Category Archives: Family News

Thanksgiving, Thanksgetting, or Both? (With Illustrations from India and Nepal to Give Perspective)

I have four of the world’s best daughter-in-laws, and my one and only son-in-law is right up there with the best of them too! He is warm, quiet, affectionate, generous, always helpful, devout, ingenious, artistic, and usually has a bit of a smirk on his face, which I presume is his creative imagination kicking in to add a bit of humorous (albeit silent) commentary to life.    I wouldn’t trade him for a barrel of monkeys or anything else you might offer!  All this intro is so you don’t misinterpret his wry pseudonym for Thanksgiving, which is (as you’ve probably guessed) “Thanksgetting.”   So, what are you doing for Thanksgetting tomorrow? Lord willing, we’ll do what we most often do: Gather with those of our family who are able to come and share a Thanksgiving “feast,” and then we’ll sit in a circle around a candle-lit coffee table in our living room and play “The Thankful Game.” Do you ever play that game? It’s a time of reflecting on all the blessings we’ve received over the past year from God, and we go around the circle sharing one by one, round and round until we all seem content that we’ve remembered to give thanks to God for all the most important things we’ve gotten from him. It’s really an opportunity to recognize God’s goodness in our lives and a great way to worship Him, whether you’re alone for Thanksgiving or in a big group.
However you celebrate, I hope you focus on what you’ve gotten rather than what you’ve given this year, and if it’s been a terrible year where you’ve suffered great loss, perhaps you can think about what you still have.  I have a number of friends who’ve had serious physical problems this year, and some who have lost someone precious to them, and my heart grieves for them.  Still, after visiting India and Nepal recently, I am reminded of how “good” most of us have it in America.  King David suffered terrible losses in his life, and yet he wrote beautiful psalms of praise to God for His goodness and graces.  I pray that whatever your circumstances, you’ll be able to say with David: “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116 :17, emphasis mine; notice that sometimes it is actually an act of sacrifice to believe in God, surrender to him, and find reasons to give him thanks in the midst of anguish). Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2). Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4).   And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:22).   “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:8).

Dedicating Babies

Yesterday we had the privilege of participating in the dedication of our youngest grand daughter. I know many Christian traditions baptize infants, but we practice “believer’s” baptism instead, which means a person is baptized only after they make a personal commitment to Christ as their Lord and Savior. (The closest thing I can think of—although it’s actually different—is “confirmation” in churches that do practice infant baptism.) In many countries (not only through the centuries but still today), people are not considered true believers (or persecuted as such in hostile countries) until they are baptized, but that is not why we defer baptism. We believe that baptism (and communion) do not have saving value in themselves (“sacraments” which confer saving grace on a person). We believe people are saved by faith alone—their own faith, not their parents—and that baptism is an outward witness to an inner conversion experience that happened instantaneously when the person believed in Christ and accepted Him as their Lord and Savior.However, we do strongly believe in committing ourselves to bringing up our children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (teaching them about God and his ways), and to this much-prayed-and-hoped-for end—that our children will believe in God and choose Christ for themselves—we dedicate our children to the Lord, committing ourselves as a spiritual community to praying for and participating in the love and training of our children. So, yesterday several babies were dedicated, and among them, not only our grand daughter, but our daughter-in-law’s sister’s baby too! What a very special day of solemnities and joy! Brianna comes from such a big family that we ended up celebrating in two homes afterward, so Elanor got her own cake. Being just six months old, she’d never had cake before but was bound and determined she wanted to try it…and…why not? It met with complete approval, and I hope and pray that as she learns more about the ineffable mysteries and goodness of God, she will be even more delighted and pleased!

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him
(Psalm 34:8).

Which School and The School for Scandal

So, this week I have kids and grand kids working hard at schools in Greece, Italy, Germany, California, and Michigan…home schools, public schools and private! And, guess what? Even Alan, Joel and I went to school! That’s right; we attended The School for Scandal in Canada. Sounds rather scandalous, doesn’t it?  Well, maybe I should backtrack a little. Jonathan is teaching in Athens, Mike and Grace are homeschooling in Italy, Jon and Gerlinde’s girls are in public school in Germany, Aaron and Carleen’s boys are involved in a private-homeschooling combination called Classical Conversations in California, and my daughter’s daughter has started school here in Michigan. So far, so good, as far as I know, and I hear they’re all settling in nicely at their very different venues. However, I wasn’t nearly as settled about attending The School for Scandal when Alan, Joel, and I went to Stratford for a weekend of plays. In fact, the name turned me off so much that if we hadn’t made a deal that each of us could choose one play, I would have balked big time.  Alan and I both wanted to attend Twelfth Night for sure, which we’ve seen and enjoyed for many years. It has a clever plot, lots of humorous lines, and a happy ending, where all’s well that ends well.  This year’s Stratford Festival (in Ontario, not England…if you look online for tickets, make sure you buy them for the right country! I almost didn’t!) marked Canada’s 150th anniversary, and according to artistic director, Antoni Cimolino, all the theatrical productions were chosen to explore identity issues…how “we prepare our face to the world, deal with our hidden desires or balance our self interests with the environment around us.”  Without a doubt, the humorous confusions of Shakespeare’s comedic Twelfth Night fit the bill perfectly.  Our second choice was Tartuffe, considered by some to be the French playwright, Molière’s, most brilliant creation. The play was a comedic exposé on hypocrisy, specifically showcasing the evil intentions of a self-effacing Catholic cleric. I’m not french, and I’m no expert in what the original language was, but I was woefully disappointed by the script, which had been translated from seventeenth-century French into contemporary English rhymes. I was sitting next to a young playwright from Toronto, who beamed over the cleverly adept translations, but some of them made me cringe. What I thought was going to be light-hearted humor turned out to be pretty distressing and distasteful. On the other hand, our third play, written by Irish playwright, Sheridan (The School for Scandal), which I was most wary of seeing, turned out to be mostly light-hearted fun but with a powerful lesson for all of us pupils: Stop gossiping and start learning true discernment of character! Great lesson! Long thought process short: It’s nigh unto impossible to know what’s really going on inside the brain and heart of someone else. Similarly, it’s nigh unto impossible to know what decisions someone else should make concerning how to school their children.  It’s more than enough challenge attempting to live transparent and wise lives personally. Let’s pray for others and support them, trusting they will make wise choices for themselves and their families. It’s something I learned (yet again) in a very unlikely place: The School for Scandal!

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
(John 7:24).

What’s the Aqueduct Project?

Thank you to my many Facebook friends who hit the “Like” button in support of Aqueduct Project’s new Facebook page. I also got a number of messages and questions asking about both the Aqueduct Project and my son, Jonathan, so this morning I want to share just a little bit about what’s going on.  Jonathan (Dr. Armstrong) accepted a new position with Moody Bible Institute, who are very graciously allowing him to develop a “Center for Global Christian Theological Education” (which he refers to as C-GATE).   This center will be based in Chicago, so they sold their home in Washington State and have moved back to the Midwest. Jonathan has also been given a sabbatical for research and writing, so after a wonderful visit with us this summer, Jon and his family have gone to Germany for the fall semester (which is his wife, Gerlinde’s, homeland). They will rejoin us for Christmas and then go on to Chicago to look for a place to live. The new center will open at the beginning of January, 2018.

Last night, I got a wonderfully encouraging call from one of my Facebook friends, who directs a Bible school in New Delhi and is interested in materials from this new program (which will be a coordinated effort on Jon’s part, orchestrated both through Moody and the Aqueduct Project). Right now, the program is in the developmental stages, but the goal is to be able to provide high-quality evangelical Christian training wherever around the world there is a desire to learn about the Bible. Jon has been producing lectures and developing a network of resources for several years now, so a limited amount of training is already available, but this should exponentially increase in the next few years.

From this mother’s viewpoint, I think Jon’s passion started as a young teenager, when we visited China together and he saw the great need for teaching in the churches there. Back in the 1990’s, I believe the Chinese Christian church had become the largest in the world, with thousands of people coming to Christ each day but precious little scripture to read. Beyond that, there is the challenge of reaching the global Church, many of whom live in countries where financial constraints make college-level courses an impossible dream even if they are available in some of the largest cities.

Moody Bible Institute is enabling Jonathan to partner with them in trying to meet this overwhelming need!  Here’s a note from his last adventure two weeks ago: “I attended on Saturday the graduation ceremony of 281 Ghanaian pastors who completed Moody Bible Institute’s experimental certificate program. This is an experimental program for which audio recordings of Moody theology classes have been translated into the local language by a Ghanaian ministry partner. These translated courses are then uploaded onto solar-powered audio-players and distributed for free to students. This system allows us to conduct a form of theological education in extremely remote locations (where there is no electricity or internet, and perhaps most amazingly, even where there is no literacy!).”  As a believer with a heart to “go into all the world” with the joyful gospel of redemption, peace and good will that God desires for all men, this thrills my soul no end! If you’re a Christian, would you please pray with us for wisdom and grace as Jon moves forward with the development of resources for the global church community? If you have a lifetime of study and experience in the ministry and would consider contributing study materials that you’ve generated over the years, would you please let me know? If you’re interested in participating in learning yourself, or in helping develop a study group in your area for fellowship and learning (since education is much more enjoyable when there are real, live people with whom to discuss issues and think about things), please let me know that too! Or, go directly to The Aqueduct Project Facebook page, or connect directly with the Aqueduct Project through their website: https://aqueductproject.org/

Sometime after January 1, there will also be more ways to connect via C-GATE (Center for Global Theological Education) at Moody in Chicago, IL (America).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

 

The Grand Canyon, Young Earth Creationism, and Answers in Genesis

Guess what percentage of American adults believe the world was created by God in approximately the last ten thousand years? According to a 2012 Gallup survey, 46% (as reported by Wiki, who said that figure had been quite stable since 1982), but in the 2017 poll, it was down to 38%.                                   Does that surprise you? I was very surprised!  Last month, our son Jonathan, along with about 23 other theologians, engaged in a week-long white-water rafting adventure down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. He was given a scholarship to participate in this never-to-be-forgotten experience,                complete with no cell service, sleeping under the stars on cots,          and being constantly in awe of the grandeur of God’s creative genius                   (unless his mind was more drawn to bodily safety issues!  🙂 ).  The adventure was led by Dr. Andrew Snelling, a geologist who has come to believe in Young Earth Creationism (that God created the earth thousands rather than billions of years ago).       Dr. Snelling has been studying the rock formations in the Grand Canyon  and has found evidence in the rock layers (at weird angles, which could hardly happen unless the layers were still soft, such as during or following flooding) and fossils (like these sea creatures) that seems better explained by flooding than by other theories. Jon brought home many resources, but so far, I’ve only had time to watch the lecture on the Grand Canyon.                I’ve found their information very compelling, as did Jonathan. Just this past June (2017), Dr. Snelling received permission to do some geological testing in the Grand Canyon.  I wish I were more astute on this subject and could explain things in detail, but if you’re interested, Dr. Snelling is now the director of research for the AIG (Answers in Genesis) organization, which can be accessed here:

https://answersingenesis.org/

For me, the bottom line is always what the Bible proclaims rather than any current information that comes from man’s exploration, and I measure everything by the Word of God rather than the word of man.  However, I believe that ultimately what is revealed in nature is (or will be with more research) consistent with what the Bible teaches. Either way, what we believe about the origin of the world is an act of faith, because even the best “proof” is only rudimentary and incomplete.  Scientific studies are always evolving and improving. As Alan says about the practice of medicine, “It’s both art and science.” Never perfect, and always changing.

I’m banking on the wisdom of God rather than the knowledge of man.  How about you?

With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding. With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.  Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.  Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up: also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth. With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his. He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools.” (Job 12:12-17)

 

 

The Daughter of a Puritan: What’s in a Name?

My son Joel mentioned not long ago that I’m the most conservative person he’s ever met. He said it kindly, but I don’t think he expressly meant it as a compliment.

Do you know what your name means? If so, has that knowledge impacted your life? My first name is “Kathryn,” which comes from the root word for “pure,” and I’ve always attempted (with plenty of failures!) to live up to my name. However, for the first twelve years of life, I didn’t associate my name in any way with God, because since my father professed atheism and my mom agnosticism, we were never exposed to religious teaching. Still, both my parents ascribed to a very high morality, and I wanted to live up to their “gold standard.” I wanted to be pure!

This was on my mind when my daughter-in-law was visiting and showed me how to access genealogical research online. Various friends and relatives have been very involved in researching their roots, but until lately, I never seemed to find time. This week I want to share with you what I’ve been learning, and the first exciting revelation is that I’m the great great (make that 7 more greats) daughter of two Puritan ministers! So, maybe that’s part of the reason I’m motivated to be pure! Reverend Nathaniel Ward (the earliest record I can find, back in 1572) was a Cambridge-trained Puritan minister who helped his son, Reverend John Ward (also a Puritan) buy  16 acres for 3 pounds along the Merrimack River, where he became the first minister of the the colonial settlement named Haverhill in Massachusetts back in 1640.

Have you looked into your history? I’m finding so many interesting things! Despite my father’s lack of faith (until he came to believe in his 80’s), the description of  Nathaniel Ward fits my dad to a T: “He was an exact Grammarian, an expert Physician and which was the Top of all, a thorough Divine, accompanied with a most Healthy, Hardy and Agile Body which enabled him to make nothing of walking on foot, a Journey as long as Thirty Miles together.”

Names are precious, and roots help ground us, but over the years, I’ve learned to cherish the name “Christian” (little Christ, or son of Christ) above any other name, and I find it even more compelling than the name Kathryn, because Christ was pure and holy to be sure, but He is so much more as well! No matter what our earthly names or roots may be, for all who believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we can be called by his name—the name above all names!

God also hath highly exalted him,
and given him a name which is above every name
” (Philippians 2:9).

“Jesus, Name Above All Names”

“Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer, Living word.” (—Naida Hearn)

(PS—The likeness is of Increase Mather, a Puritan minister from the same era. I couldn’t find any likeness of Rev. John Ward.)

What Can You Do When Your Grandkids Visit?

Before Amélie and Sophie came to visit for the month of July, a lady from their church asked what they liked best about visiting their grandmother. Amélie said her favorite thing to do was go for a boat ride with Nana, and Sophie said her favorite thing was eating Nana’s fudge!

Of course, I made sure we did both once I knew, but it also got me to thinking about all the things that seem to make vacations special for little ones, and a lot of the activities are very simple! In no particular order, here is my list:

Picnics in the backyardToasting marshmallows and eating smoresColoring, drawing, and writing love letters Hanging out and talking together Playing in the grass  Picking wildflowers and hunting for frogs Finding tiny grasshoppers by day and chasing tiny fire flies by nightPlaying at the local parks Renewing friendships with the cousins… and meeting new members of the family! Having tea parties Listening to story books  Picking wild berriesHelping Nana cook and set the table Eating lots of yummy food, and helping shop for more when the supplies run low. Having friends over to playPlaying games together and feeling the love! All of those things are part of the richest fabric of life and pretty much free, although there are also some special things available in our area,
such as digging in the sand and swimming in Lake Michigan.If you’re lucky enough to have an Aunt Brianna, that might include cookies!Snuggling with Grandma is free,
and it’s a very special way to get warmed up after a big swim! Snuggling with Grandpa is another winning activity, especially on a windy day!Watching the local fireworks shows is usually free around July 4th. Picking cherries, blueberries, or whatever is ripe at the local orchard is a big hit. And if you have access to a little lake, catching fish is the cat’s meow! Our kids and grand kids all love swimming, so I’m especially thankful that we live on a little lake! Another thing we all love is going to our local zoo, where there’re always something new and exciting happening! Finally, when Nana is all worn out, a special dinner out can be a huge treat! So, these are a few favorite things you can do without feeling pick-pocketed! If you’ve got other bright ideas, please share them, will you?

But whatever we do with our little ones, I think the most important thing is to make sure they feel loved, and for me, that includes making sure they know that God loves them too… more than any of us can ever even imagine!

The grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth” (Isaiah 38:17-19).