Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

We made it to Albuquerque; thanks be to God. Here are some highlights:

  • Visiting with several friends along the way
  • Worship in Oklahoma
  • Met with birthmother in OKC
  • Every hotel lodged our pets and had an indoor pool
  • No mechanical troubles with the cars
  • TravMatix provided accurate info along the way
  • Gilead audio book--quietly beautiful narrative and message
  • Eli and I locked the keys in my car in Indiana while it was running with the dog inside; Kristin was in Illinois and backtracked to rescue us with help from the Illinois Rest Area staff, Quizno's Staff, and others
  • Rocky-McTocky died in Texas. This bubbly beta had been with us for several years and this was his third road trip. Grace took the loss especially hard, throwing herself onto the hotel bed and wailing, "he was my best friend!" We gave him a proper toilet burial with eulogies. Rocky-McTocky is survived by beta-friend Flash


  • Pretty much all of Missouri road system. St Louis traffic (due to a major factory fire/explosion and resulting evacuation) and lots of detours and alternate routes
  • My underpowered, overloaded car in the mountains of New Mexico. I floored it going downhill to build up speed and at the bottom cut the air conditioner to get a few more horsepower to lumber over the hills

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Packin' Up, Movin' Out
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It's a 22 hour trip!!

The move starts tomorrow when the packers arrive and should end 8 days later with a safe arrival in the Land of Enchantment. The blog will be on-break 'til then.
The Rod of God

During a combined Sunday school today I presented my research on the future of Islam to about 70 people. I was pleased to get some more "mileage" out of my school project, and I think it was well received.

I adapted the presentation for today's audience by teaching on the great Islamic threat in the days of Luther. In his time Christians in Western Europe faced the very real possibility that they would soon live under the rule of Islamic law. He wrote several treatises refuting Islam and, surprisingly, was instrumental in publishing an updated Qu'ran.

Luther was unwilling to advocate any form of "holy war" and got into big trouble for teaching that the Islamic threat was the well-deserved rod of God for the transgressions and unbelief of Western Europe. We explored some parallels to the Islamic threat of our day, and if it is a "rod of God" then what is it for?

This was our last Sunday with our Lutheran friends. We look forward, Lord willing, to stopping in at Heritage PCA in Oklahoma City next Lord's Day and worshiping with our pastor friend, Mark Balthrop, once again.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

June 18, 1994 Posted by Hello

Friday, June 17, 2005

Move over, Mapquest

Next week we'll make our longest road trip. Kristin and the children will be in one car and I and the animals in the other. A frustrating part of past road trips was the difficulty in picking good resting points along the way. Whether we were ready for a hotel (that allows pets) or a McDonald's with an indoor playland, we'd often waste time exiting the Interstate hoping and not finding what we needed.

Thankfully, it appears that TravMatix has gone a long way towards fixing that problem. Based on our route and our hotel and eatery preferences this free product lists, by Interstate exit, every place that meets our criteria. They even claim to tell you who has the cleanest restrooms along the way!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Breaking Down

We've been pretty busy this week preparing for the packers to come on Monday. I had hoped to visit a couple more fun family places before leaving this area, but my 14-year old car was falling apart and it's taken more time (and money) than I thought to get it ready for the 1,400 mile trip to Albuquerque. At home, our air conditioner has also been on the blink for a few days and has kept me tied up.

But what really is troubling is my waning passion for God over the last few months. My Bible reading has suffered, I cover only a fraction of what I used to. I've intentionally read more this week, but it feels too much like drudgery. My prayer life is in the same slump. I have a hard time paying attention to the Preached Word. Family prayer time sounds canned.

Is this spiritual slump because we've been without the Lord's Supper for several months while sojourning in a Lutheran church? Or perhaps a lack of fellowship here has something to do with it? We're envious of Valerie and want what she has.

The stress of a move easily results in spats and coldness between Kristin, the children and I. We're not strong enough to resist that temptation on our own. I need to set a good example for my family, and earnestly pray for the fruit of the Spirit as we move.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Adoption Update

The adoption process is ripe with perplexing decisions that keep you in prayer and Proverbs. Readers of this blog have seen us wrestle with race and health already. Every adoption opportunity comes with a unique set of risks and consequences.

Should we celebrate over the news that after many months of trying we have been matched with a bi-racial girl due in November? This is wonderful news for us -- a birthmother likes us! She likes us!! -- but we aren't popping open the wine bottle just yet.

This is a private adoption, not through an adoption agency but a lawyer, which means that we pay monthly support to the birthmother throughout the pregnancy. If she surprises the lawyer and us by deciding to parent then we would loose a significant amount of money.

After several hour-long conversations with the Bados--a Christian husband and wife adoption law firm in Oklahoma City recommended by Special Link--we have decided to go through with this risky venture. We plan to visit with them and the birthmother in OKC during our move out West in a couple of weeks.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Horse and His Boy

One of the many great things about the Dayton, Ohio area is the metroparks. Each one has their own appeal; the children have enjoyed farm chores at a restored 1800s farm, I've nearly drowned in the Mad river, and Eli has done two week-long horse camps. Here's a picture from today's end-of-camp show where Eli and Garth (the hairy one) cantered and even did a little barrel racing.

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Update: Beat-the-Buzzer Evangelism

Today I met with a classmate who wanted to understand my faith. We had a lengthy, in-depth conversation about the Christian gospel.

About a year ago my friend was teaching at a Mormon church on the history of that faith and while doing his research lost all confidence in the Latter Day Saints. Regrettably, he rejected more than just the Mormon faith, he dismissed all forms of Special Revelation. Today he is a Deist, reading their anti-Christian websites. His "apostasy" from Mormonism threatens his marriage and has alienated him from extended family.

I didn't intend to take an "Evangelism Explosion" approach, but my friend said that when he appears before God he'll say that God didn't make it clear enough what to believe; it's too hard to tell which prophet (Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Buddha, or Jesus) to believe. I mentioned the uniqueness of the Resurrection and a Gospel of grace. I wished I would have thought of C.S. Lewis' Liar, Lunatic, or Lord question.

I also took a Van Til tactic, talking about what his "final authority" is for deciding what to believe--reason or the Scriptures. I also informed him of the trustworthiness and authenticity of the Scriptures compared to other historical documents.

In the end what he wanted was a personal vision, direct revelation, or a miracle to tell him what to believe. I explained from Hebrews why the first two weren't going to happen, but the third very well may (referring to the miracle of the New Birth). I offered to give him my copy of C.S. Lewis' Miracles. He has read Mere Christianity, Screwtape Letters, and told me he'd read it, too.

I offered to follow-up with him at his convenience. Perhaps he'll call or write after we move. Overall I feel I presented the Gospel clearly, pleaded with him earnestly, and provided him with reasonable responses to his questions. Yet I don't have any chummy feelings about this conversation; here is a man who has heard the Gospel and doesn't believe. I pray that will change.
Graduation Dinner

Here's a picture of us at last night's Air Force Institute of Technology graduation dinner. It was held at the National Museum of the Air Force where we dined between wonderful, restored military airplanes, feasted off a 10-station buffet, and were entertained by a military band. It was a grand time--a rewarding end to a year of brute force learning.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Does Theology Have to Make Sense?

Martin Luther knew it was absurd to believe such things as "God is man, the son of a virgin, crucified, sitting at the right hand of the Father." A reasonable man cannot stomach such contradictions. Reason always attacks theology that is faithful to the Bible, and so Luther retaliated.

Luther, according to The Foolishness of God, lambasted reason as "a big red murderess, devil's bride, a damned whore, a blind guide, the enemy of faith." He defended the sole authority of Scripture in all matters of faith; reason must yield to faith.

He fires more than a few broadsides at Calvinism for its desire to "play carpenter with God's Word; whittling away at it until all the pieces fit." Luther sought to maintain the paradoxical nature of Christian doctrine. I'll summarize just one area (election) in this space.

Reformed theologians often say that a man must be either a Calvinist or an Arminian -- that is, he must find the answer to why some are converted and others aren't, either in a difference in God or a difference in man. A true Lutheran can only say, "A plague on both your houses!" Luther says without reservation that the will of God cannot be hindered, and just as firmly he asserts that man can resist the will of God. We should not tear ourselves to pieces over this mystery; the Lord simply wants both truths to stand.

This provocative book claims that Calvinism remains true to the law of non-contradiction in doctrines such as election, perseverance, conversion, and the Lord's Supper, while Lutheranism doesn't see how you can do that and be faithful to all that the Scripture says. Lutherans simply resolve not to explain apparent contradictions, resisting the pressures of reason to act as judge over God's truth.

This was an interesting read and reminded me of Dr. Rayburn's lecture on "Preaching the Poles".

Monday, June 06, 2005

Which is Worse in a Church: Worldliness or Pharisaism?

Our pastor's bold sermon yesterday reminded me of some comments I've heard in the past from homeschoolers when looking for a church. They show up Sunday morning for worship, take a look at the congregation's appearance (especially the mothers and teenagers), and automatically know if this is the place for them.

Here's the quote from yesterday's sermon that brought this to mind,

The conservative churches of today, and we are one of them, are in greater danger than ever of falling into the idolatry of Pharisaism. Pharisaism is the chief idolatry because it is all about circling the wagons to exclude the unclean and maintain moral values. When you are worshipping the false pharisaic god, you exclude those who do not pass the latest moral acid test. In some churches that acid test is drinking, smoking and dancing. For others the acid test is your political persuasion, your stance on abortion or how loudly you denounce homosexuality. We are investing too much of our time in passing legislation designed to make our country more moral and not enough time practicing mercy.

The pastor has a point. When I look around a church body and see immodestly dressed women, wild-looking teenagers, and bored men I label that church as "worldly" and move on to a place that's "safer" for my family. This approach probably does lead us to churches that have circled the wagons to exclude the unclean.

But there is a counterpoint. If those worldly-looking people in the church have been there for years, perhaps even raised there, and yet they still look, think, and act like the world then it's clear that in not circling the wagons the church went too far and gave away the farm.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Parenting the Poles

Our children are basically perfect. This is what the grandparents say when they spend time with one child at a time. But when the Bailey children are grouped together, watch out! Their behavior swings violently between two poles; they're either cruel to each other, or annoyingly goofy with each other.

In any given day our children fall off both sides of this horse many times. This afternoon I explained this observation to my oldest child (7); based on his response I think he may have got it, "This is what you mean by "self-control?" Right!

Maturity is at least knowing how to stay out of both the meanness and silliness ditches. My children are slowly learning this; as am I. I'm better with self-control now than I was as a new parent. I was better then than I was in college, and so on.

Naturally, children have childish behavior, which is often unpleasant. The difficulty for the parent is to patiently teach the children how to keep out of the ditches they keep falling into.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Gladness from Mourning

I enjoyed an e-mail exchange on transracial adoption with a friend of a friend from Georgia this week. This adoptive mother has a story to tell, here's an excerpt with names removed,

Our little girl is full African American (now 2 1/2 yrs old). We went into our adoption process wanting to provide a covenant home to a child that needed it...seeing race as a rather non-issue. Yes, we'd have things to overcome even in ourselves, but they were based on society rather than the Word so we NEEDED to get over them. We never expected what was to come.

Our daughter's race has not been a non-issue for our family but a radically positive one. As [Pastor] Piper mentions, when bringing one of a different race into your family, you are forced to recognize an individual outside of a lumped-together race. My Mississippi grandfather (who initially had an intense period of mourning regarding our adoption choice) eventually came around with tears in his eyes commenting that our daughter was "the first black girl to ever love him". You can translate that as the first he'd ever loved, or allowed to crawl up in his lap for sure!

Amazingly, graciously, we've been blessed with one positive experience after another, and an almost alarming absence of negative experiences. Black strangers have literally hugged me in the mall "for embracing their race". Socialites in our church have seen their elementary-aged-kids attach themselves to our ever-lovable little girl...even took her to show-n-tell at their predominately white private school since they didn't have a baby sister like their classmates to show off!?!?

In summary, we have realized that transracial adoption is amazing, exciting, and sanctifying in so many ways. We hope to bring at least one more AA child into our family before too long.

Our friend also provided the following links (here, here, and here) to some of John Piper's thoughts on race and the family.

Kristin and I hope that our adoption will be soon; in the meantime we're thankful for our Georgia cheering section!