Tag Archives: Vikings

Swagger, Success & the Soul Effect

They conspired against [King Amaziah] in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish, but they sent men after him to Lachish and killed him there.
2 Kings 14:19 (NIV)

Football season has begun. Wendy and I listened to the wild Iowa State vs. Iowa game on our way home from the lake on Sunday. Last night we donned our Vikings regalia for the first time this year and enjoyed watching the purple people eaters win one over Saints before falling asleep to the Broncos and Chargers game.

As casual fans who don’t follow football closely during the off-season, Wendy and I spend the first couple of weeks of the fall trying to keep track of who went where to play with whom and which coach went where to coach for whom. It seems like every year is a large game of musical chairs. It was so odd last night for Wendy and me to see our long-time star, Adrian Peterson, wearing a Saints uniform.

One of the harsh realities of sports in our culture is that you’d better win or else. Coaches have very little tolerance for players who don’t perform, and teams have very little patience for coaches who don’t consistently bring home victories. If you read social media you’ll find that fans have zero patience for either coaches or players as soon as the losses begin to mount.

In this morning’s chapter King Amaziah of Judah, who seems to have been as full of himself as many prima donna athletes today, pressed for a military campaign against King Jehoash and his nation’s heated rivals to the north in Israel. King Jehoash returned Amaziah’s challenge with a message that sports culture today would call “talking smack.” Jehoash gives Amaziah the chance to back down, but Amaziah would have none of it. Game on. King Amaziah and Judah are humiliated in defeat. The wall of Jerusalem is breached and the treasures of Solomon’s Temple are stolen as plunder.

The very next thing we learn about Amaziah is that his own people conspired against him. When Amaziah skipped town (hoping to be a free agent, perhaps?) they went after him and “permanently terminated his contract.” We don’t like losers.

This morning I’m thinking about our culture’s obsession with success and with winning. I could have used business as a similar parallel. There are certainly institutional churches who have similar expectations of success from their pastors. Yet the path that Jesus prescribes for me, His follower, has a distinctly different trajectory to it:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.”

I understand that having a job in sports, business, or elsewhere in our success-obsessed culture means delivering wins and exceeding expectations. I wonder, however, what effect this corporately has on our souls over time. In the ceaseless pursuit of worldly success, it’s easy to forfeit, or simply lose, our spiritual center. Amaziah had didn’t have to taunt Israel. He didn’t have to pursue expanding his kingdom. He could have focused on contentedly serving his own people to become a king they would honor and respect.

The Latest 01-24-2016

As years go, 2016 is off to a frantic start. It’s hard to believe that January is almost over! Business travel dominated the first two-week of the month with trips to Minnesota and Texas, respectively. Work, in general, has dominated a lot of my time and energy as our group scrambles to finish up some late 2015 business and get 2016 projects off the ground.

The busy work schedule hasn’t slowed down our equally busy social calendar. A few highlights:

Dinner with Sam, Lydia, Taylor and Suzanna
Dinner with Sam, Lydia, Taylor and Suzanna
  • Jan 2-3 we enjoyed a visit from our nephew (a Green Bay Packer fan), Sam and his gorgeous (Viking loving) bride, Lydia. It was awesome to have them spend the weekend with us, and a Viking victory to win the NFC North capped it off perfectly (at least from  our perspective).
We loved having our girls home!
We loved having our girls home!
  • Jan 17-18 was a homecoming for Maddy Kate. Taylor brought her to Pella on Sunday morning to hear me preach. It was the first time the four of us have been together since Sam and Lydia’s wedding last summer, and we enjoyed a nice family dinner together before Tay headed back to Des Moines. Madison, Wendy and I had family movie night Sunday evening (watched Happy Thank You More Please) and on Monday I took her back to Des Moines. I then got a daddy-daughter date with Taylor. We went to see The Revenant together, which Wendy had no interest in watching.
I had fun teaching Madeline the joy of sticking nerf darts on your forehead!
I had fun teaching Madeline the joy of sticking nerf darts on your forehead!
  • We enjoyed having dinner with friends Mat, Anne, and Madeline just before they headed to Merida, Mexico to live for the next few months.
Emma DMC Show Choidr
Our niece, Emma, performs with her high school show choir.
  • We went to Dallas Center Grimes High School to watch our niece, Emma, and friends Harry and Kennedy along with a host of Pella kids in the Show Choir contest there. Dinner with Kev and Beck was a nice perk to the event.
Our friend, Kevin McQuade, directs us in "Almost, Maine"
Our friend, Kevin McQuade, directs us in “Almost, Maine”

 

Rehearsals began in earnest for Union Street Players production of Almost, Maine. The play is a series of nine vignettes stitched together that all take place at the same moment on a winter’s night in northern Maine. It’s a wonderful play. I’m in five scenes playing five different characters. Wendy is in three of them. The show is being directed by our friend, Kevin McQuade. We’re really enjoying getting back on stage together. Performances are April 14-17.

OvercomingShame

My friend Matthew Burch and I have been presenting a four-week series on Overcoming Shame in the auditorium services at Third Church this month. Matthew and I are doing a workshop for men called More Than Conquerors at Westview Church in Waukee next weekend on the same topic.

The Divine Good Luck Charm

Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because the Levite has become my priest.”
Judges 17:13 (NRSV)

Wendy and I are fans of the Minnesota Vikings. I even know the Vikings fight song and will sing it for you upon request. Granted, we have not had much to cheer about for many years. As we wind down the 2015 season, there is at least the prospect of our Vikes going to the playoffs and an outside chance they could win their division. I’m hopeful, but not holding my breath.

A life-long fan of the Vikings, I can remember being a kid and having so much life energy invested in that game on Sunday. A win could send me to the mountain top and a loss could ruin my life for days. Growing up in the 1970’s when the Vikings were a perennial favorite to go to the Super Bowl, there were more mountain tops than ruins – with the exception of the Super Bowl itself. 0-4. Woof.

Back in those blissful, ignorant days of childhood my perception of God was that of a divine good luck charm. Do the right thing and rub God the right way and the Vikings might win on Sunday. If they lost, well then I must have done something to deserve my tragic circumstances. My focus wasn’t on what God wanted of me, but rather what I could coerce out of God.

Looking back, it’s really quite silly. The story of Micah in today’s chapter, however, reminds me that my childhood perceptions of God are actually quite common. It seems to me that Micah was not looking for a relationship with his Creator, but rather a good luck charm that would assure his prosperity.

My spiritual journey has taught me that God is beyond what I can possibly fathom. God knows that our temporal fortunes in this life are of no eternal value compared to the true genuineness of our faith. Reducing God to some kind of divine talisman is demeaning and disrespectful, and I get the sense that this is why God gets so ticked off with idolatry. The narrow road winds to deeper, more meaningful places than wins and losses. It takes us through more painful tragedies and more life-giving victories.

We love our Vikings, and we will be cheering them on in the coming weeks. Who know? Maybe they’ll surprise us [Still not holding my breath]. Even if they lose, we’ll (once again) chalk it up as a spiritual lesson in faith and perseverance.

Skol!

chapter a day banner 2015

The Latest 12-20-2015

Christmas is less than a week away, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The weather in Iowa has continued to be unseasonably warm for the most part. Instead of snow and ice we’ve had chilly downpours that feel more like March or October.

USP LWW Cast Party

Right after my last Sunday Summary post we hosted the cast party for Union Street Players (USP’s) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We loved having cast and crew here at the house. They did a great job. We weren’t involved in the show other than helping man the box office phone and sell tickets.

In fact, it’s been a while since Wendy or I have been on stage. Two weeks ago we auditioned for Union Street Players’ upcoming production of Almost, Maine and were cast. The show is a romantic comedy set on a moonless winter night in a mythical town in northern Maine. In a series of vignettes, a series of couples struggle with that thing called love. Wendy and I will play multiple roles in the show which will be performed April 14-17. We’re looking forward to working with our friend and neighbor, Kevin McQuade, who is directing the show.

2015 02 12 Scholte House Dinner9

While we haven’t been on stage, we have been in character. On the 11th we donned the period costumes of our town’s founders, Dominie H.P. Scholte and his wife Maria, and played host at the Scholte House Museum to a corporate Christmas dinner for the executives of a business here in town. Wendy and I have portrayed the Scholtes in numerous productions. We enjoy volunteering our time and helping share their unique story.

Later that night we joined Taylor and her friend at Peace Tree Brewery in Knoxville for their annual Christmas sweater party. The band included Taylor’s faculty advisor from Grandview and we enjoyed the evening.

I was on the road this past week. Visited client in Texas on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday I flew to Denver where I visited another client, then drove down to Colorado Springs. Madison had her last college final that evening. I met her at her favorite coffee haunt and we enjoyed a Crave Burger with Brett and Evan Strait. Madison has been living with the Straits for the past couple of months as her lease was up and she’s not sure where the path will lead after graduation.

Madison headed to her test and I visited with the Straits. I then met her at BJ’s Brewhouse across from campus after her test was done and we celebrated together joined by her friend, Matt. We got to enjoy breakfast together and hang out for a few hours the following morning before I had to head for home.

Madison has been interviewing for sales jobs in the cosmetic industry. While she would love to stay in Colorado, she’s committed to moving wherever a good job opens up. She will continue to work as a flight attendant in the meantime. We’re bummed that she won’t be home for Christmas. In order to schedule her life to finish school, she’s had to work the holidays this year! 😦

On Friday I got to greet Suzanna who is home from Cedar Falls for Christmas break. She’s had a great first semester in college and it’s great to have her home. On Friday afternoon Wendy and I headed to Des Moines for the funeral of my friend and mentor, Chuck Wenger who was also founder of our company, C Wenger Group. It was a great memorial service. Chuck had committed his life to mentoring young men, and it was rather incredible to hear the testimonies from many who were in attendance. It was also great to see former group members, clients, and friends.

On Friday night we joined friends Kevin, Linda, Rob, Vandy and CD at McQuade Pub for a reading of the script Art. It was a great excuse to spend an evening of food, drink and good company. The script was great and we both enjoyed it immensely.

At Star Wars The Force Awakens

Birthday Girl!
Birthday Girl!

Wendy’s birthday is Monday, so we started celebrating on Saturday with an early matinée of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We loved it! We ran a few errands before hightailing it back home. In the evening I took Wendy to dinner at Kaldera with Kevin and Linda (where we ran into the JPs & VLs!) . After dinner we retired back to V-Dub Pub for a night-cap.

We have been talking for months with our friends Vandy and Rob about getting together to watch football. They are still relatively new to town and Vandy is a Vikings fan. So, today was the day! They arrived before noon and we watched the Vikes beat the Bears, while keeping an eye on Rob’s Giants who came back and then fell short against the undefeated Panthers.

I’m looking forward to continuing Wendy’s birthday celebration tomorrow, and to Christmas celebrations with family this week!

Top Five Things I Love About the Twin Cities

I’m headed to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul today. I’ve been going to the Twin Cities for many years and have had many clients there over the years. Wendy and I try to make a habit of spending at least one or two weekends a year enjoying all that the area has to offer.

Here are the Top Five things I love about the Twin Cities:

  1. Cool summers. Yes, the winter can be brutal, but the other three seasons of the year are absolutely spectacular. I love that when it’s sweltering back home I can feel crisp, cool air in the Minnesota mornings.
  2. Vikings! As a life-long Vikings fan I love going to see my favorite Purple People Eaters play. And, even when I’m not going to a game I get Vikings chatter on the local sports stations.
  3. The Guthrie Theater. The best regional theater in the midwest with three amazing stages, world-class productions, and a facility that truly lets you experience what an evening of theatre should be.
  4. The Minneapolis Children’s Theatre. Trust me, it’s not just for children. I have never attended a play at MCT that didn’t leave me inspired, entertained, impressed, and wanting more.
  5. Al’s Breakfast. (pictured) The hole-in-the-wall diner in Dinky town has been a family favorite for many years. It can’t adequately be described. It just has to be experienced.

Weekend in Review

It was a very enjoyable weekend for Wendy, Suzanna and me. As I mentioned in my previous post, we hosted a script reading on Friday night. It was a wonderful and fascinating mixture of people. There were several from our circle of theatre friends, but we also had some friends who had never been to a script reading before and for whom it was a new experience. There was a lot of laughter, and fun had by all. The final guest left some time after midnight and Wendy and I didn’t get to bed until after 1:00 a.m.

Saturday was Wendy’s birthday! Her wish was to spend a quiet day together and then go out with friends in the evening. We got the first half accomplished as we spent a leisurely day together. She opened her gifts in the morning and we watched some shows from our growing DVR queue. Our evening plans were scuttled when our friends from Des Moines chose not to drive down after hearing snow in the forecast. I feel bad for Wendy and all who have birthdays this time of year. It’s such a bummer when your own birthday party gets cancelled, especially when it’s cancelled on the threat of snow and it turns our it all would have been just fine. Nevertheless, Suzanna and I took Wendy out to eat and we came back home to watch Brave. We were blessed with an unscheduled visit by Chad and Shay later in the evening which lifted Wendy’s spirits.

The snow did arrive during the night. We had 6-8 inches of it. So, we decided to continue the theme of a quiet weekend at home. I got the snowblower out for the first time this year and we watched our Vikings get crushed by the Bengals. Yikes, I can’t wait for this season to be over so we can put it behind us. We then finished up the last of the wrapping of Christmas gifts and got the house picked up so that we’re ready for Christmas.

Purple Pilgrimage

Earlier this week I had a couple of days that required my presence with a client in the Twin Cities. Wendy and I seized the opportunity to mix a little pleasure with a business trip and make our annual pilgrimage to the Metrodome to watch our beloved Vikings playing the San Francisco 49ers.

We left on Saturday morning and drove up to the Mall of America. Wendy and I have been doing this massive purge of our closets and drawers this fall. Clothes that we haven’t worn in years along with clothes that no longer fit us are being given away. We both had a short list of things we needed to replace, so we did a little shopping on Saturday afternoon. That night we dined at the flagship of perhaps our favorite restaurant of all time: Buca Di Beppo’s in downtown Minneapolis.

Sunday was beautiful as we walked from our hotel to the Metrodome. Wendy reminded me that since we’ve been making our (somewhat) annual pilgrimage to watch our beloved “purple people eaters” she had never seen them lose. I explained that she should prepare for that streak to end. The 49ers, who many hold to be the most talented team in the NFL this year, held the edge over our rebuilding Vikes in almost every aspect of the game.

The Metrodome is loud when you pack tens of thousands of screaming football fans inside. It’s raucous. It’s a blast. You quickly build camaraderie with your fellow fans sitting around you. You’re in this together. You’re family. Everyday on the street it’s easy to feel beleaguered and besieged by annoying cheeseheads, but on Sunday afternoon inside the Metrodome you are surrounded by brothers-in-arms. You are a force to be reckoned with.

Wendy made the observation that while we love the game of baseball, the truth of the matter is that the crowd at a baseball game has very little impact on an average game. The crowd cheers after something momentous happens. There is generally no swell of crowd noise until the bottom of the 9th, if at all. In football, the crowd can actually make a difference. When it’s 3rd and long for the opponent and the Metrodome crowd starts to scream, the crowd knows that they are making it almost impossible for the opposing team to hear plays getting called in from the sideline. It’s equally impossible for the opposing quarterback to successfully call an audible. It’s easy for the opponent to make mistakes amidst the deafening din. The average fan can be an active participant in the outcome of the game, and that’s kind of a fun feeling.

The game Sunday was perhaps the most fun we’ve ever had a Vikings game. The Vikings played their hearts out and pulled the upset. We and our fellow fans had a ball cheering the team on. Wendy’s streak is still in tact.

It was kind of a crazy summer for the two of us, and we’ve been really looking forward to a little time for the two of us to relax and enjoy some R&R. Our purple pilgrimage was just what the doctor ordered.