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.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Faith Turns 2

Happy Birthday to Faith! We're off today to Alabama to celebrate with family (and also to finalize Zeke's adoption); these pictures from recent months capture some of the many faces of our hip-hopping, laughing, questioning, fussy, fun youngest daughter.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Why we need to care about theology

Are you unmoved, or somewhat apathetic, when you hear about subjects like sin and grace? I mean, you know these things are great, but they don't seem immediately relevant to your life. I have been that way. Especially when faced with tough people problems, I want to skip the theology-talk and get to the practicals. If you're like me, David Wells is somebody you should make time to read.

His book, No Place for Truth (or whatever happened to Evangelical Theology) is a "wisdom book" that reveals how the modern culture we live in pushes theology to the periphery of our lives instead of the core where it should shape all our thoughts and actions.

This book is now 15 years old, but as Modern Reformation points out, it has stood the test of time and is still a must read. It provides insight on many topics, such as: community, the meaning of work, the entertainment culture, individualism, the values shift from character to personality and from morality to good feelings, the growth of an anti-intellectual and anti-authority church, the problem with pastors as "professionals", and a focus on explaining why theology is for the people of God (not just religious academia).

To summarize his thesis, theology holds the keys to Christian identity, to genuine piety, to the sort of thought that brings the Word of God to bear in our life. But modernity has shifted the focus from God to the self, where now we seek happiness, not righteousness, and God becomes increasingly remote and hence irrelevant to what is most important to us. While items of belief are still confessed, they are being removed from the center of life where they defined what life was, and now they are relegated to the periphery where their power to define what life should be is lost.

For local readers, this book is available for check-out in my church's library.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Man-mountain in the making

Zeke had his 4 month check-up today. He weighed in at over 19 pounds and measured 27 inches. That's 95th percentile in both categories.

My baby can beat up your baby.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sectarian or Secular?

This series of posts explains quite a bit of the problems within the reformed world, its infighting, and the resultant, increasing number of microdenominations.

The problem: overemphasizing either antithesis or common grace instead of holding them together. Err too much on the side of antithesis and you end up sectarian and in a tiny ghetto. Err too much on the side of common grace and you become just like the world.

The fix: if you're naturally bent towards antithesis (like I am) develop friends who are naturally bent towards common grace, and vice versa.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Eli's new bike

This morning Eli asked me why some of his friends make fun of him because he doesn't know what a gameboy is or who pokemon is. I really haven't answered him yet, but here's what I will say. There's nothing particularly wrong with these things, it's just a matter of what they would displace from his life that matters to us.

One of our top goals as parents is to foster in our children a love of reading. We've centered our homeschooling curriculum around it, we model it in our own lives to the best of our ability, and we pray for it to happen. With Eli it certainly has. Even when he is doing chores, like taking out the trash, he'll often have a finger in a book as he goes about the house.

This summer, as usual, we participated in the city library's reading program. It turns out that Eli was selected as the winner for the city library we frequent. Today he was invited to the civic plaza where he received a nice prize--a new bike. What a great way to reinforce a love of reading, and to make answering his question from this morning easier. We're pretty proud of him.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Go to the byways; they may listen

Two verses from my recent devotions motivated me to renew evangelism with my co-workers. One was from the gospel of Mark where Jesus tells the parable of the king's feast. He makes a statement to the effect, "go out to the byways." We are to go out and initiate with people, inviting them to come to the Kingdom of God. The second verse is from my reading of Jeremiah where God tells Jeremiah to speak again, because "they may listen." I thought, "who knows? Even my co-workers may listen!"

I noticed that a co-worker I've been praying and hoping to speak to about Jesus was reading the atheistic-tract The God Delusion by Dawkins. That was a couple of weeks ago. Since then my prayers have included asking God for an opportunity to talk to him about the Christian faith.

I believe God answered that prayer yesterday when late in the day he and I were the only folks in his office area and we were already talking about some other things. I prayed for courage and not to be ashamed of my Lord, and I spoke. It turns out that another co-worker loaned him the book to read (now I'll pray for a chance to speak to him, too) and he hadn't begun it yet. We had a brief conversation in which nothing dramatic happended. But I feel good that I took the opportunity God gave me to speak. If he decides to read Dawkins' book, perhaps my words will make a difference.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Find new blog posts faster

It takes me a while to get around to the blogs of my friends because my laptop is pretty slow. And because people are busy, most don't update their blog all that often. So lots of time was lost waiting around to find out that there were no new posts on our favorite blogs.

I finally got around to using the RSS (Real Simple Subscription) feature built into most blogs. It was suprisingly easy to set up and instantly made blog reading more effecient. It tells you which blogs have new posts. Here's a link that explains how you can do the same thing.