Sunday, January 24, 2010

New assignment

The Air Force has notified us of our new assignment. We are to be in Utah (Hill AFB) by early March. Since the report date is sooner than I was expecting, we have a thousand things to do in the next month. Blogging will be light to non-existent until we're re-settled.

We will greatly miss our dear friends in Albuquerque.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You don't leave your sick mother

(A third post in a short series on Presbyterian Church History)

When do you leave a church? What grounds justify forming a new one? American Presbyterians could learn a lot from their Scottish church forefathers who detested separatism.

Which Prophet called for the true Israelites to break from the idolatrous Old Testament Church? Which Apostle gave instructions to split from an immoral New Testament Church? Finding none, the Scottish Presbyterians kept their vows to their Church despite its corruption. Error in the Church was no reason to separate from it.

Separation was permissible only over the fundamentals of the gospel itself. They knew that separation is not the only way to testify against error. You don't leave a sick mother (the church, see Gal 4:26), you stay and help her to recover.

For more than 150 years the idea of a unified, visible Church of Jesus Christ had an immense hold on the Scottish Presbyterian mind. Apparently, very little of that mindset survived contact with the independent American spirit.

Good news!

Faith's leg casts came off today! There'll be some more check-ups, and night-time braces for a while, but no more casts and the doctor is pleased with the progress.

Faith was casted on both legs (from the knee down) to correct a problem with her calves that was limiting mobility in her feet.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"His face is white, but his heart be black!"

(The second post in a short series on Presbyterian history)

Such was the loving response one newly freed black woman gave when asked about her white pastor, John L. Girardeau. The federal government had sent to Charleston a black pastor to minister to the former slave congregation of 1,500. He was rejected in favor of Dr Girardeau who had not yet returned from the War.

Dr Girardeau has been called the forgotten Spurgeon of the South, loved by his congregation and remembered as a preacher with power and precision. He is a bright spot among Southern Presbyterians in a dark time.

I had the privilege to visit his grave and hear moving accounts of his love and faithful ministry among the slaves in Charleston.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tour of old Charleston (part 1)

Last week I enjoyed an intensive class in Presbyterian Church History which included a tour of the oldest Presbyterian sites and stories in our nation.

Over the next few posts I'll cover some of the highlights of the class; this post will focus on one part of our tour of historic Charleston, South Carolina.

The oldest Presbyterian church building in the nation is on John's Island, part of the Charleston peninsula. The building dates from 1719 and is still in great shape and active use.
The layout of the sanctuary tells you a lot about the beliefs of the people that have worshipped there. You can't miss the raised pulpit in the center front of the room. There is no center aisle so that the congregation can center on the Word being read and preached. The elders of the church sit in the front pews on either side of the pulpit, symbolizing the safeguarding role the elders have over the preached Word.

Presbyterian worship, at its best, is simple, reverent, and Word-centered. When done right, it is also timeless, for our God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore.

Haiti’s greatest need

If you find yourself wanting to help Haiti in some way but do not want to simply send money to an organization you know little about, know that Presbyterian Mission in Haiti (PMH) and the pastors there need help now more than ever.

In the wake of this massive catastophe, our pastors need all the support they can get to minister the Gospel. This is Haiti’s greatest need.

PMH is a faithful Reformed Presbyterian group that has been helping organize and support Charles Amicy, Leon Amicy and Octavius Delfils in the spread of the Gospel in Haiti. A friend of mine went to seminary with Leon and Octavius and know what committed and faithful men they are.

If you would like to give financially to PMH so that they have funds to use for the relief of earthquake victims, make checks payable to Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (PCA) and please write “PMH-Earthquake Relief” on the memo line. Mail the checks to 2519 Woodruff Rd, Simpsonville, SC 29681.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Gifts for a child's soul

Our strangest family tradition must be Epiphany. On January 6th each of the children receive a gift intended to help them grow in faith during the new year. Kristin and I also exchange gifts of the same kind.

The strange part is how the gifts are wrapped--the wackier the better. Kristin's gift-wrapping was really clever this year--her gift came to me in a Hawaiian dinner roll bag (bread for the soul looking forward to Paradise). The other gifts were similarly wrapped in odd things: a shower cap, a diaper, a briefcase, etc.

Zeke and Faith each received some God-honoring music for very young children.

Isaiah received a brand new edition of Bunyan's "other" allegory, The Holy War: The Battle for Mansoul. It looks to be very well done.

Grace receive a collection of short bios of godly women of the past. She's already finished it.

Another great children's series of Christian biographies started last year with a look at Calvin. This year the focus is on Augustine.

Kristin gave me a copy of Gospel-Powered Parenting and I gave her A Praying Life. I've heard both are excellent!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Beyond superficial relationships

Pastor Kevin DeYoung points out a great letter in First Things from a woman in San Francisco.

She comes to see the "transactional and superficial" relationships of the workplace (that's a great description) and desires to be "the spiritual and emotional center of our family."

It is heartening to see a young woman who realizes that to be busy at home (Titus 2:5) and a helpmate to her husband (Gen. 2:18) are good things to desire.


My husband was born in the 1960s to highly educated, secular parents; I was born in the 1970s to the same. Both sets of parents divorced when we were in our early teens. My husband and I met as youngish knowledge workers, equipped with laptops and degrees. We moved in together and eventually got married – as guilelessly, it now seems, as two lambs. If anyone had asked us what our respective “roles” were in the marriage, we would have stared at that person blankly. Surely, we thought, we will go on as before: both working, going to restaurants, and doing the New York Times Sunday crossword. Occasionally, someone will throw in a load of laundry or cook a meal. Why, we might even take a cooking class together!

Fast-forward five years. We now have two children in diapers. After going back to graduate school for two years when our first was a newborn, my husband can’t find a job in this economy. I’m supporting us with a high-paying corporate job that I’ve been hoping to leave for years. Instead of spending my days caring for my children and keeping the kind of home I’ve always wanted, I log countless hours in a sterile office environment where all relationships are transactional and superficial. I come home to find the kids in dirty clothes, the house disordered, and my husband preparing some elaborate meal because, to keep boredom and depression at bay, he has seized on cooking with the enthusiasm he once had for paid work. I give him money to buy groceries; he refers self-importantly to “his” kitchen. In our daily bickering over tasks and bills, I am petty and snappish, plagued by the sense that something has gone seriously awry.

Meanwhile, I have gravitated to a certain type of mommy-blog; one written by a stay-at-home mother, lovingly grateful to her provider-man, capably in charge of every detail of her children’s lives and home: the Angel in the House, as we might have sneered back in English 101. While the blogger and I remain quite different people, she seems to have grasped, early on, some essential fact about gender relations that no one ever told my husband or me. Those brave and brainy revolutionaries who raised us – parents, professors, Self magazine – never so much as hinted that someday we might want to act like men and women. Having dodged that retrograde fate, we had turned into neutered freaks, mired in resentments and domestic dysfunction. Our lucky kids!

Yet, as Shakespeare’s Portia says: “Happy in this, …she is not bred so dull but she can learn.” As we struggle on, juggling roles, I’m realizing that my main job is to be the spiritual and emotional center of our family: the Angel in the House even when not physically on the premises. I do this not by keeping the carpet vacuumed, the clothes ironed, and the baby on her nap schedule – although I’d prefer to do those things, too – but by radiating love, joy, and gratitude, particularly to my husband, who would give us everything if he could but who is limited right now to giving us countless uncomplaining diaper changes, lots of playtime in the backyard, and a delicious nightly menu of grilled meats.

The lousy economy can send me out the door to earn a living, the popular culture can befog what my duties are and to whom, but none of it – indeed, nothing – can unsex me if I don’t let it. As I struggle to learn the lessons of how to be a wife and mother, I am ever more grateful for my loving and forgiving husband.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Brothers Karamazov

"All true Russians are philosophers!" is a revealing statement from a main character in The Brothers Karamazov, a passionate philosophical novel, hailed by many as one of the world's best pieces of literature.

It is a lengthy tale of the three sons of a dirty old buffoon, Fyodor Karamazov, who represent three personalities: the reckless sensual (Dmitri), the agnostic intellectual (Ivan), and an immensely likeable, godward young man (Alyosha).

The story is set in a small Russian town around 1870 and centers on a romantic rivalry that erupted between Fyodor and his eldest son Dmitri. This rivalry figures prominently in the murder of the father and the trial of Dmitri for the crime.

Dostoevsky’s description of the tragic Karamazov brothers and the murder of their father presents the context needed to eruditely explore philosophical questions about God’s sovereignty, the place of suffering in our world, human depravity, and redemption through pain.

The Brothers Karamazov is a long book (almost 800 pages), so I opted for an abridged audio book that still ran over 19 hours. Even abridgements cannot overcome some of the slow-moving moments where the novel labors in details. At other times, its story and dialogue are captivating. This, combined with the depth of thought behind the philosophical questioning, is what makes the book stand out as a true classic.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A good hair day

Today is a significant day in our household. After receiving much advice about how to do Faith's hair--much of it utterly incongruous--and filling a whole cabinet with various cremes, goops, and conditioners, today we found a good hairdresser!

Faith also has new casts. Not only are they in the color she likes, but the med techs were able to bend her feet to the proper position when they put these new ones on. That's progress we believe!

How to listen to a sermon

At the start of a new year the focus is often on Bible reading, but historically the Church has emphasized listening to the Bible being preached as especially important for growth.

Many of us know from experience that reading a Bible can be done ineffectively and not lead to spiritual growth. We also can easily miss the benefit of preaching by not approaching it rightly. So as we begin 2010 take a moment and commit to the vital work of listening to sermons effectually.

First comes trust. Without trust in the Bible and trust in the preacher, a sermon can be of no benefit to you.

Second comes preparation and prayer. Join with the Psalmist in imploring, "open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." (Ps 119:18)

Crucially, third, receive the sermon with faith and love, or it will not benefit you. (Heb 4:2) The preaching of the Word speaks with the authority of your Lord. Receive it as the final authority in your life.

Fourth, meditate upon it, and in someway lay it up in your heart. (Ps 119:11) Look over your notes from the sermon, speak about it with others, pray and apply its main points to your life.

Lastly, live it out in your life. Be not a hearer only, but a doer. (Jam 1:25)

Take these 5 points seriously and may you be built up in holiness and comfort this year through the preached Word of God.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Old Testament history at a glance

A helpful post from Between Two Worlds

As you read through Old Testament history, here’s a chart you may want to to print out and have on hand. It’s from Graeme Goldsworthy’s book According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. It's simplified, but still helpful in locating where you’re at in the biblical storyline.

You can also download this as a PDF (posted with permission).

Taken from According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible by Graeme Goldsworthy. Copyright(c) Graeme Goldsworthy 1991. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515 ( and Inter-Varsity Press, Norton Street, Nottingham NG7 3HR England (