Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nature Surprises

Last week, we found a locust in the process of coming out of its old exoskeleton. This is how it was when we first found it. The little green clumps are the wings, all folded up. By the time we stopped watching, it had fully pulled out of the exoskeleton, and its wings had been pumped up. It was really neat to watch.

We arrived home Sunday night after spending the evening with some friends to find that the power was out. As we were all going around with our flashlights, trying to get ready to go to bed, Becca called out, "There's something in the sink!" We all came over with the flashlights, to discover that in our sink we had a skink. We've seen them on the property before, but never very well, since they usually scamper away so fast, and never in the house!

While we were traipsing about in the woods, we found a clump of these beautiful wildflowers. They might be the first flowers we've found back there.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

July Newsletter

From Laura, 10 … When we got home from our trip earlier this month, we found numerous inconveniences in both of our houses. One of our refrigerators broke down, so we have been coping with only one, which means more than one trip to the grocery store each week. At our other house, there was a very slow, small leak in the kitchen sink, and another leak in a fitting just above the water heater, and the well here wasn’t working right. Also, there were quite a few cockroaches lying about, and we discovered garbanzo beans infested with little beetles that have been sighted all over the downstairs. Every time any of us spotted a beetle, we vacuumed him right up. We’ve ordered a new fridge, hopefully fixed the well, cleaned up the water mess in the garage at the other house, disposed of the bugs, and pretty much settled back into normal life from the trip.

From Becca, 12 … On our recent trip, Anna taught me how to tat and crochet. Tatting is a kind of lace that is made of lots of knots arranged around a loop. It is small, delicate work, but pretty. I am making a simple edging to go around a doily, hanky, or whatever. I like crocheting because I can do anything I want with it. If I want, I can just hook and loop all over the place. Doing something more systematic might be prettier, but doing it in a crazy way is fun sometimes.

From Seth, 16 … These past 10 days since our trip have been pretty quiet, but interesting none-the-less. This morning I biked to the Wades’ house for a piano lesson, but I came on the wrong week! While I was waiting for Katie to be ready for my non-existent piano lesson, I wandered around the Wades’ garden. It has some amazing squash plants in it. The garden is only two-and-a-half rows wide, but their squash have grown out from the garden in three directions, and are now attacking their fence and wood heap. Altogether, the squash plants extend maybe 70 feet! It was also interesting to see the flowers on the plants because I am studying flowers and seeds for science. You could see all stages of development: flowers in full bloom, closed up flowers, closed up flowers with little bulges at their base, bigger bulges with remnants of flower sticking on their ends, and full blown squash!

From Anna, 19 … I really enjoyed our time at Pioneer Village on our trip. It’s a museum showing the development of all kinds of technology and products, including cars, helicopters, musical instruments, household appliances, dolls, clothing, lighting, and farm equipment. There were also parts that illustrated what life in the mid-1800’s would have looked like, including a sod house and an old country church. The sheer magnitude of the collection was amazing. In the section showing different types of music players, they had not one player piano, but a whole row of them! We came across a couple of things in that section that we’d never seen before, but this museum had two of each! One was a piano-player machine. It would be set in front of a regular piano, and it had little hammers that would play the keys. The other was like a player piano, but it also had a player violin inside! I wish we could have heard that one being played.

One display I liked was a series of kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms from 1830 to 1980. It was interesting to see the changes in technology, the changes in style and fashion, and also the relative times that various technologies were developed. For example, there was a kitchen that had a record player, but still didn’t have running water. I would tend to think of running water as more of a necessity, and a record player as a luxury, but people living back then didn’t get to choose which technology came first.

From John, 24 … It looks as though my house-buying saga may soon be coming to an end. After submitting fruitless offers on two other houses over the last few months, my offer on a third house was accepted this week. I’m set to close at the end of August. It needs some repair here and there, and most of the house could use new carpet and paint, but overall it’s not in bad shape. The lot is not as big as I would have liked, but I’m quite pleased with the house. I’m not a big fan of mowing the lawn, so a smaller yard is probably good for me.

About Ray and Katie … (by Judith) The Wades are starting to gather items for their baby: diapers, clothes, cradle, etc. They’re gradually preparing for this third member of their household. The great delight these days is feeling the baby move. It’s a family pastime, I think. Not just Ray, but most of the rest of us have also felt the baby move! We’re grateful that Katie doesn’t mind. They’re also beginning to plan their fall garden.

From Judith … After so many years of owning old houses, we have certainly come to expect the unexpected. We have had a string of tasks recently put on the “to-do” list that are not part of the remodeling phase of Berea (our new house). A few have been perplexing and all have been delays to the work we really want to do. While gradually knocking off those new tasks, though, we’re beginning to weave remodeling work into our work times.

Last Sunday night Gerald and I enjoyed planning the sink area in our bathroom. Currently, though ultimately destined to be replaced, the old tub and toilet are working, but the end of the room for the sinks is a yawning, wall-less area. With pencil, eraser, and paper, and lots of measuring, we produced our plan. It’s so fun and easy to move things around at this phase with the simple use of an eraser! We really have barely enough space for the two sinks, so, at one point, Gerald had me standing next to him measuring from my middle to his middle when we were standing as close as we comfortably could side-by-side at our imaginary sinks. It was amusing to say the least! Anna commented on how customized our bathroom would be.

From Gerald … I removed some low-hanging branches from a couple of our trees. I am enough of an adventure-seeker to enjoy things like the zip-line we experienced on our vacation, but I do not like working on ladders. So, trimming the trees was a white-knuckle time for me. Now that the branches are gone, it has opened up the yard a bit – more sunlight and less need to duck when walking past. I have identified a suitable limb for a rope swing, so next time I am ready to brave the ladder again, it can go up.

Some of you know that our van got sick just before our recent trip. It was not sick unto death, but was not repaired in time for us to leave. So, we ended up borrowing Ray and Katie’s Toyota and driving it along with our Buick. Two things we noticed: 1) It was cheaper to buy gas for both the Toyota and the Buick than it would have been for our van alone. 2) We really missed our time together as a family in the van while we were traveling.

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What We've Been Doing Lately

Mama giving a diaper demonstration to Katie.

A tea party.

Jump rope.

Raking and having wheelbarrow rides.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Book Review: Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

After a very long time, I have at last finished reading Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem.

As might be expected with an anthology of articles by a wide variety of authors, I enjoyed and agreed with parts of it more than others, but overall I give it a very high rating. There was a committment to Scriptural authority over man's reasoning throughout, and when the articles go into careful consideration of specific texts, I felt like the authors were really trying to let Scripture speak, rather than imposing their preconceived notions on what it said. I also appreciated the balance of an unhesitating stand for truth with graciousness toward those who disagree.

Some personal highlights:

-John Piper's foreward, addressed to single people, where he pointed out that marriage is not required to have a satisfying, fulfilled Christian life, nor is it the only setting in which the Biblical roles of men and women apply.

-John Piper's overview chapter--possibly my favorite part of the entire book-- where he presents the basic definitions of Biblical manhood--"At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man's differing relationships"--and womanhood: "At the heart of mature feminity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman's differing relationships." He goes into great detail in fleshing these characteristics out, especially as to what it means for a man to lead, since that is so misunderstood these days.

-Thomas Schreiner's argument about the similarity of the distinct roles of men and women to the distinct roles of the members of the Trinity.

-Dorothy Patterson's article "The High Calling of Wife and Mother in Biblical Perspective," which celebrates homemaking as a glorious career, well worth a woman's first energies, and a divine calling with untold benefits.

-Elizabeth Elliot's short but powerful article "The Essence of Femininity: A Personal Perspective." This article really resonated with me. Here are a couple of quotes:

"Why must feminists substitute for the glorious hierarchical vision of blessedness a ramshackle and incoherent ideal that flattens all human beings to a single level-- a faceless, colorless, sexless wasteland where rule and submission are regarded as a curse, where the roles of men and women are treated like machine parts that are interchangeable, replaceable,and adjustable, and where fulfillment is a matter of pure politics, things like equality and rights? This is a world...that takes no account of mystery. The church claims to be the bearer of revelation. If her claim is true... we should expect to find...'an element that unbelievers will call irrational...'"

"This Spirit-inspired imagery [the husband and wife as images of Christ and the church] is not to be shuffled about and rearranged according to our whims and preferences. Mystery must be handled not only with care but also with reverence and awe."

My one complaint: At least some of the authors seem to not be willing to question whether the current prevailing church model is really the best. One example of this is in Weldon Hardonbrook's article "Where's Dad?" adapted from his book Missing in Action. After clearly and accurately diagnosing many of the problems in the church, the family, and society at large caused by absent or passive fathers, he offers a clarion call for men to step up and be men. "For too long the most predictable fact about young males in the church is that the majority of them will leave by the time they are young adults. For too long the feminized clergy of our land have been known as nice guys rather than courageous leaders... Men must again become the primary religious educators of their children." To that I say AMEN! He goes on: "Men must enter the Sunday schools." What?! Is that the only way men can disciple their children? Wouldn't it be much more effective if each father trained his own children, instead of putting them all together and then trying to find teachers for them?

This issue also comes up when the book addresses ministry opportunities which are open to women. Ministry of teaching to women and children is often mentioned, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, if men are to be the primary disciplers of their wives and children, then care must be taken to not let someone else-- man or woman-- usurp that role.

That said, I still highly recommend the book. Desiring God has the text on its website, so you can view any part of it here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Did Anything Break Down Today?

This is what Gerald asked at dinner tonight.

Sometimes problems come in rapid succession. After coming home Monday from an 11-day trip, we found the second fridge, bathroom fan, chiming clock, and laundry room light not working. Also, our water well has been kicking off and we have a moderate bug infestation. The next morning we went to get the van, which had broken down before the trip. While in our old neighborhood, we checked on the old house. We found one of the air conditioners out of order and the garage partially flooded from a defective tube on the water heater. No wonder Gerald asked this question!

The fridge was quite old and we knew it wouldn’t last much longer. A replacement will be here later this month. Meanwhile I’ll grocery shop twice a week and supplement with ice chests.

The fan and clock were quick fixes, but the laundry room light may need replacement.

The pump for the well is electric. There apparently is a “sticky” part. When it sticks we very quickly have NO water. Thankfully a few firm taps gets it running again. Gerald will work on it Saturday.

We discovered that the bugs had moved in with some garbanzo beans. We’re gradually getting them eliminated.

Though the van problem required making other travel arrangements for the trip – namely taking two cars (including one generously loaned by the Wades) – it is now repaired and back in operation.

We’ve called our A/C man and Gerald has fixed the part on the water heater. We’ve cleaned up the water mess, but we still have assorted items to get out of that garage and sealant is needed on the new kitchen grout. Until it sells we’ll also have routine cleaning and yard maintenance to do. We are very glad to finally have it on the market, though. Please pray with us that it will sell soon.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Our Trip Part 3

After we left Ft. Collins we drove to Nebraska and spent some time at Pioneer Village, a large museum full of old buildings, artifacts, and even artwork. The museum was very interesting, and it was great to have a day to ourselves in the middle of the trip.

We're spending this weekend at the Pedersen family reunion. We meet at a church camp, and we get to use the facilities, so we've kept busy with a number of activities.

Playing volleyball:

Going down the zipline:

I went down the zipline with a camera in hand, and you can watch the result here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Sin of Achan

I've been reading in Joshua recently, and was particularly struck by the account of Achan's sin.

Before the defeat of Jericho, Joshua clearly warned the people against taking any of the plunder, which was all devoted to God.

"But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord." (Joshua 6:18-19)

Not a single member of the nation of Israel had any excuse for not knowing that the taking of plunder would bring God's anger upon the entire people.

"But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan... took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel." (Joshua 7:1)

Because of Achan's deed, God was not with Israel when they attacked Ai, and they were driven back in defeat, with the loss of several men. As God's covenant people, it was imperative that they be wholly pure, and the whole nation was responsible. God revealed who had sinned, thus bringing guilt on everyone.

"And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath." (Joshua 7:20-21)

The consequences for this disobedience was severe:

"And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones." (Joshua 7:25)

There are two things I've been pondering since reading this. One is the complete irrationality of Achan's sin. God had clearly told the people that judgment would follow if they took any of the devoted things. What material thing could possibly compensate for that? After all the mighty signs that had God performed, and the current fulfillment of promises made long ago concerning the inheritance of the promised land, how could Achan think that God wouldn't make good on his promise to judge this disobedience?

But... my other thought has been about how prevalent this exact type of sin is in the church today. God has made us His covenant people and given us a mission to carry out in the world. He has told us "...to keep [ourselves] unstained from the world." (James 1:26) Yet how many people pursuing the work of God-- or at least claiming to-- look aside and see the riches and pleasures offered by the world, and turn to take and pursue them?

There was nothing inherently evil about the robe and precious metals coveted by Achan. There was nothing inherently evil in keeping the plunder from a conquered city, as is evidenced by God's permission to take plunder from Ai. Rather, the evilness of Achan's deed consisted of turning away from following the Word of the Lord and believing God's promises, and instead seeking his own pleasure and prosperity.

Even so, there is nothing inherently wrong with being well-known, or having a good reputation, or having a good job, or having lots of friends. However, if any of these things become more important to us than serving God and pursuing His will in our lives, then we are guilty of the sin of Achan.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Our Trip Part 2

Here are a few pictures of our days in Ft. Collins.

Laura lost a tooth!

Uncle Steve playing with my new phone:

I helped Grandpa and his helper replace a patio door.

We assembled a swing for Grandmother. Said swing had different effects on different people.

Of course, we know that Seth is a perfectly normal human being. He just makes great funny faces.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Moment in Time

This picture, taken by Seth, was just too good not to post. It was part of a solo dance that John did at a performance downtown a few weeks ago. Seth didn't even know what he had until after he'd taken it!
You can watch a video of the whole dance here.

Our Trip Part 1

Despite our beloved van being indisposed, we made it to Ft. Collins, where we will be visiting our grandparents for a few days. Here are a few snapshots of our journey so far:

Our transportation...

We love trains.

Sharing a bathroom...


Playing chess.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Van Update

Bad news: The van is very sick.

Good news: We will still be able to take our trip, using our sedan and the graciously-loaned Wade's sedan.

Colorado here we come!

An Exercise in Flexibility

Well, the plan was to leave on vacation tomorrow... but this morning the van wouldn't start, so we had to have it towed.

Now all our plans are up in the air! We're still waiting to hear back from the car repair place, so we don't know yet what's wrong or how long it will take to repair it.