Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Light That Pierces Darkness

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 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.

We sincerely hope that you are all enjoying a blessed Christmas season. As we have gone through this Advent season, we have been focusing on the Light of the world, Jesus Christ. That focus has led us to a new re-realization of how lost we all are without Jesus Christ. It has also shown us how inadequate we have been about proclaiming His light to those around us who live in the same darkness that we once lived in. We pray that His light will shine through all of us as our lives touch others so that maybe He can touch them. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My Life When I'm Not Blogging

It has been a few weeks since I have posted anything and with good reason. I had a project that I had promised to complete by Christmas. It has involved a lot of 17 hour work days over the past couple of weeks, but I finished yesterday. I will need to go back for some minor touch up stuff, but the customer is pleased and I am too. I thought I would share some pictures of the project through different stages of its steps towards completion. The project is designed and built solely by myself. The wood is quarter-sawn ash and matched ash veneers.

This is where the project will go. This picture was taken 1 year ago. The project will have a bookcase on the left side of the fireplace, the fireplace hearth and mantle, and an entertainment center on the right side of the fireplace.

This is a picture of the project in my shop 2 weeks ago. I assembled the whole unit in the shop as I made the mouldings and trim work to go on the unit. You can see a little bit of the amazing grain in the wood on this unit. You can also see a little bit of my cluttered shop.

This is after the first day of installation on Wednesday. I hired another cabinetmaker to help me with the installation. These units are a little big to handle by myself. I could have done it, but I saved myself a tremendous amount of time by hiring in someone else.

This is the finished project after I was done yesterday afternoon. Just a little bit of moulding to go around the marble and it will be done. The customer was very happy and so am I. It is not the largest project I have ever done, but it may be the most complicated. It may also be the most rewarding. This will go down as one of my favorite projects I have done.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Golden Compass and the Christian Response

The movie The Golden Compass opens this weekend under a large amount of criticism. There is a tremendous push by the movie company to make this one of the largest money making fantasy movies of all time. However, like I stated above, the movie is taking some very serious hits about its story line and the book series that it is based on. I don't feel that I can adequately review or respond to something I haven't seen or read. However, I can refer you to someone who has done both and provides a fantastic critique of the movie and the book series and what it means for Christian believers.
Read here.

Challies December Giveaway

Sorry I'm a little late with this one, but if you want an opportunity to win a nice set of Biblical resources for your church, you can enter by clicking the banner. You only have until Monday, December 10 to enter.

December Giveaway

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Nowhere Man

"He's a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody"

Disclaimer: This is a continuation of Beatles song themed posts. I only include this because it is one of the funniest stories I know. It is a story about a young man we will call Ted. Ted was someone I met many years ago and was a very casual acquaintance. As in, Ted may actually be his real name, I don't remember. That is how casually we knew each other. He was a party guy and this story involves one such party. I was not there and do not condone the behavior I will relate to you, but the story did actually happen. If anything, read this as a warning to what can happen when you willing inebriate yourself to the level which Ted did.

As I stated above, Ted was a party guy and was also a frequent pot smoker. He was either in his senior year of high school or had recently graduated with no plans of further education. Either way, the Memorial Day weekend was coming up and Ted's friends planned a large drinking party over the holiday weekend. Someone they knew had a piece of property a couple of miles from town that was secluded and located on the river. The property was bare other than a pier that ran out into the river for docking boats. It was really the perfect place for a party since there were no houses or people around.
So the party takes place on Sunday afternoon/evening. There is a good group of people and they get a bonfire going. Someone at sometime has brought some old furniture out to the party place, chairs and even an old couch. The party is going in full force and Ted is well on his way to destroying more of his brain cells. As the party gets into late evening, Ted manages to find a place on the couch which is located out on the dock extending into the river. The party continues on and Ted eventually passes out on the couch.
Well, the evening is getting late and people start to leave, including Ted's ride home from the party. Of course he doesn't realize it because he is sleeping his buzz off on the couch. Or at least he was until he rolled off of the couch into the river. Cold, late May river water has a startling wakening effect on the inebriated sleeper. Fortunately, Ted woke up and was able to stand up and get himself onto dry land. He comes to the realization that it is really late, like early morning hours, and that everyone has left him there with no way to get home. Of course he is also very cold and wet due to his sudden baptism and he is still drunk. He decided that the best thing to do was to go back to sleep and in the morning either someone would remember to come and get him or he could walk back into town. Not wanting to continue feeling cold and wet, and since no one was there, he stripped naked and laid his clothes out near the bonfire so they could dry. He then climbed back on the couch to sleep.
Well the sun finally woke Ted up and he had some vague memories of what had happened during the night. As he got up off of the couch to retrieve his dried out clothes he realized they were no longer where he had placed them. It seems that he had laid them a little too close to the fire and that they had all been burned up. So we now have a naked man two miles from home without a ride. However, Ted is not without resources. Cell phones weren't around yet so he couldn't call anyone. He didn't feel quite right about walking to the nearest farm house naked and having to explain that. But, he did have the couch. Of course a couch that has been relegated to riverside party life is probably not the nicest couch. Imagine grandma's 1971 burnt orange and brown polyester couch and you are probably getting the picture. Well, Ted realizes what he needs to do and really should be commended for his ingenuity. He takes one of the couch cushions, unzips it, pulls out the foam cushion part, and punches two leg holes in the cushion cover. He then steps into the cushion with the zipper portion around his waist and begins his walk home wearing his improv couch cushion "shorts".
As he finally nears his house after walking the 2 miles into town, the full weight of his previous nights actions began to sink in on Ted. For Ted lived directly across the street from Veterans Park. It was Memorial Day. In the town that Ted lived in, they had a parade every Memorial Day that finished at Veterans Park. So as all of the parade goers watched, Ted scurried past them to his house wearing nothing but his couch cushion shorts.
I also strongly considered "Mother Natures Son" for the title of this post. But since Ted went on to do not much of anything as far as I know, this title fit him best. The last time I heard about Ted, he had just survived being struck by lightning. It seems that he really wanted to smoke some pot, so he sneaked out and hid under the tallest tree during a thunderstorm while getting his high.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Happiness is a Warm Gun

Disclaimer: The following story may make some who are vegan or PETA types slightly queasy. However, the overall story is worth getting to the end for and I hope that you would try to persevere.

I had no intentions on participating in this. But yesterday, this memory came to mind as did this song title. So here is the story and its list of characters.

I come from a family of seven boys. Yep! All boys, no girls. I am number six from the top otherwise known as the second youngest. I will refer to my brothers by their first initial and a number that represents where they are in the birth order. D1, B2, K3, D4, R5, E6(me), and on the end A7. Most of my brothers have nothing to do with this story but are included just to confuse you. Actually, the story's only characters are myself, R5, A7, and a mutual friend named Chad.

At least 10 years ago, R5, A7, our friend Chad, and myself went out deer hunting. Now in Wisconsin it is practically your duty as a citizen of the state to participate in the annual gun deer season. It provides revenue for the state by way of a "tax" called a hunting license. It is also a virtual means of self defense for the rest of the year, due to the amount of deer actually in the state and their natural desire to run around looking for ways to hurtle into your car while you are driving at speeds of 60 MPH. Either way, I used to hunt but didn't enjoy it enough to go back into the woods in the last 10 years.

On opening weekend of whenever this story took place, R5, A7, Chad, and I were hunting on some state owned public hunting grounds near the center of Wisconsin. I remember that we hadn't seen anything to shoot all morning and had met up together by mid morning to discuss our plan for the rest of the day. We decided to head back out for a little while longer before lunch time and see if we could find anything. So we split up and starting walking back to our deer stands where we hoped for some unsuspecting deer to pass us by. Shortly after entering back into the woods, I heard a shot and then another. They were close and seemed to come from the area where R5 was sitting. I sat a little longer, listening for more shots, and looking to see if the shots would scare up any deer who would pass my way. No such luck, so after waiting a few minutes I left my stand to go and see if someone in our party had gotten a deer. When I got to where R5 was, he was standing over a dead deer. He had just gotten to his stand when the deer came walking through and R5 shot. Shortly after I got there, Chad found us with my brother A7 being the last to show up for the "look at the dead deer" party.

Now I should explain a little about my younger brother, A7. He is a very good outdoors-men, loves to hunt, fish, hike, etc. He knows all these different plants and barks that you can eat if you get lost in the wild without food and would prefer not to starve. He also has a litany of various hunting/outdoor stories that have a tendency to run towards the side of excessive exaggeration. I refer to him as the "Last Great White Hunter". He also is quick to take the hunting thing to a bit of an extreme, such as drinking the blood of the first deer you kill. You get the picture.

Anyway, R5, Chad, and I are standing around the recently deceased deer when A7 comes walking down the pine tree row. In an attempt to try and show his ability and knowledge in hunting, A7 asks if he can gut the deer. For those who don't know, a freshly killed deer must have all of its organs and what not removed soon after it is killed to preserve the venison for eating. Well, R5, Chad, and myself all have the ability to gut the deer, but if A7 actually wants to do it, then who are we to stop him. So, A7 leans his gun against a tree, pulls out his hunting knife, and lays the deer on its back. Now to properly gut a deer, you start by cutting through the skin from just under the neck between the front legs and then all the way across the stomach to the tail. The slight problem that arises in trying to do this is that dead deer do not lay on their backs well and due to the fact that their legs are always pointing straight, it is a little difficult to keep the deer on its back, with legs spread out wide, so that you can cut open its chest. I hope you get the picture. To help A7 out with the deer organ removal process, Chad stood on the deer's right rear leg and I stood on its left rear leg. This allowed the deer to be completely spread eagle like, on the its back, waiting for A7's impending knife point. At this point A7 gets down on the ground with his knees right behind the deer's tail and leans over the deer to began the cutting sequence. Something else you may not know, but should be reminded of is that dead animals have involuntary muscle twitches shortly after their demise. Back to the story. As A7 leans over the deer and begins to cut, the deer's ear moved. I know what you are thinking, but no, the deer is dead this is just involuntary muscle twitching. So as my brother continues to operate with his knife, more muscle twitches. A7 sees the twitches and in this loud voice filled with hunters bravado begins to mock the dead deer. He is actually laying across the dead deer with his knife pointed in the open eye of the deer mocking it. "Oh! Think you're still alive! You're not 'cause we killed you and now we are going to eat you." It was a little weird but not out of character for my brother. It was at this moment, as my brother lay completely straddling the deer, that the moment we have all been waiting for arrived.

Some things in life you come upon, while others are thrust upon you. This moment was the latter. It is not every day that you are standing over a deer, watching your younger brother acting with such bravado over a dead animal. It is also not every day that one has such an opportunity and so you can not just let it pass by without acting. So as he lay with his face just inches away from the twitching deer face, with his knife pointed at its throat, mocking it loudly and verbosely as he stared into its eyes, that was the moment that I intentionally lifted my foot. Remember, I am standing on the deer's hind leg. When I lifted my foot, the leg took off like a catapult that had just been released, snapping back towards its own stomach and directly towards the backside of my sprawled out brother. That leg hit him in the rear end with a loud snap and A7 thought the deer had come back to life while he was spread out over it. He let out this loud yell and jumped up and backwards as his knife flew 30 feet in the air. He started yelling and looking for his gun to shoot the deer. I don't think I have ever seen anyone so scared in my life. However, he quickly realized what I had done and started calling me every name in the book. He also continued to reach for his gun, but I think he was looking to shoot me at that point. I remember Chad, R5, and myself laughing so hard we were crying and that I wouldn't let A7 near his rifle for the next half an hour for fear that he would shoot me. So, while happiness is a warm gun, happiness is also holding your warm gun and your bother's warm gun whom you just played a prank on.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Update and song thoughts

Kim's test went well yesterday. The area of concern is no longer. She has what the doctor referred to as "redundant tissue", which means that she has a little more heart then the rest of us. There is no follow up needed with the cardiologist so this is all good news.

This last week has brought with it a song. It is a song that I knew and was familiar with, but it seems almost as if I am listening to it with new ears recently. It is the song "You Created" by Caedmon's Call. I find it amazing that the familiar can so many times become new for us when we view it or listen to it or read it. This often happens for me with scripture. Anyway, this song points to me where my focus should be and the idols in my heart that I have made of my own pleasures. It also reminds me of a quote by John Calvin, "The evil in our desire typically does not lie in what we want, but that we want it too much." What Calvin means is that most of what becomes sin for us is not that we desire wrong or evil things, but rather that what we desire becomes too much of am emphasis. Our blessings, given to us by God, too often become our gods or the objects of our delight instead of the Giver. Anyway, here are the lyrics to the song.

Who is like unto the Lord our God
Who dwelleth on high, Who dwelleth on high
Who is like unto the Lord our God
Who dwelleth on high, Who dwelleth on high

You dwell in glory
The heavens are Your home
You began the story
And made Your beauty known

But You created nothing
That gives me more pleasure than You
And You won't give me something
That gives me more pleasure than You

You hung the planets
In Your image You made man
I'm overcome and broken
At the wonders of Your hand

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bits and Pieces

I haven't written in a while, but then life has been hectic. So I am going to hit a couple of completely random thoughts.

The forecast for this weekend is calling for snow. Possibly up to seven inches worth on Saturday. This makes me all the more uncomfortable because of the following reasons.
1) I just finished raking leaves this past week and there are still plenty that are hanging on to the trees yet.
2) I'm not particularly fond of snow when I have a lot of other things going on. I currently have a lot of other things going on.
3) The lawn tractor still has a blown engine which means that the blower that attaches to the tractor is virtually useless unless one is looking for a large door stop or paper weight.

My next item of trivia is this. I find this story absolutely amazing, fascinating, and very entertaining.

I am very perturbed that I didn't get in on time for this. However, I may steal the idea and do it in the future just for fun. I was so looking forward to a wire clothes hanger mobile made by Mup.

Lastly and on a more serious note. Kim is scheduled for her TEE at 10:00 tomorrow morning. (If you are looking at the screen right now going, huh? Look here.)
We are not expecting anything out of the ordinary to come up, but are praying for wisdom for the doctor's.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Black Friday and Grace

As most of you probably know, the Friday after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. The retailers all run their special door busters, there are deals everywhere, and if you live in a northern climate you can even get free frostbite waiting in line for the store to open so you can get the latest most popular DVD for $5. Well, Kim likes Black Friday. Correction, she will admit that it like an addiction for her. Anyone that talks to her for more than five minutes will come to the proper conclusion that she is a deal hound. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, she has not only examined the field she is purchasing, she has done comparison shopping, waited for it to go on clearance, and will buy it with coupon in hand and a rebate waiting to be filled out at home. I am honestly very thankful that God has blessed me with such a frugal wife. For a few years now, she and I have gone shopping on Black Friday. We normally celebrate Thanksgiving in Illinois with her family and since the larger chain stores are conveniently located we spend Thursday night there and wake up early to shop. Now we are not those people that are sitting in the parking lot at 3:00AM waiting for the latest "I need that". No, Kim very carefully examines the ads, makes a detailed list, and we shop for items that should be in large supply.

Now I must admit that the first time we tried this I came up with a word of the day. Moron. That was it. I kept muttering it under my breath, referring of course to those around me, not my wife. I was so irritated by everyone who couldn't figure out how to park a car, move a cart, or realize that "Yes, you have finally reached the register and this process would go quicker for everyone behind you if you were actually ready to pay for the mound of stuff in your cart and no, you should not be allowed to add the cheese and sausage log sale item that is next to the cash register after you have already paid!" Moron. The word of the day worked fairly well for me until we were driving back to Wisconsin that evening and someone cut me off and from the back seat I heard a child's voice say, "Moron."

Last year something significant happened while we were out. We had finished our shopping for the morning and went to Panera's for lunch. They were packed, but we were able to find a small cafe table near the registers. As we ate our food, they had a steady stream of customers coming in, but were not rushed. Located where we were, we could hear people ordering and some of the conversation between the cashiers as they waited for more customers. Then the significant took place. A lady, by herself, approached the ordering area and place her order. She was late 30's, early 40's and looked like almost every other person in the place. The cashier that took the lady's order was probably in her early 20's and was the same cashier that had taken ours. As the lady finished placing her order, the following conversation took place.
The lady asked, "So, were you able to get any shopping done for Christmas?"
The cashier replied, "I picked up a few things for my son. It is all about him anyway."
"Did you find anything for yourself. Certainly there was something you saw that you wanted," the lady asked.
"No. It is really just about my son. I have gotten everything I need for him," said the cashier.
"May I see your hand?" asked the lady.
The cashier obviously feeling awkward stuck out her hand. The lady placed one of her hands on top of the girl's and another below as she held her hand and leaned in towards her.
"You are important," she said. "Take care of yourself. This is for you and not for anyone else."
The lady suddenly let go of the girl's hand and walked away. She picked up her food and left the building.
The young cashier had a look of "that was weird" on her face until she opened up her hand. There, in her palm, was at least one one hundred dollar bill. Her face melted into tears and she began to sob uncontrollably.
There, in Panera's, was grace. Outwardly happy, seemingly content, the young mother tasted grace. It was something to be that near to grace, to almost feel the experience. To be close enough to hear the conversation, to see the demeanor change from one of apprehension to complete emotional release. And I thought, how have I acted today? Did I mutter "moron" at those around me, treat them as obliviously as I normally did? Why? Did I not claim to have the Spirit of Christ in me? While I don't have money to give away, could I not have treated those around me with grace? Couldn't I greet with a smile, graciously help those around me, and show grace in me? I remember this story as we enter into this season of consumerism and me first attitudes. May we be reminded of the grace that we have been given and show that grace to those around us through our very words and actions.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Part of the reason that I began this blog is for my personal edification. Yes, it is about me. I have learned that I organize my thoughts better when I put them down in writing. As it is, today's post will be an attempt of an honest, introspective, contemplative look at one of my personal weaknesses. I don't pray enough. Sure, we all could probably say that, but when I carefully examine the use of my time I realize that it consumes very little of my life. God has been convicting me about this recently and so I deviated from normal devotional reading today and instead looked at a few select verses on prayer.

I started reading in James 5:13 where I find the simple command to pray. "Is any among you suffering? Let him pray." So there it is. My ineptness when it comes to prayer is simply disobedience. Who among us doesn't have suffering? Sure, it may not be physical, but we have a serious sin problem that is certainly causing some suffering. And in Romans 12:12 it says to be "constant in prayer." I'm not praying like I know I should and therefore I am being disobedient to His clear commands.

So if I am to say that I love and treasure God above all else, and that I desire to glorify Him in all that I do and yet I have this area of disobedience in my life because I don't follow a simple command to pray, then I think it is safe to say that He is not my true treasure. "Where your heart is there your treasure will be." Matthew 6:21 And again in verse 33 of chapter 6 where it commands me to seek His kingdom first. However, I want Him to be my true treasure. I want Him to be magnified and not me, so I must confront this disobedience in my life, put on the armor, and go to war against myself.

As I began this battle, I have purposed to examine prayer more closely. To do a study on true Biblical guidelines to prayer. To help with that today, I plan on meditating on these words from James 5:13 "Let him pray" and the words "be constant in prayer" from Romans 12:12. I also downloaded this sermon to listen to while I am in the shop today.

I would like to quote John Piper on prayer. "Prayer is the splicing of our limp wire to the lightning bolt of heaven." Unfortunately, I'm not sure that at this time my prayer life has a current and that is what concerns me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday Miscellany

Life has been a whirlwind of activity over the last few days. My parents were up from Arkansas for one of my nieces weddings and stayed with us while they were here. That of course meant there were lots of card games involving grandparents and grandchildren. Throw into that some homeschooling, a self-employed woodworker with deadlines, the wedding and reception, church and all of its activities, a doctor visit, and a trip to the mechanic and you have glimpse into the past 4 days at our house. I will attempt to hit the high and low points of the past several days.
My parents came in on Thursday and left early this morning. They really do not like the cold weather, but even in spite of it we had a nice visit. The kids had worked ahead in most of their school last week so that they could have off on Friday when my parents were here.
I have a large project that I am working on that has a looming deadline along with several other projects in the queue behind the current one. On top of that I added a small project on the side that involved me working in the shop Saturday morning and being gone Sunday afternoon while I installed it.
Saturday afternoon put us in Waupun for the wedding followed by the reception in Fond Du Lac. It was good to see all of my brothers who could make it, however that was not the highlight of the day. Our whole family was quite convinced that the minister was drunk for the ceremony. No joke. His message started by talking about the moral decline of society and sex. He then moved into saying that marriage was instituted by God and followed with the next sentence where he stated that the word "wed" came from the old English word meaning "gamble". The more he spoke, the more people laughed. However, they weren't laughing because he was funny, but rather that they were shocked at what he was saying. The expressions on people's faces were indescribable. He finished the evening off by saying the prayer for the food at the reception. He started the prayer by telling a joke about a newly married bride and groom that implied overt submission of the wife and ended with the husband threatening to shoot his new wife. I've never seen a wedding quite like it.
Friday afternoon was spent at the doctors office as we had another appointment for Kim. I know that some of you who read this don't know what has been going on, so I will give you the Cliff Notes version. Starting in April of this year, Kim has been experiencing bizarre symptoms that have ranged from loss of feeling in her arms and legs to her almost being unable to walk. She had a period of about six weeks in August and September where she was almost completely confined to sitting because her legs were so weak. Towards the end of that period, she began to develop some pain in her legs that would increase with use. Her symptoms have improved recently though she still has periods of sensation lose. Her largest complaint now is the severe pain in her legs. We have seen five different Neurologists and have done virtually every test possible and don't really have a diagnosis. Her latest test was an echo of her heart. They were just checking it to rule some other things out and didn't expect there to be anything, a test of exclusion. Our appointment this past Friday was with a cardiologist to discuss the results of the echo. At the visit we found out that there appears to be a slight detachment of a leaflet in her heart that they want to investigate further. Ironically, they don't believe this is related to any of her other symptoms. So the news on that front is that she is scheduled for a TEE at the end of this month. The TEE is where they sedate her and run a tube in to get a closer look at the heart. We will keep everyone posted as to what is going on via e-mail and the blog.
Well, I need to fix lunch for the kids and get to the shop.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

November Giveaway

Once again, Tim Challies is giving something away. Click the banner for your chance to win.

November Giveaway

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sir Walter Raleigh

This past Monday, October 29, marked the anniversary of the death of Sir Walter Raleigh in 1618. Purely by coincidence, the history class that I teach was studying that period of time and specifically Sir Walter. A couple of things we found extremely interesting about the chap.

First of all, I love the following quote. He was sentenced to death by beheading and he actually examined the very ax that would carry out his sentence. As he looked it over, he remarked, "This is sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries."

To appreciate the next tidbit you need to realize that the class is almost equally made up of boys and girls. As boys and girls are prone to be at the ages of 8 to 13, they have some very different interest when it comes to history and life. Obviously the girls enjoy the historical characters whose lives are surrounded with great love and passion, while the boys thrive on stories of death, conquests, and plagues. Well we are in luck, for Sir Walt (we are on nickname basis by this point) was a true Renaissance Man who wrote poetry, fought battles, loved passionately, and died bravely which of course pleased everyone in the class. As we finished the study on Sir Walt, ending with his death, we concluded with one last gruesome detail for the boys. History records for us that upon his untimely head and body separation, that his body was buried in Westminster and his head was embalmed and given to . . . his wife! She kept the head of her dearly departed in a velvet bag for some time until she could no longer tolerate the stench and she had it reunited with the rest of him. At this point in the class, my 10 year old son, Caleb, raises his hand and says, "I'm guessing she never remarried. Seeing as how not many guys want to date someone who carries their dead husband's head in a bag." How very true.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Promises Kept

October 31 For many people the month and the day mean one thing only; a celebration of a pagan holiday where hyperactive children are given insane amounts of free sugar and adults find yet another reason to practice debauchery that society views as normal on that day. But, when you place the year 1517 behind the month and the date, it should bring a whole new meaning to the combination of the month and the day.

Before one can understand the full importance of that date, a little historical background should be provided. At this time in history, Europeans had only one choice for church attendance, the local church in their village with a priest, a monk, or a bishop which practiced under the guidance and polity of the universal Church of Rome. During this time, the Church placed a massive emphasis upon the sins of the people and their impending judgement in purgatory or hell. One of the Church authorized means of relieving ones self from the punishment of sin and of guilt was for the sinner to practice the sacrament of penance as assigned to them by their priest. After a priest would hear confession of sins from a parishioner and witness contrition for the sins committed, absolution for the sins was granted by the priest. However, the process was not over yet for the sinner still would need to provide satisfaction for the confessed sins as prescribed by the priest. Usually the satisfaction of the penitent involved fasting, giving alms, or saying a specific prayer a certain number of times. If the sins were more severe, you could be asked to satisfy them by going on a long pilgrimage or on a crusade.

Over time, the Church’s system of penance adopted a new development. They began to allow people to pay penance for the satisfaction of their sins. This practice was a win-win situation for the Church and the penitent; money for the Church and satisfaction for the sinner without the inconvenience of time spent on prayers and pilgrimages. When the Church would receive money for sins committed they would issue to the sinner an official document of the Church that would acknowledge the payment of monies and give the sinner release from any further appointed practice of satisfaction. The official document or papal ticket would become known as an indulgence. The practice of buying and selling indulgences quickly took hold. One of the other practices involved with indulgences was that they could also be purchased for friends and relatives who had already died, thus relieving the amount of time they would have to spend in purgatory.

With that background set, we can now look at the importance of October 31, 1517. In the country of Germany at that time, in the vicinity of Wittenburg, there was an indulgence seller named Johann Tetzel. He was a high pressure salesman who had catchy jingle for his indulgences that went something like this, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” As Tetzel’s indulgence selling neared the very gates of Wittenburg, he unknowingly was about to receive the ire of a young monk who lived in Wittenburg. A young monk by the name of Martin Luther.

For a few years now, Luther had been practicing a slightly different religion then what the standard European church would practice. He had come under the grip of the Holy Word of God, specifically Romans 1:17 “The righteous will live by faith” and had been guided by the Spirit to see that his life’s practice of works righteousness could never compare to the sufficiency of Christ alone. In later years Luther would say this of his conversion, “My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement 'the just shall live by faith.' Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning...This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.”

This recently converted monk began to see the abuses of the universal Church. He understood they impact of souls being eternally damned to Hell through the practices of buying and selling indulgences. As Tetzel neared the gates of Wittenburg, Luther took pen in hand and wrote ninety-five statements of abuse by the Church of Rome. On the thirty-first day of October, Martin took those ninety-five theses and nailed them to the door of Wittenburg Castle for all to read. With that single action, he sparked a flame that would soon sweep all of Europe in a firestorm. For that one nail held the convictions that would soon unite the reformers of the past with those who were yet to come, and it allowed the present reformers to stand and proclaim the light of the true Gospel, Christ alone.

So, while this is all well and good and yes, we can nod our heads and say that we are thankful for the early reformers like Luther, what can we take from this event in history and hold on to and make our own? I believe there are many and while my list is not exhaustive, I will share a few.

The story of the Reformation reminds me of the importance of prayer. Almost every time I read about the early reformers, I am reminded of a term that almost made me cringe the first time I heard it, posthumous joy. Picture it this way. Let us say that in the twelfth century AD there lived an old man who had been enlightened with the true joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There was not much he could do but pray for the Gospel to continue to be illuminated to the lost and dying around him, but pray he did. He prayed for the ministry of the Holy Spirit to come and to start a revival that would sweep through the Church and bring many to Jesus. He prayed faithfully from the day of his conversion until the day of his death and never saw that revival come. Now picture that same man in Heaven as centuries later or in eternity future he sees God’s sovereign hand answering the prayers of the faithful as the Reformation begins. Picture that man walking with Luther and John Huss in Glory and saying, “I prayed you would come and God faithfully answered my prayers.” Imagine then the posthumous joy of the saints of God as they glorify the One who is Faithful and True. We are never promised an answer to our prayers in our lifetime, but we are commanded to pray. James 5:16b

The second thing I am reminded of is the power of Scripture. Luther was one of the most devoted followers of man-made religious practices, but it was God’s Word that moved within him and planted the seed that sovereignly grew into Salvation. Hebrews 4:12

I also think of the faithfulness of God and how He fulfills His promises to us. Christ promised that His church would stand and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. At times in the darkness of the middle ages and at various times in history, it appears as if thought the Church has disappeared or almost destroyed. But God kept His promise and He will continue to do so. Hebrews 10:23

Finally, I am reminded of how thankful I truly am for Jesus Christ. When I look at all of the man-made devices of “salvation,” I am in awe of the sufficiency of Christ alone. If I was left to find my own means of salvation I would never make it. There is nothing I could do that would be enough to make up for what I have done. There is nothing I can add that helps save me a little bit more. It only upon Christ that my hope rests and I am so thankful that it is the only way. Hebrews 4:14-16
If you are interested in reading about other aspects of the Reformation click here Challies.com.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Girls Day Out

Our daughter Hannah had faithfully worked for 3 years in the AWANA Sparks program to finish all three books of memorization work. One of the rewards for doing that was the end of the year "Sparks Day" at Camp AWANA. Unfortunately, we had a problem with the day she was suppose to go due to the fact that she needed surgery on her feet. Both of her pinky toes were hammertoes that required surgery to straighten. That meant limited walking for a few weeks and sandals only for the whole summer while her toes healed. Trying to be the good parents, we promised her her own "Sparky" hike when she was healed up. So this last Sunday was the day. Hannah and I took three of her friends out for pizza after church and spent the afternoon hiking and geocaching.

Here are the girls after lunch, ready for their first cache!

Trying to use the GPS.

Why geocache when there is a park here?

Our last cache. This one was the first part of a multi-cache. In the green tube the girls are holding, there are coordinates to the next hidden cache, after finding that one, the coordinates will lead you to the final cache.
All in all we had a great time. I returned with all four girls, slightly wet, a few scratched and bloody, everyone of them very tired, but I returned with all four.

PS. For those who don't know, Hannah is the one in the white shirt with the heart on it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Following the Greeks

In addendum to my prior post, I feel that I need to explain a little more about dactylic hexameter. First of all, so I'm not seen as completely stupid, I understand completely the example that I gave before of strawberry, strawberry, strawberry, strawberry, strawberry, jam pot. What I should have said however, is that I didn't get the rest of the examples that they provided. So, for the three people that are reading, I decided that it is time for you to play along at home. The following examples are in dactylic meter, not hexameter. So you are looking three syllable "feet" with the accent on the first syllable. Three of the following sentences are in dactylic meter. Feel free to place your guesses in the comment section to show off the depths of your wisdom and to humiliate me. Enjoy!

1. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan.

2. Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary.

3. This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks.

4. Look on my works, ye mighty and despair.

5. The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day.

6. The nox was lit by lux of luna and twas a nox most opportuna.

7. Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland...

8. The sea was wet as wet could be, the sands were dry as dry.

9. When voices of children are heard on the green.

10. Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Those Blasted Greeks

As most of you know, we home-school our children. Before anyone starts to jump to conclusions or anything, we are not your militant home-school family. We do it because it works for us and it's how we believe that God is leading at this time. There may come a day in the not to distant future where we look at other schooling options. We are open to that. With that stated, we also realize that there are some specific education options that we can offer our children now that they would be unable to get anywhere else.
For four years now I have taught a history class once a week to a few other home-school families. We have used the fantastic history curriculum that is published by Veritas Press. It is a curriculum that starts with the Creation, the actual beginning (what a novel idea!), and then works through Biblical and historical events chronologically. Through this curriculum the overall emphasis is God's sovereignty in the events of human history. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the class in the early years was seeing how Biblical and world history intertwined. We are now in our fourth year and just getting to U.S. history.
However, as good as the history class has been, I wanted a little more for my children to prepare them for life as they get older. So this year Alex, my oldest son, and I are tackling the Veritas Press seventh grade curriculum Omnibus. It is a Biblical and Classical curriculum that is history, theology, and literature all rolled up into one. It also includes plenty of writing and tremendous amounts of logic. There is a Primary reading list and a Secondary reading list and we are doing both of them. So far Alex is enjoying the curriculum. It is time consuming and mentally taxing, but very rewarding. So far this year, Alex has read the following books; Genesis, Exodus, Epic of Gilgamesh, Code of Hammurabi, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Chosen by God, and Till We Have Faces. He is currently reading The Magician's Nephew and has just started the Odyssey. By the end of the year, Lord willing, he will have read, analyzed, discussed, and essayed 41 different books. With the exception of the Code of Hammurabi, he has really enjoyed the curriculum. The time that he and I get to spend together discussing these books has been very enjoyable and rewarding. I personally wish I had the time to read each of these books and maybe over many years, I will.
This extremely long-winded post was necessary for me to explain my first problem with the curriculum. I know there are somethings that I understand and other things that I don't. Mostly, they fall in areas of interest, like cars. I don't understand cars. I know how to do the very basic of maintenance on them, but that is it. Guess what, I don't care that I don't understand cars because they don't interest me. Back to my problem. Alex and I began the Odyssey this week and one of the things the textbook brought out was that the Odyssey is an epic poem that is written in dactylic hexameter. That means that each line of the poem in the original Greek language was made up of six metrical "feet", or dactyls. Each dactyl foot has three syllables with the accent always on the first syllable except for the last dactyl. The English equivalent the text book gives is
"strawberry strawberry strawberry, strawberry strawberry jam pot"
The textbook then goes on to give a list of English sentences of which some are written in dactyl meter and some are not. We are suppose to determine which ones are.
Here is the rub. I don't get it. I want to understand how it works because literature interests me, but I don't get it. I understand how it is suppose to work, but I can't hear the meter. I have the answers in front of me as to which sentences are written in dactyl meter and which aren't, but I still don't understand. This of course leaves me somewhat frustrated and muttering under my breath, "Those blasted Greeks".

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

October Giveaway

October Giveaway

Here is a great opportunity to walk away with a stack of books. Once again Tim Challies is giving away stuff. All you need to do is enter your e-mail address and you are entered for the giveaway. This months giveaway is a great one. He is giving to one fortunate person 40 copies of R.C. Sproul's newest book The Truth of the Cross. Of course no one needs 40 copies of one book, the object is for the lucky winner to turn around and give them away as a potential evangelism tool. I would appreciate it if you click the banner above to enter because, well, you get a chance for some free books and quite honestly it improves my chances of winning too.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Of Sunflowers and Sparrows

For a few years now, we have planted sunflowers in a long, narrow bed along the driveway. When we first bought our house there were cedar trees planted there, but I really dislike mowing around any type of pine tree, so to the burn pile they went. I can’t really remember anything else in that place other than the cedar trees and sunflowers.
Every spring, as soon as the ground is ready, we plant our sunflowers. We are not real particular about what kinds we get, but we try for several different types. We plant them according to height so that the shortest ones are closest to the street and the tallest ones are farther away as they go up the driveway. We always try to get some of the huge sunflowers and have even gotten some to grow over twelve feet tall. Somewhere there are pictures of three little children hiding among the stalks as the heads of the flowers stretched far above.
Sunflowers of course get their name from the simple fact that they follow the sun. If you were to stand at our kitchen sink and look out the window you would see the sunflower bed. In all the years that I have been watching the sunflowers grow, I have learned a thing or two about them. One of the things I have learned is that they follow the sun even when it is cloudy or rainy. No matter where the sun is they know it. Something else I have observed is even when the plants are very small, before the flower head has formed, the top of the plant begins to follow the sun. Every spring and summer I am in awe of these wonderful plants.
Now, fall is closing quickly. Almost all of the blooms have faded and petals have dropped. The largest of the sunflowers have heads that are so large they can no longer follow the sun because the shear weight of the seeds can not be supported by the stalk. These mammoth flowers hang silently while just a few feet away their smaller cousins hold their seed heads upright as autumn breezes rustle the dying leaves.
The funny thing is . . . now the fun starts. Everyday now we can look out at various times and discover species of birds that we haven’t seen all summer coming to visit our sunflowers. Nuthatches, wrens, chickadees, cardinals, and goldfinches on their annual migratory flight stop in at our patch beside the driveway for their own little bed and breakfast. The squirrels climb the giant sunflowers and hang upside down while trying to get seeds to store for the winter. Ornery blue-jays fly in to drive the squirrels away while chipmunks stand on their hind legs and pull the plants down so they can stuff their little cheeks full in winter preparation. This morning I watched a whole flock of sparrows flit from head to head, eating here, singing over there. They would stop every once in a while and take a quick dust bath under the sunflowers stalks. And then . . . it hit me.
I am reminded every year when I watch the sunflowers as they grow and follow the sun, how they are a perfect example of how I should be. Their heads always on the sun, even when they can’t see it, show me how often I take my eyes off of the Son I should be watching. When my stormy days come, too often I try and part the clouds by myself. I lose my focus, but the sunflowers don’t. I become a me-flower instead of a Son-follower. But today something else became apparent to me. Those little sparrows haven’t been here. They weren’t here in May watching as we tilled the ground and planted the seed. They didn’t nest right next to the flower bed waiting for the day when the seed would be edible. Nowhere is there a calendar where they have today’s date circled scheduling lunch for them from our sunflower bed. And yet, there they are. All along God knew when the sunflowers would die and no longer be able to follow the sun, and all along He knew the very day and time to bring the birds to eat from the sunflowers so they wouldn’t starve.
It had come full circle for me. I need to be like the sunflowers and stay focused on my Creator. He will take care of the rest just like He took care of the sparrows this morning. It is so much easier said then done, but all creation sings His praise and I believe if we stop and listen long enough to the song it sings we will be directed to the Maker. Even in these trying days I need to let go, keep my eyes on Him, and rest in the comfort of knowing that He who keeps the sparrows will keep me and my family. Matthew 6:25-34

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

And so it has begun

I don’t mean the blog, though I certainly could be referring to it and may at some later time. No, I am referencing the fact that I am the father of a teenager. I have been for three days now and I must say, so far it has gone well. No blue hair (not that his father would have ever done that), no girls calling on the phone (again, I plead the Fifth), and there has not been any sign of overt rebellion towards his mother, father, or religion (we will not pursue this any farther). Granted, we are only 3 days in, but we haven’t noticed much of a change from him being twelve. In all seriousness, my children are one of the most precious treasures that I have and I relish watching all of them grow in the unique graces God has bestowed upon them.

My eldest reminds me of myself in so many ways it is frightening. We have pictures of he and I side by side when I was his age and most people cannot tell who is who. Even though there are physical similarities between us, I see so much more in him. He has developed a passion for music and the gift that God has given him is this area is unlimited. Quite often, when no one is looking, I tear up listening to him play the piano. His fingers play more than notes, they play songs that course with feeling and emotion. Because of his ability and love for music, he was given an acoustic guitar for his birthday. Three days later and he has already learned 4 or 5 chords.

As proud as I am about his musical abilities, his heart is what I treasure most. He is developing into a deep thinker (I will address more about this some other time) with a passion for God that I pray will only continue to grow. I am so thankful for God’s grace in his life and for the tenderness of his heart. My prayer is that he would continue to have a passion for God revealed to him and that he would know God as He is, not a God/god of his imagination.

I have always wanted to sing Rich Mullins baby dedication song “Let Mercy Lead” for a baby dedication, but that has never happened. However, I believe that it is maybe more appropriate now as my son enters into these next exciting and terrifying years. So here are the lyrics dedicated to him.

Aidan you're young
But Aidan you're growing fast
Me and your mom
And all the love we have
We can only take you so far
As far as we can
But you'll need something more to guide your heart
As you grow into a man

Let mercy lead
Let love be the strength in your legs
And in every footprint that you leave
There'll be a drop of grace
If we can reach
Beyond the wisdom of this age
Into the foolishness of God
That foolishness will save
Those who believe
Although their foolish hearts may break
They will find peace
And I'll meet you in that place
Where mercy leads

Aidan the day
Aidan the day will come
You'll run the race
That takes us way beyond
All our trials and all our failures
And all the good we dream of
But you can't see yet where it is you're heading
But one day you'll see the face of love