Tag Archives: Memories

Refuge Within

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God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.

Psalm 46:1 (NRSVCE)

It seems strange in today’s world, but when I was a kid we walked to school and we would walk home. There were safety patrol members standing at the busy corners to make sure kids didn’t walk across the street when the sign said “don’t walk.” It was a sea of childhood humanity flooding out of the school and making a daily pilgrimage home.

Once you were off school grounds, of course, there was no adult supervision. It’s amazing how quickly we learned that there was safety in numbers, and since I had older siblings I had the advantage of knowing a bunch of kids older than me. I could tag along and feel the relative safety of being with a “big kid.”

The real goal, however, was home. There was a certain sense of safety once I got to my own block. That was my territory. I was known there. I experienced real safety, however, once I was inside my house. Any fear of bullies or anxiety of potential trouble melted away. I was safe at home.

Today’s chapter, Psalm 46, is a song that celebrated refuge. For the ancient Hebrews, home base was the walled city of Jerusalem. The temple was there on Mount Zion. For the Hebrews, God was there in His temple. Their warrior-king was there in his palace. Troubles may rage, but they celebrated the safety they felt being safely in the place God resided. For those who remember growing up singing the great hymns, today’s psalm was the inspiration for Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is Our God.

As I have written about on numerous occasions, Jesus changed the entire spiritual landscape. He made it clear that God’s “temple” was not a bricks-and-mortar edifice. When I open my heart and life and invite Jesus in, God’s Spirit indwells me. The temple is me.

How radically that changes the metaphor of refuge. Refuge is no longer without. Refuge is within. Writing to the followers of Jesus in Phillipi, Paul explained that God’s peace, which is beyond human comprehension, guards my heart and guards my mind. Though troubles may surround me on all sides, I may find a peace within sourced not in me, but the Spirit in me.

In the quiet this morning, I’m taking comfort in that.

Very early in the Jesus Movement, believers began a ritual of “passing the Peace.” They would say to one another “the peace of Christ be with you.” It was a tangible way of reminding one another of this spiritual intangible of God’s refuge within.

In this world, we have lots of troubles. Jesus told us to expect it, and not to worry about it because He overcame the world. The beginning of another work week. Here we go.

The peace of Christ be with you, my friend.

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

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.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Music and the Blues

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord….
Exodus 15:1 (NRSVCE)

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I have a confession to make. I have always wished I had a gift in music. Sure, I did the requisite year or two of lessons as a kid, but nothing every really clicked for me. I sang in the church youth choir and continued to sing in church and school groups for years. I taught myself a bunch of chords on the guitar so I could sing a few Bob Dylan songs on my back porch on a summer evening, and serenade our daughters to sleep singing Forever Young. But, that’s not the gift of music.

I remember an episode of M*A*S*H I watched as a kid. One of the doctors, Major Winchester, was a patrician blue blood with a knowledge of all the fine things of life. He finds himself having to amputate the hand of a patient, only to recognize the young man as one of the world’s up-and-coming virtuoso pianists. The Major goes to great lengths to ensure that the man does not let the loss of his hand prevent him from playing. His response was that young man had a gift and he couldn’t let that go to waste. “I could always play the notes,” Winchester said, “but I could never make the music.”

Bingo! One of the best delineations between competence and giftedness I’ve ever heard.

So, I’ve never been a gifted musicians, and that’s okay. My gifts are in other areas. But it doesn’t stop me from appreciating music. I believe that God infused music with powerful properties. One of them is the way music ties us emotionally and spiritually to moments of our life journeys.

When I started to read the lyrics to the Hebrews’ victory song in today’s chapter I was immediately transported back to my high school youth group on a summer morning clapping and singing these same lyrics to an acoustic guitar.

As soon as I hear the Hollies’ classing Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress I am ten years old and in cabin 3 at Camp Idelwood on Rainy Lake, Minnesota. It’s a cold, rainy day and I’m stuck in the cabin with Mark Malone, Piper, Matt, and my sister Jody.

When I hear The Old Rugged Cross you might notice me smile softly and catch a tear welling-up in my eye. That was my grandma Golly’s song, and the music connects me forever to her.

You get it. I know you do. We all do. That’s the power of music.

Three Times a Lady: My first kiss.
Bridge of Troubled Waters: Road trip to Le Mars and 8-track tapes.
The Joshua Tree: Judson College
Psycho-Killer: Backstage. Pre-show. Kirk.

In today’s chapter, the Hebrews celebrate what God has done with a song. They lyrics are recorded and handed down generation-to-generation. What the tune originally sounded like is lost in the depths of time, but thousands of years later me and my friends at church were singing the same lyrics as we clapped and sang and worshipped God on a summer morning.

How cool is that?

I don’t know about you, but life has felt so heavy the past week or two. The weight of months of quarantine and social distancing, life out-of-whack, George Floyd, riots, violence. Ugh.

As I returned from my road trip on Wednesday I happened upon Bob Dylan and gospel great Mavis Staples singing Dylan’s song called Change My Way of Thinkin’. In one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard in modern music, they stop the music to act out a scripted vignette in which Dylan tells Mavis that he’s got the blues.

Dylan: I been up all night with insomnia reading Snoozeweek.

Staples: Snoozeweek? That ain’t no way to get rid of the blues. You’ve got to sing!

With that, they launch back into the raucous gospel-blues tune.

Here’s the song on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/0ssPo81sHtsS1VfFn4DtjH?si=ftZZt5b0SMKc7BYQjgSBUw

Thanks, Mavis. What a good reminder. And this morning in the quiet it reminds me that in connecting us emotionally and spiritually to people, places, and events, music also has healing properties.

Mavis Staples is right. Staying awake all night watching the news is no cure for the blues. We need music. We need to surround ourselves in the beat, the melody, the lyrics that will lift our spirit and help us extricate the weight of the moment by expressing it.

Gonna Change My Way of Thinkin’ did that for me.

Think about it. Try it. Let me know what song or songs help you. I’m curious to know.

Rock on, my friend.

Want to Read More?

Simply click on the image above or click here to be taken to a page with a simple photo index to all posts from this series on Exodus.

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.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

“When I Could Stand it No Longer….”

For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith.
1 Thessalonians 3:5 (NIV)

Wendy and I had a moment of nostalgia the other night as we watched The Man in the High Castle. The show is set in the early 1960s. The phone rang in one of the scenes and the character answered the classic rotary wall phone. It was a “private call” so she walked through the kitchen door into the dining room. She was able to do this because the phone had a “long cord.”

Oh my gosh!” Wendy exclaimed just as I was thinking the same thing. “Do you remember the ‘long chord?'”

Back in the day our house had one phone line. For a while we had only phone on the wall in the kitchen, but my parents eventually added another wall phone extension in the basement. There were rotary phones on which the handset had to be attached to the base unit. If you didn’t want everyone in the house to hear your conversation you had to have this 20′ curly cord that would allow you to walk into another room and shut the door.

Suddenly I was back in my childhood hanging around by the phone in the excruciating wait for a girl to call me. I can remember the agony that came with desperately wanting that phone to ring, and for it to be her, so that I could pull the ‘long chord’ on the basement phone to the back of our storage room and have conversation in hushed tones. And as we talked, I would pray that my parents or siblings would not pick up the phone in the kitchen and totally embarrass me while I was talking to the girl on whom I had a serious crush.

In this morning’s chapter I noticed that Paul twice uses a phrase in talking about his love for his Thessalonian friends: “When I could stand it no longer….” I began to ask myself how I could relate to that sentiment of being so emotionally invested in relationship that silence and the unknown create anxiety. Those moments waiting by the phone were an easy memory, but there are others. It’s the experience of having your children half a world away and knowing that they are struggling, but there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s those moments when tragedy strikes a dear friend who lives far away and you feel so terribly helpless.

This morning in the quiet I’m struck by two distinct thoughts. First I take solace of knowing that Paul, who is often spiritualized by believers to the point of being morphed into superhuman status, also struggled with the very human emotion of anxiety and fear to the point he could “stand it no longer.” The normal humanity I see in “heroes of faith” remind me to have a little grace with myself.  The second thought is simply the intense love and concern Paul shows towards his friends he left back in the Greek seaport. It reminds me of yesterday’s thoughts, that Paul’s ministry was not an impersonal evangelistic tour, but a life sharing mission that bore the fruit of deep relationship.

I’m left thinking this morning of family and friends with whom I have not conversed for a time; Those who my heart wonders about. Maybe today’s a good day to wander down to the dock and make a call or two. I can do that. I no longer require a 500′ “long cord “.

featured photo courtesy kris krüg via Flickr

TBT: Lookin’ Dapper Young Man

Tom c1969 - 1

For Throwback Thursday, here’s my dapper self around the age of two or three. Obviously, my love for sporting a bow tie started at a very young age. Love it.

I’m standing in front of my grandparents console color television which I remember being quite the technological marvel at the time. Television… in color. Of course, the color was about as good as my grandmother’s Polaroid camera which took this picture.

Baseball Links Generations Together

ICubs GameWendy and I headed to Principal Park in Des Moines yesterday afternoon to attend our first Iowa Cubs game of the season. It was great to sit in the sun, get sunburn, eat a hot dog, and quaff a few cold ones despite our boys of summer getting trounced by Oklahoma City.

One of the many reasons I enjoy baseball is the history and traditions of the game. Given my love of history and my tendency to be nostalgic to a fault, it makes sense that I would love a game that has roughly been played the same way for almost 200 years. It’s a game that binds generations together.

My first trips to Sec Taylor stadium (now known as Sec Taylor Field at Principal Park) were in the early 1970s. About once a summer my grandpa Spec would drive me to Sec Taylor (with a requisite drive by of the Iowa State Capitol building) for an afternoon game. In those days the home team was known as the Iowa Oaks, the AAA farm team of the Oakland Athletics. Grandpa would get us bleacher seats in the shade of the open grandstand roof, behind home plate. We watched some of the great players of Oakland’s  World Series winning “mustache gang” as they made their way up to the bigs.

Today, when I sit and enjoy the Iowa Cubs in a much nicer park I am reminded of my grandfather. I never fail to have memories of bringing Taylor and Madison to games when they were young. They still humor dad with an occasional trip to the park even though neither of them really cares about the game. I relive memories of bringing our young friends Nathan and Aaron. And, God willing, I dream of the day I get to bring my own grandchildren to a game at the same park, just as Grandpa Spec brought me.

Principal Park

Baseball links generations together.

10 Years Ago: Phantom of the Prom

Phantom of the PHS Prom April 2006
Phantom of the PHS Prom April 2006

For Remember When Wednesday, I happened across this post from April 9, 2006. The the local high school prom that year was at the historic Pella Opera House. The theme was, appropriately, The Phantom of the Opera. I was asked to don the Phantom costume and haunt the prom goers as they arrived. Taylor attended prom that year with her friend, Walker.

Easter at Grandpa Spec & Grandma Golly’s

Easter with the Hall family last week got me thinking about family Easter celebrations when I was a kid. The day would always begin with mom having hid a bunch of small, bright, foil-wrapped milk chocolate Easter eggs around the house. My sister Jody and I would take our baskets and scour the house. When I was younger there were what looked like bunny tracks the folks made with flour and their fingers across the counters and tables of the house. We usually took in a pretty good haul of candy. Mom always had a sweet tooth. I remember her giving us warnings about not eating too much, but she never really policed it. Our older brothers, Tim and Terry, were seven years older than me, so by the time I can remember the easter egg hunt, they’d already kind of outgrown it.

More often than not, I remember going to my Grandpa Spec and Grandma Golly’s house for Easter dinner. They lived on the east side of Des Moines on Hull Avenue. After church services at Immanuel United Methodist Church, where my family attended until I was in high school, we would make the cross town trek in our Mercury Marquis station wagon (complete with wood paneling on the sides!).

Our "Merc" was a lot like this one from a 1973 ad.
Our “Merc” was a lot like this one from a 1973 ad.

A Mercury dashboard with 8-track player.
A Mercury dashboard with 8-track player.

The “Merc” (as dad called it) was stylin’ transportation in those days. There was a rumble seat that flipped up in the “way back” so that two children (that would be Jody and me) could sit and look out the back window as you drove along. Tim and Terry are always in the back seat together. Mom and Dad were, of course, in the front. Tim and Terry would make sure they had their favorite 8-track tapes in the car and would encourage mom and dad to play their requests on the 15-20 minute drive across town. We might have listened to the best of Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, or the Guess Who.

Me with my Grandpa Spec & Grandma Golly
Me with my Grandpa Spec & Grandma Golly

When you got to Grandpa Spec and Grandma Golly’s the first stop would always be a hug and kiss from grandma and grandpa. They were both smokers. I can still smell the smoke from grandma’s cigarettes and grandpa’s pipe as you hugged them. The next stop was the candy dish that sat on the end table next to the living room couch. Jody always beat me there. It was always filled with Brach’s hard candies or maybe some mint patties.

I loved my grandma, but cooking was never her strong suit. So, when a lot of family came over she often let “the Colonel” do the cooking. There would be a big bucket of chicken with all the “fixin’s” and sides. I always wanted the drumstick. On big holidays, we would occasionally get grandma’s sister, Aunt Ardie, joining us. I remember inexpensive red wine being served. Grandpa might enjoy a beer with his meal, though he often saved that for later in the afternoon when he’d have a “beer and a bump” which was a can of beer (e.g. Schmitz, Pabst, or Old Style) with a shot of Old Crow whiskey. Some people’s motto is “Go big or go home,” but Grandpa Spec’s motto would’ve been “Go cheap and go home.”

We would sit as a family around the dining room table and enjoy conversation while we ate. Grandpa liked to tuck his napkin in the top of his shirt and let it drape over his tie like a poor man’s bib. Dessert would usually be homemade pie (Grandma Daisy’s chocolate pie recipe or Graham Cracker Cream which was basically vanilla pudding in a graham cracker crust) along with ice cream. Grandma also kept a steady supply of ice cream cookies and fig newtons on hand. When dinner was over, grandpa would push back from the table and light a Dutch Masters cigar.

The adults would continue to visit while we kids would go off to find things to do. We often would hit practice golf balls with grandpa’s clubs in the backyard or play croquet. There was a park right across the street, so we also loved playing on the swings and jungle gym if the weather was nice. If we were confined indoors, then the fun was in the unfinished basement exploring through grandpa’s huge desk or all of the junk piled on the shelves. The basement was one giant room and you could kind of make an oval track out of it and chase each other around in circles or have races if you had a mind.

It’s funny the things you remember. Some things change, but it’s nice to know that there is still family, good food, good conversation and good times spent together.

 

Mom’s Valentine’s Day Present

We are blessed that the progression of my mother’s Alzheimer’s has been slowed by meds. We’re thankful for each day we’re able to continue to enjoy together. I’ve read that music and images are positive stimuli for those suffering with Alzheimer’s, triggering memories and hopefully lubricating the brain to continue remembering.

With that in mind, I put together a little video for mom (and dad) for Valentine’s Day this year. Some old family photos and music that hopefully gets the synapses firing in a positive way. The Dixieland jazz that accompanies photos of her as a little girl is from Bix Beiderbecke, an Iowa native. My mom’s dad loved Dixieland and attended the Bix festival in Davenport. My mom told me that when she was a teenager, the Crew-Cuts’ Sh-Boom was her favorite song. She repeatedly played it so much that it drove her father crazy (I remember having similar thoughts about N’Sync), so that’s what I chose for pictures of her as a teen. The Lord’s Prayer was sung at their wedding, and I can remember my mom listening to Whitney Huston’s CD a lot, especially after watching The Preacher’s Wife.

Our plan to take the folks out for Valentine’s dinner was scuttled by weather, but I had a chance to swing by their apartment this week and play them this video. It was fun to hear their memories, laughter, and to witness her tears as she watched. At the end of the video she wiped her tears and said, “God has been so good to us. We have been so blessed.

I hope she will enjoy watching this video over and over again. And, I hope it will continue to remind her of God’s faithfulness and blessings through the home stretch of her life journey.

My Photos: 2015

Last year I put together a slideshow of some of my favorite photos from 2014. I thought I would continue the tradition again this year. So, for Photo Friday, here is a compilation of some of my favorite photos from the year 2015. Some of them are favorites because I liked the shot from a photographic point-of-view, and others are favorites simply because of the moment and the memory.

Enjoy!

Reflections on Being a Cubs Fan: “You Gotta Have Heart”

On “Remember When Wednesdays” I look back a post from the past and re-post it for newer readers. Tonight our beloved Cubs make their first trip to the Postseason since 2008. That year, Wendy and I made a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field early in the season to celebrate my birthday and our hopes were high. It was perhaps apt that I called the post “You gotta have heart.” The Cubs fell short that year and it’s been a long dry spell since. Hope springs eternal. Perhaps this year things will be different.

Here is my post from early in the season 2008…

Summer2004_025My wife and I have looked forward to the coming of spring and the beginning of another season for the Chicago Cubs. We’ve watched their first three games, and our hopes are high. It’s a new season. The slate is clean. This could be our year.

Opening day was a heartbreaker, as our beloved Cubbies raised our spirits on the wings of a Kosuke Fukudome three-run dinger to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth only to dash them to the ground when they gave up the winning run in the tenth.

The second game was nine innings of frustration as our boys were one-step short, one swing behind, one bobbled-ball late through all nine innings.

That’s okay. I turned to Wendy and consoled her. “It’s a long season,” I assured her.

Good thing,” she said.

YeahGood thing,” I repeated, assuring myself.

We’re good that way – Cubs fans. You’ve got to keep your chin up. You’ve got to put a positive spin on ball four. Optimism is required on the resume. So is thick skin. It takes character to be a fan of Chicago’s Northsiders.

In preparation for the season I watched Ken Burns’ documentary Baseball. It’s a good history of the game if you like an East Coast perspective. Sure, there’s the occasional mention of a Midwest club. There’s the passing nod to Hall-of-Famers from the fly-over states. There’s the off-hand mention that St. Louis or Minnesota won a World Series or two. But mostly it’s about teams from New York and Boston.

Early on the documentary did mention the 1908 Chicago Cubs’ World Series winning, double-play threesome of Tinker to Evers to Chance and then promptly brought in a snooty commentator to explain that they really weren’t that good. The Cubs are barely mentioned in the rest of the marathon East Coast love-fest.

Don’t get me wrong. I acknowledge that the Yankees are the winningest club in baseball. I admit that the story of the Dodgers, the signing of Jackie Robinson and their heartbreaking departure for Los Angeles is compelling. I will capitulate that the Curse of the Bambino and the Red Sox eighty-six year World Series drought is a great yarn.

Yet, the eighty-six year suffering of Boston fans pales in comparison to the Wrigley Field faithful who, this year, celebrate…or is it mourn…an entire century with an empty trophy case. Boston’s storied Royal Rooters have nothing on the indomitable spirit of the Bleacher Bums. Boston survived the Bambino’s curse, but Cubs fans are gutting out an unholy trinity of curses (the goat, the black cat, and the Bartman ball).

Mention that you are a Cubs fan and you receive responses that vary from pity on one end (“Awwww, look at the loveable loooooser!”) to outright gleeful condemnation on the other (“Are you serious?! Dude, I’d show you how many World Series the Cardinals have won but I don’t have enough fingers! Ha, ha, ha, ha!). That’s just part of the program.

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Does that make Cubs fans comparable to Superman or Popeye juiced on HGH? You know that’s not true. What is true is that what hasn’t killed us has given us heart. Our boys of summer have given us a cardio workout like no other team in the Major Leagues. Our hearts have regularly been pounding off the rate charts only to be stopped short just this side of cardiac arrest. 2003, 1998, 1989, 1984, 1969…talk about a baseball fan’s aerobic workout.

“You Gotta Have Heart – miles and miles and miles of heart,” goes Broadway tune goes in Damn Yankees! Yankees?! What do they know? The Yankees don’t need heart. Ask George Steinbrenner.

For my money (and, granted, it’s no where near what Steinbrenner has), I’ll give the award for the most heart to the Chicago Cubs faithful. In fact, think about that – the Cubs’ faith-ful. That’s what being a Cubs’ fan requires – faith. At the root of a Cubs’ fan’s heartsworn loyalty is unwavering faith.

The Good Book says that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for.”

We get that.

The third game of the opening series was a winner. Ramirez homered. Dempster settled down into a solid outing. Wood got his first save in his new role as Closer. The “W” flag was raised above Wrigley Field for the first time this year as the Cubs’ faith-ful sang “Go Cubs, Go!”.

Yep. I believe this is the year.