Friday, December 30, 2011

#25 - The Afghan Campaign

I am enjoying our Christmas break and decided to do some light reading. Now that I am studying so much more intensely preparing for sermons, my reading diet needs to change.I managed to squeeze in one more book for the year (25 wa-hoo!) with Steven Pressfield's The Afghan Campaign. It's a historical fiction set in Alexander the Great's conquest of Afghanistan. It's not exactly kid friendly as it does describe war in some detail. But it was a fascinating read. It was hard to tell when the history ended and the fiction began.

After reading so many books about war, I am starting to grasp the brutality and horror of war, at least conceptually. War seems to be one of the worst representations of the sinfulness of mankind made manifest. I am so thankful our soldiers who sacrifice so much to protect our nation and our freedom.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Proverbs 26:11

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible!
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Now that we're on Christmas break, and the kids aren't memorizing verses for school, I'm on a tear to get Emz and Matt memorizing more verses.
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Luminarias

Merry Christmas Eve! Tonight, we took Uncle Sam and Charlotte to the historic section of ABQ for one of the annual traditions - lighting of the luminarias. The historic section of ABQ is the original square of the city and their are thousands of luminarias everywhere. It's pretty cool.We got there early to get a parking spot. At this point, it was just thousands of brown paper bags.But before you knew it, the sun was going down, and these beautiful glowing lamps were everywhere.It was pretty hard to capture the look and feel of it all. So for all of our non-ABQ readers, I guess you'll have to come visit us someday, and we'll show you!

Friday, December 23, 2011

River of lights

We decided to hit the ABQ Botanical Garden's River of Lights. They light up the botanical gardens with lots of lights in all sorts of cool and fun shapes, mostly of animals. The boys and girl loved it.They got trapped in a spider web.Mom and Emz saw a pegasus.And played with penguins. There were lions, elephants, cheetahs and rhinos to name a few. It was like an electrical zoo. And in case you were wondering, that's not me and Sandy - your eyes are still good. Uncle Sam and his girlfriend Charlotte are visiting. It was a balmy 28 degrees outside. Who said ABQ is hot?!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

$1 movie theater

When I was in college, back in the 90's, we had a $1 movie theater. It played older movies, but it was still a great deal. I haven't seen one since then. Guess what we have in ABQ?Technically, it's not a $1 theater as normally it's something like $4. But on Wednesdays, it's a $1. So Sandy took the boys and girl out to see Puss in Boots with some friends from church. This was Matt and Emery's first time seeing a movie in a theater. I asked them all what they thought of the movie. Andrew said, "It was great! Except for all that love stuff." I guess Puss is a lover not a fighter.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Matt

It's raining teeth. Just 2 weeks ago, we had blood and tears and one less tooth. Just one month ago, we had less blood and less tears and one less tooth. Yesterday, we got another one but without any tears or blood!At breakfast, Matt just pulled out #3. No drama. No fan fare. Just did it. And this is pretty fun too because he hath that lithp because of the gap up top. Up til now, every tooth that Andrew or Matt pulled had a new one already growing up behind it so I never got to enjoy that gap toothed lisp.

And Matt is continuing his banner year. Not only has he lost those 3 teeth, with 3 more loose teeth fairly soon to come, he's also a reading mad man now. It's so cute because he's constantly looking at things I take for granted, staring at them and then saying, "Great Value" or "ketchup."

Even though he still looks so tiny to me, he's really growing up into a big boy. He turns 7 next month, and before you know it, he'll be off to college, or at least growing a mustache.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fall days...

Wait, it's not fall any more? Technically, it is for another couple of days. So we spent a nice afternoon this weekend, finally getting around to raking up the leaves.I'm trying to instill that discipline of hard work in the boys and girl. Trying...It seems to be working in one of the 3. Can you guess which one?I think the boys will have fond memories of playing around together with occasional interruptions from their dad making them work.

Friday, December 16, 2011

#24 - Putting Your Past In Its Place

I just finished book #24 for the year with 15 days to spare - phew! I met my goal for the year when I finished Putting Your Past In Its Place by Stephen Viars.I think I got it from one of the conferences I went to in the past year, and I'm glad I did. I must say, I have issues. I have issues from my childhood, issues from my past relationships and issues from my past in general. But I've been noticing lately that I'm not alone. I used to think that only really messed up people have issues from their past.

But I've come to realize that many people have allowed their past to influence them probably more than is wise. Some over react to their past by trying to recreate their past in the present or by attempting to run from/fight with their past or people who remind them of their past. Others try to bury their past and pretend it never existed.

Viars quotes Wayne Mack who wrote, "'Time heals all wounds' is one of the most inane statements ever made. Spiritual wounds may harden into scabs and scars over time, but their harmful consequences inevitably continue unless true healing occurs. Time by itself can never truly heal any wound of a spiritual nature."

He goes to make the point that we must deal with our past and learn from it. He quotes Proverbs 26:11 (which just happens to be Matt and Emery's memory verse right now!), "Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. The principle is this: Bad choices that are not recognized and corrected become part of who we are. Note the key words repeats. Each time we sin in our thoughts, words, desires, or behavior makes it easier and more likely that the same wrong choice will be repeated. When we fail to learn lessons, dangerous ruts are created in the road of our hearts."

After establishing this need to deal with our past biblically, he gives a very helpful paradigm to evaluate your past. He gives 4 options or "buckets" that we must keep empty in order to not live in the past but learn properly from it. The buckets are:
  1. The innocent past (you were wronged out of no fault of your own) when you responded well
  2. The innocent past when you responded poorly
  3. The guilty past (you sinned against someone first) when you responded well
  4. The guilty past when you responded poorly

This is a very helpful grid to evaluate your past experiences so that you can let go of any inappropriate self-guilt and take responsibility for any sin that you contributed. Then Viars goes on in the rest of the book to explain each of the buckets in some detail with plenty of personal examples and application.

I liked how Viars connected how understanding our past helps us deal with present life issues. And dealing with present life issues has implications for our future - either we will respond better in the future or we will further ingrain these negative habitual patterns. He also did well to bring a theologically faithful and God centered perspective to the daily issues of life.

If you have issues in your past or are involved in any counseling or discipleship, this is a very helpful book. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ephesians 4:1-2

Well, after 2 months or so, we've FINALLY gotten back into our routine and started memorizing verses again. Because Andrew can read (man, it gets so much easier when they can read), it was easy for him to review his old verses and get back in "shape."
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Thankfully, he is good at memorizing. When he applies himself, he can really memorize quickly and retain long term too.
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Emery used to be excellent at memorizing. But for some reason right now, she can't seem to retain a thing. On top of that, she memorizes verses for school in the KJV which is extra confusing for her. So I'm in the midst of a dilemma, can you ever have too many Bible verses for your kids? If so, I do. She's got a new one every week for school, plus I'm trying to get her to re-memorize the 36 passages we've already done, and start her with some new ones because re-memorizing gets old fast. I also don't want her just memorizing verses and then forgetting them the next week either. I really do want her to understand them and hide them in her heart. We refer to our verses at home all the time as they are pertinent to helping her have a God centered life. On top of all that, I'd love for the boys and girl to get back to Awana, but that's a million more verses to memorize! Too many options...

Matt struggled for a long time, but I think he's really pulling out of it now and is starting to retain a lot better. Although he still struggles to memorize, once it gets in there, it's starting to stick. Praise God!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Church Christmas Program

Our church put on a Christmas program with the kids and teens and even some young adults. The boys and girl had a full weekend of Christmas programs.Emery, of course!, was an angel.Andrew was the innkeeper.Matt was the shepherd with the giant headdress. But what can you do when you have a tiny head?
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This was the opening song. I think they were singing.
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All the kids did a great job. And thanks to Collette for putting the whole thing together!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Emery

Here is part of Emery's program that I referred to in yesterday's post:
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She didn't smile once. Such a serious singer! I tried to upload some footage of Matt but alas, the site is not cooperating.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas program

Matt and Emery had their school Christmas program last night.Emery was very, very uncharacteristically stiff. I think she was so nervous that she was clearly not her normal self.Matt told me he was very nervous too. But as usual, he just shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
Emery sang 2 songs with her kindergarten class. She did a great job. I have been trying to upload some video of it, but the blog is not cooperating. I'll try it again later. But for now, here's a picture - can you feel the passion? Actually, if I get the video up, you'll see some serious concentration going on.Matt was part of a play. He didn't have a speaking role, and that's exactly what he wanted. He sang in several songs with the 1st through 3rd graders. He did great too.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A "new" couch

Every week, we seem to get more and more settled (except for my computer issues. That seems like a never ending saga, but I digress) here at home. This week, we got our "new" couch.Here's the before picture. Doesn't the couch just scream - 12 years-old and 3 little kids! We tried to clean it with our own little steam vac, but it was a temporary improvement. We looked into cleaning it professionally, but they wouldn't touch the thing! We don't want to buy another couch so we looked into the magic of slip covers...Ta-dah! For very little $$ at all, it's like we got a new couch! My wife is very good at stretching our dollars.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Singing

The boys and girl love to sing. Emery especially.
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Emery and Matt learned this song in chapel at school. They love it, and she sings it quite often around the house. Thanks Mrs. Bacon!
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This is also one of the boys and girl's favorites - awesome God. Give it up for Rich Mullins. Although he's not responsible for those motions.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Snow day

Yesterday, we had a snow day which means no school. Those were 2 of my favorite words growing up as a teenager in Massachusetts. The boys and girl were pretty excited about it too.The forecast was for something like 5-8 inches. The high temps were in the 20's with lows in the single digits.But either the storm missed us or possibly we don't get much snow because we're in a valley. We ended up with about an inch while other places really close by got 7-10 inches! And what little snow we had ended up melting the same day it fell. How could that happen when it's 20 degrees with no sun? Go figure. The boys and girl went out to play in it, and there was nothing left!But today, the mountains were covered in snow. The picture does not do justice to the grandeur and splendor of God's creation.I am not used to the mountains still. I can be driving along without a thought of them when suddenly I make a turn towards them, and it feels like I could drive straight into them. They are stunning and fill the horizon at times. Praise God!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Weeping and gnashing of tooth

Matt has had another loose tooth for a few weeks now. I decided that tonight would be the night for its liberation.Matt was not in agreement. I cut some thread and got ready. Then he changed his tune and appeared fine with it all...for the most part.
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He requested that I not take any video of the actual event so I turned off the camera. He decided that he wanted to be the one to pull it out. He started out great. The tooth was clearly ready to come out. But then it just plain hurt too much so he stopped with much blood and weeping and gnashing of tooth.Unfortunately for him, I couldn't stop after getting so close. Later tonight, I bribed him with a $1 instead of the usual quarter, and he let me (barely) pull it out for him. Phew! 2 done, how many to go?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

It's beginning...

to look a lot like Christmas.We woke up this morning to a dusting of snow. The forecast was for 1-4 inches, but I'll take it. The funny thing here in ABQ is that they don't own any snow plows, salt trucks or anything that gets rid of snow or helps deal with it. So if it snows more than an inch or 2, everything just shuts down until it melts.Mom and Emz baked some cookies. I also put up the Christmas lights. We went out and got ourselves a little Christmas tree. It was funny because while we were out, it started snowing but the sun was still out! I've never seen that before.We found an old wig in our Christmas boxes. Thank God Matt is not a natural blond.
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I thought it was going to be a relaxing Saturday, but it turned out to be a crazy fun day...at least for the boys and girl.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The glory that comes from man

I just read John 12:43 today - "for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God." In chapters 1-11, Jesus had shown sign after sign after sign that He is the Son of God. But despite the miracles, the healings, the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, some still would not believe that He was God.

But in 12:42, John states that some of the Jewish authorities did believe in Jesus, but they feared the Pharisees and would not confess it because they feared the consequences of being put out of the synagogue. These people are the ones that loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

Last Sunday, I preached a message on not fearing man. I generally am not afraid of most people. I am not easily intimidated. But as a pastor, the fear of man is a very real temptation. I don't fear losing my job or the church shrinking and not being able to afford me. Instead, I have come to realize that I "fear" in the sense that I desire people's approval. I desire people to approve of my preaching, my ministry and my character. Not so much to like me personally so that I'm popular, but to validate my worth.

I have been here a month, and I am still trying to get my office area settled. I don't currently have an office (hopefully construction will begin soon) but am in an open conference room. It took me a week to get a wireless internet connection, another week to figure out where I should set up camp, another week to get Microsoft Word, and this week I got my desktop and a printer. Needless to say, I have not been the model of efficient sermon preparation. This unsettled state, as many of you can imagine, does not fit my organized, adminstrative work style. But much worse than style, I have been struggling with a self-imposed pressure to preach and do ministry well.

Why? I realized today that my self-induced stress was not because I was so concerned about my ability to exalt the greatness and glory of God in my preaching. Instead, my anxieties have come from a desire to seek the approval of man or the glory that comes from man. It's been a convicting week. But God has been good to show me this in order that I may be free to love and rejoice in the glory of God.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Moving up in the world

We make the boys and girl help out with regular chores. I want them to contribute as part of our family with a few daily and weekly jobs. I am trying to instill in them an "old school" work ethic, not typical of their generation.

Andrew's job for the past couple of years has been clearing the table. But I decided it's time to start teaching him the art of loading the dishwasher. As with all child training, one of the side benefits is to develop greater patience in me. Teaching Andrew to load the dishwasher take 3x longer than me doing it, but I know that the benefits for him and me long term are worth the time investment.
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Right now, he's excited about the new job. I guess that will last about 2 more days. Andrew loves to start new things but follow through and completing things are less exciting to him. Matt is a very impressionable little brother. He is super excited to be doing Andrew's old job, and he can't wait to load the dishwasher and mow the lawn.

2 years - I'm 2 years away. With 2 more years of training, it'll be time to kick back, relax and watch the boys and girl DO EVERYTHING! Ha!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Residents

It's even more official. Sandy and I just became NM residents today. We registered to vote, got our driver's licenses and got our plates. We spent a couple of hours at the DMV, but I thought it'd be worse in a city this big.I wanted to get this license plate. But alas, the Land of Enchantment is all out of their famous hot air balloons.So instead I got the turquoise centennial plate. I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of turquoise. But there's a lot of it out here. Hopefully, it'll grow on me. I think this is the last major thing for us now. I can only hope. We're just about all settled in with the major stuff. Phew! It only took us a month.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What about Bob?

To our surprise, our little Matt gave himself a nickname. He goes by the name "Bob" at school. I guess everyone at school - students and teachers - call him Bob now. He's become quite the joker, constantly trying to be funny. Fortunately (or unfortunately I'm not sure which yet), most of his attempts are met with smiles at the very least. How can you not smile when he looks at you like this? He drank some chocolate milk the other day, and what appeared? The perfect joker smile.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

ABQ Aquarium

The initial excitement of moving to ABQ has worn off for the boys and girl. They are starting to miss their friends and our old lifestyle. So we've been making a special effort to do extra fun stuff in ABQ.So we hit the aquarium yesterday. I must say, the ABQ aquarium is VERY cool. It's pretty small, but it had super cool stuff. I really like aquatic life.The boys got to see some native trout up close. I think they were anticipating fishing for them soon.There were some moray eels and big old fish.They had one of those walk through tanks which are always cool.And some jellyfish too. Plus there were lots of sharks, rays, lobsters and turtles. We zipped through the aquarium in about a half hour. So we headed back to the zoo to see the other animals that we missed the first time. Did I mention that I am really impressed with that zoo?! We saw some crazy wild gorillas. I wish we had gotten some video of them running around and screaming. It was amazing!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Aseity of God

I've had a little cold the past week. Nothing too bad, but my throat was sore and I had a pretty good cough. Now that I am better, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I was thankful for something I take for granted most days - my voice.

During the time, I was sick, I couldn't speak much. So I couldn't read the Bible to the boys and girl during our evening Bible time. I am thankful that God has given me the privilege to read His Word to them. It is something I should not take for granted nor so easily forego on evenings we are busy.

Also, while I was sick, I couldn't sing. That made me real sad. What a privilege and honor and joy it is to sing to our great and glorious God. I am so looking forward to heaven where I will be able to sing, hopefully in perfect pitch, with all the saints of all time and praise God in heaven! And I will never miss a day from sickness or being tired or anything for that matter. O Glorious Day!

But in the end, I am most thankful that God never gets sick. He never gets tired. He never misses a day being God to me and to all His creation. He doesn't need vitamins, Nyquil, a humidifier, cough drops or extra rest. He is self-sufficient and needs absolutely nothing to be the all perfect, all powerful, always righteous and infinitely good and loving God of the universe. Isn't that comforting? The old theological term for this is the aseity of God. This thanksgiving, I am especially thankful that I can depend and trust in the aseity of God.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Exercise

Since it's such a beautiful day (sunny and about 60 degrees) and I'm finally feeling healthy again, plus the kids had a half day of school today, we decided to do a little exercising this afternoon and explore one of the walking trails along the Rio Grande River.The boys and girl rode their bikes while Sandy and I walked / jogged with them.At first the trail was nice and paved. But we ended up on a very wooded, dirt path that was not conducive to training wheels! There seem to be a zillion walking / biking / horse trails here. We ended up just picking one, but it wasn't the right one for us.Along the way, we did get to enjoy some beautiful homes with the Sandia Mountains in the background.We eventually found the Rio Grande and stopped to enjoy the Rio.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday commute

God has blessed me with fairly short commutes from home to work. My longest was about 1 hour when I lived in MD. When I lived in Southern CA, my commute was about 25 minutes. Though I did have to commute from 1 to 3 hours several times a month to my territory in either Riverside or San Diego county. When I lived in KS, my commute was pared down to about 7 minutes. And now?About 30 seconds. This is literally my commute.This is the view from across the street. The right building is the parsonage where we live. The left building is the church. I counted it out as 42 steps. I walk home for lunch. I walk home when I forget a book or a paper or anything. It doesn't get any better than this. I don't know how much money we're saving in gas too. I'd better stop now or else I'll get too many jealous emails from you all!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Birthday thoughts

Today is my birthday. I like celebrating my birthday because I am 1 year closer to Jesus! I also like getting older because most people think I am younger than I am. As a man who is close to 40, it is challenging to be dismissed simply because "you are young." My pride really bucks against that, and instead I need to humbly trust in the greatness of God to accomplish His good purposes through it. I have sought to take 1 Tim 4:12 to heart - Let no one look down on your youthfulness but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example to all.

I really should enjoy the fact that some people think I am in my 20's although doing the math, that would mean I would have been a teen father. And with my less than vibrant head of hair, I don't understand how people could think I am so young. But really, it's one more opportunity for me to decrease and Christ to increase in my life.
We started celebrating a little early with a yummy birthday dinner last night. My wonderful wife grilled me some fabulous rib eye steak and some of my favorite foods.The boys and girl made me some cards and gave me some presents - one gave me 6 cents, another 12 cents. Child labor doesn't pay what it used to...We couldn't quite manage a decent picture where everyone's eyes are open and looking at the camera. But somehow, the crazy picture always turns out fine - why is that?

I'm feeling a bit under the weather today, some kind of head cold and congestion. So I'm not having the wild and crazy birthday I usually have. :) But I got to preach God's Word on my birthday this morning, celebrate with my beautiful wife and the always entertaining boys and girl, and worship with my new church family. That makes it a pretty great day.