Tag Archives: Hard Work

A Friend’s Example

A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a thief
    and scarcity like an armed man.

Proverbs 24:33-34 (NIV)

It was the first summer of college and, like most young college students, I needed to make some money. I had a part-time internship but it paid little. So, I cobbled together a string of jobs. Each weekday morning at 5:00 a.m. I started my day driving a paper route delivering the daily USA Today to convenience stores. In the evenings and weekends, I worked at a bookstore in the mall. I mowed a few lawns. And, I always kept my ear open for potential odd jobs. So it was, when a large denomination was holding their global conference in Iowa, I spent a week babysitting for a small gaggle of bratty pastors’ kids all day.

I had a friend who joined me in the day care operation and together we oversaw boys ages 8-11. There was a lot of down time as we watched over the kids in various activities, and so we had a lot of conversations.

It’s funny how certain verses are tied to very specific memories for me. It was during that week of babysitting that my friend and I somehow got talking about Proverbs. I remember that it surprised me a bit, because I never thought him to be one who would read the Bible. But he told me that he had a favorite passage and then he recited to me..

A little sleep, a little slumber,

    a little folding of the hands to rest—

and poverty will come on you like a thief

    and scarcity like an armed man.

He recited it with such precision and heartfelt conviction, that it has stuck with me the rest of my life. I can’t read these words without seeing folding his hands as he said the words, and hearing my friend’s unique vocal cadence saying them.

But, there’s more to this story. During that week, the two of us were mere acquaintances. That week planted seeds of friendship that grew into one of the most fruitful friendships I’ve experienced on my earthly journey. We had very different paths, he and I. In the 35 years we’ve been friends we’ve never lived in the same city (with the exception of a few summers home from college). We had very diverse academic and vocational paths. We’ve had very different spiritual journeys. In fact, his perfect and sincere recitation of these two verses is a rare and exceptional display of any sort of spiritual or religious conviction from him.

Thus, I find myself in the quiet this morning thinking about me and my friend hustling our butts off as teenagers and working multiple odd-jobs day and night to make money for college. I’ve observed from afar my friend pursuing his own difficult academic and career path with diligence and conviction. I’ve witnessed and celebrated with him as he has experienced tremendous success in his chosen field.

Looking back, I realize that the Proverbs he recited with such conviction, on that hot Iowa afternoon so many years ago, were words that he had ingested into his very life. He was speaking them from his soul. He embraced their wisdom and it was leading to him to the development of the virtue of hard work in his studies, his vocation, and his life.

I’m grateful to my friend. By his living example, he has taught me that it is one thing to read the words and understand what they say. It’s another thing to internalize their wisdom and let them motivate and guide my behavior.

<— 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.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Observations of a Mentor

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
Luke 16:10 (NIV)

I have been on the road this week working with a client. As part of my duties for this particular client, I have been mentoring a number of their front-line supervisors. Most of these supervisors are in their first managerial position, and I have an opportunity to help them learn some of the basic managerial and interpersonal skills they will need in order to succeed.

Over the years, I have observed that I can usually tell in my first few sessions when one of my protégés is going to be successful. Those who are self-aware of their own struggles and shortcomings and are willing to be open and honest about them tend to make quick progress. I have enjoyed watching these individuals listen to wise counsel, work hard to develop themselves, and rise quickly within the organization.

I have also had the experience of mentoring individuals who are dishonest with me about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and what is really happening within the team in their charge. Some have been so good at spinning their reality that when I give my report to their senior manager, their manager thought I must be talking about a different person. I’m sorry to say that I’ve watched certain individuals in my charge fail because they lacked the simple ability to be honest with themselves and others.

In today’s chapter, Luke shares a series of parables that Jesus told His followers. In the midst of the parables, Jesus makes a very simple observation that those who can be trusted with very little can be trusted with much, and that the opposite is equally true. I suddenly saw the faces of individuals I’ve mentored who have given me living proof of Jesus’ words.

I’m back in my home office this morning, and in the quiet I find myself looking back at my own life and career. I have been blessed to have had good mentors and wise counselors in my life, and I hope that I’m doing a good job of paying it forward with the dividends of their investment in me. So much of what I’ve learned boils down to things that are very simple.

Be honest, trustworthy, capable, and content with the smallest of the responsibilities you’re given. In due time, you’ll find yourself with greater responsibilities.

Have you missed the previous chapter-a-day posts from this journey through the Gospel of Luke? Click on this image and it will take you to a quick index of the other posts!

Building Projects

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

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

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

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

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

God, help me be a people builder.

Chapter-a-Day Deuteronomy 8

Young Corn from the Grant Wood collection
Image via Wikipedia

After a meal, satisfied, bless God, your God, for the good land he has given you. Deuteronomy 8:10 (MSG)

Wendy and I drove to Des Moines this past Friday. The rolling hills of the Iowa landscape stretched out as far as one could see. It’s beautiful this time of year with layers of color from the rich dark soil and the deep green of the crops covered with a glowing golden blanket of tassels. After gazing out the window for a long time Wendy commented that Grant Wood had captured the Iowa landscape so perfectly. I agreed. The comment brought to mind a memory of walking through the gallery at the Des Moines Art Center many years ago and seeing a pastel of the Iowa landscape. I did not know the artist, but I knew immediately that she must have grown up here. There was a depth of knowledge of the land beneath her pastels.

Growing up in Iowa you feel a certain connection with the land. The landscape is not an attraction, it’s a part of you. The people and the land are inexorably intertwined. In Iowa, you grow up with an appreciation for both the divine providence and the hard work that produces a family dinner on Sunday.

Many years ago I was on a journey through God’s Message and passed through this section of Deuteronomy. The verse above resonated deep within me. You could say I memorized it, but I feel more as if it attached itself to my spirit. This verse comes to mind after every good meal, and after an exceptional meal my family will hear me utter it out loud.

I never want to forget the blessing of living in a good land.

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