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...