Monday, April 6, 2015

February-March Family Newsletter

April 4, 2015 -- Pedersen Family Newsletter

From Laura, 16 …  I have been spending time lately getting ready for my first piano recital.  I am preparing a song that I’ve been working on for the past year.  It’s an arrangement of the theme song from Jurassic Park and by far the most difficult piece I have ever played or worked on.  Having mastered it to some degree, I feel a lot more satisfaction than I’ve felt with other songs.  I think this is simply because it has taken so much more effort to get it to the same quality level.

From Becca, 18 …  My bread business has been picking up a little in the past few months.  I started it for Thanksgiving, 2013, but I didn’t do anything with it in 2014 until Thanksgiving came around again.  With graduation in the near future, I decided to try to start having a real business.  I mailed out a few flyers to neighbors and got a bunch of orders for the holidays.  Two customers started ordering bread on a regular schedule.  I acquired an e-mail address, a website, and business cards.  Then I took a quick online course to become a certified food handler so that the business is legal.  I hope that I will get more customers after I graduate.  Check out my website if you like: www.beccasbreads.weebly.com.  I welcome criticism and advice.

From Seth, 22 …  My phone broke a couple weeks ago, so I got an old cheap iPhone on eBay.  In kind of a surprising way, it's turned out to be a huge blessing.  My phone plan doesn't cover data, so I downloaded a lot of apps that work without the Internet, one of them being a digital Bible.  So now, when I'm out and about and find myself waiting around for something, I can feed myself for a few minutes on God's word.  Reflecting on the sometimes limited access to Bibles throughout history, it's amazing to have one almost literally at my fingertips all day, every day.  (Hat tip to John Piper for a 2011 article, "Beware: The Bible Is About to Threaten Your Smartphone Focus," that has stuck with me all these years until I got a smartphone.)
[Editors note: Go read that article.  It's short and funny.]

 From Anna, 25 …
  I’ve now been working for our church for a full year.  It continues to be a good fit for me.  I really enjoy most aspects of the job, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to invest my time and abilities in supporting the church that means so much to me.  It’s nice to feel like I’ve found my niche.

It felt a little bit strange to turn 25 last month.  It’s beginning to sink in that I really am an adult now, but I still don’t feel nearly as mature as 25 sounds!  It’s sobering, though, to realize that I’ve probably lived a third of my life already.  It is a fresh encouragement to use wisely the time that God has given me.


From John, Megan, James (3), Ezra (1), and Joy Constancy (due in August) … (by Megan) Our biggest news is that we are having a girl!  Joy is active and growing as she should.  James is very excited to meet her!  We're enjoying seeing pink come into our home even if it's just in the laundry so far. ;-)

From Ray, Katie, Peter (5), Samuel (3),  Andrew (2), and Grace (10 mo.) … (by Katie) Here are a few quotes from the little people lately.

Peter, while I was sick for a few days: “Mommy, are you well enough to do school today?”

Samuel, upon arriving home from a fun but wet campout with dirty laundry, exhausted parents, and heaps of things to be put away: “How many days until we go camping again?”

Andrew (the one who doesn’t talk much yet), hearing Ray pointing out a new highway ramp: “Wow!!!!”

Peter, playing pretend with a little friend who suggested that she be his wife: “What do I need a wife for?”  (Oh, and the little friend’s mother: “No, let’s just be friends!”)

Grace (10 months) is still her adorable, adventurous, easy-going self.  She loves her brothers and follows them around, although she doesn’t hesitate to yell and scowl when they bother her.  We’ve pondered how to keep her from being either a tomboy or a princess, and I’m starting to worry that she might be both!  There’s nothing like parenting to send you praying for wisdom, that’s for sure.

From Judith … The garage contents are now moved back to the garage and the garage has new siding and windows.  We added a third window in the process.  It’s wonderful that all the rotten parts are gone now!  The next step will be exterior painting and putting up shutters.

The family room has been insulated.  That step brought a dramatic change in the “sound” of the room.  The moist, blown-in insulation absorbs sound.  The room is 30 feet by 40 feet, but when I’m talking to Gerald out there, it sounds like we’re in a small closet!  That will change after the drywall is put up, which is the next step.  The shutters have been put up and Anna has started painting the doors.

In the main house we have hired John’s company to finish out the master bathroom (except for the vanity cabinet, which Gerald will do) and the guest suite bathroom.  Though Gerald enjoys that sort of work, he just doesn’t have time.

From Gerald … Twice a year we invite any friends who are interested to join us camping.  We do this once in the spring and once in the fall.  (Let us know if you want to be added to the list of those who receive information about coming to future campouts.)

We make plans 5-7 months in advance, so we never know for sure what the weather will be.  We had our spring campout a few weeks ago during Seth’s spring break week and the weather forecast was looking very wet in the days leading up to the campout.  As a result we had a much smaller group than usual, but we still had a great time.  Thursday and Friday ended up being sunny days and we did not get rain until Friday evening.

Because of the prediction of rain, we took along our giant (30 ft. x 40 ft.) tarp, which we set up on Thursday.  This covered our table, cooking area, and tent, and left enough space for folks to gather in camp chairs out of the rain.  Most folks who were there had a good time; we enjoyed being out in God’s creation and being with friends.
 
With love from the Pedersen clan

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
Story

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.

Themes

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.

Quality

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.