Sunday, March 29, 2009

March Newsletter

From Laura, 10 … Several days ago, we got our carpet installed! It made the new house look a lot nicer. Now it’s also a lot quieter than before, because some of us would just race upstairs, making a huge racket (because it was just wood). So, you can see, it is nice in different ways. More recently, we started laying the wood floor in the downstairs!! Like the carpet, it makes it look much more finished, even though we’ve only done around half of the living room. Before the flooring was started, we mostly focused on crown molding. Almost all of it is up!

From Becca, 12 … Laura and I have been doing a lot of planting lately. We helped Ray plant seeds in his garden. Then we planted tomato plants and a pepper plant in our garden. We planted a sunflower house at the Wades’ house. A sunflower house is a great thing. The seeds are planted in the shape of a house (a circle or a square with an opening). Then when they grow up big it is a house you can go into. We also helped Anna redo one of our flower beds (at our current home). She took out all the plants and transplanted the good ones to other places. Then she dug it up and we helped her plant 48 red, white, and purple petunias. Now it is a pretty garden.

From Seth, 16 … On Tuesday, as I was finishing up with a mowing job, I had a fun experience. I was cleaning off the sidewalks with my blower, and was trying to hurry because of the stormy sky and the occasional spurts of wind. All of a sudden a street sweeper stopped, and the driver beckoned to me, so I turned off my blower and ran over to see what he wanted. He told me that if I would blow all the grass into the street he would drive by and suck it all up, so in less than five minutes he did a job that probably would have taken me at least twenty minutes!

From Anna, 19 … We are currently participating in a small group at church that is going through The Ever-Loving Truth, by Voddie Baucham (one of our elders). It is about why and how we should uncompromisingly defend our Christian faith even in the midst of an increasingly hostile culture. We’ve explored the presuppositions in our culture that are at odds with Biblical Christianity, the Biblical basis for defending the faith, and the manner in which we are to do so. It has all been very inspiring.

From John, 24 … I was pondering recently how grateful I am for my customers. Since I started gradually with just a few customers, working in the evenings and on Saturdays, I have never had to advertise in any way. My customers are good enough to tell their friends about me so that all of my work comes from referrals. That means that even when I get a new customer, I have some familiarity with them before we ever meet. It is a great blessing from God that I have so many people that I enjoy being around who continue to have me over to improve their homes.

Many people who have work similar to mine find great satisfaction in the act of working with their hands and producing something tangible. I experience a little of that, but I find that my greatest thrills come from the pleasure of my customers and the knowledge that I have made a positive difference in their lives.

About Ray and Katie … Ray and Katie have been having the time of their lives over the past month getting settled into their new home. Katie has been doing a lovely job of decorating and organizing inside, while Ray has been improving the yard and putting in the garden. They’ve had two giant, threatening trees removed and they are soon to be owners of a used pickup truck, which will be a huge help with hauling. Far exceeding their many blessings so far, there is also now the great joy of a child expected in November! Katie is tired and moderately nauseas, but is managing well with eating frequent small meals throughout the day. She is very grateful for the freedom and flexibility of being a stay-at-home wife.

From Judith … Even though we aren’t in our new house yet, we have already gotten a good taste of what it will be like to live so close to the Wades (just 4 ½ blocks!). On our workdays over there, Becca and Laura have ridden their bikes to the Wades’, Katie and Ray have come to eat lunch with us, assorted items have been shared back and forth, etc. It really has been delightful!

We have decided to name our new home “Berea”. It comes from Acts 17:11. When Paul and Silas preached to the Jews in Berea, “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” We hope that our new home will be a place where people check what they hear and read against the truth of the Bible. The name “Berea” will remind us to be ever vigilant in that regard and to encourage our guests to do the same.

From Gerald … It seems like most of my free time these days is spent on the new house (Berea). Even when we are not actually there working, time is spent researching, planning, buying, and discussing. Most of my vacation time is now used up, so we really only have Saturdays as a full day to work there. Sometimes, I go over for an hour or so during the week to do some small jobs.

I believe we are actually getting close to being ready to move. Last week, the carpet went in upstairs. We are now working on the wood floor downstairs. After the floor is in, we can start moving. We have decided that we can use the sink in the kitchenette of the apartment temporarily until we get our kitchen working. That would allow us to live there while finishing the work, making it more convenient for me to work evenings, and the rest of the family could do things during the day as they have time.

We have already started to move some of the things that we do not need to have at the old house. There also is a list of projects that need to be done to get the old house ready to put on the market. So, there is no shortage of "house stuff" to keep us occupied.

We are really trying to keep a balance in our lives and not let the house consume us. We have continued to be involved in the lives of other families in the church and in a weekly small-group study. This helps to keep us from being too "driven".

Our Love, Gerald, Judith, John, Anna, Seth, Becca, and Laura

Friday, March 27, 2009

An Application of Tuesday's Post

My mother pointed out to me that the logical follow-up to this post would be to share my testimony. This hadn't even occured to me (the more shame to me, I'm sure), but of course she's right, so I shall now endeavor to "practice what I preach" and share my testimony with all due brevity, humility, honesty, discretion, eagerness, and sensitivity!

Growing up in a committed Christian family, there was never a time in my life when I didn't know about the truth of the Gospel. When I was about four, I prayed a salvation prayer, but there was really no heart change at that time. I was just doing what everybody was supposed to do.

When I was nine, I entered the crisis period of my spiritual life. I fell into several pattens of sin. From the outside, it probably wouldn't look very bad-- after all, how bad can a nine-year-old living in a Godly homeschooling family with very involved parents get? My heart, though, was full of rebellion.

The feelings I remember most vividly from this time are guilt and fear. I was afraid of God's judgment and awash in guilt for what I knew was wrong. I would resolve to change and do better, but to no avail. Eventually, I came to the point of doubting my salvation and God's love for me. I prayed the salvation prayer over and over again, hoping it would "stick."

Coming out of this time was a gradual process. God used various things I read and the encouragement of my parents to bring about many turning points.

During those days, I had avoided using the term "Lord" in my prayers. I knew that my life wasn't submitted to Christ, and I felt like I had to get my life straightened out before I could call him my Lord. Alone, though I had no hope of changing my life. One day, I cried out to God, asking Him to take control of my life and become my Lord. If I had a single time in my life when I became a Christian, this was it, although I didn't recognize it as such at the time. I do know that I then felt more at rest than I had in many months.

In the nine or ten years since those dark days, God has continually drawn me ever closer to Himself. He has taught me how to love Him more, what salvation truly means, and how to depend ever more on Him to help me lead a life worthy of His calling. He has given me a desire to serve Him, and a great joy in the salvation that He has so graciously given me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

By What Standard

I listened to part of President Obama's press conference last night, including his comments on the recent executive order to fund embryonic stem cell research. One comment he made, with which I heartily agree, is that we must have an ethical and moral foundation on which to base such decisions.

So why is it, that if we agree on that point, that he supports embryonic research and I do not?

I was reminded of the sermon at church on Sunday, which included three criteria which must be met in order for an action to be Biblically ethical. It must by a right action, done for the right motive, and the right goal. How then do we determine whether an action, motive, or goal is right?

Herein lies the disagreement. Every one of us has some standard by which we judge such matters, and, ultimately, there are only two standards.

President Obama stated that he sees no problem with using embryos, who are most likely going to be discarded anyway, to attempt to help find relief for those who are sick. In essence, he was saying that he believes the motive and goal are right, therefore the action is right and ethical. This is pragmatism, which is, at its heart, the belief that man's reason is the standard for determining right and wrong.

Man's reason is one possible standard; what if we look at this issue from the other possible standard-- God's Word? If we come to the table with the Bible as our standard, we realize that all life is precious to God, even the tiniest unborn children, and that it is always a sin to destroy the innocent lives of those who bear God's image. Doing so can therefore never be a right action, regardless of what the motive or goal is.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to Share Your Testimony

In The Ever-Loving Truth, Pastor Voddie gives several principles for sharing one's testimony.

First of all, our testimonies must be grounded in Scripture. Our experience alone has no authority, but it must be interpreted in light of what God has revealed in His word.

Then, there are six basic principles for how we should share that experience:

1. Be Brief

A testimony is a summary of how God has worked in your life, in both salvation and subsequent sanctification. It is not intended to be your entire life story!

2. Be Humble

Our testimonies should point people to Christ, not exalt ourselves. "Remember, it is not possible to make much of Jesus and make much of yourself at the same time."

3. Be Honest

There are two ways in which we tend to not be honest when sharing our testimony; either we minimize our sin in order to make ourselves look pure, or we embellish it in order to make our testimony more impressive! Both are wrong.

4. Be Discreet

It is possible to express what God has saved you from without going into every detail. Don't defile your hearers! Also, don't share details of others' lives. Let them do their own testifying or confessing.

5. Be Eager

What will your hearers think if you are obviously reluctant to share, or if you seem to have nothing in particular to say? "I cannot help but imagine lost people in the audience thinking, I guess his God hasn't done anything for him lately."

6. Be Sensitive

People who have experienced some kind of complete turn-around, or who have met with extraordinary success, if they are not careful can make it sound as if anyone who has not experienced this is an inferior Christian, or is not following the Lord as much as they are. For example: "A former drug addict ... says, 'I prayed to receive Jesus, and the next moment I lost my craving for drugs. If you are struggling with addiction, just turn it over...' The delivered drug addict, if he is not careful, can seem like he or she is suggesting that anyone who struggles to defeat an addiction is not as 'saved' as he or she is.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Operation House-to-Home: Wood Floor

We were finally able to start laying the wood floor downstairs yesterday! Here Seth and John were working on the underlayment, which provides a vapor barrior.
The first row.
Here we go!

The end of the day.

We also planted a garden. It's pretty small, with only nine tomato plants and a bell pepper plant, but it's still bigger than anything we could put in at our other house!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Operation House-to-Home: Carpet!

Our carpet went in on Tuesday! It's amazing how much difference it makes. The upstairs actually feels homey now! We were all walking around, marveling at how quiet it was and how finished everything looked! The carpet completes the work we will do in the upstairs for now, so we will start gradually moving things over that we can get by without here.

Here are some before and after shots:

They laid out enough of the old carpet to cover the driveway so they would have a clean surface to cut it on. In it goes!

It appeared that doing the stairs was a very tedious process, but they did a good job and it looks very tidy.

Here is what their van looked like once they had loaded the old carpet and pad. There was originally more carpet in the house than we were putting in, so even with their van loaded like this, they couldn't take it all away. They got most of it, though, and what they couldn't fit, they cut into smaller pieces so that we can throw it away. Meanwhile, we put sills on the kitchen and living room windows......and continued working on crown molding...

...but not as much as we would have liked, because we discovered that the bricks above the window were leaking, so we had to put in new mortar.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Speaking the Truth

Our family is currently participating in a small group going through The Ever-Loving Truth, by Pastor Voddie. It's about speaking the truth of the Gospel, even in the midst of an antagonistic culture.

As we've been going through this study, I've been thinking about persecution.

What believer has not wondered at one time or another how he would respond to true persecution? When faced with the very real possibilty of losing possessions, comfort, friends, family, or life, how will we respond?

Of course, I would love to think that I would stand firm, proclaiming God's truth fearlessly and maintaining a spirit of contentment and joy, but sometimes the idea of facing such persecution scares me.

When thoughts like these arise, I have to remind myself that God is faithful. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith, who will keep us and preserve us. He will give us the grace we need.

On the other hand, we are to prepare ourselves-- "always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you..." (1 Peter 3:15). We ought to seek to grow in our understanding and handling of God's Word, that we might share it with boldness and grace. As Papa insightfully pointed out last week, we do this to defend the Gospel, not to defend ourselves.

Part of preparing ourselves is beginning to speak the truth now. I may believe that I would stand firm at gunpoint, but do I tone down the message when speaking with people I encounter as I go about my everyday life? Do I explain my lifestyle choices in terms of God's call on my life, or do I explain them in terms of what works for me so people don't think I'm weird? When I hear people expressing unbiblical views, do I lovingly bring the truth of the Bible to bear on that situation, or do I keep my mouth shut for fear of rejection?

This is an area in which I am greatly lacking. I'm trusting that God will grant me the boldness and the desire to share Him more freely with our lost world.

Christ is our example. He never backed down for fear of rejection. He persevered in the midst of greater suffering than we will ever know. As we are molded more and more into His image, a passion for the lost and boldness in the face of opposition will necessarily follow.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Operation House-to-Home: Crown Molding

Due to inclement weather, the carpet will not go in until next week. We also decided to install the crown molding before the wood floor, so that is our current critical path.

Papa trimming the corner on a piece of molding.

We've also installed...

a toilet...
baseboard in the utility room...
the light that will eventually have a kitchen sink under it...
phone jacks...
and lots of switches and outlets.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I'm Going to Be an AUNT!!!!!!!

That's right--Katie and Ray will be welcoming their first child this fall, and we are all just as thrilled as can be!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Operation House-to-Home: This and That

Painting the living room ceiling. (As of today, all ceilings are painted! Hooray!)
Planting lilies.
Texturing living room walls. (All texturing was completed last week.)

Conquering vines.

Putting in electrical conduit for the island so we could fill in the groove.

Leveling the floor.
We officially have the carpet installation scheduled for next week, and we should be able to start putting in our wood floors downstairs within a couple days!

Monday, March 2, 2009

What We Did On Saturday

Saturday was moving day for Katie and Ray, so Papa and Seth took the van and joined with other friends from church to help.

Clearing out the apartment.
The first loads arriving.
They had been given a fair amount of furniture by a family that was moving overseas, which they couldn't fit in their apartment. It was all being stored at our new house, mostly out of the way, but we were ready to see the couch and loveseat go, since we were now working in the room where they were being stored!

After getting everything to its proper destination, all the helpers enjoyed lunch and fellowship.

Ray and Katie were very happy to see the children enjoying the outdoors in their spacious yard!

After an afternoon of work at our house, we all went home to celebrate Seth's 16th birthday. I'm not entirely sure that I'm old enough to have a younger brother who's 16, but it seems to have happened! It has been a blessing to watch him grow and mature more and more into a godly young man.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

February Newsletter

February 28, 2009

From Laura, 10 … This week we went to the dentist. Usually the hygienist asks me boring questions with her fingers in my mouth. But this time I had an interesting conversation with a new hygienist that I’d never seen before. She asked me, “Do you help with the cooking?” I answered, “Yes.” She said, “I didn’t help enough with the cooking when I was little, so now I don’t know how to cook.” Curious, I asked, “What do you do for meals when you get home?” The answer was, “We eat junk food at the places around here.” Then she said, “Once, another hygienist baked enchiladas for our family. You should have seen the looks on my children’s faces! They loved it and even licked the bowl! I felt so terrible that I don’t feed them that! I want to learn how to cook, so that I can teach my children how.” I felt bad for that mother and especially for her children. But I realized that that’s how many families all over America live. Eating healthy food is not only good for your body, but is also enjoyable, particularly if your previous habit was eating junk food.

From Becca, 12 … Recently I read a very interesting article about the Civil War. I learned that the war was not all about slavery. There were people in the North called the Transcendentalists who were atheists, humanists, socialists, communists… and abolitionists. Not only did they want to get rid of slavery, but also the checks and balances of the Constitution. Their goal was to have man be God.

After the war ended Abraham Lincoln called the recovery of the nation “restoration.” He wanted to restore the country to what it was. The Transcendentalists called it “reconstruction.” They wanted to change the whole country to have a bigger more powerful government without the limits of Christianity and the Constitution. That’s pretty much what we have today, because they succeeded.

From Seth, 16 … This week I read something pretty interesting in my history book. I just arrived in the section on the Great Depression, and it was talking about the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was interesting to see the correlations between the election of 1932 and that of 2008. Both candidates were Democrats, both of the campaign’s main issues ended up being the economic situation, both candidates believed in major government intervention, and in both campaigns the candidates talked about the “change” that would come with their presidency, but did not give many details on what the change would look like.

From Anna, 18 … In the course of a conversation I was a part of at church recently, a father of five young children talked about how people tell him that teenage rebellion is inescapable. He was saying that he can’t say for certain that none of his children will rebel—God alone is in control of hearts—but he doesn’t believe that they necessarily will. Instead of hoping to weather the storm, this family is planning to prevent it from coming altogether.

This caused me to reflect some on my own experience. I think that a key to why our family is as close and stable as it is, and why none of the three of us who are now near the end of or past our teenage years have rebelled, is that Mama and Papa have always worked very hard to maintain good, open communication. We all know that we can talk to them about anything, and that even when they tell us things that we don’t want to hear, it’s for our own good!

It’s sad what low expectations our culture places on young people. If you look back in history, teenagers were doing the work of adults, and doing it well. Most people will rise to whatever expectations are placed on them. If a child grows up knowing that his parents expect him to waste his teenage years in sloth and rebellion, that’s probably all he’ll do. However, a child who is raised by parents who expect him to be a godly, mature teenager, able and willing to be of benefit to those around him, will look very different.

From John, 24 … Last week I read What He Must Be, a book by one of our elders, Voddie Baucham. It was inspiring to read about what a man must be as a husband and father. Our culture has come to expect mediocrity and passivity from men when it comes to their responsibilities to their wives and children. What He Must Be calls married men to take their God-given rolls seriously, and unmarried men to embrace marriage, but to do so cognizant of the attendant responsibilities.

About Ray and Katie … Today is moving day for the Wades. Due to cracks created by the foundation repair, Katie was busily painting most of the interior since their closing two weeks ago. Ray has snatched what time he could to work on getting a garden in. In Houston the time is right now to get that going. They have also been purchasing and gathering various needed house and yard items. By the end of the day, they will have emptied their apartment and moved most of their stored items from our new house. They are very much looking forward to getting settled into their new home.

From Judith … It has been a thrill to see the walls getting closed up, patched, textured, and painted at the new house! Within weeks the carpet will be installed upstairs and the flooring will be going in downstairs. We are definitely reclaiming this house from its sorry state of neglect, and that is satisfying indeed. It’s still a wild guess when we will move in. It really depends on how long it takes to get the kitchen cabinets built. Of course, there will a great amount of work to do after we move in, but it will be far more convenient once we live there. We will also have a bit of work to do on our current home before we put it on the market.

From Gerald … We have just celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary. Back at number 23, I had been married as long as I was unmarried, so we are well past that mark. We know others who have been married longer than we have and I have great admiration for their commitment to one another in the face of a culture that does not hold the marriage commitment in high regard.

I thank God for the wife he has given to me in Judith. She has been such a blessing to me, as a partner and helper. Our life together improves year-by-year.

Our Love, Gerald, Judith, John, Anna, Seth, Becca, and Laura