Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The deception of going digital...

I have recently undertaken the monumental task of getting all of our family photos into chronological order. I thought I was doing myself a favor because I had completely and unashamedly given up on the whole scrapbooking enterprise because I realized how unbelievably unrealistic it was to sort, crop, matte, frame, decorate, journal, etc. the sheer volume of pictures we have accumulated over the years. In fact, the last thing I tried to scrapbook was a baby album for Christopher and I think I made it from birth to about 1-2 months old before setting it aside, never to be picked up again. Nearly 5 years and 2 more children have come along since then, along with a flood of photographs documenting every stage of their development, not to mention every family get together.
The thought of beginning this process where I left off was rather daunting, so I thought I'd begin with photos from Hannah's birth and fill up the albums until I was caught up to the present. I quickly filled up 4 1/2 albums (each album holds 300 4x6 photos), so that's approximately 1300+ photos taken in the first 11 months of Hannah's life. Last night I backtracked and started filling a new set of albums beginning with Sarah's birth (11/20/04) going forward until Hannah was born. I filled 5 albums but still have a year's worth of pictures left until Hannah's birth date. And there's a pretty sizable stack of photos from that year! Needless to say, I'm a little overwhelmed.
What overwhelms me even more is then backtracking to the year and 1/2 before Sarah was born. Christopher, who was our firstborn child and the first grandchild on both sides of our family, saw his fair share of camera flashes as a baby. You remember me kidding about my mom being a "Chinese tourist", true to the cultural stereotype? Well, I have tangible PROOF that she cannot enjoy life without a camera in her hand! Every time she would fly down to Texas or we would come to Pennsylvania for a visit, she would take a gazillion pictures and always give us the duplicates. Last night as I was going through pictures from Sarah's babyhood, I picked up a LARGE stack and showed it to John saying, "See this stack of photos? These were taken over the span of 4 days...ALL by my mom." And that was after Sarah was born. Before Sarah was born, we traveled to PA and my mom traveled down here more frequently. We also went to Maine with my mom and her sister as well as to Vancouver TWICE with my mom and all of our Chinese relatives. You can only imagine how many times we posed for group pictures...
So I have filled up 9 1/2 albums (that's nearly 3000 photos) and I'm still swimming in a sea of photographs stored in boxes...but I am determined to press on. Another thing that I find amusing is that I believed the myth that switching from film to digital photography would lessen the load of pictures we actually develop since you "only develop the really good ones." The problem with digital photography is that you end up taking a gazillion MORE photos than you would with film and a good fraction of that gazillion is considered a 'keeper.' Plus, even if some pictures don't turn out perfectly, there's always photo software to edit your not-so-perfect prints.
Now that I've ranted and raved about this overwhelming task, I must say that I've really enjoyed seeing all of these pictures again! It's so nice to get them out of boxes and display them in such a way that we'll actually get to see them. My kids have thoroughly enjoyed flipping through the albums as well...something I would NOT let them do with pictures just shoved in a box. Where to store these giant albums when I'm finished is going to be another task for another day...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My old roommate from HS debate camp

Here's a story from The Economist magazine about my old roommate from high school debate camp, Austan Goolsbee. We roomed together for two consecutive summers in the dorm rooms of American University. Very nice guy - and very bright too. I'm not at all surprised to see him become famous. A little history on his very succesful high school and college debating career can be found here at Wikipedia. An article he wrote for the New York Times can be found here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The toy makers have it all wrong...

Think about the most popular baby toys sold in the toy stores. They're plastic, bulky, brightly colored, and probably have some flashing lights along with some music or other noise. Now think about the things that babies can't wait to get their hands on as soon as they start crawling - all of YOUR electronics. Yes, we have toy cell phones, toy phones, toy cameras, and little toy keyboards. However, my kids quickly toss those imitations aside and go for the real thing. You may remember from an earlier post that one of the ways in which we lured Hannah to crawl forward was by putting the cordless phone on the floor in front of her. There were plenty of other brightly colored, flashy toys on the floor around her, but nothing vied for her attention more than that black phone with little silver buttons. So I think the toy companies ought to think about making child-safe toys that look and feel like the real thing.

This is why I can't have any productive 'computer time' while Hannah is awake. I can surround her with the appropriate baby toys, but she plows right through them to turn the printer on and off and then get all tangled up in the electrical cords.

Forget the little toy keyboards...THIS is what I'm talkin' about!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

J. I. Packer on Charles Simeon

Here is quote I came upon that I thought blog-worthy. At least, it's a good reminder for myself of what is most important. Here is J.I. Packer on Charles Simeon:

The quality of his preaching was but a reflection of the quality of the man himself. And there can be little doubt that the man himself was largely made in the early morning hours which he devoted to private prayer and devotional study of the Scriptures. … Such costly self-discipline made the preacher. That was primary. The making of the sermon was secondary and derivative. (Preach the Word, 152)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Christopher stories

Let me report on a conversation between Christopher and Mindy this morning:
"Mommy, Adam and Eve tried to hide from God...and we try to hide from God when we have black hearts."
"But we can't hide from God because God is everywhere, right mommy?"
"Yes, that's right Christopher."

I'll let Mindy share the story of what Christopher said tonight about Saul/Paul.

"Mommy, why did Saul change his name to Paul?"
"Well, he changed his name after God changed his heart. God gave him a new heart and new eyes, so he gave himself a new name."
"Did he still have the same face?"
"Yes, he was the same person. It's just that God changed his heart when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus."
"Where is Damascus?"
"Well... it's near Israel."
"Well Mommy, it's the capital of Syria."
"Ye-es...How do you know that???"

10 hours of glorious sleep

Eugene Peterson says that sleeping is an act of humility. The act of sleep says, "the world does not depend on me." If this is true, then I was very humble last night! ;-) Mindy and I made it home without a flight delay (I don't remember the last time that happened) and we were both in bed a little before 10pm. I slept 10 hours! It felt so good. It also gave me hope that I can make it through the rest of the weekend. Today I must write my Sunday sermon and tomorrow I'm teaching a class from 9:30 till 2:30. Jeff Morrow was kind enough to teach my men's group this morning. It's great to sleep in your own bed and it's even better to get all caught up. At some point, perhaps next week, I would like to blog some reflections on what I learned over the past few days. I really appreciate Trinity's willingness to let me participate in the pastor's summit.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Days 2 and 3 in Orlando

We had a wonderfully exhausting day yesterday, filled with intense, personal and very meaningful conversations from 8am straight until 10pm. We meet again in a few minutes and talk until noon. Then we'll get to the airport and be home in Dallas by 6pm, Lord willing. Our two books were "The Fabric of Faithfulness" by Steve Garber (who is here with us) and Jayber Crow, a novel by Wendell Berry.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Update from Orlando

Mindy and I made it our room in Orlando a little after midnight on Monday night. Christopher has a fever that still comes and goes, but Mindy is feeling quite a bit better. So we're thankful for that. The 10 pastors met in a circle for 6 hours on Tuesday, updating one another on the states of our ministries and lives. It was sweet time. Then Steve Garber led us in a book discussion until 10pm. We just finished breakfast and our next meeting has started even as I type. Today's reflections will be on calling and vocation. We'll go till 10 again tonight, with some times for journaling along the way. We're staying at the San Pedro Catholic Retreat Center. It's very pretty. I'm using the dial-up computer in the conference room, so we won't be checking in as often, but so far it's been a great time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Nutrition and Training

I want to give a big thanks and even pique a little interest among local friends in someone who has been an enormous help to me in the whole battle of weight loss, fitness and increased cardiovascular health. Michelle Kinlaw is a friend of ours, a wonderful Christian woman and a great nutrional counselor and trainer. If you live here in our area and want some help getting together a fitness or nutrition plan, we would highly recommend her. Check out her website here.

Let me show you a before and after picture. ;-)

Here is what I looked like before:

And here is what I look like now:

Amazing, huh?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The family bug

John here. Well, Christopher vomited again today at 4:30. Mindy had taken Sarah over to my parents house to visit with the Yohannan's and I was home with Christopher and Hannah when it happened. Now Mindy says that she is starting to come down with the bug. I'm a little worried about Mindy and me going to the pastor's summit in Orlando tomorrow. We'll see what happens. Pray that no one else gets sick!

While John is at the missions conference...

...I'm at home while Christopher lay sick in bed, Sarah colors the back patio with chalk and Hannah peers at Sarah through the back door. As you may have read in the new trinitythisweek blog that John set up, our church's missions conference has been going on in full force this weekend and has been awesome. After hearing Dr. Pratt speak Friday night, I was convicted, challenged, encouraged, and inspired. Therefore I am now thoroughly disappointed that I have to miss his last two talks today (Sunday School and sermon), but I know I'll get to hear them once they're posted on the church website.'s just not the same though! Ah well, I shouldn't complain because my kids are rarely sick and so we hardly have to miss anything. And as much as I am disappointed about missing today, I am more concerned about poor Christopher who has had a fever since Friday night, a bad cough since yesterday, and then threw up twice last night. He was so sad last night. I think I'm going to take him to the acute care clinic when it opens today, but they're probably just tell me it's viral and I need to let it run its course. I am praying that the girls don't catch this (and that John and I don't catch it!) since we are headed to Orlando this week and leaving all 3 kids with the grandparents. Oh, and Christopher was SO excited about going to Nana and Pop's house for the week! He has been counting down the days ("Mommy, only 5 more days...only 4 more days...only 3 more days...etc. until we go to stay at Nana's house!"). So I do hope he feels better by tomorrow.
I am also really bummed because we were supposed to get together with our good friends, Jake & Jaya + their 3 kids this afternoon. They are here from upstate NJ as one of our missionaries (yes, NJ is a mission field!). The last time we were in PA, our planned reunion with them was thwarted by a nasty stomach bug that made the rounds through our family. At least we did get to see them on Friday night and Saturday a bit.
Well, Christopher has not moved from my bed and it looks like he has fallen back asleep. Poor guy. I guess I better check and see what kind of mischief Sarah and Hannah have gotten into.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Newsweek on Tim Keller

Famous PCA pastor Tim Keller has a book defending the Christian faith. Newsweek profiles him here.

Trinity PC Mission Conference

John here. I blogged Friday night's missions conference talk with Dr. Richard Pratt here. Check it out. I plan on using to blog on news, prayer items and thoughts concerning the life of our church, Trinity.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Kung Hei Fat Choi

Happy Chinese New Year! (year of the rat)

Richard Pratt, Missions Conference Speaker, on KCBI 90.9 today at 5:30

Listen to KCBI radio today for an interview with Dr. Richard Pratt, founder and president of Third Millennium Ministries ( Dr. Pratt will be interviewed by our good friend Penna Dexter and will discuss both his international ministry as well as the upcoming conference here at Trinity Plano this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It should be fun!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The moment that made my day today

John here. I have to share with you the moment that made my day today. I'm at the Wadley Tower at Baylor Hospital Dallas this afternoon going to meet with the chief of gastroenterology (long story). I'm standing there on the ground floor trying to figure out where I'm supposed to go and whether or not to ask someone at the information desk. They have these nice retirees that man the information desks there. As I was standing there, this big ole guy walks up to the desk and asks, "Is this the information desk?" Yes, sir, it is. Then he asked the following question in all seriousness: "What was the name of that movie with Gene Hackman where they were all on the submarine?" I cracked up! As I left to go to the 5th floor, they were both standing there trying to remember the name of the movie. One of them remembered that it had Denzel Washington in it too. I just got home and told Mindy the story. She remembers - Crimson Tide! I've been laughing to myself all day long about that. That's the moment that made my day today!

p.s. - Ok, Huckabee did much better than I thought he would. Good for him! I'll put up my post-election thoughts soon - and answer some of those comments I got! :)

The Missional Kingdom

I highly recommend this new blog by my friend John Armstrong. I have been showing our men on Friday morning here at Trinity how the Kingdom of God emerges from the very first pages of Genesis to be the main theme of the Bible. I think John puts it all very well here. I also think this is very good reading in preparation for our upcoming missions conference this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which too will focus on the ever important issue of the Kingdom of God. God's Kingdom has a mission: to bring people in. It is therefore a missional Kingdom - and it is our high privilege to partner with God and each other in this mission. Add this new blog to your RSS reader!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Huckabee fades out (posted by John)

Alright, Mindy promised you I would at some point update my thoughts on the political process. Here it goes:

Well, tomorrow will most likely mark the end of the Mike Huckabee for President campaign. Let me share some things that I really liked about Mike and then some things that gave me pause for concern along the way. The first thing I loved about Mike was his winsome, gracious attitude and the excellent way in which I thought he represented the pro-life position. "I'm a conservative but I'm not mad at anybody." I loved it. I loved the fact that he was willing from the start to go on shows like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. And when on these shows, I felt like he spoke for my moral convictions without embarrassing me. So many of the Christian representatives they put on TV say ridiculous things that make me cringe. Second thing. I love the fact that even though he was strongly pro-life, he also had an appreciation for the working class, the arts, education and expanded health care coverage and a moderate stance on immigration. He was not a libertarian Republican that saw no role for the government whatsoever save national defense. I appreciate this. Many have accused him of being economically liberal. I don't know. Perhaps he is more so than, say, a Phil Graham of Texas. But to me that's not necessarily a bad thing. Every year since 2000, our family has made the drive from Dallas to Philly and back again. We drive through Arkansas. We saw first hand the terrible conditions of the roads there. Under Gov. Huckabee, a tax bill was passed and they fixed the roads. Driving from Memphis to Little Rock now is not a high anxiety affair with constant rattling, bumping, and disconcerting road noise. So I believe that the tax increase to fix those roads was a legitimate function of state government. As you can tell, I'm a social conservative, but more moderate on economic issues. I think that a libertarian approach to government (no role except defense/police) underestimates the power of social sin and the need to have a state that acts as a restraint against the natural corruption of the free market system. Who wouldn't, for example, want a government that doesn't regulate lead paint and food safety so that multinational corporations don't cut safety corners to maximize profit? When you start thinking about it, you begin to realize that there are plenty of legitimate exercises of government function in society beyond merely defending us from Jihadism or the next big red threat.

There have been some things over time that have given me pause concerning Mike. First, the fact that he routinely preaches in churches on Sunday morning blurs a line for me. The church should be the church, with a prophetic voice to society and government. And those in politics should listen to the voice of the church proclaim God's Word and seek to establish justice in the land. But I don't think our politicians should become our preachers. It's better if these roles are kept distinct. I would prefer Mike to not preach from pulpits on Sunday morning. Second thing. I didn't necessarily buy the "he's too inexperienced" argument since he was a governor of a state when Obama was merely a state legislator in Springfield. Huckabee would have more experience under his belt entering the Oval office than Reagan. He would be about on par with Bill Clinton in this regard. So that hasn't concerned me too much, though some make the point that in this age of Jihadism, you need a President with lots of foreign policy experience. Perhaps. Reagan didn't have any foreign policy experience, but he knew intuitively how to deal with the Soviets. And that was a pretty big deal back then. But here's my concern: as the political debate wore on, I just didn't get enough substance from Huckabee. The fair tax idea is novel and attention-getting, so it served its political purpose for him. But no doubt it's a pie in the sky proposal without any chance of enactment. And so I was waiting for more policy to be fleshed out. It never came. I began to doubt whether there was substance behind the style I appreciated so much. And for those two reasons, I began to have doubts about Huckabee.

Would he make a good VP pick for McCain? I think so. I'd personally love it. Some have argued that he'll be attacked on creation/evolution issues and that McCain doesn't want to have to spend time answering those questions. Perhaps. But I think the positives for McCain will outweigh those potential political risks. Huckabee could definitely help McCain unite the Republicans. And I think the exposure of being a VP will round out Huckabee's experience, and put him in a great position to be a future presidential candidate. That would be great.

Meanwhile, as the GOP closes the deal with McCain tomorrow (please spare us from Romney!), the Democrats will probably not seal the deal tomorrow. If they know what's good for them, they'll go with Obama. I think he would be very strong in a general election. I think America is yearning for a post-partisan president. Either McCain or Obama have a shot at that, but Obama connects in a way that McCain probably can't any more. If this were 8 years ago for McCain, it might be different. Mindy and I are reading McCain's book "Faith of My Fathers" right now and it is pretty remarkable. You have to respect the man. And that is the GOP's best hope now of retaining the White House in 2008.

So my own personal SuperBowl season continues! Yes, I watched about the last 20 minutes of the Giants beating the Patriots last night. For me, a non-football watcher, that's quite an accomplishment. But the excitement of those last 20 minutes pales in comparison to the exciting, turbulent process of picking our next president. So tomorrow night - Super Duper Tuesday - will be my personal SuperBowl. My predictions: the GOP breaks tomorrow slightly for McCain and the Dems break for Obama by a surprising margin. Not enough to knock Hillary out, but enough to mortally wound her candidacy and let Obama finish her off in Ohio or Pennsylvania.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Being moved by the Gospel...again. (posted by Mindy)

Anyone who is close to me will tell you that I am not one who is easily moved to tears. I used to view this as a strength, but now see it as kind of an emotional weakness that is simply a result of a hardened heart and therefore an inability to truly empathize. I cannot tell you how many times I've thought to myself, "I should be crying in this situation..." whether it be in a moment of comforting someone else in his/her pain or simply confronting my own sinfulness. Now, I'm not saying that I wish I were one of those people who could cry at the drop of a hat. That's just not how the Lord wired me and it would be completely inauthentic of me to do so. But I do want to grow in the area of empathy as well as grieving over things that are truly painful. I think my tendency is to avoid dwelling on pain and sadness at all costs. I'll keep myself 'busy' and ignore problems as if they don't exist or quickly move to look on the bright side. I have a really hard time identifying with people who struggle with depression because I just don't ever go there. Again, I don't want to become melancholy or morbidly introspective but, rather, mature in having the right emotions in the appropriate situations.

All of that rambling is to say that I am caught off guard every time (however infrequent) I am moved to tears. The other night, John, the kids and I were having family worship and I was responsible for reading the Bible story to the kids. We read from a few different 'choice' story Bibles and that night we were at the story of the crucifixion as told in The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones.

Right in the middle of reading about the soldiers and crowds mocking Jesus and how He willingly endured it all, my eyes began to well-up with tears. The story is retold so beautifully that I'm going to share portions of it here:

"You say you've come to rescue us!" people shouted. "But you can't even rescue yourself!"
But they were wrong. Jesus could have rescued Himself. A legion of angels would have flown to His side - if He'd called.
"If you were really the Son of God, you could just climb down off that cross!" they said.
And of course they were right. Jesus could have just climbed down. Actually, He could have just said a word and made it all stop...
But Jesus stayed.
You see, they didn't understand. It wasn't the nails that kept Jesus there. It was love.
"Papa? Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky. "Papa? Where are you? Don't leave me!"
And for the first time - and the last - when He spoke, nothing happened. Just a horrible, endless silence. God didn't answer. He turned away from His Boy.
Tears rolled down Jesus' face. The face of the One who would wipe away every tear from every eye...
The full force of the storm of God's fierce anger at sin was coming down. On His own Son. Instead of His people. It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy His children whose hearts were filled with sin.

I think it's sadly common for our hearts to grow cold and hardened to gospel story after years of living the Christian life. This could be a result of many different reasons (i.e. lack of time in the Word, prayer or simply meditating on God's grace in salvation; forgetting how sinful we are and therefore our desperate need for salvation; Bible study becoming purely an academic exercise; lack of true fellowship in the Body of Christ/the Church; etc.) So I was deeply thankful that a fresh and simple retelling of the gospel by a children's story Bible would move me. In reading it aloud, I was forced to listen in a new way to what my sin deserved and yet how much I am loved by God in the Cross of Christ.

For those of you who attend Trinity, this and other story Bibles are available for purchase in our church's bookstore. For those of you who don't, you can order The Jesus Storybook Bible (and other great books) from the Westminster Bookstore by clicking here. I hope that you find it profitable for your children as well as renewing the joy of your salvation.