Tag Archives: Graduation

Pomp and Circumstance

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)

We are all suckers for a Pinterest-worthy phrase. The Bible is full of them. The stuff of inspirational bookmarks, posters, desktop backgrounds, and cheap commercial trinkets sold at your local Christian bookstore.

As I’ve journeyed through God’s Message for almost 40 years, I’ve observed that it’s quite common for that inspirational, scriptural quote to be taken completely out of context. Text that is actually profound, mysterious, and/or challenging with eternal, Level Four spiritual meaning is screen printed, replicated and dragged down to self-centric, ego-pleasing, Level One interpretations. I’m not pointing fingers, by the way. I’m as guilty as anyone.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I’m sure there are many young followers of Jesus who are receiving graduation gifts from well-meaning grandparents with that phrase printed on a greeting card, key-chain, or bookmark. On the surface, it seems to flow right along with all the pomp and circumstance of your boiler-plate commencement address:

“Chase after your dreams.”

“You can be anything you want to be.”

“Make your mark on this world.”

“The world is yours for the taking.”

“All your dreams can come true if you work hard enough.”

I noticed as I read the chapter this morning that preceding Paul’s inspirational statement is a rather sobering message:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

Paul, who was stoned and left for dead outside the city of Lystra. Paul, who was shipwrecked three times in the Mediterranean and once spent twenty-four hours floating on debris in the open ocean hoping to make it to shore. Paul, who was bitten by a viper. Paul, who five times was given 39 lashes (because 40 was considered lethal). Paul, who traveled some 10,000 miles largely by foot. Paul, who was beaten with rods three times, went hungry and found himself cold, naked, and alone. Paul, who was writing those words from prison.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

The secret of being content in any circumstance is the “all things” Paul was referencing with his inspirational phrase. He wasn’t talking about grabbing the world by the tail, achieving his personal dreams, and moving up in the world. He was talking about being perfectly content being cold, naked, hungry, bloody, bruised and shackled in a first-century dungeon. Ironically, that is not the stuff of inspirational commencement addresses.

Along my life journey, I’ve observed that it is discontent that often fuels personal dreams, aspirations, ambition, economics, and the American dream. Paul’s faith taught him contentment in the midst of unimaginable suffering. I struggle to be content with my iPhone 8 when the iPhone X hits the market.

And there’s the disconnect.

This morning I find myself challenged to restore the meaning of the words “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” to its profound, mysterious, spiritual meaning in my own heart and life.  Being content no matter my current situation and circumstances. I confess that it’s easier said than done for me, and I’ve got a long way to go in learning the secret Paul discovered. Which is why this is a journey.

Time to press on. Have a good day, my friend.

 

The Latest 07-17-2016

Summer 2016 is almost half over. Time flies. Late June and early July have been on-the-go for Wendy and me. We headed to the lake at the end of June and spent a rainy 4th of July weekend together. It literally rained non-stop, with maybe one or two brief breaks, for over two days. It was actually kind of depressing. We stayed inside and began binge watching House of Cards.

bear bottom with rooses

On July 4th we were joined at the lake by Kev, Beck, and the kiddos. The weather finally started to break and we were able to enjoy the better part of two days together. We ate at Captain Ron’s the evening of the 4th, and then went to Bear Bottom the following day for some fun in the sun. Wendy and headed for home that afternoon while our friends stayed to enjoy the rest of the week at the lake.

Congrats to our Taylor! She headed to Scotland right after the holiday weekend. She walked the stage at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh to receive her Master’s Degree. We’re sorry not to have been there with her, but so proud of her. She’s staying in Scotland and will work at the Fringe Festival there in July and August.

Wendy and I have been spending a good part of our summer doing some finish work on decorating our house. After moving in last year there were a number of things that we just decided to put off for the sake of time, energy and finances. We got some new furniture both upstairs and downstairs which meant moving and rearranging in several rooms. I installed some dimmer switches in V-Dub pub to give us more control of the “ambiance.”

Happy Birthday, Grandma!
Happy Birthday, Grandma!

It was fun to host our niece, Lydia, and two of her friends last weekend. Lydia was playing a wedding on Saturday and her friends were along to make it a girls weekend. It was nice to get to play host to the lovely ladies. I preached last Sunday at Celebrate Church in Knoxville, and we celebrated Grandma VH’s 89th birthday that afternoon with a small family gathering at her apartment.

I was on the road this week in Texas along with one of our team members, Nick. It’s a trip we make quarterly. It was very hot in Texas and on Wednesday night we decided to go out and have some fun. We went to a Laredo Lemurs game. The Lemurs play in an independent league not affiliated with MLB. It’s mostly ex-college players and minor league castaways who want to keep playing and hoping for a shot. Nick and I actually had a great night and enjoyed both the baseball and the Lemur.

I finished up earlier than expected on Friday. My flight wasn’t until late afternoon. So, I spent a couple of hours having an artist’s date at the McNay art museum in San Antonio. It’s still one of my happiest places on earth.

Madison Matt at Wedding

Madison’s summer has been a combination of building both community and career in South Carolina while maintaining a relationship with her boyfriend Matt back in Colorado. They’ve traveled back and forth to see one another. She’s back in Colorado this weekend attending a wedding with Matt. The two were here with us at Tulip Time, and we’ll get to see them again at the end of August when they meet us at the lake for a few days.

christmas-post-header

As we head toward the dog days of August, Wendy is busy prepping for her role as Director of the community theater holiday production, The Christmas Post. This is the third time she’s directed the show. It’s been ten years since the last one. I’ll be auditioning for the show as well as playing the role as her Producer. Auditions are in a few weeks and all of the leg work has begun.

 

The Latest 05-29-2016

Wendy and I typically spend a long weekend or two each March or April getting the Lake House cleaned and ready for the busy summer season. With our involvement in Almost, Maine taking precedent in March and April, followed quickly by our responsibilities at Pella’s Tulip Time in early May, we haven’t spent nearly as much time in the Ozarks as we would have liked. This week we made up for lost time.

Last weekend, after Chad and JP had facilitated replacing the decking on our swim dock and gangway, our two faithful friends headed home late Sunday morning. Wendy, meanwhile, made her way to the lake. She stopped in Osage for supplies and then joined me on a gorgeous Sunday evening. We celebrated our reunion by heading to Captain Ron’s for pizza, and to watch the Cubs.

Boat cleaned up and purring a long.
Boat cleaned up and purring a long.

The weather forecast for the week made it clear that Monday was the only day we would get by without rain. After taking care of a few work related responsibilities, we proceeded to make the most of a good day to work on the Playhouse. First Boat Ride of SummerI mowed and trimmed the lawn, then proceeded to power wash the entire exterior of the house and windows, the entire deck (top and bottom) the lower patio, the sidewalk to the dock, and the entire dock. I also cleaned up the boat and the Waverunner.
Wendy, meanwhile, busied herself giving the interior of the house a more thorough cleaning than it’s perhaps ever had. By the end of the day we were really tired, but we still made a point of jumping in the boat in our grubby clothes for our first boat ride of the summer together.

Playhouse Rain
Rain was a common sight this week.

The rest of the week was, indeed, rainy. We certainly had periods of sun, but every day was punctuated by showers. In many cases, we got some pretty strong thunder showers. At one point we lost power for a couple of hours.

We continued to work remotely each day, but then took the opportunity to continue cleaning and organizing. I cleaned out the store-room and shed. We checked all of the air beds to make sure they still held their air (2 of 3 did). We went through boxes and tubs and did a general purging of things we no longer wanted or needed. We also made our annual seasonal run to Walmart to stock up on supplies for the summer. It felt really good!

Playhouse Puzzle

With the rain dampening our opportunities to get on the water a lot, we worked on a jigsaw puzzle and listened to the Cubs each afternoon/evening. On Wednesday evening we were surprised with a visit from old friends. Jim and Judy Halvorsen were parents of two wonderful friends from my high school youth group days back in the early 1980s. They happened to be nearby visiting Judy’s mother and made contact with me on Facebook. Wendy and I invited them over for burgers on the grill and we enjoyed a really nice evening of conversation on the deck. It was so good to catch up.

On Thursday morning we treated ourselves to a huge breakfast at ChancesR, a local greasy spoon. That afternoon we had a window of glorious sunshine and made the most of it. We jumped in the boat and enjoyed a leisurely ride to a quiet cove. We anchored and then read in the sun, enjoying the cool breeze and a cold beverage while getting our first sunburn of the season.

Tom Wendy Fun in the Sun

We were glad we got out in the sun. Very heavy rain descended late in the afternoon and continued all evening. On Friday morning we picked up, cleaned up and were on the road for home by noon. Our lawn at home had become a jungle in the 10 days I’d been away, and my first duty upon arriving back at VW Manor was to break the mower out. Afterward we cleaned up and headed to Mat and Anne’s for drinks and dessert. Keven McQ joined in the festivities and we enjoyed conversation late into the evening.

Congratulations Emma!
Congratulations Emma!

Yesterday was a busy day in Des Moines. Wendy made five cheesecake’s for our niece, Emma’s, graduation party. We headed into town about 9:00 a.m. and dropped the cheesecakes off with Lydia and Sam, who would then transport them to the event. Wendy and I then ran (too many, for my liking) errands. By 2:00 we were in Adel at Emma’s party.

It was great to celebrate Emma’s graduation. She’s the last of the nieces and nephews on the Vander Well side to graduate from high school. My folks were at the open house and we got to chat about what it was like to watch all your grandkids graduate. So fun to share with them in that blessing. Taylor joined us later in the party and we got to catch up briefly.

Taylor is headed back to Scotland in a month to go through her own graduation ceremony for her master’s program. She plans to work at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival in August, and is applying for a job there.  We’re excited that she has an opportunity to go back to Scotland, perhaps long-term, but not excited about the prospect of not seeing her again for a long time.

Our friends Kev and Beck enjoyed a weekend visit from Becky’s sister, Joy, and Joy’s boyfriend, Eddie. We met them at Emma’s graduation party. While Kev and Beck went on to two other parties, Wendy and I played host to Joy and Eddie back at Kev and Beck’s house. We spent the evening on Kev and Beck’s deck. Kev smoked some ribs for a scrumptious dinner, and we really enjoyed getting to know Joy and Eddie. It was very late by the time Wendy and I made it back to Pella last night.

Coffee VW Manor W Life is Good

Today marks the first full day I’ve spent in Pella in almost two weeks. A gorgeous Sunday began on the front porch with a cup of hot coffee watching the “W” flag wafting in the breeze and enjoying the peaceful quiet of Utrecht Laan.

Time to Grow Up

“…so that you may not be mixed with these nations left here among you, or make mention of the names of their gods, or swear by them, or serve them, or bow yourselves down to them, but hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day.”
Joshua 22:7-8 (NRSV)

There are different stages in life. What may be good and appropriate for one stage of life may change and evolve as we grow and mature. This is natural. It is a part of the journey. It is how God designed it.

When I was a child there were boys that my parents did not want me hanging out with. My parents saw that they had different values. They were older. There was every possibility that they would have drawn me into trouble. My parents didn’t say these were “bad” kids. They simply told me to steer clear.

As I got older my parents stopped warning me about people. They sent me off to work, to college, to the mission field, and to the broader world. They wanted me to explore, to meet people, to learn, to grow, and to influence the world around me. They trusted me to be wise and discerning regarding my relationships.

I have come to believe that the relationship between God and man in history parallels the stages of human life. In today’s chapter, humanity is in its early childhood years. The people of God have become aware of their place in the world. They are learning about interacting with others. Their heavenly father warns them to steer clear of those who might have an unhealthy influence on them. Just like my parents did at that age.

Along life’s road I’ve known many followers of Jesus who still cling to this early childhood attitude of fear and suspicion towards others. They insulate themselves from their neighbors. They fear contact with others who are not like them and who don’t believe the same ways. It is as if they fear contamination should they associate with anyone who is not a part of their insular church family. They might even use Joshua’s words in today’s chapter to justify it.

Jesus’ death and resurrection was a rite of passage in the relationship between God and man. It was relational graduation into adulthood of sorts. Holy Spirit was poured out into the hearts and lives of those who believe. Jesus now sent His followers out into the world. No more hanging with the homeys behind locked doors. No more keeping to yourself. Jesus said, “Go….” Heavenly Father was kicking His children out of the nest. You’re old enough. You’re wise enough. I’ve prepared you and equipped you and it’s time for you to get out there an influence your world.

Today, I’m thinking about stages of life. There was a time when I was a child and I needed to be wary of others influencing me. Now I’m a man, and if I still live with that fear then there’s something that has short circuited in the maturation process. As Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus in the city of Corinth: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”

At some point, it’s time for every one of us to grow up, go out into the world into strange places among people who are new to us and influence those we meet with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.

chapter a day banner 2015

featured image: shenamt via Flickr

Let Summer Begin!

For me, summer is always the season between Memorial Day and Labor Day. At the lake, the two three-day weekends are the bookends of the busy season. This past winter was brutally long, cold, and snowy. I have been really looking forward to Memorial Day weekend this year and, with it, the unofficial start of summer.

It was a busy weekend for the Vander Wells. Saturday was Suzanna’s high school graduation open house. Wendy was in high gear last week baking and making preparations. I spent a lot of time at the end of the week getting the yard and patio cleaned up and ready for the throng of guests. It was a gorgeous day on Saturday. Mom and Dad Hall came down from Boone to help with the festivities. Mom and Dad Vander Well also came down from Des Moines along with Taylor. We also had sister-in-law Bonnie and the kids make the long trek from Arizona to celebrate Suzanna. Suzanna was, indeed, celebrated. The last of the seven Hall kids to finish high school and head off on life’s road.

By the time Wendy and I got things picked up and cleaned up it was about 9:30 Saturday evening and we passed out on the couch. The plans was to head to the lake on Sunday to meet the VLs who had headed down to the lake on Friday evening. Wendy and I went to church and took the morning and early afternoon to get things packed. We finally headed out mid-afternoon and arrived at the lake in the early evening hours. The wonderful VLs had the lawn mowed, the house prepped, wine poured, and a steak dinner ready for us! Talk about spoiled! 🙂 After getting the kiddos to bed, the adults sat and talked late into the night.

Memorial Day morning was spent with coffee and conversation on the deck, playing with the kids, and taking a little walk. Wendy and I headed into town mid-day to run some errands and catch a matinee of the new X-Men movie (it’s good, btw). By the time we returned it was supper time and the VL crew had vacated the premises to head to their time share down on Table Rock Lake. Wendy and I grilled some salmon and concluded Memorial Day on the couch in front of the final few episodes of the second season of Homeland.

We’re working remotely from the lake this week and looking forward to having the Roose’s here with us next weekend!

Weekend Marks Beginnings and Endings

The VL Boys took me to Court Ave Brewing Co for dinner, then to an I-Cubs game for my birthday.
The VL Boys took me to Court Ave Brewing Co for dinner, then to an I-Cubs game for my birthday.

It was a full weekend for Wendy and me. The end of Suzanna’s high school career came on Friday with her last day of school and subsequent choir concert Friday night. Mom and Dad Hall came down from Boone for a visit and attended the concert with us on Friday night along with Grandma VH.

Wendy and I celebrated Suzanna’s accomplishment on Saturday morning with a breakfast at the Windmill Cafe and some special gifts to mark the occasion. We spent some time over breakfast talking about all that Suzanna has experienced and learned this past year. It was ironic that she finished her last high school class on Friday and then went to work at her first job on Saturday night. She’s going to be working at Kaledera restaurant. One chapter ends and another one begins.

The VL boys wanted to take me to an I-Cubs game for my birthday and we did that on Saturday night. It was a gorgeous evening and we dined at Court Ave Brewing Co. on their sidewalk before scooting over to Principal Park to watch our beloved I-Cubbies drop a back and forth affair to Round Rock.

Sunday morning was senior brunch for Suzanna at church as the church celebrated all of the seniors wrapping up their time in the youth group. Upstairs in the church auditorium, where Wendy and I worship, there is new thing happening and I was asked to share a short message and help start the launch.

Wendy and I then headed to our first I-Cubs game on Sunday afternoon. The season is about six weeks old, but it’s the first time we’ve been able to get to a game and we’re looking forward to several more afternoons and evenings watching our boys of summer.

Dinner with mom and dad VW last night at Bravo! We were celebrating Mother’s Day a week late and enjoyed a wonderful meal and time with the folks. We then finished the weekend at Kev and Beck’s along with Taylor who is living with them as she prepares for grad school in Scotland in the fall. A few glasses of wine and a long evening of wonderful conversation.

A Weekend of Celebration

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The past couple of years it seems that celebrations come in bunches. Last summer we celebrated Madison’s graduation from NLSW on the same day that Wendy’s sister Becky got married. This past weekend was another double billing as Wendy and I celebrated my birthday and along with Taylor’s graduation (Summa Cum Laude, no less) from Grandview University.

Work before pleasure. I had a quarterly Board Meeting for work on Friday, so Wendy accompanied me and ran errands in Des Moines while I got through the Board Meeting. We ran a few more errands in the afternoon and did a little shopping in the later afternoon before meeting our friends Joel and Suzy for dinner at Noah’s .

Wendy and I had a room at the Savery which had a quiet little bar in the lobby. Taylor got off work at Mercy Hospital at 9:00 p.m. and joined us for a night cap. The three of us enjoyed conversation over drinks until after the place shut down at midnight. We’re so proud of our girl, and it was nice just to sit and chat for a few hours. Taylor headed home and we headed to our room.

I was hoping to go to the Downtown Farmer’s Market on Saturday, but we were a week early. The Market doesn’t start until May 4. So, we took our time getting going on Saturday morning and headed to the East Village. We’ve been working on a plan for updating Vander Well Manor, so we stopped and worked on some particulars with the folks at Builders Kitchen. We then enjoyed a gorgeous spring morning walking around the East Village. We had our first experience at Zombie Burger (which we loved) and then headed to Hy-Vee Hall to watch Taylor graduate.

Grandpa Dean, Grandma Jeanne, Wendy and I left the ceremony after seeing Taylor get her diploma. We avoided the crowds and stopped at Starbucks for an afternoon pick-me-up before heading over to Eric and Cindy Boeyinks’ for Taylor’s reception. We had a great time chatting with the Boeyink clan and eating some tasty treats. Wendy and I headed home to watch the Cub’s beat Miami and to call it an early night.

Tonight we continue a celebratory weekend on this amazingly, beautiful spring afternoon. We’re headed to Matthew’s for a turkey barbecue along with the VL’s. Wendy made me my favorite peanut butter chocolate chunk cheesecake for my birthday which we’ll enjoy after dinner! 🙂