Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas/New Year's with Paw Paw

My mom arrived Saturday evening - early enough to greet the kids, who were VERY excited to see her! Sarah seemed to find every excuse imaginable to come out of her room to say something to Paw Paw. After the kids were fast asleep, I made my mom a spinach omelette since she was still hungry after eating my lentil soup. You'd think that vacation time was the only time my mom ever got to eat...

Here she is with all 3 kids on Sunday afternoon.

Hannah's cousin, Elijah, is just a few weeks older than she is but is quite a bit bigger (I'm talkin' off-the-charts BIG). So my mom didn't think that Hannah grew that much since Labor Day. (I told her that her perspective was a bit skewed from being around Elijah).

My mom got Sarah this t-shirt, which I think is pretty funny...especially with Sarah's mischievous, playful face in this photo.

Paw Paw's presents to the kids were bicycles! What's funny is that Sarah (3 yrs old) is already pretty good at riding it while Christopher (4 1/2 yrs) still needs lots of instruction, prodding, and guidance. Believe me, we TRIED with the tricycle, and he was NOT interested. We are determined to get him interested in riding a bike, though. I'll let you know how things progress.

Look at her go! Yes, that's a Lightning McQueen helmet on her head. They didn't have any girly helmets in her size at Walmart, but she likes McQueen so it works.

While we may boast of Christopher's many talents, large motor skills are not one of them. He certainly got us laughing today while leaving Walmart, however. As we were loading the bikes into the trunk of the car, he declared, "I'm going to be a Mormon when I ride my bike." He was confused by our hysterical laughter because he wasn't intending to be funny. I guess he overheard me say, "Well, there go the Mormons..." as they passed us by on their bikes with their backpacks.

You'd also think that vacation time is the only time my mom gets to sleep. Peace and quiet are not required...all she needs is a couch.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,

and we have seen his glory,

glory as of the only Son from the Father,

full of grace and truth.”

(John 1:14)

Monday, December 24, 2007

What Is Biblical Theology and Why Do I Like It So Much?

Pete Enns has started a blog and here he has a great post on "What is Biblical theology and why do I like it so much?"

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dallas Morning News endorsements

Our local paper, the Dallas Morning News, made two endorsements this morning, one for each party. The DMN endorsed Mike Huckabee for the Republican nomination and Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. I think they are both good choices.

If you're a reader of this blog, you will know that I've been following the Huckabee campaign closely since last June. I personally like the fact that he is socially conservative but a bit more moderate when it comes to issues such as race, the environment, and education. This matches my own political philosophy well. I have to confess that I was disappointed with the incident of the cross in the background of the Christmas campaign ad. I don't want Christianity being used as a political tool by anyone under any circumstances. It's hard to believe that it was strictly an accident. I agree with Peggy Noonan on this one. But overall, I like Huckabee's gracious demeanor and sensible, practical approach to government. I do have a lot of respect for John McCain as well and I am actually grateful that he has been forthright about his reservations with the Christian right. At least the man talks straight. I respect his candor, experience and especially his strong stand against torture.

I'm also happy that the local paper went with Obama over Clinton for the Democratic nomination. I think Clinton is very smart and a hard worker and has done a good job as Senator from NY, though I disagree with many of her positions. But I don't trust her.

I think Obama is highly charismatic and a fantastic orator. I like his language about a purple America rather than a red or blue America. I don't buy the whole "he's a Muslim" thing. I researched it and it's just not true. I think he is a Christian in the liberal UCC tradition. I have no reason to think that he doesn't genuinely believe what he professes. I think he's very liberal on both social and economic issues, though he seems more moderate on national defense issues. He has had some people in his political past who have been connected with corruption and that concerns me. We don't know this guy all that well.

I find it ironic that people are giving Obama a pass when it comes to experience, but at the same time assert that Huckabee is inexperienced. I would just point out that when Barack Obama was in the state legislature in Springfield, Illinois, Mike Huckabee was already governor of Arkansas. (Though I do remember Ross Perot's line about Bill Clinton: going from Gov. of Arkansas to President of the USA is like going from manager of the local convenience store to CEO of Wal Mart.)

I do like the idea of an African-American President and I think that an Obama presidency would have a healing effect on race relations. But the curative effect might not be as much as some hope. I like the idea of having a woman President, but just not Hillary.

So at this point I'm still a Mike Huckabee supporter and John McCain is my second choice. I could see either guy getting the GOP nomination, which is pretty amazing given where we were 6 months ago. I am deeply committed to the pro-life cause and that is a top concern for me. I think it is the ultimate justice issue. Supreme Court nominees notwithstanding, I don't think the pro-life question is ultimately going to be decided by who we elect as our President. Our politics simply reflect our culture, and it's our culture that must ultimately be transformed. So I'll put my efforts in preaching the gospel. Our culture is ambivalent about abortion, and therefore our politicians are too.

Presidential elections are for me what Super Bowls are for other guys. So I'm having fun with this volatile race!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Immune Response-Mediated Protection of Adult but Not Neonatal Mice from Neuron-Restricted Measles Virus Infection and Central Nervous System Disease

Shame on me. All of these years and I've never given Mindy credit for being a published author (or at least, a contributor to a published article). She is published under her maiden name, Melinda M. Vaughn. If you want to see her work, look at the March 1999 issue of the "Journal of Virology". (And who doesn't remember that issue!? Wow!) Here it is. The titillating title of the article is "Immune Response-Mediated Protection of Adult but Not Neonatal Mice from Neuron-Restricted Measles Virus Infection and Central Nervous System Disease." Oh, baby.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tune in to St. Olaf Choir's Christmas concert tonight!

You may remember reading before that Christopher's favorite choir is St. Olaf College's choir, and that this new love was ignited after watching a "St. Olaf Christmas in Norway" special on PBS last Christmas. Well, "Christmas at St. Olaf: Where Peace and Love and Hope Abide" is airing tonight on PBS at 9pm (CST)/10pm(EST). There has been much excitement and anticipation over this in our household...Christopher can hardly wait. We'll be recording it and playing it over and over and over again (I'm sure) in the year to come, but I actually haven't gotten sick of last year's program because the performance is so stellar and the music is just gorgeous. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

If you miss the performance, they'll be airing it again on PBS on Christmas day - click here for the times.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Chinese moms

Here is a picture of my mom holding Hannah after she dressed her in winter pajamas (this picture was taken in Texas!)

Yesterday, John, the kids and I went to the library together after getting flu shots and then taking hundreds of Christmas cards to the post office (all I have to say is, thank goodness for self-adhesive stamps and address labels!). The morning started out rather chilly, but then got progressively bitter cold as the wind picked up. When we opened the doors to leave the library and the freezing wind hit our faces, I saw this Asian lady running toward us saying, "Oh! The baby! Cover the baby!" Now, Hannah was bundled up nice and snug and I had a blanket for her, but all this lady saw was two little bare hands sticking out of the stroller into the icy cold. So she picked up the blanket on Hannah's lap and pulled it over Hannah's hands. Even though our car was only a few more yards away, she was NOT about to let us keep moving until she thought Hannah was sufficiently covered for the remaining distance!

Now, most people would find this a bit intrusive or invasive of personal space, but I actually found it to be rather endearing. My mom, who has now lived in the States for a longer period of time than she lived in Hong Kong, is still VERY Chinese in her thinking and behavior. What I'm about to say obviously doesn't apply to every Asian individual, but I think it well describes the vast majority of Asian moms. Let me give you a few of my favorite examples...

The year after John and I got married, we went on a family vacation to Estes Park, CO. On this particular day hiking in the mountains, it was raining sporadically and my mom was making everyone put on these plastic ponchos that she got at the dollar store 'just in case'. Well, on our way up to Dream Lake, we passed by this couple with a baby in one of those hiking back packs and the baby did not have a hat on. What started as a whisper of disapproval: "Look at them. That baby should have a hat on..." embarrassingly turned into a confrontation by my Chinese mom to these perfect strangers: "You should put a hat on your baby...her head's getting wet and cold."

The winter after Christopher was born, John went with a group of people to China. While there, they traveled from city to city, much of it by train. According to John, it was standing room only for hours on the train and sweltering hot. So he was delighted to step off the train without his coat on in sub-zero temperatures. That is, until an elderly Chinese woman who spoke no English patted him on his bare arm several times and shook her finger at him!

After we got home from the library yesterday, John told me I should call my mom and tell her about the latest event that reminded us of her. (My mom knows that we get lots of laughs at her expense, but she secretly loves it!) I then began to imagine the conversation in my mind and realized that after a quick recognition of the humor in this story, she would move to justify this woman's actions and then ask me why I didn't have mittens on Hannah on such a cold day. I decided not to call, but I'll probably get a call after she reads this blog post...

This tightly swaddled baby just might pass my mom's inspection.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Johann Sebastian Bach

Tonight John's parents came over to watch the kids so that we could attend a Christmas party. When they were putting Christopher and Sarah to bed, they turned on the music that was in the CD player and Martha (Nana) commented that it was such pretty music. Christopher said, "Yes, that's Johann the Baptist Bach...or maybe it's Beethoven." Apparently when we say "Johann Sebastian" what he hears is "Johann the Baptist." Pretty funny.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Do Not Fear a Colonoscopy

Today, I (John) had my second colonoscopy. A lot of people avoid them like the plague and refuse to have them done. They are not that bad. If you have any history of colon cancer in your family, as I do, I would love to persuade you to take the plunge.

My first one was about 5 years ago. I really dreaded the procedure, but once it was over I had two thoughts. The first was: "that was it!?" I fell asleep and woke up and it was over. Not bad at all. The second thought was, "Thank the Lord I had one, because they removed two pre-cancerous polyps." My dad was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 43. Thankfully they caught it before it spread outside the colon. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death. But if it is caught early, it is highly treatable. And the only real way to check for it is through a colonoscopy. I had one at the age of 33, ten years prior to my dad's age when he was diagnosed. My paternal grandmother and many of her brothers and sisters had colon cancer as well. Since my dad was an only child and my sister passed away at the age of 16 of brain cancer, I have no other family history to go on. But I have enough to know that I have a high risk factor. Thankfully, they found a perfect colon with no polyps or problems today.

Of course, the worst part of having a colonoscopy is the night before. Yesterday I fasted all day and then last night drank 2 liters of "Go Lightly". That by far is the worst part of the whole thing, but it isn't that bad, especially compared to getting colon cancer. So if you are putting off having one done, don't be a wimp! If I can do it, so can you!

p.s. - they gave me pictures of the procedure, but out of mercy to you, I will not post them. :)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Turkey Chili

Mmmmm...what sounds more inviting than a nice hot bowl of chili on a cold December day? The only problem is that the high yesterday was nearly 80 degrees. Gotta love Texas. Texas may not be known as the winter wonderland, but Texans can whip up some good chili! This particular chili is yummy and remarkably easy to make, so I thought I'd share the recipe:

In an 8qt. stock pot, sauté 1 chopped onion (and 1 chopped red pepper, if you like) in a little olive oil on med-high heat.
Add 1+ lbs. ground turkey breast and brown on high heat. Season with salt and pepper.
Once the turkey is browned, reduce heat and add 3 Tbsp. chili powder and 1 Tbsp. cumin.
Stir until evenly covered and fragrant.
Here comes the easy part...
Add 4-16oz. (or 2-32 oz.) cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes (I use either Muir Glen or Hunt's brand).
Add 1-16oz. can kidney beans and 1-16oz. can black beans.
Add 1 small can of tomato soup (or if you're a purist, add 1/2 a can of tomato paste reconstituted in chicken broth. You'll have to add salt and sugar to taste).
Add 1+ cup frozen corn (I use whole kernel corn) and heat through.

Voila! Serve with cornbread or tortilla chips.

We had the annual staff/officer Christmas party at our house last night (31 adults, I think), so I made 3 batches of chili while everyone else brought appetizers or desserts. The "hardest" part in this recipe is browning the meat and seasoning it. After that, you merely open cans and dump them in (note all the empty cans to the left and in the picture below).

"Hooray for chili!"

Friday, December 7, 2007

Mitt's Speech on Religion & Democracy

As you probably know by now, Gov Mitt Romney delivered his speech yesterday explaining how his Mormon faith interacts with his political philosophy. Just as JFK gave a speech in Houston to Baptist ministers several weeks before the general election promising that he would not take orders from the Vatican, likewise Romney tries to reassure GOP primary voters about his own faith. I thought the most striking political line was about Jesus as the Savior of mankind. I take that to mean that he is especially trying to build a bridge with evangelical voters in Iowa to save his candidacy from the Huckabee surge. Two columninsts worth reading today are David Brooks and Peggy Noonan.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Huckabee rises in national polls to within 3 points of Giuliani

Today, in the first full round of national polling completed since last week’s “debate” among Republican Presidential hopefuls, Huckabee has pulled to within three points of the frontrunning Rudy Giuliani. Heading into the debate, Giuliani led Huckabee by twelve.

Not only that, new polling data released today shows that Huckabee has pulled to within a single percentage point of Hillary Clinton in a general election match-up. Huckabee is also a frontrunner in Iowa and essentially tied for second in New Hampshire. Some pundits believe Huckabee’s numbers will surely go down as fast as they’ve gone up while others are beginning to consider the possibility that the bass-guitar playing Governor may become a serious contender for the Republican nomination. Full article here.

Here is a pic from our brief hello with him at a home in Plano this past summer. We've posted the pic before, but since we're so proud of him, we thought we'd post it again!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Would somebody please tell me what Christmas is all about?

The following is a talk that Mindy gave earlier today to a gathering from our church. I thought it was great and I want to share it with you all:

Many, if not all of you have seen, “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” on TV at some point in your life. I watched it growing up and I’m enjoying it again as a parent (although I’m a little more alarmed at all of the name-calling that goes on throughout the show!) But if you’ve seen it, you’ll remember that amidst all of the Christmas festivities and cheer, Charlie Brown is depressed. Why is he so down?

He just doesn’t understand what Christmas is all about; he is annoyed by all of the commercialism and focus on presents. He senses that there is a deeper meaning to it all, but it is grossly overshadowed and trivialized by all of the modern practices.

We can relate to this, can’t we? It seems as though “Christmas” begins earlier and earlier each year, and the madness persists and bombards us from Black Friday until Christmas Day. And all of the excitement seems to be over who is getting what for Christmas, and the big celebration inevitably reaches its climax under the tree on Christmas morning. Then after all of the presents are opened, everyone feels the big let-down, emptiness and fatigue from all of the shopping, the office parties, school parties, gift wrapping, family gatherings, traveling, etc. Our culture is very effective in bombarding us with every distraction imaginable until we find ourselves grasping for the real reason why we celebrate this Day in the first place.

And so finally when Charlie Brown comes to the end of his rope, Linus, the young theologian, takes center stage and tells Charlie Brown and everyone listening what Christmas is all about:

“There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, an angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:8-ff)

Now it warms our heart to hear Linus proclaim these verses of Scripture on national television year after year, but I fear the power and significance of the angel’s proclamation to the shepherds is lost on us because it may be overly familiar.

The angel is essentially saying, “Today in Bethlehem a baby has been born who is your Savior and Messiah…and by the way, this baby is also God Himself!”

God’s people had heard of and had been waiting LONG for the promised Messiah, the One who would save them. So it would have been incredibly exciting to hear that He had finally come! To hear that He came as a baby would have been perplexing, but to then hear that this baby, this Messiah, was God in the flesh, would have blown their minds. It should blow our minds, too.

So instead of glossing over this verse as a nice thing to write on Christmas cards, let’s unpack the punches that are found in this original proclamation of Christ’s arrival.

It should raise questions in our minds like, Why did he come in the first place? Why did he choose to come as a baby? Why did God send Himself, and not another?

The angel says that this baby born is our “Savior.” That, in and of itself, implies that we need saving or rescuing from something. What is it exactly that we need to be saved from? Sin.

When the angel of the Lord appears to Joseph, he tells him that “(Mary) will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Now, in order to fully appreciate the wonder of Jesus’ birth, we must understand why He came. We cannot and will not grasp the beauty and glory of our salvation if we don’t understand our desperate need for it. We must first understand what we’ve been saved from.

No one can argue over the existence of sin. No one has to teach a child to be selfish or to throw a temper tantrum. My children may learn how to call each other “blockhead!” by watching Charlie Brown, but that’s only because the roots of sin are already in their hearts. If you search every nation, every people group, every economic class, every age, and every heart, you will find sin and its effects. If we as a people know nothing else, we know how to sin. J.C. Ryle once said that he knows of no greater proof of the Genesis account of man’s origin than the power, extent and universality of sin.

So while we may be fully aware of the existence of sin, I think it’s fair to say that we don’t have a clue as to how vile, heinous and offensive it is to God. Sin isn’t just about making bad choices or being a mean person. It has everything to do with offending our perfect, holy and loving Creator and Ruler.

Kris Lundgaard writes in his book, The Enemy Within,
“Few people have come to terms with the law of sin. If more people had, we would hear more complaints of it in prayers, see more struggling against it, and find less of its fruit in the world.” (p.23)

Just as skunks don’t realize how offensive their odor is to others, we are all too content to live amidst the stink of the very thing that separates us from God, who cannot have sin in His holy presence.

So why did Jesus have to come? Couldn’t you just ‘pull yourself up by our bootstraps’ and ‘become a better you’? Why not simply make sure our children get a better education than we did? Can’t we just work harder?

Left to ourselves, we don’t even want to do what pleases the Lord. Sure, we may want to be better people – but it’s usually with the goal of getting people to like us or respect us, getting into a good school, getting a better job, or simply feeling good about ourselves. Left to ourselves, all we think and care about is our self.

Ephesians 2:1 says that we are dead in our sins. We simply cannot save ourselves let alone approach God for salvation.

God knew this. And in His infinite mercy, He moved toward us. There wasn’t a single person in all of human history who could pay the debt we owe to God. So God sent Himself.

How did He do it? Humbly, as a baby. The infinite, eternal and invisible God took on human flesh.

He came down to earth from heaven who is God and Lord of all, and his shelter was a stable, and his cradle was a stall; with the poor and mean, and lowly, lived on earth our Savior holy.
(“Once in Royal David’s City”, C.F. Alexander, 1848)

This is hard to get our minds around. God, who is perfect, holy, righteous, wise, good, and pure…this same God whom we have so grievously offended, took on our flesh. He chose to become like one of us and live among us. He experienced all of the temptations and frailties of human flesh. And yet, He never gave into the temptations. He did not live for himself, as we do. He lived for the perfect will of His Father – God.

So why did He come as a baby? To fulfill every law that we break and obey every command that we ignore…and He did this perfectly from the moment of His birth. Jesus Christ earned God’s favor on our behalf.

But we know that’s not the end of the debt we owed. A price had to be paid – death; the penalty for our sins and offenses against God. Only a perfect person could sufficiently pay for debt that we owe.

How much does God hate sin? Look at the cross. Look at how much our sin cost Him.

How much does God love us? Look at the cross. Look at the manger.

We think of birthdays as a fun, party day on which we get to indulge ourselves with food and presents.

Jesus’ birthday was not a glorious day for Him. Think of how much God the Creator of the universe condescended to take on the flesh of His creatures, to suffer all of the ills of humanity, and then to die for the very people who rebelled against Him.

However, Jesus' birthday, the day that He took on human flesh was a glorious day for us.

God did for us, what we could not do for ourselves. The reason Jesus came in the flesh was to live for us and to die for us. Remember what the angel told the shepherds – “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”

And the mystery of it all is that He didn’t have to do it. God does not need us. Think of how much easier things would be without us! The incarnation of Christ was an act of self-sacrificing, unconditional love.

So how should we celebrate Christmas? - worship. Remember that without Christmas day, we would still be dead in our sins and without hope in this world. But because of Christmas day…because God moved toward us by taking on human flesh, we have unshakable hope. Therefore, cling to the Savior, who is Christ the Lord! Bask in the love that God has for you in Christ!

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure; that He would give His only Son, and call a wretch His treasure!
(“How Deep the Father’s love”, Stuart Townend, 1995)

“And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” Linus

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

This is what our succulent turkey looked like before we hacked it to pieces and devoured it. I had to post of picture of what I consider to be my best roasted turkey yet! I've produced many a dry, chewy or just plain tasting turkey in the past. I even tried brining the turkey last year, which I found to be an enormous waste of salt and not much difference in juiciness or flavor. This year I bought a fresh, free range, 12 lb. turkey and rubbed it with olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and onion powder, then stuffed it with fresh thyme & rosemary sprigs, orange & apple slices, and onions. I cooked it upside-down for the first 2 hours and then flipped it for the last 30 minutes or so. Yummmmm.....

This is where Hannah hung out while I cooked the turkey, peeled sweet potatoes and whatnot. John took Christopher and Sarah with him to the gym where he worked out for nearly an hour before feasting time.

After all was cooked, we packed up the car and hauled everything over to Nana and Pop's house, where Nana provided the cornbread dressing, pumpkin pies, cool whip, and best of all: a clean house with a table that was already set!
Side note: John, his parents and I have had an ongoing debate as to which is superior - cornbread dressing or bread stuffing. I've given up on making bread stuffing because everyone down here (south of the Mason-Dixon) prefers cornbread dressing to what we are used to in the North. I still prefer bread stuffing (comfort food, I guess), but I've grown to like cornbread dressing and even had 2nd and 3rd helpings of it today.

Would you believe that it only took 2 shots to get all of us looking and smiling at the same time?! This would make a great Christmas card photo if only we didn't have a much cuter one of the kids in their matching pjs.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sarah's birthday

Sarah turns 3 this Tuesday, November 20th, so we celebrated today with a few of her girlfriends. She had been looking forward to her party all week long and had a great time. I've learned that with 3 year olds, all you need are balloons, pizza, cupcakes and juice boxes...and a place in which they can run wild and trash with toys. Instant party.

The only group photo where all of the kids who attended actually sat in the same place for the picture.

As soon as the pizza was served, the house got suddenly quiet.

There really are 3 candles on that cupcake. One of them just got eclipsed by the other. Although, whenever I ask Sarah, "How old are you?" and tell her to say, "I'm 3" she says, "No, my number 2."
Sarah actually sang "Happy Birthday to Sarah..." along with everyone else. It was pretty cute.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Christopher's choirs

By looking at the picture above, you'd think that Christopher is sounding out letter sounds or attempting to spell words. But if you have spent any amount of time in our house where Christopher makes repeated, lengthy visits to the magnets on the fridge while singing songs, you'd realize that he is organizing his 'choir.' What's funny about this is that this is just the most current in a long line of his obsessions. When he was crawling, he was obsessed with spring-bound door stoppers and drawer handles. Every time we would enter a new house, he would make a b-line to find the door stoppers and drawer handles and flick them. You could see his satisfaction in getting several of these going at the same time. It really was pretty impressive (and noisy) considering he wasn't even 1 yet, but he could crawl from one door stopper to the next with breakneck speed. On the flip-side, you can imagine his confusion and disappointment at finding certain door stoppers that were not spring-bound or handles that wouldn't flip. After he started walking, he left door stoppers behind for bowl-spinning. Don't ask me how this started, but I guess he noticed over time that throwing my plastic lids and bowls (I kept a stash for him) a certain way would cause them to spin, so he eventually figured out how to do this intentionally. I think the most he could get spinning at once was about 7 or 8 bowls. This was a long-lived obsession (and I mean obsession) because he would be content to spin bowls, lids, rings, or anything remotely round for hours in a day. He was actually kind of 'famous' for this particular skill as kids at church (and sometimes adults) would ask to see Christopher spin the bowls. Whenever we would visit someone's home, he had no qualms about asking to play with the hostess's kitchen bowls and friends were rated according to the size and quantity of their bowls. The louder the better, so spinning the big, stainless steel bowls on the tile entry hall or the cement patio in the backyard (no tellin' what the neighbors were thinking...) was most satisfying.
Thankfully, we went digital before he kicked the bowl-habit, so here's a picture of him in the act taken in March 2006 (he was 1 month away from turning 3).

Back to the choir: As you will see in picture number 3 (below), he will even organize his cars into a choir. I remember finding him in my bathtub one time (no water, mind you) where he had gathered everything within reach (soap, shampoo bottles, candles, etc.) and organized them on the floor of the tub, singing choral songs. When I walked in and looked at him, he simply looked up at me and explained that this was his sea choir as he waved his hand over the objects. John and I both enjoy listening to choral music, so we were happy to foster his interest. For a long time now, Christopher has been able to identify the basses, tenors, altos, sopranos, and various orchestral instruments when listening to classical or choral music. We just had no idea that he would incorporate this into his playtime. One time I pointed at one of the lines in his 'choir' and asked if they were the altos, and he said, "no, those are the mezzo-sopranos." Duh. Sarah will provoke him by stealing one of his magnets and then run through the house. I am alerted to this by the sound of, "NO, Sarah! That's a soprano! She just needs to praise God!" It would sound so spiritual if he weren't yelling...

His very favorite choir to listen to is the St. Olaf college choir. We recorded their annual Christmas program last year and I cannot tell you how many times we have watched it. Nana bought him another St. Olaf choir video for Christmas, where all of the various choirs at St. Olaf college sing in a combined concert with the full orchestra. Shortly before I am discovered taking the video below, you'll notice the color groupings of the magnets which represent the different choirs and you will hear him singing, in a raspy voice, one of their songs - "Gloria in Excelsis Deo." 
The one thing that all of his various obsessions have in common is that they're all noisy.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Ok, forget Halloween...Horray for Reformation Day!!

As is usual when John is out of town, I am having a hard time motivating myself to shut it all down and go to sleep. So what highly productive thing am I doing? Blog-surfing. Don't ask me how I got there, but I found this post regarding October 31st and creative ways to celebrate Reformation Day. It's short and enjoyable to read, so I recommend it. Now I'm all inspired to implement this fun and much more worthy practice in our own family. Besides, John would make a great Martin Luther, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween...what to do?

I'm not a fan of Halloween, mostly because of its pagan roots and also because it seems to stir up a grotesque fascination with death and evil. I don't mind seeing houses decorated with harvest themes (i.e. pumpkins, scarecrows, Autumn leaves, etc.) or even a few cutesy-looking ghosts or jack-o-lanterns, but I have gotten to where I won't take my kids for walks down certain streets because we have encountered too many 'dead bodies' emerging from their mock graves in people's front yards or severed, bloody limbs hanging from people's trees (by 'limbs', I mean arms and legs, not tree branches). I find myself getting angry about it and just wanting to disregard this wretched holiday and its festivities altogether. However, I'm also conflicted about how my actions appear to my neighbors. Does withdrawing from such a community activity really enhance my witness for Christ, or am I further distancing myself from the world and my neighbors, thus hiding any witness I may have 'under a bushel'? Yeah, I celebrated it as a kid, blissfully ignorant of all the history behind it. Now that I'm a parent, I've got to make informed decisions about all sorts of things that I did in the name of "fun" as a child.

Tim Challies wrote an article titled, "Trick or Retreat?" which I found to be very helpful in sorting out my thinking on this subject and therefore, my practices.

So, with John in Chicago this week and Hannah in bed for the night, the kids and I sat out on our driveway to greet our neighbors with smiles and free candy. Many of our other nearby neighbors did the same, which added to the visiting time - even if it was having a conversation by yelling at one another across the street.

Waiting for trick-or-treaters...(notice the very cool, carved pumpkin in the background).

Here they come!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sunday's Sermon and Charles Finney

In my Reformation Day sermon this past Sunday, I stated that Charles Finney was a highly negative influence in the history of the modern church in America. Two people after worship expressed their appreciation for what I said and asked me if I had been listening to Mike Horton's White Horse Inn radio show recently since he had been speaking about Finney. I have not, but I know that Horton wrote an article on Finney a while back. For those interested in learning more about the beliefs and (mal)practices of Finney, I recommend Horton's article "The Legacy of Charles Finney". There is also an audio by Horton on "Finney and American Revivalism" that I haven't listened to yet but will. Of course, the book that best describes this problem is Iain Murray's Revival and Revivalism: the Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism (Amazon or WTS Books). Chapter 9 would probably be the best place to start in that book to understand the effects of Finney on the church. A book review of Iain Murray's book can be found here at a Reformed Baptist website.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Another Week in St. Louis

Well, I left Mindy and the kids behind and traveled last Monday for another week in St. Louis with 9 other pastors. We stayed at a house-turned-retreat center near the campus of Covenant Theological Seminary. I spoke to the student body at the seminary on "The Joys and Pains of Ministry". I have felt a very strong bond with these fellow pastors. We have met together enough times to develop relationships of real trust and intimacy. It is by far one of the very best things I have ever been apart of. It was a great joy to see our good friends the Wichlans throughout the week. How they are thriving at Covenant seminary! I got home Thursday night to discover that my car had been vandalized, my dash board ripped up and the radio stolen. What a pain. I spent Friday having various catch up meetings, the first half of Saturday madly writing my sermon for Sunday, and then we had a wonderful fall festival at Trinity on Saturday afternoon. Lots of people showed up and it was really fun getting to know our neighbors and some of our newer folks better. There were various games with prizes, nachos, popcorn, cotton candy, face painting, and a fabulous creativity fair in which several members of our congregation had a table display of their various hobbies and talents. We were thankful for the bouncy houses where our kids could expend all of their sugar-filled energy.

I'm leaving again this Wednesday night for a meeting of various theologians in Chicago. It should be a fascinating discussion. I'll be gone until Saturday night. We'll post some pictures of the fall festival.

Also, I want to make a movie recommendation: "Freedom Writers" with Hillary Swank. It's a true story of a teacher who tries to turn around a class of 62 kids from opposing gangs. I watched it with the pastors on Wednesday night and then Mindy and I watched it together last night. Tonight after the kids went to bed we watched all the special features. It is a wonderful movie on a number of levels. Go see it!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sitting up and bouncing for joy

Hannah will be 7 months old this Saturday and I've noticed that she has been able to sit up with minimal support for a couple of weeks now. So today I plopped her down on the floor without any support to see how long she would stay upright before tipping over. Wouldn't you know, she just sat there as content as she could be? I guess it's official now, though she probably would have done it sooner if I gave her the opportunity...
Of course, as soon as I got out the video camera, she tipped over a couple of times as you will see in the following video clip.

The next video is of Hannah bouncing in the hanging door bouncy swing, or whatever the official name for it is... She goes bananas every time I put her in there and it just cracks me up.

Monday, October 22, 2007


As many of you know, John has been on an uphill battle to lose weight and get healthier. When we first got married, I had NO idea what he was up against. I just figured all he needed to do was be more disciplined in his eating and exercising, and everything else would fall into place. Easy for me to say... Well, now that we've been married for 7 years and I've gotten to know John and his struggles much better, I have a much better appreciation for how hard it is to make such a drastic lifestyle change...for the long run. After the Zone diet, Atkin's, Weight Watchers, and countless books on health, fitness and weight loss, gym memberships, personal trainers, dietitians, food journaling, and many other methods, we have seen his weight go down, up, down, up, and basically hover around the same number. Every time he would go in for his yearly physical, his blood tests would reveal numbers that were either the same or a bit worse. For anyone who can relate to this struggle, these kind of results can be very discouraging.

However, John had his yearly physical last week and had very different results. For the past couple of months, John has been meeting with a nutritionist weekly who not only advises and keeps him accountable in the food/nutrition department, but also has him on a pretty rigorous exercise regimen. John has been relentless in journaling all of his food/calorie intake and more consistent than ever in his exercise. John told his doctor that he'd be curious to see if any of this might make a dent in his bloodwork numbers. His doctor said that so much of it is driven by genetics, so don't be surprised if the numbers come back the same.

Drum roll... Well, John's doctor called the next morning saying that whatever John has been doing is making a difference! So here are the numbers for you to see:
Total blood cholesterol should be under 200 mg/dl
last year = 203; this year = 183
HDL (good cholesterol) should be >40 mg/dl
last year = 37; this year = 44
(bad cholesterol) should be <130 year =" 121;" style="font-weight: bold;">this year = 108
Triglycerides (fat in the blood) should be <150 year =" 225;" style="font-weight: bold;">this year = 154
Cholesterol ratio (total/HDL) should be <4.4 year =" 5.5;" style="font-weight: bold;">this year = 4.1!!!!

After years of not seeing his weight budge or any of his other numbers move (at least in the right direction), this was incredibly encouraging news! So for those of you who have been praying for John in this regard, we wanted to let you know that all of John's efforts and your prayers have not been in vain. We certainly covet your continued prayers as there is still a long road ahead, but do pause and give thanks for these first steps in the right direction!

Friday, October 19, 2007

David Brooks: Huckabee is Top Tier

David Brooks, one of the most influential conservative columnists in America, writes today in his NYT column that Mike Huckabee is top tier and and that he has the political skills that merit his place there.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Alligator bite

This morning, there was a lot of commotion around the breakfast table as all 5 of us were there, eating and conversing. In the middle of it all, Sarah, who will turn 3 next month, was trying to get my attention. She said with a very serious tone in her voice and a look of alarm in her eyes, "Mommy, alligator tried to bite me." (of course, alligator sounded more like "ah-yih-gator" since Sarah has a little trouble pronouncing the "l" sound) I played along and asked (aghast), "When?!?" She responded with equal seriousness, "Um, on Friday." John and I couldn't help but chuckle. The comment had nothing to do with our current breakfast conversation, and yet she felt compelled to tell us this most earnestly and expressively. Can't say the girl doesn't have an imagination!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!

For a while now, Hannah has been madly batting at everything within reach (which is either her knees, me or some local toys). Yesterday I noticed Hannah having success with "clapping." While it may be a gross motor skill, it does take some added coordination for those two hands to meet we celebrate it with a few videos. Hope you'll give Hannah some applause!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Atlas Shrugged 50 Years Later

Here is an interesting post by John Piper today...

Atlas Shrugged Fifty Years Later

October 10, 2007 | By: John Piper

Today, October 10, 2007, is the 50th anniversary of the publication of the novel Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. As I write this on October 9, 2007, the book is ranked 237 at Amazon. That is phenomenal for a 1,200-page novel that contains philosophical speeches, one of which stretches to 90 uninterrupted pages. The book has sold over six million copies. In one survey from 16 years ago, Atlas Shrugged was ranked second only to the Bible as the book that influenced people most.

My Ayn Rand craze was in the late seventies when I was a professor of Biblical Studies at Bethel College. I read most of what she wrote both fiction and non-fiction. I was attracted and repulsed. I admired and cried. I was blown away with powerful statements of what I believed, and angered that she shut herself up in what Jonathan Edwards called the infinite provincialism of atheism. Her brand of hedonism was so close to my Christian Hedonism and yet so far—like a satellite that comes close to the gravitational pull of truth and then flings off into the darkness of outer space...

Read more

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tune in to Fox News tomorrow

Tune in to Fox News tomorrow at 1:20 CT to see an interview with the guy I had dinner with tonight. His name is Jim Tonkowich, the President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Four of us had a 2.5 hour dinner tonight at Nicola's in Plano, and Jim shared with us the work of the IRD. Their history in denominational renewal, but even more so, their thoughtful engagement of public policy with the Christian faith was a breath of fresh air to me. Jim was on CNN yesterday, and is being picked up on Fox news tomorrow. Watch it if you can! I'm looking forward to getting to know these folks better. (As any of you who know me know, I am a public policy wonk wanna-be.)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Pro-life Democrats

Here is a new book by the director of an association of Pro-Life Democrats.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hannah at 6 months

At Hannah's 6 month check-up this past Monday, the pediatrician pointed out her two bottom teeth which had already broken through the gums. There they were, as clear as day, and I hadn't noticed them before. When the doctor asked me if they had been bothering Hannah, I replied, "Apparently not..." While this is a testimony to Hannah's sweet, content, and gentle nature, I must admit that I was a bit embarrassed. I felt guilty and a little negligent for not noticing this 'event' in my 3rd child's little life. At the same time, she had never tried these chompers out on the mommy that feeds her (for which I am deeply grateful) and I wasn't expecting them for at least a couple more months (Christopher and Sarah both teethed after they were 8 mos. old). Other observations from her appointment: she weighs 15 lbs. 11 oz., which puts her into the 50th %tile for weight and measures 27 inches, which puts her into the 90th %tile for height. At 6 months, Christopher weighed 20 lbs. 3 oz. and Sarah weighed 19 lbs. 14 oz. (both in 90th %tiles for weight). It's so nice for the 3rd to stay smaller a bit longer...especially since this gives us a little more time to save up for a minivan! We currently have all 3 kids jammed into the back seat of our Buick Century, which works so long as Hannah fits into the infant carrier carseat. As soon as she tops the scales at 20+ lbs., she'll have to graduate into one of those big, honkin' convertible carseats, which will not squeeze in between Christopher and Sarah's big car seats. So hopefully Hannah will stay under 20 lbs. until she reaches 1 year...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Happy 38th Birthday John!

John's birthday is actually tomorrow (October 1st) but we celebrated it tonight. Since John has been meeting with a nutritionist and has been vigorously and consistently working out at the gym, he has dropped 12 pounds! So we thought we'd celebrate by pigging out on pizza and cake... No, in all seriousness, John's nutritionist told him to go hog-wild on his birthday so that tomorrow it'll all be behind him. So we got his favorite comfort food (pizza) and I baked a deep, dark chocolate cake, served with vanilla ice cream and strawberries...mmmmmm.

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you...

Sarah thought Daddy needed help blowing out the candles.

Christopher wants to know why that card is so funny.

Hannah hangin' out with Nana on the floor.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tonight in family worship...

... Christopher asked me, "Does Jesus believe in himself?" "He sure does," I replied. Mindy and I thought that was a good little question!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

She was such a quiet baby...

For months, our description of Hannah has been, "She has such a sweet disposition and she's so quiet..." She hardly ever lets me know when she's awake from a nap, so oftentimes I walk into the nursery and find her contentedly looking and smiling at the mobile hanging above the crib. She smiles constantly and easily, lets out a giggle here and there, but hardly ever laughs out loud. Well, as you will see from the video clip below, her silence has ended...

The Carrot Cake Diet

"Lose weight by eating carrot cake!" That is going to be the theme of my first book, which I'm sure will net me several million dollars. You see, last night we went over to our friend's house (Patrick and Kristen). Kristen had a made a homemade carrot cake, and not wanting to be either rude or unappreciative of her labors, I had a slice. It was the only right thing to do. She mentioned in passing that the calorie info was in her cookbook. When we got home, I called her and had her look it up. 650 calories! I had a lot of leftover calories at the end of the day - but I was shocked at the number. Yet this morning, lo and behold, I lost another pound. Which leads me to my groundbreaking discovery: The Carrot Cake Diet! Keep your eyes peeled on Amazon!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I finally found a verse in the Bible this morning that I have no problem obeying. In fact, I probably over-obey. Psalm 63:5a says, "My soul will be satisfied as with rich and fat food." :-) Actually, I'm happy to report that the scales told me this morning that I've dropped 10 pounds over the past three weeks. Progress!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Between Two Extremes: Liberalism & Fundamentalism

Michael Craven's weekly article touches upon a theme that I speak of often. In fact, in Sunday's sermon I spoke about how the Gospel is neither Pharisaical Fundamentalism or Sadducee Liberalism, but something altogether different than the normal dividing line of this world. I've pasted the content of Michael's article below. I strongly encourage you to sign up for his free weekly article which is sent via email every Monday morning. It's good stuff.

Between Two Extremes: Liberalism & Fundamentalism

The latter half of the 20th century has seen the emergence of two extremes in the American Church and its relationship to the culture — liberal revisionism on the one side and conservative fundamentalism on the other. Both, I contend, have hindered the work and ministry of the Church. One renders the Christian faith meaningless while the other makes it irrelevant.

Liberal revisionism has capitulated to contemporary culture and with it many truths of the historic faith. Liberal revisionism ultimately renders the Christian message meaningless by reducing Christ to anything you want him to be — there is simply no authority in this view beyond your own preference and cultural whims. My concern herein however is not for liberal revisionism but conservative fundamentalism, which has become the predominant view. Additionally, unlike liberal revisionism, conservative fundamentalism remains Christian but a distorted version of it that is often difficult to distinguish. A recent conversation with Os Guinness offers this further insight:

Fundamentalism has become an overlay on the Christian faith and developed into an essentially modern reaction to the modern world, a reaction that tends to romanticize the past ... and radicalize the present, with styles of reaction that are personally and publicly militant to the point where they are sub-Christian or worse.

I think Os puts this well when he describes fundamentalism as "an overlay" which, as a result, has captured the thinking of many unwitting Christians. This is frequently expressed in terms of conservative politics, Christian nationalism and what one Evangelical writer revealed when he referred to the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount as "Americanisms." Being Christian and being American are often thought to be synonymous.

Practically, these expressions are manifest in the almost exclusive reliance upon coercion and politics as the means and method of bringing culture under the influence of biblical principles. The idea is that if "we" can only capture political control we can bring about cultural change in a way that recovers biblical values. Cal Thomas refers to this as expecting the "Kingdom of God to arrive on Air Force One."

This is, in large part, inspired by a romantic, but inaccurate, view of the past in which we believe that America was once a distinctly "Christian nation" and from the time of our founding has suffered the linear descent from once Christian to now secular. There is no doubt that secularism has achieved its pinnacle in our time; however, this does not mean that Christianity was the singular prevailing reality that occupied its place prior to this point. More accurately, the Church in America, much like the Israelites of the Old Testament, has been cyclical with periods of spiritual apathy punctuated by periods of great Awakenings and faithfulness. A serious survey of history will quickly confirm this. Consider that on the eve of the American Revolution, church attendance in this country was less than 10 percent, significantly lower than it is today. Nonetheless, driven by a romanticized view of the past, there is the desire to recover this past, but this is often nothing more than a conservative social/political movement with a shallow Christian identity.

To be sure, Christians should be involved politically. This is part and parcel of being a good citizen within a democratic republic. However, Christianity is not nor ever should be defined politically — it is and always must be defined theologically and confessionally. This is where these two extremes share an equal role in undermining the Church's mission. While liberal revisionism errs in defining Christianity culturally, conservative fundamentalism errs in defining Christianity politically, which is often limited to nothing more than conservative political positions. To be sure, these may tend more toward biblical values than the liberal position, but neither political expression is absolutely right or absolutely wrong. They, in and of themselves, are not the source of truth — they are merely political positions that must be tested against the truth of Scripture. Ironically, politics has never changed culture as politics is a reflection of culture not vice versa.

The ultimate effect of conservative fundamentalism upon the Church is one of cultural irrelevance. Fundamentalism tends to see the world as something to oppose rather than to engage and influence. As a result there naturally follows a disregard for anything deemed "worldly" and this includes among other things, intellectualism. Fundamentalists will say "The only book I need is the Bible" and thus remain uninformed about the world and incapable of meaningful influence. This same attitude is expressed toward the study of theology and Church history, which results in a sophomoric theology — wholly inadequate to shape a coherent biblical response to the complexities of life and culture.

Fundamentalism inevitably reduces the Christian faith to a simplistic set of behaviors and the emphasis tends toward legalism and personal piety — it remains a private belief and not a public truth to be pressed into every aspect of life and culture. Additionally, with the emphasis on external behaviors (i.e. sin management), there is little effort applied in converting the human heart and mind with all of its wretched attitudes. This theological myopia has been central to the deplorable lack of a consciously Christian life and worldview among so many professing Christians as documented by George Barna and others.

Additionally, this "opposing" posture is inherently adversarial, inciting an "us versus them" mentality rather than an "us for them" attitude. This mentality can even be seen in much of the Church's approach to evangelism, which often treats the gospel message as an argument to win. In such a state, the Church is polarized against the culture and the "Good News" is reduced to a "sales pitch" often relying on high pressure and committed to closing the deal. In many instances the gospel is subtly defined in terms of "happiness," which is not even the true gospel. Gone is the demonstration of the gospel where the Christian is encouraged to "love his neighbor" and then through the course of a, possibly long and at times difficult, relationship, disciple him or her into the truth. This is the Great Commission and it remains unchanged to this day.

Fundamentalism is not only antagonistic to the world but often toward other Christians as well. Fundamentalists tend to view anyone outside their particular tradition or beyond their theological distinctions with suspicion at best or as outright unbelievers at worst. The result is increasing division within the Body of Christ over what often amounts to non-essentials.

Liberalism won't press the kingdom in the culture because it has surrendered to the culture; it is of the world, and Fundamentalism won't because it is not in the world but rather opposed to it. What is needed is a return to the historic Christian position of being in but not of the world. This position requires that we do the hard work of renewing our minds to form a coherent and comprehensive view of life and reality through the lens of a distinctively Christian worldview-being confident in the Truth. It also means that we endeavor to understand and engage the culture in a humble and intelligent way so that we might reach the lost and suffering with the reality of Jesus Christ.

© 2007 by S. Michael Craven

Friday, September 21, 2007

Do you know the capital of Burkina Faso?

Since we're on the subject of memory work, here is yet more proof that children are like sponges, absorbing all sorts of information within their grasp. And believe me, there is more knowledge within their grasp than you think!
Today I took the kids to Target to restock my kitchen. While we were in the produce section, Christopher struck up a conversation with a very friendly and attractive woman (Becky) about what kinds of vegetables and fruits they both liked. Her accent revealed that she wasn't from around here, so I told Christopher to ask her where she was from. She looked at him and said, "I am from you know where Africa is?" She then looked at me and said she was from the western part of Africa. Christopher then asked her which country, to which she replied, "I am from a country called Nigeria." Christopher's eyes got big and he said, "That's next to Burkina Faso!" As her jaw began its descent to the floor, he then proceeded to say, "The capital of Burkina Faso is Ougadougou (pronounced wah-gah-doo-goo)!!" She looked at me in utter astonishment and asked, "How does he know this??" I asked Christopher if he knew the capital of Nigeria. He looked at her and said, "Abuja." Floored again (as was I), she said, "You must tell me how he knows this! My children don't even know the capital of Nigeria!" I told her about the LeapFrog Explorer Globe that occupies much of Christopher's play time. He often points out countries and bodies of water that I've never even heard of. She told me the only reason why she knew the capital of Burkina Faso was because a woman in her church was going to start an orphanage there. She then looked at Christopher and asked if he went to church (ha!). I told him to tell her what his Daddy did every Sunday, and he said, "Preach." She then said that when we all get to heaven, it won't matter who was presbyterian or baptist or whatever, as long as we believe in Jesus. So who knew that in the produce section of Target we would get a glimpse of heaven, where there will be people from every tribe and language and people and nation? Very cool.
On that note, if you have small children, stuff their little minds with as much truth and knowledge as possible and make their worlds a little bigger.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

more catechisms...

Here is a video of Sarah (age 2 1/2) reciting her catechism Q&A's (#1-10) and another one of Christopher reciting Q&A #s 11-28. Sarah is normally very eager to answer these questions, but I think she got a little camera shy since she knew she was being taped. Who says you have to drill these questions while sitting still in a classroom? I think Christopher actually recites them better while bouncing around my room (you'll excuse the mess...)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Theological truths for a 4 year old

Here is a video clip from family worship tonight. Christopher is reciting children's catechism questions #29 thru #36. It's amazing how much truth a child can memorize. Our philosophy is that what fills their mind today will shape their hearts tomorrow. We really believe in the benefit of old-fashioned catechizing! We'll post footage of Sarah reciting the first 10 Q&A's tomorrow.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

a blog of vital importance

I want to tell you about "the extraordinary wit and delectable prose" of Evanda Remington. Our good friend and former church member Evanda Remington has begun a self-described "blog of vital importance". Mindy and I love it.

We find the subtitle, "a blog of vital importance", very funny for two reasons. First, it is self-contradictory. Blogs are by nature not vitally important. They are passing thoughts. Disposable diapers of the virtual world. Second, Ev actually says what most of us who blog want people to think of our blog. Mindy and I have discovered that we have people in Germany and China who read our blog, and we have quite a steady following in England and Australia too. (Go figure.) But we would never be bold enough to say that we want people to think of our blog as "of vital importance". But Evanda just puts it out there for the world to see. So we think Evanda is very funny on many levels. We love his colorful vocabulary too!

I think of Evanda & Shelly (who now lives in Atlanta) every time I see our network server computer at the church. You see, several years ago a fire sprinkler line in the ceiling burst, drenching our network computer in water. Evanda got all our tech stuff fixed up and working again. And he left a little sticker on the network computer which still reads, "Do not immerse in water." Every week I see that little sticker and chuckle.

So visit Evanda's blog of vital importance here, but before you do, let me quote his "about us" section:

Often, someone with a C.S. degree, working in software, and frequently using the Internet would be more aggressive about something like blogging than I’ve been. I don’t care. Writing in blogs is a foolish waste of time, surpassed in its worthlessness only by the reading of blogs.

So you don’t have to read this. In fact, I’d encourage you not to. I’m not writing it for you, chances are pretty good that by the time someone reads this i won’t be writing at all. In the off chance i continue, and you desperately want to know who is behind the extraordinary wit and delectable prose, I shall introduce myself.

I am Evanda Remington: husband, father, christian, software consultant, mediocre carpenter, former mudder, biped, reader of arthur conan doyle and p.g. wodehouse, bearer of a big carabiner with keys, enjoyer of chocolate in small amounts, devourer of pasta, doter upon small beasts, poor shot with a rifle, dictator of evandistan, reliably punctual, wearer of jeans, watcher of modern marvels, fan of the steelers, reciter of tennyson and poe, neglecter of email, and, to my great shame, new blogger.

(HT:Evanda Remington)

Friday, September 14, 2007

A day in the life of John

Mindy wants me to put up a new post, so that our blog doesn't get stale. I guess I'll blog my day. MacBeth speaks of "a tale full of sound and fury; signifying nothing." Here is a record of my sound and fury today... (though because of God's grace our lives never signify nothing!)

I got up at 4:30 a.m. (and feat in itself for this late night man) and got to the church by 5 a.m. to look over my notes for my Friday morning men's discipleship group. We're talking about growing in emotional health this Fall. Specifically, today we talked about gaining the ability to name and identify our emotions, and then (through the Psalms) bring them to the Lord. We talked about how praying is always answering speech: God speaks first, then we answer Him. I opened up to the guys and talked about my own struggles with eating and weight and how much of my eating is often driven more by emotions than by hunger. Learning to identify the emotion in the moment and then redirect that emotion in a more godly, healthier way through the power of the Gospel is my goal. I think the 28 or so guys there really appreciated my candor. I got several emails afterwards. I know I appreciate their prayers and support.

I then grabbed a quick bite to eat and had a 10 am appointment, following by a lunch appointment that lasted for 2.5 hours at Blue Mesa Grill. Enjoyable, but intense conversation with a good friend in the church. After lunch, I finished up the final approval process for the Sunday order of worship and the Trinity This Week (~1 hour). Murphy's Law came roaring back today with the breakdown of the church copier, which prints, staples and folds our Sunday bulletins. So Kinkos will print our order of worship over the weekend. Bummer ($). Afterwards, I answered a slew of emails (~100?) rather quickly. Got home around 5:30. Took a quick 15 minute nap. Then we left to go to Small Group over at the Monroe's house.

Tonight in small group we studied Acts 12, where you see the power of Herod contrasted with the power of God through a praying church. Needless to say, Herod died and Peter was freed from prison. God's dealings with us are so hard to anticipate. But He is good (though not always safe) as Lewis says. We also celebrated the Parks triplet's 4th birthday together with cupcakes and candles. We had good time of prayer afterwards, though I could feel myself getting very tired.

We got home around 10:30, and did the quick routine to get Christopher and Sarah into bed. Mindy fed Hannah, I brushed my teeth, and now here we are in the bed at 11:10 at night. Mindy is reviewing her Scripture memory cards and John is blogging. We'll both be asleep very soon. My alarm is set for 7am.

Tomorrow is a big day. I'm moderating a church-wide meeting at 9:30 a.m. concerning a new strategy that would eliminate debt and open a door to new ministry growth for our church. After that we are off to a friend's birthday party. And I've GOT to get an hour on the treadmill and elliptical trainer in tomorrow, since I didn't get it in today and I'm behind this week on my goal of exercising 4 hours total this week.

I also met this week with a nutritionist that I really like and am very optimistic about the help that she is going to give me. Mindy is excited too. Over the past 6 months, I've explored the option of gastric-bypass surgery or lap-band surgery. After talking to numerous people, I've decided to put that on hold for six months and make a good faith effort with the proper support around me. I'm giving it the old college try, but more really wanting to trust the Lord to help me get through those days where a large pizza seems to be the answer to all sorts of uncomfortable emotions, like stress, anxiety, depression, boredom, anger, etc. So I'm optimistic and praying that this new venture with my nutritionist friend will be fruitful. So that's pretty much a normal day in the life of ministry for me, except I didn't get in very much study time or any exercise time today.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

New beds for Christopher and Sarah...

Ah, it's Saturday afternoon, the dishes are done, the laundry is going, all 3 kids are why am I not taking advantage of this golden opportunity to take a nap myself?!? I think the above picture of Hannah illustrates well how I feel most of the time. Here she is, so tired that she's sucking her thumb, and yet she can't seem to take her eyes and hand off of that toy in front of her. My body would thoroughly benefit from a nap right now, and yet I don't want to miss out on any fun I could have while I have some free time! True to my Chinese heritage, one of the ways I define "fun" is taking pictures, editing them, posting them and telling a story (however mundane) through them. Hope you enjoy!

Yesterday two twin beds were delivered to our house so that Christopher and Sarah could have their very own beds. Since we moved Sarah out of the crib and into the toddler bed, Christopher had to move to the guest room bed, which was a full-size bed. Sarah has since outgrown the tiny toddler bed (she kept falling out of it in the middle of the night) and so we simply moved her up into the big full-size bed with Christopher, where there was plenty of room for both. Well, they obviously couldn't stay that way forever, so we decided it was time to replace the one big bed with 2 smaller beds. We also got Van Gogh's "Starry Night" to complement Christopher's solar system-themed bed spread and Monet's "Waterlilies" to go with Sarah's pastel, floral-printed bed spread. Needless to say, they both love the room and their new beds.

Honey Bees in Israel and at Trinity

A local beekeeper, who is a good friend of our Church Business Administrator, removed a rather large beehive from our church property last week. It was a fascinating process to watch. I am amazed at the complexity and order of the decentralized bee colony. Every bee has a specific job to do and does it well, including some bees whose only job is to flap their wings by the entrance to the beehive in order to keep the air circulating. Absolutely amazing. (And secularists say this world is the product of random chance! I don't have enough blind faith to believe that.) I'll try to post some pics of it. Meanwhile, I read this story in the USA Today earlier this week...

JERUSALEM — Archaeologists digging in northern Israel have discovered evidence of a 3,000-year-old beekeeping industry, including remnants of ancient honeycombs, beeswax and what they believe are the oldest intact beehives ever found.

The findings in the ruins of the city of Rehov include 30 intact hives dating to around 900 B.C., archaeologist Amihai Mazar of Jerusalem's Hebrew University told The Associated Press. He said it offers unique evidence that an advanced honey industry existed in the Holy Land at the time of the Bible.

Beekeeping was widely practiced in the ancient world, where honey was used for medicinal and religious purposes as well as for food, and beeswax was used to make molds for metal and to create surfaces to write on. While portrayals of bees and beekeeping are known in ancient artwork, nothing similar to the Rehov hives has ever been found before, Mazar said.