Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Hate Frustrations (duh)

Ok, so this week, I've become especially aware how frustrated I get at life's common, daily trials. I get unusually 'offended'. I act put out (in an odd sort of way). Basically, I want all of life's blessings and excessively detest any form of evil that gets in my way. This is just one more manifestation of selfishness, to say it plainly. Selfishness is a form of self-worship. I (and we) was the world to revolve around us, to glorify us.

Now, here's some reality: the anger or frustration is a rejection of God's wisdom in arranging THIS kind of world, full of setbacks, delays, and daily trials. When people talk of suffering, death, and cancer, we cite Romans 8:28; yet when small things hit us, we are so unprepared. We get angry that so many "trivial" things would get in the way of what 's "really" important (i.e. whatever WE are doing). Yet, today, it dawned on me how trivial our days are in God's eyes. He is sovereign and all-knowing. Our ambitions and challenges are nothing for Him.

However, the incarnation reveals a God, whose glory is made manifest in mercy, "put up with" our humanity and inefficient world. In His wisdom, such a world system works together for our good and His glory. In the most profound sense, all evil and pain exists so that Christ might die, thus exhibiting God's glorious grace (cp. Rev. 13:8, Eph. 1:6). As Paul suggests in 2 Cor. 4, our lives are to be small expressions of His gospel-incarnation.

This should radically impact the way we impatiently listen to the "trivial concerns" of our kids. All our lives are full of normal, trivial stuff...that is, until that point we remember the gospel is precisely God's enjoying us amid our trivial concerns.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


This is a sign near our home for a local business. We have laughed so many times at how it looks just like our kids. When we pass it, Kesed even says "That's my pigu (Chinese for bottom)! And that's Makaria's pigu!"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Big Mak"

Makaria no longer smiles like a sweet, almost 2 year old. Instead, she puts on her "strong" face. When she does her strong face, she shakes her head, bulges her eyes and throws her hands up to her chin. This face has thrown me back to to my WWF days. Yes, I admit that I was very into "Macho Man" Randy Savage, "Hulk Hogan", Jake "The Snake", the whole gang. I even watched the cartoon. I'm not ashamed.

This is her WWF "The Sheik" pose. If you know him, then you were just as desperate for entertainment in the late eighties as I was.

We thought of a few other wrestling names for Makaria. Here are a few:

Makaria "Large and in Charge"
"Big Mak Attack"
Makaria "The Tummy"
The Rumbler
Xiao Fei Zhou (it's what some of our kid's friends call Makaria. It translates "Little Africa)

On a much more feminine note, these two skirts are some of the things I have made recently. I like the way they turned out. And no, you may not see the inside or the seams. Let's just sit back, far back, and enjoy how fun they are.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hermeneutics and Children's Curriculum

I would say this applies to adults too. These hermeneutical problems are all too typical in sermons and adult books.

Here is an excerpt from Hermeneutics and Children's Curriculum by John Walton

...I have identified five basic fallacies that appear repeatedly:

1. Promotion of the Trivial: The lesson is based on what is a passing comment in the text (Josh 9:13, they did not consult the Lord), a casual observation about the text (Moses persevered in going back before Pharaoh over and over) or even a deduction supplied in the text (Joshua and Caleb were brave and strong). The Bible is not being properly taught if we are teaching virtues that the text does not have in focus in that passage. We would like children to be virtuous, but we dare not teach virtues rather than the Bible. The plague narratives are not teaching perseverance nor is the feeding of the multitude teaching sharing (as done by the little boy in one of the accounts).

2. Illegitimate extrapolation: The lesson is improperly expanded from a specific situation to all general situations (God helped Moses do a hard thing, so God will help you do a hard thing. But the hard thing Moses was doing was something commanded by God whereas in the lesson the hard thing becomes anything the child wants to achieve). In these cases what the text is teaching is passed by in favor of what the curriculum wants to teach and biblical authority is neglected.

3. Reading Between the Lines: This occurs when teachers or students are asked to analyze what the characters are thinking, speculate on their motives, or fill in details of the plot that the story does not give. When such speculations become the center of the lesson, the authority of the biblical teaching is lost because the teaching is centered on what the reader provided.

4. Missing important nuance: This occurs when the curriculum pinpoints an appropriate lesson but misses a connection that should be made to drive the point home accurately. It is not enough, for instance to say that God wants us to keep his rules—it is important to realize that God has given us a sense of who he is and how we ought to respond in our lives. It is not just an issue of obeying rules—God wants us to know him and respond to him by following in his ways and being like him.

5. Focus on people rather than God: The Bible is God’s revelation of himself and its message and teaching is largely based on what it tells us about God. This is particularly true of narrative (stories). While we are drawn to observe the people in the stories, we cannot forget that the stories are intended to teach us about God more than about people. If in the end, the final point is “We should/shouldn’t be like X (= some biblical character)” there is probably a problem unless the “X” is Jesus or God. Better is “we can learn through X’s story that God . . .”

If we are negligent of sound hermeneutics when we teach Bible to children, should it be any wonder that when they get into youth groups, Bible studies and become adults in the church, that they do not know how to derive the authoritative teaching from the text?

We all have a working hermeneutic, even though most have never taken a course. Where do we learn it? We learn it from those we respect. For many people this means that they learn their hermeneutics from their Sunday school teachers. Teachers in turn teach what is put into their hands. Perhaps we ought to be more attentive how Sunday school curriculum is teaching our children to find the authoritative teaching of God in the stories.


Personally, in our family, we highly recommend the curriculum from Children Desiring God.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Jonathan Edwards on Balancing Family and Other Ministries

How did Jonathan Edwards view his roles as both family man and pastor?

Here's an excerpt from the article:

"Edwards would agree that one is to "spend and be spent" for the souls in his congregation and the souls in his family. He was one day to stand before the Judge to give an account of the souls in his care, whether in his congregation or in his family. There was no dichotomy because both were the 'work of the Lord.' "

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Art in the Church

Honestly, I'm not even sure who I am writing this post for. Maybe it's to clear my head of the stories that I've read tonight. Maybe it's to check myself and make sure that I am putting first things first. I also feel like this post could dribble on for pages. I'll try and save you all from that.

The deal is the purpose of art in the Christian body. I won't go on a long diatribe as to all the ways art can both benefit and hurt the name of Christ. But I will say that I am frustrated at something. A majority of the friends that we love and hold very dearly to us are artists of some type. Photographers, painters, musicians, song writers, etc. We love them....dearly. But, I'm noticing a trend that is happening by artists that also claim to be Christians. There seems to be a value placed on the art being "honest, organic, authentic, raw...." And it seems that those things are being held above the idea of that artist striving for holiness. I am all about authenticity. But I also see that there are times when I am "just being honest" that I am also just being sinful. Yet, I justify my sin because you know I'm "just being honest" in my expression.

I've read Christian music lyrics that never mention God, Jesus, or anything close. Art shouldn't be the thing being worshipped above Christ. There's this strive to become so "relevant", that we've forgotten that Christ also desires for us to be set apart and holy. That doesn't mean arrogant. But it does mean that we need to filter our 'honesty' and be slow to speak and slow to produce artwork that would distract people from knowing who Christ really is.

I have a lot more to say about this, but it's late and I need to go to bed or drink caffiene. My voice of reason is telling me to go to bed.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Our favorite new t-shirts

These are our favorite new t-shirts:

Carrie's is a little blurry, but it says:

"Shenme Shang" -What's up?
"Wo bu leng" -No, I'm not cold
"Dui, wu ge dou wode" -Yes, all five of those children are mine"

A friend made them for us. We love them.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Plant Park

There are many times here that you get invited to do things and you aren't totally sure where you are going or what you will be doing there. We had dinner with Selah's good friend and her mom one night last week. After the meal, they invited Carrie and the older kids to go to a "park with plants".

Monday was the "Sweeping of the Tombs" holiday here, so the kids were out of school. So we packed up and met our friends. It was about an hour and a half drive to get out there. The mom that was driving the car we were riding in and I had wonderful conversations. We talked about why we discipline our kids, why we named our kids what we named them, and some of the most important questions people can ask. It was fantastic.

Once we got there, the kids went running out to the obstacle course portion of the part. These nets are dangling over water. There is about a 12 foot drop between the net and the water. The kids were brave....for the most part :).

After some time on the obstacle course, the other mothers thought it was time to pick a group leader. This is a funny part of Chinese culture. There is always a need for a class or group leader. In universities, there will be students named class leader, recreation leader, party planning leader, the list goes on and on. Selah has previously been assigned "check hands and throat for sickness" leader. So, each older child gave a speech on why they would be the best group leader. "Um, I'd pick up trash, push my friends on the swings, drink water, etc." That's how most of the nominating speeches went. Then we voted.

Next, we all loaded up again and headed to the "wilderness", to pick vegetables. We really only found some "bitter vegetable". But we had fun foraging and digging up the leafy veggies. As most things are here, we had a competition on who had the most. But there was not declared a winner. Also a very culturally appropriate outcome.

Then, we took the veggies to a nearby eating place. I don't really call it a restaraunt because it was outdoor eating. You bring in the fish you caught or the veggies you pick and the place will cook it up.

There were swings and hammocks that the kids loved.

The food was great. We dipped our bitter leafy vegetables into a salty sauce. We also ate fried tree leaves. That was a first for me. They were actually pretty good.

These ladies were wonderful company. We laughed and shared and had a great time.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Easter 2010

I love Easter. I love that it seems that while marketing has its effect on the holiday, most people understand that we are celebrating Jesus. Getting to tell about the miracle of a man rising from the dead and defeating death. Of a man humbled on a cross and burdened with our sin. Of a man who saved a thief in the last hour. It's a beautiful story and a truth that has changed the world forever.

It's always interesting to try and figure out how to celebrate when your kids are 8, 6, 4, 2, 1. You can't just depend on your own riveting renditions of "Crown Him with Many Crowns". You've got to put a little thought into how you are going to connect with their little hearts. Anyway, here are a few things we did this year.

I took my 6 and 4 year old outside and we looked for crosses. We talked about how we can see evidences of Christ everywhere we go. Sometimes the crosses were easy to spot and other times we had to look carefully and closely. They were amazed at how many we could see.

They took most of these pictures themselves. It was a very satisfying reminder of the evidences of Christ. We also talked about how spring time and the blooming of flowers and trees reminds us of Jesus resurrecting from the dead.

We also made resurrection cookies. It was our first time to try it out. It's fun because it walks you through the Biblical account of the crucifixion as you make the cookies. Each step is represented in part of the story.

Here, the kids are tasting the salt. The salt was representing the tears that Jesus shed.

We put the cookies in the "tomb" for several hours. I'm not gonna lie, the cookies didn't bake right. We don't have a mixer, so beating the egg whites by hand for 30 minutes just didn't work. I got the egg whites to the "good enough" stage and thought it would work. Well, "good enough" wasn't quite good enough.

But we got the point of the cookies and had a wonderful time doing to together. Maybe next year we'll take them to a bakery and have them whip it for us and we can all share in the story together.

Of course we dyed eggs. We put electrical tape of them to make designs. It was fun and easy for little fingers.

We made cookies with friends. Also really fun and easy for little ones.

Makaria pretty much just ate. That's kinda what she does.

We hope you guys had a wonderful Easter. He is Risen!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Questions to Ask When Considering Adoption

(from Adoptive Dads)

1. What are my biggest fears regarding adoption?
2. Do/will my close family and friends support my decision to adopt? If not, why?
3. How do I define the concept of family? In other words, what is a family?
4. What personal experience(s) do I have regarding adoption – whether positive or negative?
5. Does adoption seem “normal” to me?
6. If married, does my spouse have the same ideas about adoption?
7. What have I done thus far to educate myself about adoption?
8. What, if anything, do I feel that I would lose or be “giving up” if I choose to adopt?
9. Why do/would I want to adopt?
10. How do I feel about birthparents (i.e., the biological parents of children who are adopted)?
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