Category Archives: Family News

A Race to the Finish Line

My oldest son’s family (with four boys) are arriving one week from today for Christmas, and this is the room where they usually sleep on the pull-out couches.     What do you think? Am I ready for company? No, I don’t think so either.   😦 We’ve been trying to update our 30-year-old kitchen because our laminate counter tops were worn through and showing spots of white and the drawer hinges had been replaced so many times that the company no longer sells replacement hinges! I realize that Christmas is the wrong time to redo your kitchen, particularly when you’re expecting 24 people to visit, but when we started this project (6 months ago), they said it would take 6-10 weeks. Wrong! But you know, sometimes the only way out is to just keep trekking, so that’s what we decided to do! After all, eating out of the frig off the floor is over-rated! I can totally recommend the guy who’s doing our remodeling. The timing had nothing to do with him (had to wait on the cabinets to arrive, and then the order was incomplete, etc.). Jeff is doing an impeccable job (just for the record).  Unfortunately, he needs foot surgery, so he’s been working long hours to try to get things in shape for us so that I have a functional kitchen for the holidays. The counter tops and new sink will take another month. On top of that, he’s trying to do some extra things that somehow didn’t get into the contract. The lady at the store said, “Oh, he can put in temporary counter tops for you!” but failed to put that in the contract, and of course, I failed to realize that she failed to put that in the contract (along with various other necessary items, such as the strainers for the sink [whatever those are] and the supplies to convert our new range from propane to natural gas)…which Jeff is going to try to do for us (although he’s never done it before), because the company who is supposed to do can’t until after the holidays, and I need a stove!!     So the dust is flying and the living areas are pretty much a disaster area!                            Will Jeff be able to finish before the company arrives?  If so, will I be able to get the house put back together so we can eat at the tables?  (BTW, how in the world did I accumulate so much stuff in just 45 years?) I’m not sure the answer to any of those questions, but I’m praying it works out! Have you noticed that doing things “right” almost always seems to take a lot longer than we think? It generally costs more as well. There are hidden expenses (not just financially, but emotionally and spiritually)…all sorts of things we need that we didn’t know we’d need, not to mention human errors in communicating and planning. Still, God calls us to keep moving forward, doing the best we can and praying for help! I’m believing this is going to work out… somehow, and I hope that if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by life this holiday season, you will also keep looking up and trusting God to see you through!

“The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord. (Proverbs 21:31)

 

Ending Well and Getting a Fresh Start

        Our refrigerator has been sort of the epicenter of family and friend lore. If you’ve sent me a photo of your family in the last few years, it’s probably here! It also serves as a bulletin board and place to display the grand kids’ art work,             and when the children visit, they definitely check to see what’s up! Now, I should explain that we bought this refrigerator used 25 years ago when we first moved into Tanglewood Cottage, and it was definitely in need of replacing. Therefore, it was the first thing to be changed out.However, I have a whole section on  my blog dedicated to “The Pictures on my Fridge,” and every picture means a lot to me!  So, before I let them touch my refrigerator, I lovingly peeled off all the photos and placed them into a coffee table photo album to keep the memories alive! The shiny, new refrigerator (my first “new” frig in our 44 years of marriage) has made me stop and think about the coming year. 2018 will be a shiny, new year… full of possibilities, but without any pictures hanging on it yet. What shall we do? First of all, I certainly don’t want to neglect my family and friends, and I want to finish this year well with the loved ones who are depending on me here at home. Sadly (because I’m so limited and our kitchen is an updating disaster area for the time being), that means I won’t be doing much blogging between now and mid January, although I’ll try to keep my recipes and Song of Solomon meditations going (and anything else as time allows).

One of my girlfriends suggested that I re-post some of my earlier blogs that people seemed to enjoy a lot. That didn’t feel quite right to me, although if you’ve got some free time and are interested in any particular topic, everything I’ve written for the past almost 10 years is still recorded, and if you type a subject into the “Search” bar on the top right-hand corner of this blog, it will bring up posts that touch on that subject. I have to admit, though: The fact that I won’t be able to write much frustrates me and makes me feel like a failure! Does that ever happen to you? You have more to do than you think you “should,” so you feel like a flop? Take heart! God’s priorities are different from ours. He makes things much simpler than we do. God doesn’t measure success in productivity, but in living right and loving well: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, ESV). If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well” (James 2:8).

Meanwhile, I pray that God will bless and guide each of you during this holiday season. May you find joy in anticipating the good things God has in store for you this coming year, and may you fill up your days with fruitful service and a host of happy memories from loving well and being loved!

 

 

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)