Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Redeemed 32nd

Thank you guys for all the birthday wishes!  It really did bless me to hear from you all.  I think with Brad being gone, it was extra sweet to be thought of by others.  So, thank you.  

Just a few thoughts on today.  You know how you sometimes have big ideas about how a day is going to look.  I'm not sure why I still do this, because it always plays out in my head without a hitch.  But my four wonderful children add an element of spontaneity that my dreams don't account for :).  

After the household was awake and had eaten breakfast, my first task was to fish out half a roll of soggy toilet paper from the toilet.  I'm a texture person, so behind oatmeal and tofu soup, soggy paper is a wretched thing to touch.  But my mom super powers took over and I grabbed a plastic bag and fished it all out.  Those are the same powers that allow me to clean up throw up without losing lunch and dress bloody wounds without passing out.  

I decided to make homemade donuts to share with some friends and while making them, a good friend from the States called.  It was such a welcomed breath into the day.  And the donuts were great!  So donuts and apples for lunch.  I feel better knowing that at school they only eat vegetables and tofu, so donuts and apples can be inserted every once in a while.

A little later, Malachi lost our keys.  The only ones we have at the moment, as Brad is gone with the other pair....until Sunday.  So our plans to go out with friends to the park this afternoon are averted by being house bound.  But Selah went and had fun.

Long story short, our friends called a guy and he'll change the locks tomorrow.  Some other random stuff happened today, but it all seems trivial after what just occurred with my one year old.  The kids are all having a sleepover tonite in the boy's room.  Kesed and I really had a hard day together.  He just was cranky and whiney and didn't sleep well.  As we were singing and praying together, I noticed he was unusually still in my lap.  So I took him out while the other kids played for a bit.  Then, for the next 20 minutes or so, he just laid with me all curled up into my arms.  He's a nuzzler, so he just got comfortable and stayed there.  I know 20 minutes doesn't seem long, but in one year old boy terms, it's eternity.  

As I laid there with him, I was overwhelmed in humility as how he had seemingly forgot all the times I had gotten frustrated with him during the day.  He forgot how many times I had to step over him because something else was needing my attention.  He laid there as if to tell me "mom, it's ok.  I'm still here and I'm still yours."  I very much felt the presence of the Lord reminding me of His abundance of forgiveness that permeates our lives. And when we understand that,  the chaos of the day becomes background on the canvas of our life's mosaic.  As I was with Kesed, nothing else seemed to matter.  There was much joy in the redemption of the day.  And I didn't want anything to get in the way of that time-no phone calls, door rings, nothing.  I just wanted to bask in that redeemed time.  

God is so faithful to redeem us while we were yet sinners.  What a beautiful picture it is as we curl up into His arms and allow Him to surround us with forgiveness for our failing Him.  Forgiveness when we step over Him to attend to "more important" business.  Forgiveness when following Him does not at all seem convenient.  

Thank you Kesed for this birthday gift.  And thank you Lord for second chances. 

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Don't Waste Your Prayers

Heard a great sermon this morning. (I love iPods.) He talked about not wasting our prayers. He uses James 4:2-5, “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’?” James says that when we ask for things from God to use merely for our own benefit and not to enjoy and glorify God above all other things, then I am an adulterer.


The pastor then gave an analogy. When we do this, it’s like a wife who also has a boyfriend. She goes to her husband and prays (or asks) of him, “Give me fifty dollars so I can enjoy myself and be happy”. The husband gives her the money and goes to bed. Meanwhile, she leaves the house and goes to her boyfriend, then gives him the money to have sex with him. This is essentially the picture of James 4!


I’m reading through Jeremiah and Isaiah right now. It again and again likens idolatry with adultery and whoredom. How would it change our lives to see that we all are idolaters and commit adultery, for we so often worship the image in our mirror.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I just found out this morning that my sister is coming to visit!!!!  I realize that it's only Sept. and she'll come in Dec., but I am beyond excited.  And she's going to bring her sweet baby girl.  So we will get to meet for the first time!

It's a happy day in our household.  I cannot wait!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

God holds us responsible for what we can NOT do

Really. Something completely counter intuitive to most people yet unambiguous in Scripture is that God holds us responsible for what we CANNOT do. Let me show you at least 4 verses (notice the language).

First, Old Testament.
Jeremiah 6:10-11, "Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it. 11 Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD; I am weary of holding it in."

Hosea 8:5, "My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence?"

Second, New Testament.
Romans 8:7-8, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

1 Corinthians 2:14, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Most people say that God couldn't judge us if he also "elects" us (i.e. if we are unable to believe for ourselves). The problem with this philosophical presupposition is the Bible. The reason most people don't accept this is that we don't understand it. Let me offer a little help from my favorite dead guy, Jonathan Edwards (in Freedom of the Will)

(Carrie tells me that pictures keep people interested in blogposts...still interested?)

There are two kinds of inability. Simply saying we can't do something is too vague. There is "moral inability" and "natural inability". By "natural ability" we refer to those things we normally think us...like, "I can't speak Chinese", "He's tied to a chair", "He's blend and can't see", etc. By "moral inability", think of a mom. She is unable to kill her kids. A child abuser, on the other hand, because of his heinous desires, is "unable" not to hurt people. Yet in both of these instances, we definitely do praise to mom and blame the criminal precisely for their inabilities. Take the supreme examples...God and Satan. God is unable to sin. Satan is unable to be righteous. Yet, shall we say that God is therefore NOT worthy of praise or Satan blame? Of course not. This kind of "inability" has to to with the love of our heart, the passions of our wills. We always do what our will finds the best option. Even the suicidal person thinks killing himself is better than living; we suffer long hours on the job because we think in the end it's better than being homeless and hungry. Notice even the language in the Jeremiah passage above, they "cannot listen" because they take no pleasure in His word. People get this topic wrong because people get the two kinds of "inability" wrong.

As Romans 6 say, we are ALL slaves to something, either sin or righteousness. We do what our master says. We are slaves to our fundamental passion. Therefore, we must have God graciously grant us "new hearts...to cause [us] to obey..." (Ezekiel 36:26-27). As Romans 12:3 says, faith is a gift. 2 Timothy 2:25 and Acts 11:18 say, God must grant us repentance.

Two contemporary Christian songs that celebrate this reality and thus the manifold wonder of his grace are Caedmon's Call's "Thankful" and Shane and Shane's "Beg". If you are a Christians, enjoy his grace on your life today! If you are not a Christian and you are reading this, call out for mercy, "help my unbelief!" He is a gracious God!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Kesed's 1st

We started the festivities off with a little Chinese barbecue. As you can tell, Kesed was thoroughly enjoying himself. He spit out he meat and yelled most of the meal. Just too excited to eat. One year ago, in Thailand, he entered the world with a bang. It was a textbook delivery with lots of funny cultural moments for added flavor.

The kids and I made a fish cake. Thanks to our friends, The Benson's, we had a box chocolate cake (which translates to mom not having to make it from scratch!!) Since I was on an easy- birthday-cake-making roll, I decided to go to a bakery and buy the icing. Lazy, I know, but there are just times you've gotta give yourself a break. Martha Stewart doesn't have 4 kids ages 6 and under living in her home. So she can import her Belgian chocolate cake layered with Connecticut apples and Papua New Guinea figs. But for this girl, it was convenience that ruled the day.

We returned home and took out the fish cake that the kids and I made. We had the crazy singing flower candle that has become a tradition in our family and had a great time together.

He wasn't real sure what to make of the cake, but seemed to get into it after a few minutes. I cannot believe he is one already. Most people have these cute measurements and growth updates, but Kesed hasn't been to the doctor in a really long time. So here's our family's Chinese equivalent:

weight: a large bag of dumpling flour
height: one and a half of Brad's feet

Big brother and sisters love him to death. Malachi can't wait until Kesed can wrestle.
He's crawling all over the place. He'll stand, but then sit down. Just not interested in the whole upright walking thing. He's making noises that we attribute to things, but really, I don't think he's talking yet. He's got a wonderful laugh and loves to be a part of everything.

We haven't cut his hair yet, which is funny to our friends here because they shave babies heads when they are a month or so old. I just can't seem to part with those curls.

Happy Birthday little man!! We love you so much and love how much the Lord has blessed our family through you.

Friday, September 19, 2008

"The Bondage of the Will" (Martin Luther) Part I

Because I think it will be helpful for readers and for myself, to keep myself disciplined and concentrated on meaning, I'm going to try something. I'm going to summarize the main sections of Martin Luther's "The Bondage of the Will" as I read it. FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO WANT TO QUIT READING...just wait. There is perhaps no topic in the Bible more neglected yet remains more relevant to everything essential to the Bible than "Free Will". Most people dismiss it as abstract, superfluous nonsense, irrelevant to the weekend's football games, the stock market, Iraq, and the presidential election. What a sad misunderstanding. We have found no subject in the Bile more encouraging and enlightening to WHO God is than in this doctrine. Martin Luther, one of the foremost leaders in the Reformation and one of the most important people in history, said himself that this was his most important work. As I've started reading the book, it's scary how contemporary it sounds. With that said, give the periodic "book reports" a try.

P1- 38: Luther is replying to Erasmus, a Catholic writing who is known for being eloquent but not intellectually rigorous

Erasmus claims that discussion about "Free Will" is unnecessary and superfluous. Yet, at the same time he claims that the people must strive for God while recognizing that Gods mercy is necessary for this striving effective. Luther responds like this: The topic of "Free WIll" is anything but "unnecessary and superfluous" because (1) it clarifies for us what we can and cant do in our strivings after God, and (2) informs us as to whom God is so that we know what he does and thus can trust and worship. Luther uses and analogy--would a farmer sow and plow a field without first assessing his field, his seed, whether he has the proper equipment and know how to do the job? Would a general proceed into war without first examining whether his soldiers are fit, money is plentiful, and how the various elements of strategy fit together. Or as Jesus says in Luke 14, would we ever build a tower without first counting the cost? Of course not! However, Erasmus and any many of us says that such "theological jargon" is irrelevant. If we think such matters are too abstract and muddy for us to care about, how are we to know if and how we could be saved, what our needs and abilities are...MOST PEOPLE JUST ASSUME THESE ANSWERS WHILE AT THE SAME TIME SAYING THEY TOO UNCLEAR AND IRRELEVANT. Do you see the contradiction? How can you assume something so essential to becoming and being a Christian while saying it's unnecessary? Why are we so thoughtful and careful about worldly things and about eternal things, we're so flippant? This speaks much to our hearts' condition and perhaps to our salvation if we are not stirred to inquire of our needs and God's nature and work in saving us. Luther closes this section by stating his goal for the book. In short, he says to Erasmus, basically, I'm going to make you define "Free WIll". When you do, you'll see what happens. Hardly anyone does this and thus start using empty words and neglect to consider what the Scriptures say in light of their arbitrary definition. (As one theologian has pointed out, Arminians [those who traditionally are said to believe in "Free Will"] hang their entire argument on a philosophical presupposition that is BROUGHT to Scripture, not one that is explicitly seen in Scripture.)

By the way (Brad here, not Luther), I think one reason why people struggle so much on this when they think about it is that people aren't comfortable not understanding everything. IF the Scriptures creates for us categories of thought we can't reconcile, then so be it. However, what many do is reject "what" is the clear teaching of Scripture because they don't see "how" it could be true. Until next time...


Our little man turned one today!! We just got done having barbeque and cake. We'll post tomorrow about the festivities.


Sorry, we've been away and been blog losers. This week has been one of "those" weeks. One things about our lives in China is that there are rarely normal days. They seem either to be overwhelmingly amazing or painfully awful. I wonder if others in our shoes have similar experiences. Anyway, this week the Hurricane hit our home area. Brad still has not heard back from any of his family. We sometimes make quick remarks on Facebook. All that to say, after our Sabbath time this week (we take Sabbath on Friday afternoon and Sat mornings), hopefully we can post some stuff.

Zai Jian!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Please get that boy some more food

Our city has a few new American English teachers that just moved to China last week. So we invited a few of them over for hamburgers. We had met the other three teachers before, but the fourth teacher, Amy, was brand spankin' new to China. We sat down to eat and Malachi's interrogation began.

Malachi: So, are you married?

Amy: No, I'm not married.

Malachi: Why?? Did your husband die?

(interject mom's inner dialogue: "oh, please tell me he didn't die" and "please, malachi, put more food in your mouth so that nothing else embarrassing comes out.")

Amy: No, he didn't die, I've just never been married.

Malachi: Well...maybe it's because you're so short.

(interject mom inner dialogue...again "ok, maybe she didn't hear him." and "what the heck do I do next?!)

Mom: mom has to leave stage left because she is laughing uncontrollably, but cannot show it. Mom is now crying from laughing so hard. "Malachi, you cannot say that to people!"

Malachi: But why mom? What's wrong with that question?

Mom: (thinking to self, "I don't know why exactly, but I know, it's rude and you just can't") Malachi, just go apologize.

Malachi to Amy: sorry.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mommy post and homeschool rant

So this is a total mommy post.  I'm not going to write a lot, just sharing some pictures.  Enjoy!

********Warning, brief homeschool rant***********

So, I will rant just for a second about how ridiculously fun homeschooling is. I always saw homeschooling as a cop-out for not
wanting to send your kids into the "real world". I could probably do an entire blog on all the great stuff we get to do as a homeschooling family. These castle pictures were taken on a day when we started learning about castles. So we made a lego castle, decorated crowns, dressed up, played king and queen and started reading a book called "Castle Diary" for our nighttime reading.

This was the day after we ended our time learning about Greece. We've made homemade pita bread, eaten 2 different Greek meals, read about Greek gods, looked at Greek architecture, etc. We have had a blast. And the whole time I can incorporate how Scripture is a thread throughout all of history. When were studying Greece, we made antique scrolls and Selah pretended to be in Athens teaching to the people about how they should turn from their idols. Anyway, I can rant and rave for days. I just wanted to encourage you guys out there who are maybe scared of homeschooling or thinking of starting. DO IT!! It's been fantastic. And believe you me, our kids our plenty, "in the world", and have tons of interaction with other kids.

Here's my little buddy. It's his birthday month, so he'll get a longer post later. We have lots of nicknames for him, but the one I like best is "Shuai Ge," which means "handsome little buddy" in Chinese.

He's totally about to conquer this grape.

My sweet Charis downing a peach.

Malachi wanted to make sure my picture showed him throwing this bag of milk. After a few tries, we got it.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

I am the Bread of Life

I'm studying the many ways that Jesus is the "I am".  

*I am the Bread of Life
*I am the Light of the World
*I am the Good Shepherd
*I am the Door for my sheep
*I am the Resurrection and the Life
*I am the Way, the Truth and the Life
*I am the Vine

There are many of them in Scripture.  But today I have been overwhelmed at Jesus' statement that He is "The Bread of Life"

Sometimes my world is so muddled that I continually make side things my main things.  Somewhere in life, I taste side dishes and decide to camp there instead of enjoying "The Bread of Life" who promises that once we taste of Him, we will never go hungry.  

In this, Jesus declares over our lives that HE is all-sufficient.  He is not lacking in ANYTHING.  But yet, I get distracted with trusting the temporary.  I foolishly think that I can control my day to day and I remove my grasp of Him being all-sufficient.  

My life in Christ is abundantly joyful and full of purpose.  I get so frustrated with myself when I allow the lie of self-sufficiency creep in and take up living space in my mind.  My friend who just left my home, is desperate to know about these truths.  She has recently quit her job in search for something.  She spoils her little girl in empty hopes.  But her wandering eyes are also starting to search for the ultimate "I am".  It has been a fresh reminder for me today that He is complete.  And to rest in that alone.

Which "I am" is hitting home today?  Which one have you been missing?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Two Kinds of "One-Issue Voting"

We’ve struggled this election year with resolving the “one issue” voter behavior in our lives. Most of us are one-issue voters if we like it, yet we find ourselves pressing against it because we don’t want to narrow Christian concern to just one or two issues (i.e. abortion). War, poverty, environment, etc are also things we should be concerned about. Consequently, we’ve been resistant against being forced into a box just because we Christians. There are two ways to look at “one-issue” voting. (The second was just brought to our attention.) The first is this: that because a person is “pro-life” (for example), he or she should be elected. The second is a different kind of logic. It speaks not of what qualifies someone, but what issue(s) automatically DISqualify a person. I recently read an essay by John Piper entitled, One-Issue Politics, One-Issue Marriage, and the Humane Society. Because he’s more articulate than we, we’ll let him speak for himself. The whole article is online.

No endorsement of any single issue qualifies a person to hold public office. Being pro-life does not make a person a good governor, mayor, or president. But there are numerous single issues that disqualify a person from public office. For example, any candidate who endorsed bribery as a form of government efficiency would be disqualified, no matter what his party or platform was. Or a person who endorsed corporate fraud (say under $50 million) would be disqualified no matter what else he endorsed. Or a person who said that no black people could hold office—on that single issue alone he would be unfit for office. Or a person who said that rape is only a misdemeanor—that single issue would end his political career. These examples could go on and on. Everybody knows a single issue that for them would disqualify a candidate for office.

It's the same with marriage. No one quality makes a good wife or husband, but some qualities would make a person unacceptable. For example, back when I was thinking about getting married, not liking cats would not have disqualified a woman as my wife, but not liking people would. Drinking coffee would not, but drinking whiskey would. Kissing dogs wouldn't, but kissing the mailman would. And so on. Being a single-issue fiancé does not mean that only one issue matters. It means that some issues may matter enough to break off the relationship.

So it is with politics. You have to decide what those issues are for you. What do you think disqualifies a person from holding public office? I believe that the endorsement of the right to kill unborn children disqualifies a person from any position of public office. It's simply the same as saying that the endorsement of racism, fraud, or bribery would disqualify him—except that child-killing is more serious than those…

…These reflections have confirmed my conviction never to vote for a person who endorses such an evil—even if he could balance the budget tomorrow and end all taxation.”

We ALL have our issue(s) that would automatically disqualify someone in our minds. If abortion is not one of them, then it would seem that we rank child murder (i.e. abortion) as less important than other issues. Granted, I know that other things matter, but we’re becoming aware that the weariness of hearing the abortion debate (that is, “I’m so tired of hearing about abortion”) is no reason to push it to the side. “Do not grow weary in doing good…” (Galatians 6:9)

For a lot of helpful information on the issue, check out: www.abort73.com

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

My walk from the bus stop

Ok, this will be the last “Selah is off to school” post. This is my therapy. Carrie got her chance. Now mine.

Today, I took her to the school bus stop for her first time. The lump in my throat reminded me how certain stages in life pass, never to be recovered again. I will never get to walk her to her school again, enjoying her conversation, as I now do the middle two kids. The human mind has a tragic habit: it assumes the present will always be. If we are facing something bad, we despair too much. If something is good, we can easily take it for granted. This applies to spiritual and character issues, or to normal life cycle type things. I wish I could have ridden the school bus with her to school. But I can’t.

One of my biggest fears as a dad is that someday I will look back on so many regrets and it will be unbearable. Some regrets are unavoidable, but I do hope to minimize them. I thought about the fact recently that young people tend to be career minded when they have less time for it because their kids are home; however, older people have learned life lessons and long for time again with their kids, though they now have all the time in the world for their careers. I’m praying that I would be like the man whom Solomon describes in Ecclesiastes 5:20, “For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.”

I love you Selah.

Monday, September 01, 2008

School Supply List

I just got back in from completing the shopping for Selah's school supplies.  

1. pencils, markers and erasers
2. pencil box
3. pencil sharpener
4. a roll of toilet paper
5. a cup
6. mosquito medicine

It didn't really occur to me that this was a somewhat funny list until tonight, when I had to buy the mosquito medicine.  I was comparing it to all the times I've seen the school supplies neatly packaged at Target.  I just can't recall toilet paper, a cup and mosquito medicine being in there.  Must have been hidden behind the crayola crayons.

She did wonderfully by the way, so thanks for your prayers!  She loved it.  Tomorrow it's ride the school bus day.  

First Grade

I'm not sure who gave my baby girl the permission to grow up, but it's happening without my authority. This morning, we dropped her off at a normal national school for first grade. She's only going half a day and homeschooling in the afternoons.

She's been at the cozy, fluffy kindergarten for a few years now, but this normal school thing scares me half to death. I have found myself on my knees constantly as she navigates the waters of first grade. It's scary on so many levels, but one of them is all the doctrination that she is going to face. She'll study the world without a Creator, she'll study Marx and how had work will bring about a harmonious future. But that's her place of ministry for now. A place for her to share and love. She's excited and we're excited for her. She's a beautiful young lady with an incredible heart.

As I left, I cried. She's going to be fine, I just have to be continually releasing her to her Father's care.

So if you think of her today, shoot up a little prayer. Thanks!

And tomorrow...we'll conquer the school bus.

Free Trade: Is Globalization Hurting the U.S?

Finally, someone is noticing things we've been saying for years. We've been so inattentive to maintaining manufacturing, production, "scalable" jobs that we've become an ideas, managerial, service economy. This cannot sustain a country in the long run.


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