Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 in the books

For several years I've compiled a list of the books I was able to read during the year. It's a way of recommending some good reads to others and to push me to read more and better books in the coming year. A couple of those lists from previous years are on-line here: 2005, 2006.

Here's the list for 2007 (reviews can be found for most of these books by searching on the title in the search window above).

  1. Called to the Ministry. Edmund Clowney. A short work full of challenging points to consider.
  2. Each for the Other. Bryan Chapell. A pretty-good, complementarian perspective on marriage. Most-lasting point: the self-sacrificing nature of love.
  3. Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children. Joel Beeke.
  4. The Mortification of Sin. John Owen. The time-tested, definitive work on putting sin to death in your life.
  5. All of Grace. John Bunyan. Autobiograpghy.
  6. The Faithful Preacher. Thabiti Anyabwile. Re-introduced us to 3 faithful and theologically-sound African-American pastors.
  7. The Reformed Pastor. Richard Baxter. The time-tested and definitive work on shepherding your flock.
  8. The Best Sermons of Jonathan Edwards.
  9. No Place for Truth. David Wells. The first in a set of wise books on modernity.
  10. The Young Peacemaker. Carole Sande. Great for families with children in elementary school and up.
  11. The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness. John MacArthur.
  12. The Bruised Reed. Richard Sibbes. Classic, Christ-exalting, puritan exposition of Isaiah 42.
  13. The Life and Diary of David Brainerd. Edited by Jonathan Edwards. One man who reminds me what it means to live for God.
  14. The Cross He Bore. Frederick Leahy. A moving, short treatment of the sufferings of Christ.
  15. When People are Big and God is Small. Edward Welch. Helpful for fighting peer-pressure and fear of man.
  16. On the Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul. Philip Doddridge. A book-length evangelical track in the puritan style. Also provides good prayers.
  17. The Love of God. D.A. Carson. A great approach for daily Bible reading with a brief, daily commentary.
  18. The Heart of Anger. Lou Priolo. Very helpful ideas on preventing and overcoming anger in children and parents.

This list leaves out works of fiction that I read to the children as part of their homeschooling curriculum.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

My visits with Paul

Remember the various members of royalty that would take occassional breaks from their pursuit of affluence and power to spend a few minutes listening to the words of the Apostle Paul? When they had heard their fill they would send him back to his cell (out of sight, out of mind) and return to their plans or leisure.

This is me. I occassionally send for Paul so that I may wonder at the intensity of his faith and puzzle over his message. But, pretty soon the clock summons me to send him away, back into his slot in the bookcase. I have to get on with my life.

The truth is that I'm doing a much better job imitating Felix or King Agrippa than I am obeying the command stated by Paul himself, "imitate me."

Friday, December 14, 2007

More on discipling little children

While three of our five kiddos can't read yet, they can listen. With that in mind, here are the best (that we know of) songs for discipling little ones:

Judy Rogers' "Why Can't I see God" (songs based on the First Catechism) and especially "Go to the Ant"

Songs for Saplings (compliments of Our Hassienda)

For older children (~2nd grade and up) Seeds Family Worship. We have the praise album; the music is upbeat and better quality music and lyrics than much of what airs on Christian radio stations.

Last, Kristin wanted me to link to this post about what happens to hobbies when you have several little ones and to post this poem.

God, I want to do great things for you,
And speak to all the nations!
God replies:
That’s well and good,
But for now
Fix your children’s complications.

Lord, I want to straighten up the world,
Feed the hungry and fulfill someone’s wishes!
God says:
Fine, but for the present,
You need to wash the dishes.

Lord, I want to preach, proclaim your name
And bring salvation to the earth!
God says:
Good! Then teach your children
And preach my name to those you’ve given birth.

At the end of the day,
I think of all I’ve done.
But as I look it seems,
I’ve accomplished nothing for the Son!
God I had no time to witness one on one,
I couldn’t join my church group,
They said I missed out on lots of fun.

My household is the only thing
That managed to be cleaned,
My neighbor is the only one,
Besides my family I could feed.

The only ones I’ve read Your Word
Are those within my home.
God I’ve done so very little
And I feel so all alone!

God says:
I’ve seen the way you cleaned and cooked
And taught your kids My name.
Tomorrow morning at eight o’ clock,
I’ll watch you do the same.

The work you do at home,
Though no one really sees,
Is helping to raise little ones
To grow and worship me.

My ways are not your ways,
I don’t expect you yet to see,
But the precepts that you’ve taught your children,
Will help others bow the knee.

Your children will reach out to others,
Your example in their mind.
They’ll do great work for Me
And their children will respond in kind.

The hand that rules the world,
Also rocks the cradle.
Because of you, your children love Me,
All their hearts are stable.

Though your house is your domain,
Your tasks seem rather plain,
Your efforts will reach the multitudes,
Though from humble work they came.

© Copyright 2002-2007 by LAF/

Sunday, December 09, 2007

When People are Big and God is Small

On the way to church this morning, Katie was in the car of front of me. At the stoplight I made sure to keep the enjoyment of my tunes to myself lest Katie (or anyone else) see through a rear-view mirror a humiliating view of me singing along.

The fear of man, the desire to be accepted and thought well of by other people, is common to us all. In this book Welch defines the fear of man like this: a fear of exposure or humiliation, a fear of rejection or ridicule, or a fear of physical attack or oppression. In one way or another, every human being struggles with this.

The central thesis of Welch’s argument is: “Regarding other people, our problem is that we need them (for ourselves) more than we love them (for the glory of God.)." If this person will accept me, if this person thinks I am okay, if I can be identified with this person, then I feel good about who I am. If they reject me, though, or do not give me the attention I feel I deserve, then that will just prove me to be the loser I suspected I was all along. When that occurs, our lives and thoughts begin to center on gaining the acceptance of that person, and other people become what Welch calls “person-idols.” As a result, we find ourselves “in bondage, controlled by others and feeling empty". "What or who you need will control you”.

The remedy for this sin: He must increase, while we must decrease. Realize and remember that seeking acceptance from others is often just a desire for self-glory. We must care more for the praise of God than the praise of men. Secondly, grow in the fear of the Lord. “If the gaze of man awakens fear in us, how much more so the gaze of God. If we feel exposed by people, we will feel devastated before God." See Christ as so glorious that we forget about our perceived needs.

What, then, is a healthy need for people and when is needing other people sinful? The answer is in the motive. So long as the need is centered on us (to feel good about ourselves), the need for other people is sinful. Healthy relationships with other people are built on recognizing that we exist to make the image of God (compassionate, gracious, faithful) more visible. Bottomline: "need other people less, love other people more."

I especially recommend this book for teenagers who seem most caught up in peer pressure, but Welch does speak to us all here. It's available for checkout in the church library.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Shadow Claws vs. the Indomitable Snowdog

Una is visiting for the weekend which provides the family with plenty of entertainment and our cat, Shadow, a new target. This video shows the best Una has got; Shadow retains her dominion over all dogs.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Zeke's on the move (plus a bonus track for Pinky)

Zeke auditions for the next army promo demonstrating his power crawl and smackdown.

Also we had a special request for a "happy Zeke" clip. (sorry about the sideways shot).

Monday, November 26, 2007

The real Faith

In public our daughter Faith is very shy. But this is an alter ego. At home her true identity emerges. She follows us around the house and cracks us up with her antics, words, and especially her facial expressions. Tonight I grabbed the camera and now have documented evidence of the real Faith.

Friday, November 23, 2007

It's beginning to look alot like Christmas

The snow on the ground brings to mind a question for you. What's your favorite Christmas CD? Each year we buy a new Christmas album to enjoy in December. I haven't purchased one yet, but I'm leaning towards a collection of carols played on hammered dulcimer sold by Ligonier.

To answer my own question, in hopes you may be interested, I look forward to this time each year when I dust off my copy of Georg Friedrich Handel’s famous work Messiah performed by St Martin-in-the-Fields. With the words in hand and the headphones on I'll awaken my soul in the morning before the others are awake.

On a lighter note, our family has enjoyed Sovereign Grace's Christmas album from last year so much that we've listened to it year round. I recommend it.

So back to my original question, what's your favorite Christmas album? I need to select this year's soon.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Meditation

A few words of Thanksgiving to God for his promises to me, my family, and all his people. Adapted from David's prayer of gratitude in 1 Chronicles 17:16-27

“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And this was a small thing in your eyes, O God. You have also spoken of your servant's house for a great while to come, and have shown me future generations, O Lord God!

And what more can I say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant. For your servant's sake, O Lord, and according to your own heart, you have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things. There is none like you, O Lord, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

And who is like your people, the ones on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making for yourself a name for great and awesome things. And you made your people to be your people forever, and you, O Lord, became their God.

And now, O Lord, let the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house be established forever, and do as you have spoken, and your name will be established and magnified forever, saying, ‘The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, is Israel's God,’ and the house of your servant will be established before you.

For you, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. Therefore your servant has found courage to pray before you. And now, O Lord, you are God, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever before you, for it is you, O Lord, who have blessed, and it is blessed forever.”

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My devotional picks for 2008

The new year is almost here so now's the time to plan and purchase what you'll need for personal devotions in 2008. Kristin and I have been very pleased with D.A. Carson's For the Love of God. This is a Bible reading plan and commentary that covers a chapter in four different books of the Bible each day. That can be too much some days and this plan easily allows for scaling back.

The best prayer help, in my judgment, is still The Valley of Vision. It's a great way to start your prayer time each day.

Tabletalk is always a good resource for devotions. They plan to cover Matthew in 2008.

The Ancient Christian Devotional also looks interesting and I've heard good things about it from folks I respect. If you give it a try let me know.
Whatever you choose, don't wait too much longer to plan it out. Add a present for yourself to your Christmas list.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Safely through week 1

With help from my friends I memorized Colossians 1:1-4 last week. Now it's on to verses 5-8. But while I'm feeling good about this plan, here's a reminder to me and my helpers for when things get tough.

Q: Why memorize something you're just going to eventually forget?
A: Because memorizing Scripture is what God exhorts me to do ("thy word I have hid in my heart", "let the word of Christ dwell richly in you") and the Spirit of Christ will use the Word of Christ in me to make me more like Christ.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Happy 8th, Grace!

We've all heard about a daddy's protective love for his daughter--and you better believe that I have it! Grace is such a sweet little girl who seems to grow kinder and more lovely every day.

I need to pray more for her future husband because I cannot imagine any man worthy of her hand. Happy Birthday, dear Gracie!

"Indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." (Col 3:15)

Tonight I realized in the clearest terms what is meant by the body of Christ. Some recent examples will help explain what I have come to appreciate so much about God's calling us into one body. In the row in front of us during worship this morning parts of three families sat intermingled to help the little children learn to sit through the service. A retired couple spend time tutoring and loving my oldest child several times every week--they have become his surrogate grandparents. The photos of the kids building birdhouses are from this weekend when a really great couple in our church showed how they love us and our children.

How beautiful is the body of Christ. I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Until it is enough

Family Life is doing a series of broadcasts on adoption (it's National Adoption Month). They recently interviewed a number of individuals who have been involved in orphan care ministry in their local churches. You’ll find this video very moving and challenging. We hope to do our little bit towards orphan care and call others to do their little bit until it is enough.

HT: Carolina Hope

Sunday, November 11, 2007

His life was like a hymn heartily sung

David Brainerd's short life (1718-1747) comes the closest to imitating the spirit and sufferings of the Apostle Paul than any other figure in history that I am familiar with. Here is an example for all Christians, but his life's story is especially suited for single Christians.

David Brainerd was a missionary to the American Indians in New York, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania. Born in Connecticut in 1718, he died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-nine. Despite his chronic illness, his melancholy nature, and his other weaknesses, it can truly be said that in his weakness God's grace was made evident. He lived for God and relished communion with God in a way that convicts me of being a pretender.

The Life and Diary of David Brainerd ought to be read — and read often — by God's people. I plan to read it every other year (this was my third time through it). Read it (or listen on audio) and you will be convicted, challenged, changed, charged. It has had life-transforming effect upon many, motivating them to become missionaries, evangelists, preachers, people of prayer and power with God.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Worship Preparation

This new hymn puts the emphasis upon the importance of hearing God’s Word preached. It makes for good corporate worship preparation. In days when so much criticism is levelled by some at modern hymnody - at times entirely justified, at others sadly prejudicial and unfair - here's an example of a good modern hymn.

These are the words:

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility;
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of pow’r that can never fail—
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us—
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.

“Speak, O Lord”
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music

Friday, November 09, 2007


Bella opened in Albuquerque today and we were able to get a sitter and go see it.
This pro-adoption themed movie has the potential to change hearts and minds on abortion and has opened solidly in a limited release in just 31 cities. Not bad for a movie with a $3M budget.

The film stars Eduardo Verastegui as a former soccer player who learns the value of human life and helps a pregnant waitress, played by Tammy Blanchard, appreciate the value of the baby she's carrying.

The movie has its flaws, but it's certainly worth seeing. The theater was packed tonight, and not with evangelical church-goers, but by a diverse audience. May this simple movie be another tool to save lives and strengthen families.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Begone unbelief!

We had the immense pleasure this evening of having a frontier missionary visit our home. He's the kind of guy that so embodies trust in God, love for Christ, and compassion for the lost that I am revealed for what I truly am, a spiritual wimp, a practical-atheist even.

I can't post any details or photos of him and his family because it might risk his ministry in the Muslim country he is returning to. This land is strongly anti-Christian and missions work has been forbidden for decades.

I am so delighted my children got to see him again and learn more of his work and life. I want my children to grow up exposed to risk-taking missionaries, especially those that will play checkers with Isaiah and graciously accept some very poor accommodations for the night.

Tonight I am feeling in desperate need for faith and action. But this feeling will pass too soon, like my friend.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I need some help

A few months ago a couple of friends and I set out to memorize one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, Romans 8. We set our pace (4 verses a week) and checked up on each other a couple of times each week. We should have finished memorizing the chapter in about 3 months. We didn't. Things fell apart after the first 6 weeks or so, but it was a good attempt.

I'm ready to try again, this time with a slightly slower pace (3 verses a week) and a new chapter in mind, Colossians 3. I read through this chapter recently; not only is it easier and shorter than Romans 8, but the content is a real soul-feast. I've pasted it below.

Here's where I need your help. Will you join me in hiding these 25 verses in your heart, too? Accountability is a huge help to me, but what's really encouraging is knowing others are eager to memorize Scripture, too. If we start next week we should be able to finish around the end of next month.

If you're interested leave me a comment or shoot me an e-mail by Monday to let me know you're in. I'll share some more of the approach with you over e-mail.

An added bonus for my church friends is that you'll soon be hearing these verses preached upon by our pastor. I think those sermons will be especially powerful for those who have already meditated on this great chapter.

Colossians 3
Put On the New Self

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Rules for Christian Households
18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Prostestantism without the Reformation

What would life be like without the Reformation?
Would we have Bibles in our homes, in our language? Would we have songs of praise in our own mouths and services? Would marriage be honorable? Would we know that all vocations are to be holy? Would we know our righteousness before God does not rely on works of self-salvation, but is by grace alone through faith alone by Christ alone?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer described American religion as "Protestantism without the Reformation", which is a sad but true assessment. The Reformation is largely unknown among evangelicals today; almost all take for granted the wonders of the providence of God in these events. But for a few, on this day, we rejoice in the recovery of the essentials of the gospel and join together in the refrain, "Sola Scriptura! Sola Fide! Sola Gratia! Solus Christus! Soli Deo Gloria!"

Monday, October 29, 2007

Must remember this when the kids are awake

The importance of patience in parenting...

Children are on a journey in which they are learning self-control and other features of wisdom. Some children pick it up quickly; others learn it gradually after years of creative and patient parenting. Parents know that wisdom does not come immediately, so they are patient with the process of change.

If the child seems untouched by swift discipline, consider what might be more effective in the future. At the child's next explosion of blind rage, if previous discipline didn't help, choose to do nothing at the moment. Handle the situation when calm prevails [when he is open to wisdom].

Edward T. Welch, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Summer 2007 [not available on-line]

Sunday, October 28, 2007

30-second book review

Why God sent me to read the great books in our church's library that have never been checked out?

The Bruised Reed is one of the absolute best writings of the puritans. It's short (~125 pages) and in it Jesus will appear lovely to the reader's eye.

The book is a meditation on Isaiah 42 about the bruised reed and the faintly burning wick. These are metaphors for the Christian who feels some misery from sin, and he is humbled to see that he is not an oak but a reed. It is then that we realize, "there is more mercy in Christ, than sin in us."

Sibbes, like the best of the puritans, excels in writing. This book will swell your love for Jesus and fortify you with profound wisdom. It's available for check-out in the church library.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Colorado Springs

I took a class this week at Peterson AFB and we turned it into a mini-vacation. We visited with family in chilly Alamosa and the next day drove into C-Springs. We stayed in the TLF (which was very nice and affordable) and I could walk to my class. Meanwhile Kristin and the kids saw the sights: Focus on the Family, Olympic Training Center, Garden of the Gods, the zoo, and on the last day we all went to an amusement park near Pike's Peak called the North Pole. We had a great time*.

* Fine print. We inched through a blinding snow storm on the drive up. A rock cracked our windshield. Zeke refused to sleep through the night. Kristin and I took turns staying up with him every night. I got sick one day. (I just want there to be truth in advertising.}

Friday, October 19, 2007

Boy Scout Trip #2

The pack meeting this month was on the Railrunner! We started north of Albuquerque and got off 20 miles south of town. All for $2 for adults and free for kids under 10. It's a very nice, new train, and fun for boys of all ages.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dealing with old age

I had the opportunity recently to spend some time with an older couple who believe they are near death. The experience changed the way I think about evangelism and the effects of aging. Since this couple hasn't been involved with a church for a long time and doesn't seem to have a healthy personal relationship with the Lord, I wanted to be sure to speak clearly with them about the Gospel.

The Lord certainly opened a door when the husband started out our first evening together by loudly declaring that, "My ways aren't your ways, and I'm too old to change now!" I was taken aback by the sudden outburst, but I came to realize that he was only talking about alcohol (he wrongly assumed I'm a teetotaler), and not the larger matters of the Christian faith. After a few evenings together we were able to have a good discussion about the essentials (Holy God, sinful man, Christ as substitute, and your response to these truths). I believe there may be some fruit of regeneration in this couple's life.

What I took away from our time together is a more sensitive understanding of old age. Many times I would be asked the same question repeatedly within a short amount of time, like "Did you borrow my keys?" When sharing the gospel with the aged (if there is dementia involved) we must be patient and be unperturbed by sudden "resets and replays" in the conversation.

We should also be sympathetic to the annoying physical burdens of advanced age. At the close of one day, the man I was speaking with again apologized needlessly for sipping whisky in my presence and said with some measure of exasperation, "walk a mile in my shoes!" His daily pain and weakening physical abilities should bring out empathy in us, but also an urgency in our appeals to look beyond the grave.

Do we firmly believe that without Christ there is no hope? If so, we must labor in prayer and conversation with those who are obviously very soon to face that reality.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Professional Photo Shoot

Yesterday we arranged for a photo shoot to update our family pictures. Below are some of my favorite proofs.

It was near the end of the photo shoot and Zeke had had enough.

It's been a good 36 years

Friday, October 12, 2007

Little brother gets married

Grace and I enjoyed a brief visit back to my homestate, South Carolina, to attend my brother's wedding. Being a typical male, I didn't take any pictures of the bride and groom together.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Scout trip #1

Eli joined the Cub Scouts and has enjoyed it immensely. We had our first Scout campout recently and we crammed a lot into a short amount of time: fishing, swimming, hiking, whittling, astronomy, and all the fun that goes with camping out (S'mores, stories, songs, tents, etc).

We camped at Cochiti Lake which worked out well. The star field at night was amazing and we watched shooting stars and satellites fly over. Eli passed the cub scout swim test in the lake which was more difficult than I expected. We hiked our favorite spot--tent rocks--without losing any cub scouts over the ridge or in the slot canyon. It was a great and wearying time.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Family Preparations for the Lord's Day

This will be my last post on family worship for a while, and in it I'd like to give some thoughts on how to prepare as a family for the Lord's Day.

Let's start with the goal. As a family we should look forward to going to the Lord's house. Each of us should arrive at the worship service primed and longing to express our adoration of Him. Two problems to fight against: going to worship "spiritually empty" or unready to worship, and secondly just going through the motions during worship (which is not worship at all). Here are some ways to combat both those problems.

Starting as soon as possible in the week get the songs and Scriptures for the coming Lord's Day. Sing the songs as a family. Then read the words of the songs and meditate on them. Find the gems in them before Sunday worship! Know these songs so well so that when you sing them together on Sunday you are ready to exult God with them. As far as possible memorize the whole song so you can sing from your heart more freely.

Read the Scripture as a family before the service pointing out the key words of the passage and assigning themes for each child to listen for and report on after worship. If possible memorize the Scripture passage that will be preached on.

Plan ahead of time logistically. Set out clothes and Bibles the night before. Have the Sunday meals ready on Saturday so that there is less household work to do on the Sabbath (we order out on Saturday evening and get enough for Sunday, too). Get up early enough so that you have time to prepare yourself for worship physically and spiritually. Listen to God-glorifying music that stokes your affections as you drive to worship, etc.

I hope these ideas will help you call the Sabbath a delight.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Warning: Talking to us is likely to result in a baby

We meet lots of folks that want to talk about adoption. For all sorts of reasons very few will actually adopt some day, but that's fine, we still enjoy telling our adoption stories.

Last month we met some neighbors on-base who were eager to talk adoption with us. They were serious about adopting and had finished their homestudy months ago. However, they've had no calls about any situations which discouraged them because they're due to move out of the state next year. This would cause them to re-do part or all of their homestudy once they arrived in their new state--kind of like starting over.

They were intrigued by how fast we've been able to adopt and wanted to know how it can be done. We talked about transracial adoptions and the gospel with them and shared our adoption network contacts. They went home to think about all this. Yesterday they called to say that they decided to use our contacts and were swiftly presented with 5 situations. The first birthmother that looked at their portfolio chose them and now they're expecting to add a baby to their family in April!

If you're interested in learning how the gospel encourages transracial adoptions, this excellent, brief, and new interview is a great place to start. Of course, you can always just talk to us...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Trouble reports

The courts of justice and grace were busy today in our household with all kinds of domestic cases. Since the older two kiddos can write pretty well now, in an effort to discourage poor behavior we started making them write out what they did wrong and what they will do differently for each time they cause serious trouble. When I get home from work I review these for neatness and can talk about the problems with the children. Here's the first Trouble Report I received. It's a keeper.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Serve the Lord with gladness

One other element of family worship to keep in mind is the importance of joy. Is Bible reading drudgery? Is catechism and Scripture memory no more encouraging than making out a grocery list?

Surprisingly, some parents have the capacity to keep doing family worship for years without the least bit of joy. They're usually doing it to impress others in the church. I'm know because I think I'm one of them. I remember the sudden and painful realization that my leading of family worship was absent of joy when I visited another family whose father radiated joy when he spoke to his children about Jesus and the gospel. He made grace sound amazing, Christ sound great, and the Bible a dear gift. I found out later the verse he has in mind as he leads his family in worship is "Serve the Lord with gladness", from Psalm 100 I believe.

Not only will children detect a parent's hypocrisy in leading family worship without sincerity, but it is also dangerous to their salvation. They are likely to dismiss the faith as something that doesn't satisfy, as just one more thing their parents are doing to get them to behave. So, as we lead our families, let us remember to serve the Lord with gladness!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Our third reader

We had one of those special homeschooling moments today. Kristin was working with Isaiah on his phonics. He was doing well blending his letter sounds and for the first time he read a word that he didn't already know by sight! He's such an eager learner and is very motivated to become a reader. What a joy it is to teach your children such a skill as reading!

Lest you think that homeschooling is full of epiphanies like this, let me tell you this. While Isaiah was learning to read, Faith was in the backyard learning that dumping a bottle of bubble juice into the air conditioner is a great way to make a ton of bubbles.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Beyond skinned knees and loose teeth

A third element of Bailey family worship that I wanted to write on is our time of prayer.

Little kids' prayer requests naturally gravitate towards personal, physical needs: skinned knees and loose teeth, etc. There's nothing wrong with that I suppose, but as parents we want to see our children grow up into mature Christians. So it's good if we can enlarge the horizons for prayer beyond themselves, especially beyond their external wants.

For our times of family worship we have daily and weekly prayer items. Daily items include what we read in the Bible that day, a family from church, one member of the Bailey family, one extended family member, one missionary we support, and special requests/needs from others. Once per week we pray for one country of the world using Operation World (a great missions resource).

I have gone back and forth on having the children pray for some of these items. I think it's best to do it, but it can be a little hard to work out.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Good medicine

When times get tough, there's nothing quite like a baby's smile to lift your spirits

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Eternity in our children's hearts

This is the second in a series on Bailey family worship through the years.

Last time I touched some on memory work and young children; I'd like to continue on that theme.

We have always mixed catechism and Scripture as both are important for memorization. Catechism gives the big picture summary of revelation (ex: What is God?, What happens when we die?, etc) where Scripture memory provides the actual revelation to them.

Over time we have developed a system of short-term and long-term memory work which we go through each night in family worship and some on Saturdays. The short-term work consists of weekly Bible verses that we all learn (parents set the example!). On Saturday mornings the children recite that week's verse to me individually.

The long-term memory work consists of hymns, creeds/catechism, and Scripture. Over time each child memorizes a couple dozen hymns/psalms (one stanza usually) and we rotate through a couple of these each evening in family worship. Then, depending on which day of the week it is, we also recite together truths that we want our children to always know throughout their life:
Sunday: Psalm 23
Monday: Psalm 121
Tuesday: The Apostles' Creed
Wednesday: 1 Cor 13:4-7
Thursday: 10 commandments
Friday: The Lord's Prayer
Saturday: Heidelberg Catechism Q&A #1

I struggle to find time to keep fresh on the Shorter Catechism work, but most Saturdays I have the children recite all they know to me and we also review a few questions every evening during family worship. One controversial decision I've made is to pay them for their memory work (an idea supported by American puritan Cotton Mather). I pay $1 for each new answer recited from the shorter catechism (word perfect) and $0.25 for each review question answered correctly.

Our belief in all this is that we're laying a foundation in their lives--not with hay that will rot away over time, but with that which will last into eternity.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Books, bathtubs, catechisms, and chairs

This is the start of a new series of posts on how we developed a family worship practice with our children; I plan to start from the very early years and work my way through chronologically. I had planned to do this in Sunday School during our study of the classic book Thoughts on Family Worship, but I don't think we'll get back to that book for a while so I'll give my own thoughts here instead. Also, I don't plan to spend time on the why of family worship; for that, see the book I just mentioned (or Ps 78, Eph 6:1-3, etc).

My earliest memories discipling our children involve books, bathtubs, catechisms, and chairs. I'll take them in that order. Among our favorite books for very young children are The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes, and the Read-Aloud Bible Stories by Lindvall. The second book is good at not showing images of Christ (the first does, I believe). Kristin may remind me of others and if so I'll add them in the comments section. Also, Kristin has been effective in teaching our children when they're little to sit still and fold their hands when being read to. This has paid dividends in corporate worship.

I'll take the next two together. Bathtubs are a great place for teaching and reviewing memory work with a child (a captive audience). We started with the First Catechism and some basic memory verses. Actually I abbreviate some of the answers in that catechism so that even a 2 year old can show progress. Faith can give the answers to the first three questions. And I try to explain some concepts along the way, too, at their level. "Glorify God" means showing others how good God is, etc.

The last topic for this post is chairs. I remember when the children were very little having them sit in chairs during family worship. At first family worship only lasted for a few minutes and it was really us training them more than a time of the whole family worshipping together. We would line up the dining room chairs in a row and have them sit still while we did catechism, singing, or prayer. As long as we had a consistent time each day to do this, and we got off the sofa, we would see improvement little by little in our children's ability to sit still and participate.

Other points I want to mention in future posts on this series: joy in family worship, singing and music, long-term and short-term memory work, prayer lists, Bible reading, liturgy, Sabbath, missions, guests, and hypocrisy. I look forward to your observations, too.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Caught in the middle

Isaiah is a great little kid. As the middle child, he's the only one who can say he has both an older and a younger sister and brother. He's proving to be a good help during the homeschooling day, keeping Faith occupied so Kristin can teach the others. Here he is giving her basket rides down the hallway.

Isaiah is also a bit of a tender heart. He melts Kristin's heart with out of the blue, yet sincere, statements about how beautiful she is and how much he loves her. The kid's got heart. In this photo I caught him praying after recovering from last week's sickness.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Out of the mouth of babes (proceeds something besides praise)

What can you learn about human nature from a child's first words?

To help answer that, here are the most common expressions from Faith's lexicon:
"What u doin'?"
"Stop that!"
"No, I'm not!"

Monday, September 03, 2007

What we did with it

I'm borrowing a post title from More Water (I think perhaps from last Labor Day) just to say that the highlights of our long weekend were the several times we got together with our local church family. We're a small church, but we're pretty good at community.

I also like these comments from Doug Wilson,

Learning to live in genuine community is one of the central goals that we have set for ourselves. And, to be honest, we did not set the goal—it is set before us in Scripture as one of the basic elements of the Christian faith. We are one in Jesus Christ, and this is not to be limited to Sunday morning when everyone is wearing their best clothes, when pretty much everyone took a shower, and everyone is on their best behavior. This is the place where we are woven into community, but the thing is not supposed to come unraveled as we are pulling out of the parking lot.

But community on Monday morning . . . that’s another thing. And Thursday afternoon can be even more difficult. Because living in community is what takes the rough edges off, but before it takes the rough edges off, living in community reveals those rough edges. Some of you are regularly late to things. Some of you don’t return things that you have borrowed in a timely way. Some of you think that community means other people baby-sitting for you. Some of you think that community means having a right to be a grouch. Some of you think that community means flirting with all the sisters, or with all the brothers as the case may be. Community brings all this out, but community, over time, is also supposed to deal with it.

We are tangled up in one another’s lives, and this is as it ought to be. But we are not tangled up so that we would surrender to various forms of thoughtlessness. Confronting this kind of thing as appropriate, covering it in love as appropriate, is the training ground that God has given to us. We are a rag tag collection of forgiven sinners, and a number of us have some messy things lying about in our lives. The task before us is to pick up, and to help one another do so in all patience.

So patience does not mean leaving it alone. Addressing it firmly does not mean impatience. And learning how to do this is one of God’s great gifts to us.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ignoring the thinkers

From Ken Myers' recent letter to Mars Hill subscribers: a sobering statement on Christians and their leaders.

I sense a growing level of uncritical identification with contemporary culture; Christians whose experience and assumptions have been shaped only by "culture affirming" institutions.

While there is a number of wonderfully insightful books by Christian authors who see the underlying dynamic of many cultural conventions (books about technology or commodification or narcissism or our addiction to entertainment or the state of modern marriage), the insights of such prophetic thinkers seem to be ignored by celebrated Christian leaders and hence by most Christians. It is easier to keep a big church program running if you don't introduce too much cognitive dissonance between what you say on Sunday and what advertisers and entertainers and professors and miscellaneous experts say the rest of the week.

One way to stop ignoring Christian thinkers is to listen to Mars Hill Audio. They now have a free podcast called Audition. I recommend it; the latest edition is an interesting analysis of the John Roberts' led Supreme Court.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Forgiveness. Nothing is more foreign to sinful human nature.

Our church had a very difficult summer with somewhere around one-third of the congregation leaving. Thankfully, it appears that the storm is over and now we can heal and hopefully learn how to relate to others better. To that end the next book we will study as a church is John MacArthur's The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness.

I finished the book recently and it changed my thinking on whether forgiveness requires repentance first and other foundational relational issues. True to form, you can't argue with MacArthur's arguments since they are so clearly taught in Scripture. He addresses many questions that, if applied, will help us to live in a more grace-saturated, self-denying way.

A powerful summary of the book's message can be downloaded (right click here) in MP3 format. It's an address that Pastor MacArthur gave to students at The Master's College back in 1992.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pan Relay Races

It's time for another installment of Heroics in Parenting. Isaiah is sick, which brought this one to mind last night.

There is a race known only to parents of small, sick children. This race begins with a shock in the middle of the night. When you went to bed everything seemed fine and you looked forward to an enjoyable, peaceful night of rest. But sometime in the middle of the night a small voice breaks into your consciousness and you hear words like "Daddy, I feel like I'm gonna puke up." These words jar you into a quick reflex and you dash through the dark house (lest you wake other children) to the kitchen. You find a pot or pan (here is where Dad loses time reflecting on where one finds clean pots and pans in the kitchen) and sprint back to the child.

If you're successful you place the pan under the child's mouth in time, if not you scream at the other parent until they drag themselves out of bed and assist. Then dawns the realization that TWO pans are needed and after another dash to the kitchen (this time Dad remembers where pans are kept) the next phase of the course begins. Here is where a one-man relay begins as the parent rushes from child to toilet to sink (must rinse!) and back to the child.

When the first heat of the race is over, at least one parent will probably spend the rest of night in a weary alert status in the bed, poised for the next round to begin, when they again will sprint into action. And there will be no sleeping in the next morning if there are other children in the house. This is one more reason why parenting is for heroes (and it matters which side of the bed you sleep on).

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Young Peacemaker

The Young Peacemaker has been recommended to us by several other families. We just finished going through it as a family and most of us benefited from it. Many of the ideas in the book are probably too much for a child under 7 to grasp, but all of the children learned from the stories and some of the principles. We bought the kit that comes along with the book which contains worksheets and activity pages for each chapter. These are definitely for those who can write and read with good comprehension.

Overall, this is a great resource for a family to use and re-use. We plan to re-read it again next year.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The fun of keeping small children in small places

Time for another installment of "Heroics in Parenting". This one is dedicated to Kristin who so far this week has successfully taken 5 little children to a dentist's office, a doctor's office (you know how small those waiting rooms are), the grocery store, homeschool, and even got them all home after having a flat tire. Except for the flat tire this is a typical week for her, and that's why the world should stop and salute her and others like her.

For a candid (and very funny) glimpse at what shopping is like with several young children, you've got to read this, "LOT OF POKEMON CARDS THAT MY KIDS TRIED TO SNEAK BY ME".

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Reluctant Homeschoolers

We're back into the full swing of homeschooling as of this week. This year we have enrolled a 4th grader, a 2nd grader, and a kindergartener. We expect this to be a difficult year (not a first) with Faith and Zeke to tend to. We thought seriously about sending one or two of the children to a local school but decided that we'd try it for one more year (not a first for that feeling either).

There are some things we love about homeschool: that we get to teach our children some very important things ourselves, that we have control over the curriculum (which means we get to buy lots of books!), that they seem to learn responsibility and maturity better in the home environment, that we can "shelter our children" (oh no!) from many harmful influences. There are some things that we don't like about it: you can become white-washed tombs like in the cartoon, it's hard, there are tendencies to expasperate the children or to let them slide, you wonder if they are missing out in some areas, etc.

I'm thankful for others who have helped us in the past and how God provides new help each year. This year one of the "older ladies" in the church has offered to tutor Eli once a week on a number of weak areas he has; that's a great display of love to us! So if you can take some time to pray for us, we'd appreciate if you'd include a prayer for our schoolyear.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Zeke's Finalization Trip

We spent the week in the drought-stricken state of Alabama. Our main purpose was to finalize Zeke's adoption (Alabama law requires even uncontested adoptions to be finalized in person and in court). We knew what to expect for this one (we had the same courthouse, judge, clerk of court, and lawyer for Faith's finalization) so we took along most of the children as a homeschool field-trip. The judge was not able to be there due to health problems, but the clerk of court was able to make everything official for us. Zeke is now, officially in the government's eyes, a Bailey.

We stayed with Kristin's parents; they were generous and loving as always. For the first time since Zeke was born Kristin and I were able to leave all the kiddos behind and enjoy an outing together. We also were able to visit briefly with my mom.

Traveling went smoothly; the children were well behaved. The most interesting part of the trip for me was being in public as a family in places where no one knows us and they can gawk. We really stand out in airports, malls, and most restaurants. As expected, we got plenty of looks and a couple awkward comments from strangers. Kristin and I are prepared for this and we try to respond graciously or just ignore it. The children are oblivious to it at their age, but I do wonder how we can prepare them for such situations when they become more self-conscious.

It's strange how sitting on an airplane for half a day can just wipe you out, but we're all tired and happy to be home again.