9.30.2008

Still Got It!

The old film camera was unearthed this weekend to finish off a roll. I intended this to be it's final hurrah, but I fell in love with the manual-ness of it all. Twist, squint, click. That real shutter sound! I like my digital camera a lot, especially with fast-moving children who blink at the wrong time, but I love the feel of film cameras too much to get rid of it. My ultimate dream come true would be to find another Pentax K1000 completely manual camera again. I had one in college but it died beyond my financial means to repair it.


Here's the evidence that film's still got it:









And here's a rare occurrence - me in my wedding dress (barely breathing), celebrating 10 years after the original debut.

Check out those python upper-arms! Don't tangle with mama!

9.24.2008

On baptism

The following is part of a discussion with some friends about baptism, starting with whether we should use the term "paedobaptism" [paedo=infant/child].

You may have some experience with Roman Catholicism that I don't regarding the term paedo, in which case I bow to a sensitivity I am unaware of. Yet, the term paedo is not Roman property. As I understand it, it is not like the term "Mass," describing a uniquely Roman doctrine, but more like the term "Intercessory prayer." Both Rome and Protestants use the latter term, mean different things by it (prayer to saints comes to mind), but can both use it legitimately. The term Paedobaptism describes who is eligible to receive baptism; it does not describe all that Rome believes about baptism, even if they use the term. Just because Rome uses a term with regard to an issue they are wrong about doesn't mean we can't use the term. Other examples of the same problem would be "Eucharist," "justification," "confession." I agree it is good to emphasize the covenant in baptism, yet there are times to emphasize who is eligible for baptism, and paedo is an appropriate term to use to advocate infant baptism. If we only use the term covenant for baptism, we will be confused and talk past each other when a Presbyterian talks to a Reformed Baptist.

You are both explaining Calvin's doctrine of the sacraments, without realizing it, perhaps, and missing a critical element. As you've said, Baptism is more than an "empty" symbol - just a picture (anabaptists and Zwingli). But, as you've said, it doesn't save in itself (Rome). The middle ground held by Luther and Calvin (though they each had different opinions themselves!) is that the sacraments are a means God uses to save us. Protestants, always leaning away from Rome, often re-interpret the "grace" in means of grace as "a nudge in a more godly direction." But it means salvation. God uses the sacraments to save those who "use" them with faith. The critical element you are missing that Calvin relied heavily upon is the Holy Spirit. It is He who unites us to Christ, by our faith, in the sacraments. Faith receives Christ in the sacraments. Now, if the sacraments are never given (stillborn baby, example), then faith receives Christ directly from the Spirit. But normally God gives us outward, objective signs and seals of our reception of Christ, for our assurance and edification.

Evangelicals have a hard time with covenant, for two reasons: 1. because they see themselves as either "in" or "out" with God - saved or not. 2. We are individualists who don't see our corporate life as a church before God as important, or impacting the real, personal relationship we have with God. [Back to #1] But God deals with people on another level besides our converted status, namely, that of covenant. You can have faith in God and not yet be reckoned among His people, like Rahab or Ruth. Or you can be reckoned among God's people, without faith in Him, like Eli's sons, or maybe Saul, or Ahab. Evangelicals just brush aside the covenant aspect, figuring that salvation is all that really matters. But they have to contend with Paul in Romans 3:1-2. Even though covenant signs like circumcision and baptism don't guarantee your right standing with God, they are still of great advantage!

What's up with "Baptism now saves you" in 1 Peter 3? It is the same as in John 6, where Jesus says you have no life in you if you don't eat My flesh. This is sacramental language, assuming the outward sign of water and wine is united with the spiritual reality of Christ's saving presence, by the Holy Spirit. There are times when that union isn't there - a hypocrite partakes unworthily.

Unbaptized children: a 1 year old boy died last year, in our congregation, not having been baptized. This didn't dismay anyone. We know he is with the Lord. His parents don't need the external comfort of baptism to know this. We also need to bring our children to Jesus and apply God's promises to them. I believe baptism is like a wedding ring - an external sign of the covenant that is real, even without the ring. But this doesn't keep us from wearing rings, as reminders to ourselves, to our spouses, and to the world, of who we belong to. Children without that for the first 6-15 years of their lives are really missing something.

On Roman baptisms: our elders decided quite recently, after much discussion, to accept Roman Catholic baptisms. Our rationale was that we must allow fellow Christians the liberty to be wrong on doctrine, while not declaring them heretics and unbelievers. It is not our correct belief about justification that makes us Christians, but our simple trust in Christ. We are not justified by affirming justification by faith alone; rather, we are justified by faith alone. Just as an Arminian will go to heaven with the wrong idea about God's sovereignty in his salvation, so many Catholics will go to heaven with the wrong idea about having to do certain works to gain God's favor. Our faith wavers and has many weeds like this one attacking it, but as long as it is rooted in Christ, the smallest grain of faith will save (1 Cor 3:15). We can't necessarily tell what is saving faith, but God can (Rom 2:15). The error can be great, but as long as it doesn't touch the nature of who Christ or the Spirit is, it is not beyond the pale. Of course, some Roman Catholics may be making an idol of the Roman Church, which is another question, altogether. But Luther and others certainly taught Reformed believers to look to their Catholic baptisms for secondary assurance of their salvation, with little to no thought of inconsistency. The anabaptists were the ones who thought they had to rebaptize (anabaptist is greek for rebaptize); Luther and Calvin and Bucer and Melanchthon and Zwingli and most others didn't. The legitimacy of baptism doesn't depend on the moral or doctrinal purity of the one baptizing, so long as they are in the pale of basic Christian orthodoxy regarding who they are baptized into (Trinity).

Grace and peace, in Christ!

The Joy of Narnia

I've decided to do a bit more writing than quoting, and to start, I'm going to comment on Narnia from time to time. We are started through the 7 books for the second time with our children, and they love them. I'll do this in the order they were written, starting with...

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe


The first thing to note is that adventure is waiting for you in the least likely of places. The children are sent away from adventurous, war-time London to be safe, out in the country. Yet they find a land and a lion that is anything but safe. Also, the children expect great adventure in the rural outdoors, away from the city. But they find adventure IN the house.


Peter expresses the desire to explore, and it is commended to us. He is the first to speak in the book, and he says, "This is going to be perfectly splendid." When they wake up raining and Edmund complains, and Susan just wants to sit, Peter leads them in exploring the house. Lewis mentions several things they find - a harp, suit of armor, big Bible - again commending a positive view of the world.


Then the focus turns to Lucy. The other three pass by a room with just a wardrobe, but Lucy is curious. Peter seems the adventurous one, but we find adventure in unexpected places, and unexpected people. Lucy turns out to be the one with the keenest eyes or spirit, or she is just blessed by providence in this way.


I'm not an expert on all things Narnia and CS Lewis, but I believe that Narnia was to him "the Joy." Joy with a capital J was something Lewis spoke of experiencing a few times, and he always sought it again, but wasn't able to capture it or control it. His spiritual autobiography is called "Surprised by Joy," and this Joy was closely tied to his conversion from atheism in his early 20s. As the story progresses, the children learn that the source of all joy and adventure is Aslan, who Lewis intends as a metaphor for Jesus Christ.
Watch out in your life, for Joy awaits around unlikely corners. Most people pass it by most of the time, like a lonely wardrobe with nothing supposedly to offer. Lewis wants you to look at life more closely. Keep your eyes peeled. Joy will find you in the least likely places.

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9.23.2008

Reading

Interesting little book I just finished, written by a West Michigander from my neck of the woods. The background is the Dutch settling around Black Lake (Macatawa), where I was born and raised. Decent story about sin, wandering from God, and reconciliation, mentioning the Hollanders' faith in God, and their desire for freedom and a new start.

9.19.2008

Reformation Study Bible

...aka New Geneva Study Bible.

Best study Bible out there, but John Barach makes a good point about its subtitle, “bringing the light of the Reformation to Scripture”:

"an unfortunate slogan, that! — as if poor Scripture is dark until the Reformation begins to shine some light on it."

Palin: a legit exception

A woman in civil leadership is a legitimate exception to the normal run of things, whether it's Queen Elizabeth or the local school board. She is not forbidden by Scripture outright for this, but her priority is in the home first, which will garner different results than the egalitarian, 50/50, glass ceiling crowd want.

Doug Wilson, on the same: "When the apostle Paul tells us that women must not be allowed to teach or have authority over men in the Church (1 Tim. 2:12-15), he makes the argument from the creation order as established in Genesis....

"Paul is making a particular application of a general creation principle. The general principle applies everywhere men and women go, and whatever they do. The particular application for the Church has to do with women not being allowed to teach men or exercise authority over them. The applications of the same general principle in the other realms (civil and family) need not be identical applications and, given the differences of function between the three realms, will probably not be the same. But the general principle still governs everything. Men are men wherever they go, and women are women wherever they go. The order in which we were created is relevant all the time.

"In the realms of households and civil orders, we find anomalous situations such as those of Lydia and Deborah. There is no indication that either of these two women were doing anything sinful or wrong or disordered in what they were doing. But, given the creation order, they were doing something unusual. The fact that something is lawful and exceptional does not keep it from being exceptional."

For the rest of the article, expanding and nuancing the argument, click here.

And, from a later post of Wilson's: "Feminism is a heresy. Accommodations with feminism on the part of Christians who cannot see what is at stake is worse than folly. But rigid over-reactions to feminism don't help us."

9.18.2008

Beautiful Day

Bono must've been thinking of this when he wrote that song...

Isn't giggling much more fun when there's only one tooth in front?!

Slowly I'm learning what my camera can do... Reading manuals isn't half as fun as figuring it out on the fly, especially when I have such willing models!




9.14.2008

Monday Is Wear a Dress Day

Read the New York Times article here that announced the death of dresses and created a flurry on the Dress-A-Day blog, leading to the creation of Dress Day (well, it's been stretched to a week-long event now!) for 2008.


Fold up yer jeans and go girly! If you wonder why any female would want to wear a skirt, here's a list of the Top Ten Reasons Skirts are Better than Pants.

And for little girls who like to wear skirts but need help keeping things under cover, I recommend a Skirty.


And you men with kilts... well, that's another post.
Uber-girly: a petticoat I sewed

9.13.2008

Happy 10 to Us!

To celebrate our tenth anniversary this summer, we decided it was time for a little R&R on a beach....





with great sunsets & sunken ships...


a cozy room to rest in...


in a little town with lots of charm...

Where did we find all this? Cape May, NJ!

9.11.2008

Vacation book buying

We are on vacation this week, and just returned from Cape May, NJ.
Here are the books I scavenged from obscure antique shops for a song...

Classics
Caesar, Gallic Wars
Cervantes, Don Quixote, Harvard classic hardcover edition
Chesterton, G.K., Father Brown Stories
Cooper, James Fenimore, Last of the Mohicans, The
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, Poor Folk
Dostoyevsky, Eternal Husband, The
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl
Works of Thomas Hardy, The
Ibsen, Henrik, Peer Gynt
Stevenson, Robert Louis, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Fiction/history/theology
Beckett, Samuel, Waiting for Godot
Brunner, Emil, The Mediator
Eco, Umberto, Name of the Rose, The
Michener, James, Chesapeake
Rossiter, 1787: The Grand Convention
Wangerin, Walter, Book of the Dun Cow, The
Wells, HG, Time Machine, The

Children
Bemelmans, Ludwig, Madeline and the Gypsies
Bemelmans, Ludwig, Madeline and the Bad Hat

9.07.2008

The Friend of My Friend

by R.C. Sproul, Jr.

"It was a big day in the life of a little magazine. I was serving as the editor of Tabletalk magazine, the publication of Ligonier Ministries. We had determined that we would consider Old Testament wisdom literature for the coming year in our daily studies. We then had to choose and scholar, and a pastor to each write a weekend study for every month. I wanted to use David Chilton, who had been a hero to me for over ten years. But there was a problem. Though it wasn’t written anywhere, Tabletalk tended to shy away from known theonomists. So I did the obvious thing and contacted the founder of the organization. “Hey,” I said, “we’re thinking of asking David Chilton to write a monthly column for us, but I wanted to get your approval first. Are you okay with that?” My father replied with his usual wisdom, “Is he Reformed?” “Yup” I said. “Then go right ahead.” Within days I received a phone call from a Ligonier board member giving me a piece of his mind. Dangerous was the word he kept using. I kept asking him to take up his concern with the chairman. David did an outstanding job for the magazine, and the conversation I had with my father set a precedent. We would use Reformed writers for what I still consider to be the premier Reformed magazine in the country. I tell this story to illustrate a point, which point is that I’m really a sweetheart of a guy. My standards are pretty simple. I believe evangelicals are my brothers and sisters in Christ, even when I have disagreements with them. I believe Reformed people are my closest relatives, even when I disagree with them. Theonomists are my kin. Reformed charismatics are my kin. Reformed Baptists are my kin, and their children are as well. The truly Reformed are my kin. I want to be friends with everybody, which may explain why so few people like me. My TR friends want me to spit three times in the direction of Moscow , to prove my loyalty to the cause. My Reformed Baptist friends want me to disavow my Reformed friends who won’t call Baptists of any stripe “Reformed.” The most frustrating thing about all my friends is they won’t be friends with me, as long as I’m friends with them. What’s a guy to do? My solution is elegantly simple- I just keep loving them all. My friend George Grant, who really is a friend, in a nice, reciprocal kind of way, has long done well at this. I aspire to do the same. If you want to know what “circles” I run in, they are Reformed circles. Yes, I’m committed to homeschooling. Many of my friends, however, are not. Yes, I’m in the CREC. Many of my friends are not. Yes, I believe husbands and fathers ought to lead their homes. Many of my friends do not. I believe in baptizing babies. Many of my friends do not. I believe in the victory of the gospel. Many of my friends do not. I don’t believe Old Testament civil law ought to be the law of the land. Many of my friends do so believe. There is no mystery here, no tea leaves to discern. I’m most comfortable with Reformed folk, and long for a day when more of them will be comfortable with me. There is a great deal of pressure in our little Reformed world to draw foolish lines in the sand. We ought to push back, by drawing bigger circles. But, if you think not, I’d still like to be your friend."

RC Sproul, Jr.

9.05.2008

Sermon excerpts

Blessing of children
The world increasingly sees children as a liability instead of a blessing. Birth rates in Europe are down to the point where the population overall is decreasing. God is judging Western culture generally by removing the desire and appreciation for life. This is what leads city zoning people to figure no more than 4 people per parking space, when our average is closer to 8 or 9.
Ps 127 – “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.” On the other hand, Proverbs speaks of disobedient children being a curse and frustration to their parents. The goal is not just a lot of children, but a quiver full of obedient children. Most men can biologically father a lot of children; it takes a real man to be a father to them all. It takes more than large families to make disciples of Christ. As with the practice of home-schooling, the solution is not an automatic, external one, but comes from faithful obedience to the Lord.
As far as how many is a lot, this will differ from family to family. 3-4 may be a lot for some parents, while others with 8 are just getting started. Leave room here for grace – we don’t have to be very different from the world in numbers here to consider ourselves spiritual. You don’t have to feel guilty here when you tell others that you have 2 or 3 children. On the other hand, discovering the joy of well-disciplined children does make more children more feasible. And when we see large families, we don’t raise our eyebrows or crack jokes, or ask if you are Mormon or Catholic. We have no Scriptural warrant to judge those who decide that they have enough children. Though our first reaction would be, “Why stop now?” there are answers to it that are not always sinful. On the other hand, we can raise more godly children than we think we can. Bring out more jars, that the Lord may fill them with oil. Susannah Wesley, teaching and spending individual time with her 10 surviving children, is not a tragic figure, but an example to celebrate and strive to imitate.

Household living
We want to live and act as households, and not segregate church activities by age. Children, we want your time at church to be with your family, not a chance to get away from them. At the same time, we are not dogmatic about keeping our families together all the time. There are times of fellowship and fun when a youth or childrens’ gathering is natural and healthy. But our emphasis at CHRF is that the household is a unit before God, with a representative head who is primarily responsible before God for that unit’s health, beliefs and practices (Joshua 24:15).

Children in worship
So instead of the common church practices of nursery or children’s church, we believe our children should worship the Lord with us. This is not so much because of strong familial feelings – "these are OUR children; not with MY children you don’t." Not so much that, as the fact that these are God’s children, and so they should be among God’s people.
Verses that speak of little ones in worship – Joel 2:16, Deut 29:10-13, 2 Chron 20:13; Joshua 8:35. Jesus Himself: let the little children come to Me – Mark 10:13-16. We ought not systematically deprive our children of coming into God’s presence in worship. On the other hand, little children were not universally required to be in public worship, either. Neh 8:1-3 – all those with understanding were there. Three annual feasts – men commanded to go, not women and children. But these dealt with less-than-weekly worship. So there are times when it is prudent not to have our little ones present in a meeting, whether b/c of subject matter, or length, like for a multiple session conference. While our children can handle sitting and listening longer than the world assumes, they do have limits, and we ought not exasperate them unnecessarily. The clearest indication we have of children in weekly worship comes in Col 3:20; Eph 6:1, when Paul speaks directly to the Ephesian and Colossian children, assuming they are in worship where his letter will be read.
The necessary discipline involved in teaching your children to worship God must necessarily be conducted outside the place of meeting. For much of this, the kids need practice. For those of you in the military, who know about simulation exercises, put it to use in your families. Worship is spiritual warfare. There is a battle going on in this room right now. Did you prepare your family for it ahead of time?

Covenant and contract

I came across this paragraph, by Richard John Neuhaus, at First Things

"I once wrote a book on the American experiment and the idea of covenant, Time Toward Home. A covenantal understanding of America is distinct from, although not incompatible with, a contractual understanding. Most writing about the American experience, and especially about the American political order, accents that it is based on a “contract theory” of government. Contract theory has a very honorable philosophical pedigree. It is based upon a narrative, some would say a myth, about people entering into a mutually beneficial agreement or contract in order to form a government. The telling of that story by John Locke had a significant influence on the thinking of the American founders, but it was hardly the only influence, and, in subsequent history, has not been the most important influence."

Neuhaus goes on to talk about the importance of identity as an American, which is a different application of covenant than I'm used to. I'd apply it to the FV theological controversy. It is legitimate to speak of the means of our salvation as a contract. Jesus agrees to die for us; the Father agrees to reward His obedience with the inheritance of a people who are His own. This is true, but a covenantal understanding, to use Neuhaus' words, "is distinct from, although not incompatible with, a contractual understanding."

A family is in covenant with one another. Things beyond a contract are involved, like loyalty instead of tit for tat, service instead of self-interest, obligation from birth instead of only if you agree and sign on the dotted line. These kinds of things make the covenantal paradigm preferred when we talk about our salvation, though the contract paradigm is a part of the covenantal one, and has its legitimate place as well.

9.04.2008

Creative Chaos

I'm always curious to see the spaces that other creative people work in. My dad has a workshop, lined floor to ceiling with pegboard; everything is in its place. I visited another guy's auto workshop this week, and it was lined with EVERYTHING floor to ceiling; nothing could possibly move out of its place. I've been in design studios that are sparse and bare, quilting rooms that are filled with beautiful fabrics, and college students' painting niches that are fully equipped with the necessities of life (couch, pop tarts, coffee maker, and lots of turpentine).

So I've been trying to establish a space of my own in which I will create, sew, doodle, design and more. This space needs to house a large flat-file storage unit, drafting table, bookshelves, sewing machine, and lots of fabric, yarn, paints, supplies, etc. But I don't have a dedicated room in the house for this (I lost that to the hubby - he gets paid to do his hobby, I don't). I carved out some space in our master bedroom, a room that was crazy big to sleep in.



The bed is in the CENTER of the room, leaving a small alley behind it. That is where I operate. The curtain is my solution to masking two 6-foot bookcases. The space is tight, but it all fits back there - well, mostly. The trouble with a small space is organization and neatness are key. My creative style is not particularly organized or neat. Neither is my space.

There are two bookcases on either side of the drafting table with a board bridging the space between. That creates a handy shelf for large items. It really helps to utilize the vertical space. The bookshelves are filled with all sorts of goodies: albums, yarn bins, fabric and sewing notions, and a few books to boot. I love to be able to see lots of unrelated things at once; the juxtaposition inspires me. But I cannot have everything covering every horizontal surface!! The mess is really hindering my creative process, so I'm resolved to reorganize and take dominion of this corner of my world. Any ideas or organizational solutions you'd like to share?

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Scripture of the day

"The righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity" (Proverbs 24:16).

Here is a Scriptural definition of righteousness that doesn't mean moral perfection, but does mean being right before God. The verse partly describes those who don't succeed at first, but try, try again. But it would also apply morally. The Bible says no one is without sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20), but it also describes Noah and Job and David and Daniel as blameless. This verse explains the natural question that arises.

It isn't that they never failed. It's that they kept on repenting.
It isn't that they never fell short. It's that they kept on persevering in the Lord.

Keep on keeping on...

9.02.2008

This

...is amazing.

Why a smaller church?

Good stuff from RC Sproul, Jr...

Where do you get from the Bible the idea of small churches? I am a part of a big church, about 4,000 attenders, and have listened to some of your basement tapes which have set me to thinking. I have talked to people I go to church with and they say I am either crazy or I want to be a part of a cult because I would like to be a part of something in the same vein of your church. So I would like to know how you argue the small church model from the Bible.

I would not want to be in the position where I would have to argue that large churches are sinful. The Scripture isn’t that clear. Our decision at Saint Peter to begin new parishes when we reach a certain size we would argue is strategic, rather than strictly moral. That is, our best guess is that with smaller congregations we believe we are better able to fulfill our calling as the local church. The Scripture is replete with calls to love one another, to serve one another. There are myriad “one anothers” that as best as we can tell are better served when we begin by knowing one another. I honestly don’t know how well I would do in loving my neighbor in the pew if that I don’t know that neighbor. In like manner, the call of the elders to watch over the flock we believe, would be increasingly difficult as a church grows larger. When we worship with our neighbors, we have, it seems to us, better opportunity for deeper connections and deeper accountability. Sadly, both of these things tend to be characterized as “cult-like.” That is, when we actually exhibit the love we are called to have one for another, it looks so strange to the world, and that which is of the world in the church, that people figure we must be drinking some kind of kool-aid. When the church actually practices church discipline, it will soon be characterized as unloving, obtrusive and legalistic. That is not to say that this can’t happen in an unhealthy way. Rather the point is that the great majority of the church has lurched way far in the other direction. It is a profound blessing in my life, and the life of my family, that we get to worship with our neighbors. Every time I drive away from our house I hover over the horn on the car, waiting to give a passing greeting to other saints in our body. This morning one dear saint wanted to have a ten minute conversation with me. He made the three minute drive and we visited before breakfast. This same saint has often swung by to help me fix my mower. In the Mendota parish of Saint Peter church, eighty percent of the congregation lives within an eight mile radius. The other twenty percent are within fifteen miles of each other. We don’t just see each other on the Lord’s Day, and not because we have lots of programs at church. Instead our lives are lived together. In the end we do not keep small parishes because we have to. We do so because we want to. There are disadvantages as well. We tend to be rather pastor heavy and building light, since we want our parishes to have parish pastors if possible. We can miss the beloved members of other parishes, though we also try to have events where the parishes gather together. We can fall into petty competitiveness, though we work hard against that. (But, it should be noted for the record that the last time we played against each other the smaller Mendota parish put a hurt on the Bristol parish in softball.) We are grateful for the decisions we have made, for the direction we have chosen. We are not, however, willing to argue that people who have gone a different route are out to lunch or weaker Christians.

RC Sproul, Jr