Friday, May 30, 2008

Angel's food

Believe that the Father loves you. Taste and see that God is good. Christ delights in his saints. The sweetness, delight, and safety of Jesus Christ. The privilege of sonship. The saints' fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost unfolded in love, grace, and consolation.

These are just a few of the chapter titles of this wonderfully encouraging, 350 year old book! This is a work that can help Christians enormously. In it I became preoccupied with everlasting love and could say with fresh affection, "behold, this is my beloved!"

To paraphrase Sinclair Ferguson's introduction, in these pages Owen helped me to understand that the 'doctrine' of the Trinity is not what it is often thought to be -- academic, obscure, and speculative. Rather, it is the reverse, for the doctrine of the Trinity is the most fundamental, most practical of doctrines, for it reveals a pathway to knowing, trusting, loving, worshipping, and serving the one living and true God.

Make time for a careful study of this volume and your soul will be richly rewarded!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What were we thinking?!?

There's a lot of talk in the blogosphere right now on transracial adoption (see my side bar "Briefly Noted"). A new study just came out that apparently warns against it. Many secular social workers have thought this way for a long time. And regrettably, many church people do as well. Russell Moore presents what has been for us the compelling reasons to adopt transracially.

What were we thinking when we did this?
1. "Right now, there are untold numbers of children, many of them racial minorities, languishing in the foster care system in the United States. Would the social workers really have us believe that it is better for an African-American child to grow up bounced from home to home in this bureaucratic limbo than to be a child to parents whose skin is paler than his?"

2. "But there's an even bigger issue here: the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel drives us away from our identity in the flesh, and toward a new identity, indeed a new family, defined by the Spirit."

This is what we were thinking. We wanted more children. The doctors said it was unwise for Kristin (a diabetic) to give birth to more children. We knew that many children here in the States need loving homes where they'll hear about Christ. We came to learn that there are 5 times as many adoptable, minority children as there are white children. Our hearts were moved at the realization of this need. And so our need (more children) and the children's need (a loving home) came together in God's providence.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Getting a kickback on my prayers

After a tough day at work and after whining about one of my bosses for a while to Kristin, she said this, "'It is the Lord Jesus you are serving'; he's your boss." (Col 3:24). That verse is now posted on my desk at work.

I've been praying for Kristin more faithfully with help from Water of the Word. I should have expected that these prayers would come with a guaranteed kickback.

Monday, May 26, 2008

3rd Annual Pig Roast

Thanks for the Newnams for inviting the church to a picnic/water-gun fight/kiddie pool swim/pig roast/memorial day event. A great time was had by all.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pulpit Supply at the Navajo Bible Church (pt 2)

I preached on the power of the cross in putting sin to death to 18 souls among the Navajo nation today. We were warmly received and God gave me strength to set Christ before them with some affection and power. J and my son Eli were excellent company and represented our church well to these brothers, sisters, and new friends.
We had the great joy of meeting Harriet Butler, 25 years the missionary to the Navajos. Her love to see Christ formed in these people and her willingness to live in near-poverty in a lonesome place for much of her life combined to convict me of being an unwilling servant. Could I live this way, in this place, for so long? Would I choose to live this way, as she has since 1985?
I hope to return again, but this time with my whole family, and enjoy additional fellowship among the Navajos.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pulpit Supply at the Navajo Bible Church

I'm heading out to Crystal, New Mexico today in order to preach to the Navajo Bible Church on the Lord's Day. I'm thankful to have great traveling companions, my oldest son and a friend from church. I look forward to meeting the Navajos and especially our faithful mother in the faith, Harriet Butler who at 86 years of age continues to labor among the Navajos. The little log cabin where the church meets was built by the tribe; the trees were felled, readied, and the house was built completely by the Navajo people.

I can't help but think a little of David Brainerd as I prepare. Although I have little in common with him (to my shame), I do desire to emulate his great passion for Christ to be known among the "Indians". Here are a couple of quotes from his famous journal that are good words for the journey.

Rode 16 miles to Montauk, and had some inward sweetness on the road, but something of flatness and deadness after I came there and had seen the Indians: I withdrew and endeavored to pray, but found myself awfully deserted and left, and had an afflicting sense of my vileness and meanness."

"Felt my heart drawn out after God in prayer, almost all the forenoon; especially while riding. And in the evening, could not help crying to God for those poor Indians; and after I went to bed my heart continued to go out to God for them, till I dropped asleep. Oh, 'Blessed be God that I may pray!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Faith smiles

Why is this new photo of Faith so remarkable?

Because up until now, this has been her "camera smile".

Friday, May 16, 2008

Our homeschool year in review

Homeschool wrapped up this week. To celebrate Kristin visited that friend parents love to hate, Charles E. Cheese, with the children for lunch.

I asked Kristin what are some of the surprises from homeschooling this year and some other questions, but all she would say was, "Hey, it's the day-after. At this point I'm just glad it's over." She did go on to mention some parts of the curriculum that were especially good.

Window on the World. This book features a different country on every 2 page spread. The pages are rich with lots of photographs; it's a beautiful layout. Each country is briefly described with the geography, culture, and, most importantly, how you can pray for that nation.

Kristin taught Isaiah to read using Saxon phonics and was very impressed with it. In the past we've used Sing, Spell, Read, and Write, but Saxon's material was not as complicated and more straight-forward.

I was amazed at how much the children learned about the English language using Shurley Grammar. This was our second year with this curriculum and it continues to impress us by laying a solid foundation of language skills.

The Story of the Orchestra was Grace's favorite book, she must have listened to the CD that comes with it 100 times. The book is divided into two major parts: composers from Vivaldi to Bernstein and their associated musical periods, and the instruments of the orchestra.

We were impressed with Sonlight's readers. While there were a couple of stories that were too dull to finish, the overwhelming majority were big hits with Eli and Grace. Kristin and I, along with the older kids, had a great time reading books like Cheaper by the Dozen, The Great Turkey Walk, Johnny Tremain, and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch almost every evening just before bedtime.

We still struggled with our science curriculum, and a good attempt was made at Latin but it didn't catch on for a number of reasons. On the math front, Saxon is very well done and thorough, but not popular with the kids (can math at this age ever be fun?).

I must mention the huge help we had from church friends this year. One friend came over many times to play with the younger children during school hours and another friend tutored Eli throughout the year in all sorts of subjects (handwriting, geography, bird-watching, ice-cream eating, etc) that made a huge difference! Thank you!

Last, I would be remiss if I didn't mention in this homeschool year in review how I admire Kristin for pulling all this off for 5 years straight. Some people wonder how she can teach the older three with a 2 year old and 1 year old in the house; so do I! But she does it well!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My future according to financial advisors

A financial advisor has been after me for months to start an IRA for Kristin. We spoke on the phone again today and he asked, "what will you live on when you retire?" and other worrisome questions.

Ironically, another financial advisor spoke with Kristin and me just a couple of days ago. He is a lot less smooth than the first one and is aware that we have been contemplating another IRA. Thinking of the future that the first financial advisor envisions for us, this is what he had to say about it, "Weep. You have laid up treasures in the last days. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence."

The future these two financial advisors paint couldn't be more different. We want to believe the first without rejecting the second, but how is that even possible?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

School money

We received word today that Grace (8) and Isaiah (5) were accepted into a new classical, Christian school for next year. So for two days a week Kristin will have a lighter load and our children will get some new experiences.

The lock-down at the base elementary school last week (bomb threat) reminded us of one reason why we like homeschooling, but we also like the idea of a classical education which focuses on critical thinking skills, classic languages such as Latin and Greek, and an age appropriate knowledge.

Eli will also be attending a help-for-the- homeschooler type school one day a week that also takes a classical approach to learning.

Since we are down to our last year here we thought we'd experiment with a new school environment before we move next summer. That way if we still prefer homeschooling after we try out these schools, we'll be able to start anew in a new place.

So Kristin will still be homeschooling next year, we'll all be a good deal poorer, but hopefully it will all add up to an excellent education.

By the way, here's a good video clip about not letting different convictions regarding educational choices ruin good relationships.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Love. It's what makes a Subaru, a means of grace

It is true: it is better to give than to receive. Our long-term missionary to the Navajos, an 86 year old widow, just proved that point. Our little church, under the leadership of the deacons, is buying this special mother of the faith a new-er car. Why is this remarkable? She writes,

Let me tell you something. Often we who trust the Lord for our decisions for the future may misinterpret or may be confused about events. Then we decide that God is trying to tell us a door is closing or is being opened.

Last Friday, my wonderful Mercury Topaz gave me such trouble that I pondered the Lord's intentions concerning my continued calling to work among the Navajo women. To get the car going, I had to open the hood which is too heavy for my arms and in particular, my weak right hand. With hood open, the "rigged" fan to cool the radiator had to be connected to the battery. Then drop the hood, by which process, the wire to the fan disconnected and said process had to be redone (three times and each time I had to get back in the car to pull the handle to open the hood again). I think I "lost my cool" and cried to the Lord, "I NEED A BETTER CAR SO I CAN DO MY JOB!"

Did my Heavenly Father hear that cry for help and let the PPC folks answer with your offer? He does work in mysterious ways.

A Subaru Forester? W H E E W !

The Lord always surprises me with His care. And you folks are often His servants to deliver those surprises. You do know with a car like that I could get to people I have not visited for more than a year. I must have misinterpreted His intentions by thinking He meant for me to resign. I am too young for that kind of life, right?

The offerings of one local church, and a small one at that, are being used all over the world in ways just like this. What a joy to see this truth so clearly for once.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The richest man I know

On this Mother's Day I'm reminded of how rich she has made me. And this treasure will only get better with time.

The Father's adopted love for a prodigal like me

The Wrestling Mat is intended to be, primarily, a place to document the wrestling I do with the gospel in order to get a better grip on it. Sometimes I stray from that theme, but I want, very much, to grasp with ever deepening understanding and affection the gospel as it is pictured in precious doctrines like adoption, the Cross of Christ, etc. Here's something I heard Lig Duncan say during a discussion (panel 5 about 15 minutes in) at Together for the Gospel that strengthens my hold in both those areas:

Jesus is on the cross because of the Father's love. Spurgeon says when you look at the Cross you have to ask the question, 'Does the Father love me, more than He loves His own Son?' Look at John 3:16--we often talk about the love of Jesus here and I don't want to diminish that--but see how it speaks to the prior love of the Father that he gave up the most precious thing in the universe for us. And Romans 8:32 says he spared not his only Son for us! The cross is the instrument and expression of the Father's love while at the same time addressing the Father's righteous wrath and indignation against our sin against Him. (a loose quote as I transcribed the audio)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pictures of the week

Eli holding the game ball that he was awarded for hitting a 3 RBI homerun that tied the score late in the game. This was Eli's first homerun.

Margaret T. watched our three older children yesterday afternoon and dropped them off at our house with this nice surprise. Isn't she awesome!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Race Tracks and Ranches

It's field trip time as we end the school year (by the way, Isaiah finished kindergarten today! Kristin has now taught 3 of our children to read!). The Unser Racing Museum was the destination this week. It's a cool place for kids, but what I want to mention here is a conversation Kristin had while she was there about another great place for kids.

One of the ladies in the homeschool group that Kristin met is a foster mom for New Mexico Boys and Girls Ranches, which just happens to be a prayer focus for our church this month. Kristin took the opportunity to get an independent assessment of The Ranches. She was happy to hear that this foster mom has been pleased with the care and supervision that the folks at The Ranches show for these children with troubled pasts.

During the past year, over a hundred children were cared for through their residential programs alone. In addition to a safe place to live, they received counseling and guidance...a solid education...a strong moral foundation. I'm glad we support the work of The Ranches.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Welcome to Middle Earth, Eli

I've been waiting for this day; Eli has ventured into Middle Earth. He picked up The Hobbit two days ago and it has now been put back on the bookshelf like a horse ridden hard. He quickly reached for The Fellowship of the Ring and I know I'll have to pry it from his fingers at bedtime.

This is significant for me because as I child I didn't want to read. As one untimely born I came to regret the worlds that I missed in those formative years and have tried to play catch up. By God's grace one of our parenting goals is being met--we want all our children to love to read! I attribute part of this accomplishment to the desire God has given Kristin and me to minimize TV and decorate the house with good books which the children often see us enjoying.

As soon as Mordor is destroyed, I have a feeling he'll be heading to Narnia.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Music Review--Before the Throne

Sojourn's Before the Throne deserves the high praise (a rare 5 stars) Christianity Today gave it. I read about it from Tim Challies (scroll down on his post for his comments and easy downloading directions) and agree with his strong recommendation. This music enlivens my soul and prepares me for public worship and just day-to-day keeping my mind on things above.

CT sums up what I think with this quote, "The music is the draw, but the lyrics are what keep you coming back—as it should be."

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The falling dollar and global missions

We've asked the missionaries that our church supports to tell us what effect the falling dollar is having on them. The reports are sobering and call me to re-consider how I'll use my "spending money." These families are depending on our faithfulness. Here are a few examples:

(from Bulgaria) "We have received word from three significant supporting churches within the last few months that they were either significantly reducing or stopping their financial support altogether. I'm sensing the need to return to the States to seek new support."

(from Ukraine) "We are all needing extra support – at a time that our supporters in the USA are also having a harder time financially. So we tighten our belts and pray."

(from an undisclosed country) "Yes, we have felt the drop of the dollar, as well as the rising costs of living. We have been able to make ends meet for all months but this month (just a couple hundred dollars)."

(from Greece) "We hang by a thread every month. It’s a real adventure to see how God provides every month. The day-to-day impact on our lives is simply that we’ve had to cut costs on food and any extra-curricular expenses, not that we did much along those lines anyway. Budget categories such as savings, retirement, vacation, and recreation are the first to go, in the interest of “survival” and just paying the bills. So, yes, times are very tough. We usually have two responses to this. One is that if the Lord wants us to continue to live and minister here, He will provide. Of that we are absolutely sure. The second thing is that we are so aware of how much better off we are than the dear, desperate refugees we work among, that we dare not complain about our financial hard times. We try to be as generous as we can with the resources the Lord blesses us with, knowing that 'with such sacrifices He is pleased.'"

(from Malawi) "We have tightened our belts a bit and are waiting to see how much of a trend we have going! The specific impact the dollar’s decline seems to have, besides giving, is on the cost of goods here. Our grocery budget continues to skyrocket and is presently about twice what our grocery budget was in the US. Milk costs around $5 per gallon. Fuel is around $5.50 per gallon and the rising fuel costs give rise to all the other costs as it does in the US. We are seeking increased giving on the part of churches, yet they are in the same boat we are in!"

If the Lord has given you a storehouse of wealth, consider the situation of our brothers and sisters that have left much for Christ, and try as you can to open the doors and move any extra out to the fields.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I Heart Thursday Nights (by Kristin)

I am thankful to my sweet husband who allows me to get out of the house on Thursday evenings. Sometimes I wish I could run an errand by myself or shop, but especially on those nights, I find that I have been blessed to be at CareNet and see God at work. Take tonight for instance.

J did not speak English so her friend M accompanied her to help interpret.

M asked as they walked in “Do you offer birth control?” I replied, that we did not, but offer counseling and promote abstinence. As we were talking M shared their story:

J found out she was pregnant at PP. They told J through M that she was about a month pregnant and there was no heartbeat. Just a bunch of cells. M said she knew better, but agreed to go to the clinic that gives abortions with J.

As they approached the clinic there was a man with a sign that said “Choose Life”. M said to J, “Hey, that sign is for you”. The man holding the sign asked what they were doing. So M told him about J’s situation. The man told her about CareNet and how we offer free services and ultrasounds. He recommended they come see us. Then he spoke again, this time in Spanish to J. She decided to not proceed, but called CareNet.

M was so excited as she told us that she called. We usually make appointments and M said she really felt like J needed to come in soon. We had an opening tonight. So J and M came tonight and saw ultrasounds photos of a 18 week old baby girl. J decided to keep the precious gift.

Tonight we praised the Lord with J and M. M said “Phillip”,the man with the sign, was a guardian angel from the Lord. We are thankful that he spoke J’s language and opened her heart to come to us. We thanked God for an opening in the appointment schedule tonight. We thanked God for our schedules, particularly the ultrasound tech, being open tonight so we could come and serve.

Crazy for the Catechism

A couple of nights ago I was home with just Faith and Zeke; leading them through family worship reminded me of our earliest parenting days worshipping at home together with very young children. It was very different than our practice today.

My earliest memory of teaching Eli about God must be from when he was around 2 or 3 years old. The Sunday school curriculum included the First Catechism and simple Scripture memory and we would work on that through the week. Bath time became the main memory-work time. Later we added the ever popular "Candy Game".

The Candy Game is played by setting out a row of Smarties with a lollipop at the end of the line. For each catechism question answered correctly Eli could advance down the line eating a piece a candy. I saved the lollipop for something big like reciting a brief version of the 10 commandments with me or the Lord's Prayer, etc.

At another church it was common to play Catechism freeze-tag. When frozen you'd be asked a question from the First Catechism and couldn't be unfrozen until it was answered correctly. We Presbyterians are crazy for the Catechism. But I'm fully convinced that this is something worthy of being crazy about.

Family worship has been on my mind a lot lately. The busyness of life is a constantly encroaching threat to a time of daily worship together. Avoiding turning family worship into an empty rite is another threat. I look forward to sharing some final thoughts on this subject with those at church when we finish our current book study, Thoughts on Family Worship, this week.