just a few days later. On St. Patrick’s Day we celebrated her life together in a day filled with joy, just as she would have wanted it.

Spring 2023 also included some quietly joyful moments. Wendy and I always enjoy having friends over to the Vander Well Pub for a bevy and some good conversation. We enjoyed a belated Valentine’s Day feast thanks to our friends Matthew and Sarah. I even had a couple of trips to the lake. One was with my friend Kev and the other with Matthew. Always good to have a few days of retreat and guy time together. Kev even arranged a Saturday afternoon stogie gathering at a local smoke lounge. Our grandkids have been totally immersed in the Star Wars universe this past year. “May the Fourth” is now a thing with our family.

Another interesting wrinkle in life this year has been the fact that Wendy and I have given our home over to the youth group from our local gathering of Jesus’ followers on Wednesday nights so that several small groups can enjoy gathering in our home.

Wendy and I have turned the Wednesday night invasion into an opportunity to have a date night. We eventually started making Liberty Street Kitchen, our favorite restaurant in Pella, our go-to spot. This led to us enjoying table 40 with our dear friends Eric and Amy and we have become big fans of the amazing people who serve there.

Easter this year was a very quiet affair. Wendy and I had her folks, her grandmother, her Uncle Brad and Aunt Barb, along with my dad over after church for a traditional turkey and ham feast followed by a quiet afternoon of visiting together.

I unexpectedly had the blessing of a quick trip to South Carolina. Our company gained a new client based in Columbia, where Madison and G live. It was so much fun to be with the two of them and the pups, as well as the prospect of future, regular business trips there. Even got to go to a Columbia Fireflies game!

My birthday was uneventful. Another trip around the sun: check. Wendy and I once again did our annual community service for Pella’s Tulip Time the first full weekend in May. We dressed as Pella’s founding couple, H.P and Maria Scholte and welcomed people to the Scholte House Museum. We always enjoy getting a ride in a horse-drawn carriage for the afternoon parades. Other than a few sprinkles and a short deluge on Friday night, it was a beautiful Tulip Time weather-wise and the town hosted huge crowds.

Wendy’s mother celebrated a big birthday with a zero on the end. For months, her seven children had been conspiring to surprise her by showing up for Mother’s Day weekend. She knew that Wendy’s sister Becky would be in town with her family, but she expected it to simply be Becky with Wendy and Lucas who both live nearby who would spend Saturday at the folks’ house. About 10 a.m. on Saturday morning the doorbell rang and she opened the door to find her other four children who had flown in from east coast, west coast, and Mexico to be there. It was a great day of love and laughter. It’s so rare that all seven sibs can be together in the same spot.

The Latest: Holidays 2022

I’m still catching up on the Vander Well events of this past year. It’s time to revisit the holidays. I mentioned in the Autumn post that my folks moved into Wesley Life’s Pella Manor in October. One of the major reasons for the move to Pella and into the Wesley Life senior living community was so that my mother could move into Memory Care when a bed was available. She had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for many years. My dad had lovingly and dutifully cared for her despite his own major health issues, but it was time for her to get the round-the-clock care she needed.

God’s timing is always perfect. A Memory Care room at the Cottages came available and Mom moved in the day before Thanksgiving. I will always remember this Thanksgiving as the last holiday that Mom celebrated with us in our home. We didn’t realize at the time that this year would be the final holiday season we would celebrate with Mom here on earth.

With all the physical, mental, and emotional labor of moving Mom into Memory Care, Thanksgiving Day itself ended up being a very quiet affair this year. Dad picked Mom up from her room and brought her over to our house. I must confess that Wendy and I made the executive decision to buy a warm-and-serve Thanksgiving Dinner from our local Hy-Vee, and I am so glad we did. It was so easy and so delicious. After dinner, we settled into the living room to watch football. I will always remember sitting there next to Mom holding her hand as she faded in and out. It’s one of those precious memories that my brain stores in a special mental file. Wendy’s folks stopped by for a visit after having dinner with the Vander Hart crew.

The Scotland crew was with us for a couple of weeks over Christmas and New Year’s before they headed back to the UK. Milo celebrated his 5th birthday while they were here and it was Sylvie’s first visit to the USA. The season held lots of events. There were gatherings with friends, our niece Anya’s birthday party, Pella’s wonderful holiday Kerstmarket, and family visits to the Cottages to see Grandma Jeanne. We got Madison and Garrett home for just a couple of days but they were here on Christmas Day and we made the most of it. It was so much fun to wake up on Christmas morning with all the kids and grandkids in the house. Wendy made her famous Christmas breakfast with Cinnabon cinnamon rolls. Dad, my brother Tim and his wife Kumi, and Wendy’s folks all paid a visit in the afternoon. Wendy put out her (now traditional) Christmas charcuterie spread for people to enjoy all afternoon. The Vander Well Pub hosted our 2nd Family Christmas Cocktail contest.

Since Papa Dean was now in Pella, our kids requested an old Vander Well family treat: eireflensjes, which is basically the Dutch version of a crepe. We made the most of having our grandkids that week. I took Milo to Smash Park for a little lunch and game of Connect Four. New Year’s Eve was our 17th wedding anniversary. We celebrated with having our friends over for an evening in the Vander Well pub. On New Year’s Day we capped off the holidays with another family tradition: the Vikings-Packers grudge match with my Packer-loving nephew Sam and his amazing Viking-loving wife Lydia. It turned into a whole family gathering which was fun. The Vikings lost, which was not fun.

A Great Day

A Great Day (CaD Jer 16) Wayfarer

“However, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but it will be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.
Jeremiah 16:14-15 (NIV)

Wendy and I enjoyed a very nice Easter yesterday. It was a gorgeous spring day in Iowa. The temperature was perfect. We opened the house to let the fresh spring breeze gently blow away any remaining winter dust.

We began Easter at worship with our local gathering of Jesus’ followers, which was packed full of both people and energy. Text messages came streaming in from family far and wide including Italy and Mexico. Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, announced that she’s pregnant with baby number two. Wendy and I made a bee line for home to host family for a classic midwest Iowa Easter dinner of roast turkey and ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet corn, warm rolls fresh from the oven, and green bean casserole. Of course there was cheesecake. Wendy made everyone’s favorite Dutch Letter cheesecake, but I personally chose some warm apple pie with some vanilla ice cream on top. There were eight of us total around the dining room table: Wendy and me, my dad, Wendy’s parents, grandma, along with an uncle and aunt. After our feast we sat in the living room to watch the Cubs lose as everyone nodded off. Americana at its best. It was downright Norman Rockwell-esque.

And, yes, there are leftovers!

After yesterday’s amazing celebration and feast, today’s chapter really resonated. God through the prophet Jeremiah uses three distinct word pictures to communicate to the Hebrew people just how stark the contrast will be when the Babylonians lay siege to the city of Jerusalem. God paints a series of three word pictures of the intimacy of family gatherings. Life’s most intimate moments are family gatherings, weddings, and funerals. Family gathers from far and wide to support, celebrate, mourn, dance, and feast. The ancient prophet paints these pictures of these intimate gatherings we all know, and then points out that in the wake of the coming Babylonian invasion all such normal human experiences will cease to be.

Families will be destroyed by starvation, violence, or separated by captivity and exile. There will be no one left to mourn. There will be no food for feasting. There will be no weddings. There won’t even be funerals because there will be no one left to mourn. The bodies will simply be left lying around. The only feasting will be carrion foul.

It’s a bleak picture to be sure, yet in the quiet this morning it has me meditating on a couple of realities.

The first is the reality that life does not always turn out the way we planned. As much as I may want to assume that my future will be smooth sailing and filled with Norman Rockwell-esque memory making for the rest of my years, there is no guarantee. As I ponder this, it makes me even more grateful for days like yesterday. I never want to take them for granted.

The second reality is that after painting the apocalyptic word pictures of doom, God provides a massive, game-changing “However” followed by a vision of redemption and restoration:

“However, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but it will be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.

One of the recurring themes of the Great Story is that of this earthly journey being a trek through a series of peaks and valleys. Even in the famous 23rd psalm I start with the Shepherd in lush mountain pastures, traverse the “valley of the shadow of death” and end up on the next mountain-top in the “House of the Lord.”

God reminds His people through Jeremiah that 1) tough times are coming in consequence of their own poor choices and hard hearts but 2) this will teach them spiritual lessons that need to be learned and that eventually 3) God’s road of life will one day bring them back home much wiser and more grateful to be redeemed and restored.

I’m even more grateful for yesterday’s Easter celebration after meditating on this morning’s chapter. I’ll be extra thankful when I ask God’s blessing on the leftovers! 😉

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Prescribed Pattern

The Prescribed Pattern (CaD 2 Ki 24) Wayfarer

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father had done.”
2 Kings 24:9 (NIV)

One of the things I’ve observed along my life journey is that we live in a universe that is of incredible design. In this amazingly designed world, systems create patterns. Wisdom can be found in discovering patterns of thought, patterns of behavior, patterns of relationship, patterns of generations, and patterns of spirit. Destructive patterns can be addressed and changed. Healthy patterns can be enhanced and replicated.

As I traverse this chapter-a-day journey, one of the things I try to see and recognize is patterns.

For example, one of the themes in the Great Story is the importance of the patterns of the family system and generations. When God first prescribes his “way” through Moses, this family/generational pattern was part of the prescription:

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”
Deuteronomy 4:9-10 (NIV)

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (NIV)

But, as I read the history of the Kings of Israel and Judah, something broke down in the system, beginning all the way back with David, who had a blind spot when it came to his children born from his many wives. Over the past two days, the chapters have told the story of good King Josiah, who exemplified single-hearted, life-long devotion to God, unlike any king since David the author tells us. In the telling, we learn that God’s prescriptions to the Hebrews to “remember” and “teach” their legacy and God’s way to subsequent generations had been forgotten and lost for some 800 years.

In today’s chapter, however, we read of the quick succession of two of Josiah’s sons, his grandson, and his brother. All of them, the author reports, “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” The reforms of Josiah were isolated and short-lived. The healthy “pattern” God had prescribed had not been followed and another, destructive pattern emerged that ultimately led to the downfall of the nation and the Babylonian exile.

In the quiet this morning, I’m meditating on the important natural patterns of family and family systems, both healthy and not-so-healthy. Even Jesus’ earthly family initially rejected Him and thought He was crazy. I’m also mindful that Jesus expanded the paradigm of “family” in His teaching:

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 3:31-35 (NIV)

I have tried, and have honestly, often failed, at following and exemplifying God’s prescribed pattern of teaching my children the way of Jesus and the Great Story. Doing so may have influenced but does not guarantee that my children will follow in my spiritual footsteps. In fact, like David, my failings may have had greater influence than my teaching. And there’s the rub. God prescribed a spiritually ideal pattern to flawed humans who can’t and won’t follow the pattern perfectly. Things break down. Which is why I need the grace and mercy of Jesus, and my children and grandchildren.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

One Thing Legacy

One Thing Legacy (2 Ki 1) Wayfarer

So he died, according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken.
2 Kings 1:17 (NIV)

This past year, our daughter Madison got a tattoo on her arm. It’s a gorgeous tat of a floral bouquet. She put a lot of thought into it. Each type of flower in the bouquet represents the previous generations of family who have influenced and impacted her life journey. Each flower has a metaphorical meaning related to the individual member of the family that it represents. The flower she chose for me was Simbelmynë, or “Evermind,” a fictional flower in Lord of the Rings. For Wendy, she chose red Ivy which represents affection and friendship. It goes on with flowers representing parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and step-grandparents. All of them are honored in the bouquet for the contribution they made to her life, and the positive qualities each person exemplified for her in her life journey.

I thought about that as I contemplated the brief reign of Ahaziah, son of evil Ahab, the ancient king of the northern kingdom of Israel. His brief reign of one year reign (he spent one year as coregent with his father) is encapsulated in a single episode. He has a “one thing” legacy in the Great Story. Ahaziah is injured in a falling accident. He sends messengers to the pagan Philistine god Baal-Zebub in the city of Ekron to divine if he would recover. In this, Ahaziah has revealed himself to be the true offspring of his father and mother’s hardhearted devotion to pagan gods and their antagonism towards the God of Abraham, Moses, and David. The prophet Elijah sends Ahaziah word that he will die on his bed, and so he does, and that’s his legacy.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking about legacy. I’ve observed that most people have little knowledge of their family legacy once they get past grandparents, or perhaps great-grandparents, who they may have known. Family is quickly forgotten, despite the fact that their lives and legacies contributed to the family system that impacted their descendants in numerous ways.

I consider Madison’s tattoo to be an index and roadmap for future generations to learn a bit about the individuals in the generations before her. I envision her in old age talking to grandchildren or great nephews and nieces and talking about each flower in the bouquet adorning her arm, which will prompt questions they will ask about those individuals, and stories she can share about each one, which will inform them of the legacy they have received from individuals they never knew. People who instilled faith, perseverance, and love into the family system.

And, of course, this brings to mind my own legacy and what will be remembered in the brief time I will be remembered before I and my life are completely forgotten on the earth. What will stand out and be remembered when I am remembered at family gatherings. What are the stories that will be shared? What will I have contributed? Will it be positive or negative? Faith or doubt? Courage or fear? Harmony or conflict? Love or hatred?

As I enter into this, another day kicking off another work week, I’m thinking that legacy has more to do with my daily thoughts, words, and actions than I want to admit.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.


Influence (CaD 1 Ki 15) Wayfarer

[Abijah] committed all the sins his father had done before him.
1 Kings 15:3 (NIV)

Wendy and I have the joy of having our children and grandchildren stay with us for a few weeks. Because they currently live on the other side of the ocean, it’s always special to have this time together. The house is a mess, there’s lots of noise, and there’s a lot of activity. I love it.

Our grandson, Milo, turned five this past Sunday. It’s fascinating to watch his young personality emerge and develop. He feels big feels, and he expresses those emotions on a grand scale. He expresses things I would never expect from someone his age. I know many adults who are not as in tune with their feelings, nor can they express them the way five-year-old Milo does. I love watching him grow up and watching his parents deftly navigate the turbulent emotional waters. Their calm and peaceful influence is impressive to observe.

With today’s chapter, the author of Kings enters the back-and-forth reigns of the various kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The author uses a repeated pattern. First, he identifies when the King ascended the throne in relation to who was on the throne in the other kingdom. Second, he establishes whether the King did good or evil in the eyes of the Lord based on his loyalty to God or pursuit of pagan religion and worship. There may be a mention of an important event during his reign (e.g. war or battle), or even a random trivial fact (e.g. King Asa’s feet were diseased in old age).

When I read this morning that Abijah, son of Jereboam, “committed all the sins his father had done before him,” I couldn’t help but conclude that he was “a chip off the old block.” Parents influence children. Children often do exactly what their parents model. Abijah did what his father did.

My thoughts in the quiet this morning are actually pretty simple. At this point on life’s road, parenting is more of an advisory position. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t have influence. Yesterday morning, Milo quietly opened the door to my office as I was reading and preparing to write my post. I beckoned for him to come and sit on my lap. Curious, he began asking me about the book I was reading and what I was doing in my office. I told him about my time in the quiet each morning reading, writing, and having conversations with God. He didn’t seem particularly interested in the details, which was fine. He was keenly interested to be on grandpa’s lap and get my assurance that I would be chasing him later in the day in a game we call “running around in a circle.” I assured him we would, and we did – multiple times.

Along my life journey, I’ve come to the realization that the influence I have on my children (and grandchildren) is in the person they see me being every day, over time along with the person I am with them in the relationship. They will have to make their own life choices. I will, however, give them a template to follow (or not follow) with my habits, my behaviors, my words, and my interactions with them.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.


But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.
1 Kings 12:8 (NIV)

When I was a young man, I had all the confidence in the world. I had an intense belief that I could do anything to which I set my mind. I didn’t even question it. The only question was what it was to which I would set my mind and heart. I was three years old when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon, and for my generation, I believe there was a certain anticipation and belief that we could shoot for the stars. Our grandparents were “the greatest generation” who grew up during the Great Depression and gave their lives to save the world from tyrannical evil in World War II. Our parents’ generation put men on the moon. There was no limit to what our generation could accomplish.

In those early years, I don’t remember having much anger or animosity toward the previous generations other than what I perceived to be their blind obedience to institutions and institutional traditions. I was an obedient and good kid for the most post, but I bucked traditions that I found silly and void of any tangible purpose.

By way of contrast, our daughters’ childhood and youth were marked by September 11, 2001, and a post-9/11 world. Taylor was 11, and Madison was not quite 10. Now in their 30s, I look at their generation and find them to have a very different mindset. My personal observation has been that they’ve largely rejected the faith and belief systems of previous generations outright. Despite being arguably the most affluent and privileged generation in the history of humanity, theirs is a pessimistic and cynical worldview of a world made perpetually evil by the previous generations and their belief systems, an assuredly apocalyptic future from any number of doomsday scenarios from climate change to capitalism, and their conviction that only they can change the world and save it for subsequent generations.

Generations are fascinating.

In today’s chapter, Solomon’s son Rehoboam takes over his father’s throne. I couldn’t help but think through the experience of the generations:

Generation #1: David
David has an incredibly difficult journey to the throne. Despite his early victory over Goliath and popular acclaim, David lives as a mercenary in the desert with a price on his head for well over a decade. He’s a middle-aged man by the time he ascends to the throne. He earned the kingdom through grit, faith, perseverance, and conquest.

Generation #2: Solomon
David’s marriage to Bathsheba and the subsequent birth of Solomon came relatively late in David’s life and reign. Solomon was born into the wealth and power of the royal family, but he was relatively young when he ascended the throne and inherited a vastly larger and wealthier nation that his father had spent a lifetime building. Solomon enjoyed the heck out of it, but his excess and extravagance came at a heavy expense to the everyday people of the nation.

Generation #3: Rehoboam
From what we can surmise, Rehoboam never knew a difficult day in his life. He great up, not only in the Royal palace like his father, but he also experienced the wealth, extravagance, and excess with which his father lived. Solomon may have known privilege, but Rehoboam knew only privilege and fortune on steroids. When he finally has his chance at the throne, he has no regard for his people or his nation. He and his entourage of similarly privileged and wealthy friends treat the throne as if it’s their golden ticket to continue their extravagant living while using their power to lord themselves over others.

In the quiet this morning, I ponder my place in the Great Story from a historical and generational perspective. On one hand, I feel humble in accepting the reality that generations are often unwitting products of the generations before them and the circumstances around them over which they have no control. On the other hand, I find myself desiring to not be fatalistic about the differences between generations but rather to help other generations with the wisdom of experience. Ultimately, you can’t control whether another generation will listen to or accept that wisdom.

The elders who tried to speak wisdom into Rehoboam learned that the hard way.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

(Un)Like Father, (Un)Like Son

(Un)Like Father, (Un)Like Son (CaD 2 Sam 18) Wayfarer

The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”
2 Samuel 18:33 (NIV)

A few years ago I ran into some old friends of the family whom I had not seen since I was a teenager. When the gentleman looked at me he exclaimed, “My goodness, there’s no mistaking who you are. You look just like your old man!” As I get older, the more comments I get about looking like my father.

“Chip off the ol’ block,” they say of children who become like their parents. As Wendy and I spent time with our young grandchildren this week, we couldn’t help but have the requisite conversations regarding who each of them resembles in the family.

It is interesting the ways we are similar and dissimilar from our parents. This morning I found it interesting to think about, not the similarities, but the contrast between David and his rebellious, patricidal son Absalom:

  • As a young man, David was the anointed king but refused to take the life of Saul or take the throne by force. He waited and suffered for years to let God’s plan unfold. Absalom schemed and plotted to take the throne and kingdom away from his father in a coup d’etat.
  • David was a warrior with blood on his hands, but he also stayed opportunities to kill his enemies, and he even ordered his generals to afford Absalom both respect and gentleness. Absalom, on the other hand, was more indiscriminate. He killed his own brother out of revenge and arguably would not have afforded his old man the same courtesy his father sought to afford him.
  • David made his share of mistakes, but he also acknowledged his failures when confronted with them. While not perfect, David’s self-awareness led to humility and he was constantly aware that even the king was subject to a higher authority. Throughout the story, Absalom’s actions appear to have been motivated by anger, pride, and hatred. His actions were a pursuit of vengeance and ultimately, the pursuit of personal gain.

I was struck this morning as I pictured David mourning for the son who had caused him and his kingdom so much injury. I imagined what Absalom would have done had he been successful at stealing the throne and confronting his father. I can’t picture Absalom being as gracious and forgiving.

As a parent I am fully aware of the ways our adult daughters have inherited my DNA, and how they have each been affected by my words and actions both positively and negatively. I believe David was aware of this, as well. David understood that the seed of Absalom’s rebellion took root in the wake of David’s own moral and relational failures. It did not absolve Absalom of his poor choices, but it afforded David the ability, much like the father in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, to be gracious in his attitude toward his son.

This morning in the quiet I find myself thinking about motivations, character, family, and choices. We don’t get to choose our family. We must all play the hand that we’re dealt. As I’ve progressed in my own life journey I’ve discovered that there is a fine line between acknowledging and understanding the ways our parents and family system affected us and using that knowledge as an excuse for our own poor choices. I think David and Absalom, father and son, are great examples of living on opposite sides of that line.

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Great Stories, My Story

But Absalom said, “Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so we can hear what he has to say as well.” 2 Samuel 17:5 (NIV)

It is said that one of the aspects of great stories is their timelessness. When I studied theatre in college there were entire sections of study devoted to Greek tragedies like Antigone and Oedipus Rex and, of course, the works of William Shakespeare. It was the late 20th century and in many classes, I spent more time studying plays and stories that were hundreds and thousands of years old than contemporary works.

As I read ancient stories like the story of David we’re wading through now, I can’t help but hear echoes of other timeless stories and make connections between them. Power plays for the throne (Game of Thrones), tragic human failure (Anakin Skywalker), and the intrigue of family rivalries (Succession) are the stuff of which classic stories are made. Today as I was reading the chapter, I thought of The Godfather films and the saga of the Corleone family; A timeless classic in its own right. As they led their mafia family, Vito and Michael Corleone always tried to have a guy, loyal to the family, on the inside of a rival family or faction. Luca Brasi dies while trying to convince the Tataglias that he wants to betray Don Corleone. Michael sends his brother Fredo to Las Vegas which not only serves to get Fredo out of his sight but also plants his own brother inside of an operation he doesn’t trust.

A few chapters ago, amidst the chaos of Absalom’s coup, the last thing that King David did before fleeing the palace was to plant his man, Hushai, inside Absalom’s inner circle. It proved to be a cunning move. Absalom took the bait hook, line, and sinker. In today’s chapter, David’s scheme comes to fruition and Hushai sets the hook which will be the undoing of Absalom. Absalom was a cunning young man and had planned his moves against his brothers and father well. In the end, however, he underestimated all the wisdom and experience his father had gathered while running for his life in enemy territory for many years. In addition, Absalom’s self-seeking motivation was about anger, vengeance, hatred, and personal power. The repentant David may have been facing the tragic consequences of his own blind spots and failings, but at the core of his being his heart was still humble before God.

In the third act of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather epic, Michael Corleone’s son confronts his father about the “bad memories” he has of his family and childhood. “Every family has bad memories,” Michael replies. And, so they do. Another appeal of great stories is the connections we make to our own lives and experiences. We are all part of the human experience. Even in my own family, there are true tales of tragedy and intrigue. Times change, but people are people, and our common human flaws source similar tales in our own lives and families. We each play our part in the story. We are each a cog in our family’s system. The cool thing is that we get to choose our character and influence the story with our daily choices of words, relationships, and deeds.

How will I choose to influence my story, and my family’s story, today?

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014

The featured image on today’s post created with Wonder A.I.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Blind Spots

Blind Spots (CaD 2 Sam 13) Wayfarer

When King David heard of all these things, he became very angry, but he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn.
2 Samuel 13:21 (NSRV)

I have been doing leadership development with the management team of one department of a client this week. It’s been both fascinating and a lot of fun as I spent time with each team member, learned their Enneagram Type, shadowed them as they went about their job, and observed them coaching their team members. Today, I get to sit with the team and review my observation and recommendations. They are great people and have a lot of potential but they also have a lot of challenges both individually and collectively.

David was a great warrior, a great general, and a great leader of men. Evidence leads me to believe that he was not, however, a great husband or father. As we’ve read David’s story he has slowly been amassing wives like the spoils of war and the result was many children. But, an army of children does not an army make. A family system and the complex relationships between birth order and gender can be difficult enough for a monogamous, nuclear family. I can’t imagine the exponential complexities that emerge when you have eight wives, ten concubines, and children with almost all of them.

As I read through these chapters I’ve noticed that I never read of David telling his children “no” nor do I read of him disciplining them for their behavior. David appears to have even had a reputation among his offspring for not refusing their requests. David’s daughter, Tamar, tells her half-brother Amnon that if he simply asks Dad she’s sure he’ll let them get married. When Amnon rapes Tamar instead and then turns her away we hear of David’s anger, but he doesn’t do anything about disciplining his beloved firstborn son. When Tamar’s full brother Absalom plots to kill their half-brother Amnon in revenge, Absalom goes to David and presses good ol’ dad until David relents and sends all the brothers on Absalom’s little fratricidal sheep-shearing retreat.

David has a blind spot. He can lead an army to endless victories but his record as leader of a family is a tragic string of failures and defeats.

I cannot point at David without three fingers pointing back at me. We all have our blind spots. The managers I’ve been mentoring this week have been learning that their Enneagram Type reveals their tremendous strengths, but also their core fears and weaknesses. If they are going to succeed as a team, they will have to embrace both within themselves and their team members. Our greatest strengths have their corollary weaknesses. We cannot escape this reality, but we can escape being enslaved to it. What we can do is be honest about our blind spots. We can choose to shine a light on them and invest time and attention in addressing them. We can surround ourselves with others who will graciously help us see them, work through them, and who will patiently love us as we do.

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014

The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder A.I.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.