Sunday, March 22, 2015

Camping in The Rain

Last weekend we went camping at Martin Dies, Jr. State Park.  The forecast was for rain, so we took our 30' x 40' tarp to cover our camp.  Seth and Papa spent a long time figuring out how to make it shed water properly.

The Wades camped next to us in their trailer.

There was not much rain for the first two days, so we did many activities.


 Just as we were starting to sing around the fire, the rain came pouring down.  We quickly moved under the tarp.

On Saturday it rained all day.

The tarp held up pretty well, but we did have to push the water out of some places.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Movie Review: Beyond the Mask

Beyond the Mask is the latest film from Burns Family Studios, directed and produced by Chad and Aaron Burns.  I had the opportunity to pre-screen it last weekend, so here is my review.

Short version: I loved it!  I had high expectations for this film, and I’m happy to say that they were more than satisfied!  You should buy tickets right now!
 “The leading mercenary for the British East India Company, Will Reynolds has just been double-crossed and now is on the run in the American Colonies. Working to redeem his name and win back the affections of the woman with whom he's never been fully truthful, Will now hides behind a new mask in hopes of thwarting his former employer.” –from the movie website

The screenplay for the film was written by Paul McCusker, who has worked on both Adventures in Odyssey and Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre.  I found the story to be both engaging and compelling.

I particularly appreciated the balance and unity between different aspects of the film.  Action films sometimes suffer from too much action with too little plot to hold it together, but not this one.  There is plenty of action stemming from Will’s ongoing conflict with his former employer, as well as his attempts to thwart the plots against American independence, but the action sequences fit with and enhance the rest of the story.  There are important internal conflicts going on, which demand screen time and character development, and the makers of the film give those parts of the story the attention they deserve without allowing the pace to drag. 

I was also impressed with how tightly woven the storyline was.  The inner conflicts dealt with by the major characters arise naturally and unavoidably from what is happening around them.  These conflicts in turn lead to actions that become indispensable to the story.  Every incident drives the plot forward; I can’t remember a single scene that was superfluous to the overall plot line. 

There is really something for everyone here: action, romance, history, even some science, and a dash of humor.


Can a man overcome the consequences of a sordid past and lead a new life?  Is it possible for a sinner to truly change, or is any attempt just a mask over his real identity?  These are the questions that Will Reynolds faces throughout the film.  In the process, several themes emerge.

-The blackness of sin.  The guilt of Will’s past is real, and the film acknowledges that he deserves all the trouble that it brings on him.

-The sinfulness of man-centered “goodness”.  This was a depth of insight that I wasn’t expecting.  When Will decides to regain the honor of his name, he becomes a vigilante defender of freedom, coming to the unexpected aid of the innocent and oppressed.  He is lauded as a hero, but all the while he is only acting for his own honor in the hopes of reestablishing his reputation and gaining the love of Charlotte Holloway.  He does much that appears “good”, but his selfishness is clearly demonstrated and nearly costs him everything.

-The futility of making another person our hope or our standard of goodness.  When Will first professes his love for Charlotte, he makes it clear that he views her as his only hope for being able to live a new life.  She becomes his single-minded pursuit and sole motive for living honorably.  Instead of earning her love, his selfish motives only further demonstrate his unworthiness of her love.

-The undeserved gift of love, forgiveness, and redemption.  The climax of Will’s internal struggle comes when he realizes that his efforts to change himself and earn his own redemption have failed.  We catch a glimpse of both the gift of redemption and its cost—we cannot earn it, but it is only available to us because Christ earned it on our behalf.  This is the only way to true freedom, and the only way that Will, like the rest of us, can receive a new identity, unstained by the sins of his past.


I don’t have the expertise to thoroughly judge the technical quality of this film.  I usually only notice cinematography, music, lighting, and such if there is something that distracts me from the more important elements of action and story.  There was very little to distract in Beyond the Mask, so I would say that these technical aspects served the story well. 

The acting was excellent.  Andrew Cheney (Will Reynolds) and John Rhys-Davies (the villain Charles Kemp) particularly stand out for the great depth they brought to their characters.  There were several memorable secondary characters who helped bring the story to life, most noteworthy perhaps being Alan Madlane as Benjamin Franklin.

In Conclusion

I highly recommend this film.  It was an exciting adventure with memorable characters, an engaging story, and a thought-provoking message.

Beyond the Mask is coming out by a theater-on-demand model, which means that every showing must reach a minimum number of reserved tickets in order to be confirmed.  TICKETS MUST BE RESERVED IN ADVANCE.  Join us at the showing in Tomball! 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Book Review: Get Real by John Leonard

A few months ago we read this book as a family.  Here is Anna's review of it.

Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Every Day

By John S. Leonard

What does it look like to share the gospel of grace with those around us on a daily basis?  This is the question asked and soundly answered in this book.

Leonard begins in the first chapter by drawing the distinction between a “real” approach to evangelism and the conventional presentation-style approach.  He continues to develop this distinction throughout the book, but this first chapter shows how the conventional approach can be awkward and artificial at best, cold and uncaring at worst.

Chapters 2 and 3 lay the theological foundation for the rest of the book.  In chapter 2, Leonard describes the gospel of grace for us and reminds us that we can no more save ourselves from sin than fly.  This is crucial, for we cannot share God’s grace with others if we have not been transformed by it ourselves.

Chapter 3 builds on this picture of grace by expounding how Jesus Himself communicated grace to others in Luke 7.  His ministry touched the lives of a poor Jewish widow, a rich Roman centurion, the prophet John the Baptist, and the sinful woman.  Leonard refers to these as “the four compass points of humanity,” representing the full spectrum of both human and spiritual experience.  This shows that no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace.  If we are to follow in the steps of Christ, we are called to get dirty in His service as we learn to love sinners well and communicate grace to those who need it most.  This is messy business that lies beyond our power, bringing us right back to our own need for God’s grace.

The remainder of the book (chapters 4-17) contains the practical development and application of these truths.  Leonard discusses good listening, being engaged in our communities, praying with unbelievers, using illustrations that apply to our hearers, raising curiosity, the importance of the local church, the nature of our testimonies, using apologetics with love, and the importance of asking unbelievers for help.  Liberally sprinkled throughout are fascinating anecdotes from Leonard’s own experiences.

The “real” approach that Leonard advocates is a breath of fresh air.  It is simple, humble, and loving.  It is also the natural expression of grace-centered theology; if we have been saved by God’s grace alone, then we know that it is only His grace that can save anyone else.  If it is not up to us to guarantee the salvation of those to whom we speak, we are free to simply love them as we have been loved and to allow the grace that we have received to overflow into all aspects of our lives and relationships.  The results are in God’s hands.

Leonard’s writing is clear, engaging, and accessible.  While the content is meaningful and thought-provoking, it is communicated in a way that is easy to read and understand.

I highly recommend this book to anyone!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Life in Pictures

 The peach tree is blooming!  It is astonishingly beautiful.  You just look up into it's branches and think, "This is beauty."

Laura and I went to the mall this month.

We played dress-up.

It was our first time to go anywhere by ourselves.

Here are Mama and Papa trying to fix a special doll.

Laura had another birthday party with wild games.

We were babysitting this week and Andrew fell asleep right after we put him in the highchair for dinner.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

December-January newsletter

From Laura, 16 … This week I turned sixteen.  I had been looking forward to this birthday for a long time, even since I was little.  I’ve always thought of sixteen as the age when a girl becomes a young lady.  I do feel older, and not just because I have lived another year -- it’s more because I think of myself as being in a new phase of life.

My birthday celebration was wonderful.  It was so special to have my whole family here, and doing one of my favorite things: playing bluegrass music!  We got to play all of our old favorites.  John brought his banjo, Katie her guitar, and we had so much fun.  Afterward we were comparing blisters because it had been too long since we last played together!

From Becca, 18 … I just finished reading Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  It was a tragedy because the hero became the villain and in the process lost his happiness, his soul, and his life.  He started out as a normal person.  In fact he was loved and admired as a hero.  But when he was tempted by his pride and ambition, he was too weak to withstand it.  He felt remorse right after he killed the king, but he felt that he could never be cleansed from his deed.  So he covered up his first murder with more murders.  He gave himself over to evil.

From Seth, 21 … I recently started a new job working in one of the labs at school.  This particular lab studies membrane filtration for water treatment.  I'm really enjoying learning about that process.  My coworkers have also taught me how to make water quality measurements and have shown me some pretty cool instruments, like scanning electron microscopes and "x-ray photoelectron spectrometers".

 From Anna, 24 …We recently finished reading through the book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield.  She was a radical lesbian professor who came face-to-face with Christianity and was converted in a process that she describes as a “train wreck.”  It’s an incredible story of God’s grace and the way that He chooses people and transforms their lives for His glory.  It was also a powerful reminder of the importance of listening to the people around us, opening our lives to them in meaningful ways, and truly caring about them as individual people and not as faceless ideologies.

From John, Megan, James (2), Ezra (1), and baby (due August) … (by Megan) Since we last wrote we found out that we are expecting baby #3!  This little one is due August 16.  So far the pregnancy is going well.  I had a fair bit more morning sickness with this one than the last two pregnancies, but I'm grateful it didn't last more than a few weeks.  Lord willing, we plan to do another home birth with the same midwife we used the last two times.  We went to our first appointment a couple of weeks ago and got to hear Baby's heartbeat!  It's always wonderful to hear that little heart beating and know that all is well.  We plan to find out if this one is a boy or a girl and will be able to about mid-March.  James is at an age now where he can start to grasp the idea that a new baby is coming.  He asks me every day, "Mama, is the baby in your tummy?"  It’s fun to see him gain at least a little bit of an idea about the baby -- definitely more so than last time!  Ezra and this baby will be about 21 months apart.

John recently bought a work van.  He likes how much more cargo space he has than in his truck.  It seems to be serving him well, and it runs well.  He is now a company with fleet vehicles!

From Ray, Katie, Peter (5), Samuel (3),  Andrew (2), and Grace (8 mo.) … (by Katie) We started officially homeschooling last week with about 45 minutes a day of kindergarten lessons and activities.  Peter is doing some beginning phonics lessons, along with learning about the days of creation.  All the boys participate in crafts to go along with the topics.  We’re all enjoying it so far, and I appreciate Peter’s eagerness to learn.  Yesterday, I said, “Okay, that’s enough for today.” and he said, “Let me do it again by myself!”  It’s a strange feeling for me to start homeschooling my children.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was a student myself.  I guess you can tell I’m an unconventional former homeschooler when I think February is a good time to start school!

From Judith … Laura’s birthday requests included having a jam session with her siblings.  As I watched them play the instruments and sing together, I found myself quite emotionally moved.  I’m not quite sure why.  In the course of time, we all adjusted when Katie, and then John, married.  I’ve long-since become used to having some of them out of the home and it’s a joy to see them walking with the Lord in marriage and parenting.  Maybe it was the full, melodious blending of their adult voices that struck me.  I don’t know.  Perhaps it was that, in spite of the many life changes, their hearts are still knit together as brothers and sisters.  All I know is that it was an incredibly sweet and tender moment for me, one which I treasure.

From Gerald … We have completed the structural work on our garage walls.  Here is a summary of the process: 1) build temporary walls to support the roof structure, 2) remove the rotted bottom plates and the bottom 10 inches of the studs, 3) insert cinder blocks with a new bottom plate on top of them under the cut off studs, 4) mix and pour concrete in the block cavities to retain the rebar and anchors (holding the blocks to each other, to the slab, and to the bottom plate), 5) remove the temporary walls, and 6) remove the old siding and replace it with new sheathing, insulation, and siding. 

All of this is done now except for the insulation and siding, which we are going to pay someone else to do.  We have started moving things from storage in the new family room back to the garage so that the electrician can get into the family room to do his work.  We are excited to see things moving ahead on this project and look forward to its completion. 

With love from the Pedersen clan

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sweet Sixteen!

Laura turned 16 this week!  Laura and I made this birthday sandwich.

Here she is making her blueberry cake.

Everyone brought their instruments and we had a jam session.  We are a little rusty from lack of practice, but we still had lots of fun.