Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Face Only a Mudder Could Love


We're very happy and thankful to be home. The roads were good (though dirty, as you can see). We had a great week with Juanita's family, but there's no place like home. We are blessed to have a Christian family. Even the little kids got along just great, let alone the adults.

We were planning to leave for home very early on Friday morning, but our vehicle wouldn't start on Thursday. After some basic (read: hopeless) diagnostics in the driveway, we had it towed to a little garage in Lake Cowichan. They had it fixed by about 1:00 on Friday and we caught the 3:15 ferry from Duke Point to Tsawwassen. We drove as far as Kamloops and stayed with a family friend (we love free hotels), arriving at about 10:00 pm. We left Kamloops at about 8:00 am and made Edson by about 3:45 pm.

What was wrong with the Suburban? Well, they said the spark plugs were worn out (?!). I've been meaning to check them, but it went from starting fine to not starting at all overnight. Very strange. It could have been a lot worse (and more expensive), so I'm not complaining.

God is good, but then, He'd still be good if we were in a ditch somewhere on the side of the highway or we were nursing a big bill for a new engine or something. That reminds me of my sermon tomorrow on Habbakkuk 3:17-19. A sermon that I need to finish for tomorrow.

What am I doing blogging?

Home Safe and Sound

It's 3:45 on Saturday and we are all happy to be home.

More later.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

We Love Our Suburban ...


... when it runs.

I went to the big city (Nanaimo) with my father-in-law today to buy a computer. Juanita went out to start the Suburban and it wouldn't start. It would crank, but not fire. When I got home, I called CAA and found out that the local garage is "just swamped." Great. We were planning on heading home early tomorrow morning. They say they might be able to get at it tomorrow afternoon. They towed it away and we'll see how it goes. We're not too stressed about this, it's just life. Any vehicle with 266,000 km on it will have some occasional problems. It's easier to handle problems closer to home, though.

For John and Garry's benefit: Yes, the fuel pump is running and I checked the spark (it looks kinda weak). Any other suggestions would be welcome - from anybody!

If you think about it, we'd appreciate your prayers. I'm supposed to be preaching on Sunday. As a lady in our church says, "God knows all about it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Mystery Picture Revealed

We had winter weather on the way to Vancouver Island from Edson. The roads required careful attention, but we made it just fine.

One of the highlights of winter driving in the mountains is the beauty of the snow on the trees and mountains. On one stretch of road, the snowy trees just popped out at us (if you know what I mean). The sky was overcast at the break of day, giving a filtered light in the mountain pass. We should have stopped, though it's not likely that our camera could have captured the beauty of that scene. Juanita decided to take a picture through the windshield as we were travelling, but, given the low ambient light, the camera didn't have a chance to focus at highway speeds. The result of this attempt is the "mystery photo." It is a picture of highway 16 west of Jasper. The snow on the dark trees stood out and the rest of the scene was a rich mix of blues and black, as you can see.

Even though it "didn't work," I still like this picture. I'm using it as my desktop background on my laptop.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Mystery Picture

I hope you are having a great Christmas. The kids are all happily playing (including some big kids who are having a refresher on an Atari Flashback console - Pong, anyone?). Supper isn't for another hour or so. I thought I'd share a photo my wife took recently. Do you know what it is? If you're taking a break from being social by checking blogs, why don't you post your guess in the comments section. I'd offer a prize, but I'm cheap and lazy.


Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Life is good, but there are times ...

It is 1:15 pm on Christmas day and all the presents are still under the tree.

We are waiting for Juanita's brother and his wife to arrive (soon, hopefully).

There are 6 children and six "child at heart" types trying to wait patiently.

Looking at the size of the pile, I don't think I need to complain anymore about life being cruel. We are rich materially, but even richer with family. However, the riches of the grace of God in Jesus Christ are incomparable.

Life is good, thanks be to God!

Update: It is 1:17 and Ian and Sarah have arrived.

See you later!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Over the Mountain and Through the Woods …

We’re thankful for a safe trip to Nana and Papa’s place (Juanita’s folks). They live in Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island, B.C. We left home at 6:30 am Mountain Time and arrived here at about 10:15 pm Pacific Time. We almost made the 5:00 ferry, but missed it by 7 cars (somebody had to stop in Chilliwack for a Starbucks coffee). We got to ride on the Queen of Oak Bay, though. It was the ferry that crashed into Horseshoe Bay terminal in 2005.

We won’t have a white Christmas here, but we can see snow on the surrounding mountains.

Have a great Christmas, everyone! Take some time to meditate on the wonderful mystery of the Incarnation. I’ll leave you with some verses that aren’t normally associated with Christmas, but they are directly related to the blessed consequences of the Incarnation. I posted my Sunday hymn just before this post. It isn't a Christmas hymn, but read it in light of these verses and celebrate the glorious consequences of our Saviour's Incarnation, death and resurrection.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 NJKV

Lord, It Belongs Not to my Care

Christ was born so that He might die. Rising again, He brings us life everlasting!

Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.

If life be long, I will be glad,
That I may long obey;
If short, yet why should I be sad
To welcome endless day?

Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than He went through before;
He that unto God’s kingdom comes
Must enter by this door.

Come, Lord, when grace hath made me meet
Thy bless├Ęd face to see;
For if Thy work on earth be sweet
What will Thy glory be!

Then I shall end my sad complaints
And weary sinful days,
And join with the triumphant saints
That sing my Savior’s praise.

My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But ’tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My Favorite Christmas Memory?

Tonight my mom asked me, "What is your favorite Christmas memory?" I told her I'd have to think about that.

I've been thinking about it and I can't come up with anything. I love Christmas, but I just can't come up with a favorite. Should I be worried?

In the meantime I'll share a picture from our annual Christmas program that we had at our church on Sunday afternoon.

I think my mom wants an answer eventually. I'll have to come up with something.

New Lumps at School (or not) Part II


Many years ago I read a little essay by C.S. Lewis entitled First and Second Things. Lewis’ argument was simple: put your second priority in the place of what should be in the first place and you will lose not only the first thing, but the second thing as well. As Lewis himself said in summary of this principle: “… every preference of a small good to a great, or partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice was made.” He used several illustrations, but you’ll have to find the essay to read them.

This law (as Lewis called it), may be applied to any of the educational choices that we make for our children. For instance, if we send our children to public school because we want to be salt and light in our community, we are putting a second thing in the first place. Or if we send our kids to a Christian school so that they will be influenced by good kids from Christian homes, then we are missing the main thing. Because I’m a homeschool dad, I’m going to apply that concept primarily to homeschooling in this post.

If we don’t get the right first thing in homeschooling, we are going to miss not only the most important goal but short-circuit our other goals. Now, the $64,000 question is, “What is the most important goal of Christian education?” I’m going to leave the answer to that for a minute (though you might find something like it in my first post) and suggest some homeschooling goals that should be kept down the list a little from the primary goal.

First, it is my impression from listening to homeschoolers over the years that some parents think that the best reason to homeschool is to protect our children from the godless wordview of the public (pagan) school system. There is something to that (as there are to all of these secondary arguments), but should we base our convictions regarding our children’s education on a negative proposition? That in itself disqualifies this reason from the number one spot. As responsible Christian parents, we should know why, positively speaking, we make the educational choices that we make.

There is much more that could be said against this position as a priority for homeschooling, but one of the better caveats is that our children are little sinners with idol factories for hearts no matter where they go to school. If we miss that, we’re in deep water indeed. If we think that by protecting our kids from all the worldliness that we can is the most important thing we can do for them, then we are naive regarding the human condition. In fact – and this is where the first and second things comes in – if we make isolation our top priority, we will surely fail to guarantee holiness in our children and we run a risk of driving them to profligacy by making forbidden fruit appear attractive.

What about the “time spent with parents” argument? Isn’t there something wrong with giving so much time to teachers – strangers, really – and the “system” when our children are most impressionable? Shouldn’t we be in the drivers’ seat during their school years? A lot could be said about this (read this fine post, for instance), and this, too, is a good argument. It’s not the best reason to homeschool, however. Any given Christian parent might not be a good teacher, for instance, or there may be 1001 other reasons why pure numbers of hours might not be the deal maker for homeschooling. Quantity time is important, but is cannot be made into the most important thing. As a misplaced first thing, family time can become an idol. It can drive a wedge between families their churches, impair evangelism and community involvement. Apron strings that are too thick have ruined many families.

This first and second things test can be applied to virtually anything in our lives. The fact is, it is not common enough in our busy lives to ask why we do the things we do.

So then, what is the most important thing? That we as Christian parents teach our children to pursue joy in God’s truth. Could anything be more important than that they are worshippers who “glorify God and enjoy Him forever”? How, practically speaking, do we get there? The training equation is an important part of that answer (see Deuteronomy 6:7). Our goal must be to cultivate a hunger for wisdom in our children, but not worldly wisdom, God’s wisdom. Whatever our method of education, we must keep in mind the pursuit of the truth in the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I know that sounds grand and lofty, but isn’t it true? If the education we provide our children does not make them increasingly thoughtful regarding God’s truth and joyfully submissive to His Word, then what good is it? This applies to the multiplication table, English grammar and phys ed as much as it applies to Bible memory and history. We want our kids to have tools to serve God with all of their lives.

I love the line, “An education is what you’re left with after you’ve forgotten all that you’ve learned.” We must work hard at teaching our children how to learn. Logical thinking, the ability to do research and communicate their findings to others are all means to the ultimate end, but they will also enhance all kinds of secondary pursuits along the way (like earning money). Modeling life-long learning is a part of that, but we must discipline our children as well. Compare some of the drudgery of learning to a carpenter’s apprentice “paying his dues” by doing really menial jobs. The apprentice does the grunt work because it serves his goal of doing what he really loves to do in the future. Doing our duty is a part of life, but that is a poor goal for a Christian life. There are a thousand parts to this task of Christian education, but we must keep before us and our children the joy of God’s truth and the treasure of the Gospel – the Gospel that is for all of life.

What are the consequences of not pursing joy in God’s truth as the first thing? There are many, but off the top of my head, some of the worst are moralism (what some would call legalism, though that word is often misused), pragmatism (asking “does this work,” as opposed to “is this true”) and just plain self-centeredness. Lack of time and space prevent me from fleshing out the details regarding these pitfalls, but I hope you can fill in the blanks on your own.

Getting the right first thing in the first place will cause the other priorities to fall into their proper places. There will be a balance between home, church and community activities when we realize that they are all a part of pursuing God’s purpose for our lives. If we don’t work at making the main thing the main thing, these other things won’t fall into place, they will fall apart.

This is turning into a long series. I keep thinking of things and firing them into the “next time” file. Well, there may be two or three more posts on this topic. In the next post I will tackle the “long-term perspective” aspect of educating our children.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Joy to the World


This carol may not be very original, but it still holds up very well. I love the line "he comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found." That's really cool. Isaac Watts had a King-sized view of the significance of the Incarnation for the the created order.


Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

New Lumps in School (or not). Part I

Tim Challies has launched a couple of posts into the home school / public school debate (post 1, post 2). I don’t agree with some of his observations, but they are personal and he’s entitled to his opinion. Instead of leaving a comment at his busy blog, I thought I would jot down some thoughts on homeschooling here in the obscurity of my little ol’ blog. This is not a direct response to Tim’s posts, but my own personal reflections on this contentious issue (goodness knows, you only have to say the word “homeschool” and someone is offended). Tim is a thoughtful guy and I am certainly not offended by what he posted, but he did get me thinking about why we homeschool.

As a pastor, I have often said that I do not prescribe schooling methods to families in my church. What I do insist upon, however, is Christian parents’ responsibility for the education of their children. Sorting out what is best for individual families is complicated. Parents need to study this issue before they make a decision. There is wisdom in many counselors and there are countless variables that parents have to consider.

So, I present, in no particular order, some thoughts.

First, I wish people would avoid using anecdotal evidence as if their examples were argument stoppers. Anecdotal evidence has its place as long as people admit that they are giving one-off illustrations. An extreme, fictitious example of this is, “My sister-in-law’s second cousin had a neighbor that beat his kids and cheated on his taxes and they were homeschoolers.” A less extreme but more common example is, “I went to public school and I turned out okay” (I used to use that one). The right response to those arguments is, “So what?” This complaint applies to Christian school, homeschool and public school arguments. I’ve heard red herrings from all three camps.

We need to humbly admit that none of us are perfect. We will change our minds on some aspects of our children’s education, we will have some regrets, and we will have some successes. There is a way of engaging this conversation that comes across as unnecessarily judgmental. We can also admit that there are pitfalls to each approach:

  • Homeschool parents can fall short by plugging their kids into a do it yourself, paint by numbers approach and fail to plan adequately for their children’s education.
  • Christian school parents might fail to be involved in their children’s education thinking, “I’ve done my duty – I pay the tuition. They’re getting a Christian education.”
  • Public school parents may buy into the pragmatism that says that education is all about preparing for a job rather than building lives and molding hearts.

I imagine we could make long lists of the pitfalls and opportunities of each approach. What matters is that we get involved in the training and development of our children in a prayerful, thoughtful, holistic way.

There is no “one size fits all” education model for all or even most families. This applies to homeschool approaches, different school district philosophies, student learning styles, and the differences between parents, teachers, schools, communities and many other variables.

There is so much that could be said about each of these situational issues. Too often criticisms are made from a particular context. For example (caution: anecdote ahead), we were talking to a family at Bible camp and they were surprised that we home schooled. As we got into the conversation, we found out that they live in a nice little suburban neighborhood with a little friendly public school. The principal and several of the teachers went to their church and the school had an open-door policy towards the parents. Sweet. More power to them (we would still homeschool in that community, but that’s another story). These parents hadn’t really considered that Christian parents in different districts and different communities might have different experiences with the public school system.

Ultimately, as we assess our options, we must ask the question: “What is the goal of our children’s education?” If we stop at the question, “What are the benefits of homeschooling?” (or of sending our kids to a public or Christian school) we will miss the more important consideration of equipping our children for life-long learning and Christian discernment. We ought to be training them to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

I remember that when I was in Bible College I came across a few enthusiastic young Christians who thought that spending all the time and money on post-secondary education was a criminal waste. Would it not be far better to get on with the work of winning the world to Christ right away? I hope we can all see through the faulty logic of that perspective. Likewise, if we have a short-term view on school years or put secondary issues in the primary place, we will not be effective in the formative years with our children. First and second things and a long-range perspective – that’s the subject of my next post.


So, with this introduction, I admit that I haven’t said much. I hope you’ll be back for part two where I begin to really sink my teeth into the topic of why the Stauffer family home schools. I’ll probably get myself into trouble if I haven’t done so already.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I'm a Canadian Man

I have duct tape and I'm not afraid to use it.

UPDATE - A helpful Christmas decorating hint from Larry the Cucumber for the 11th day before Christmas (click on the Larry's Christmas Countdown button).


After hunting and gathering the annual Christmas tree (with the help of the family at, um, Extra Foods), I realized that I forgot to bring the tie-down straps. In order to subdue the beast, I resorted to the Universal Canadian Alternative.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

I've always liked this Christmas hymn for its theology. There are a couple of verses here that we don't have in our hymnal.

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim,“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored; Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hark! the herald angels sing,“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.

Hark! the herald angels sing,“Glory to the newborn King!”

Come, Desire of nations, come, Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power, Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Hark! the herald angels sing,“Glory to the newborn King!”

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface, Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain, Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart, Formed in each believing heart.

Hark! the herald angels sing,“Glory to the newborn King!”

Charles Wesley. This version courtesy of www.cyberhymnal.org

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dear Purgie,

My daughter just came back from her kid's club with one of these:


I'm usually against such things (maybe it's the latent Mennonite in me), but she's only seven and she thinks it's cool.

What should I do?

Signed,
Iffy Iconoclast

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Signs of a Failing Civilization

Juanita and I heard a commercial on the radio yesterday that bothered us. Most commercials are just white noise, but we picked up on the basic idea of this ad (I’ll try to listen more carefully next time so I can avoid this company). The outfit was selling gaming equipment – pool tables and the like. The actors were happy to have a pool table and said something like, “Finally, something to get us away from Grandpa’s stories.”

Seniors are tedious. They are a waste of space and time. If we can only find something important to do like, say, playing foosball, instead of taking time with Grandpa, then our lives will have more meaning.

Disgusting.

I have been thinking about this ad today. Are our churches much better? Do we care that many of our seniors are just as “non-Christian” as the young parents in our community? Do we notice that unlike many of our “target demographic,” many seniors have abundant spare time to teach, listen, serve and pray? Do we care that the wholesale reinvention of evangelical worship services has pushed many faithful older saints to the back row?

The whole area of seniors ministry was one of the areas of need that our board identified at a board retreat a couple of years ago. What have we done? We’ve brought it up at meetings a couple of times. Is our church a model for others to follow? Nope. Not yet, anyway.

Commercials that mock our pioneers are in very bad taste, but perhaps they are reflecting rather widespread biases against the elderly, biases that have crossed over into the church.

Mia culpa.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Savior

For my Sunday song post, I’m going to recommend a new CD – The Savior by Sovereign Grace Ministries. This is a new project. I’m always nervous about combining “new” and “Christmas songs.” I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this CD. I knew the lyrics would be good, but the whole package is excellent. One song that I think would be particularly appropriate as a Christmas hymn for congregational use is Rejoice.

Go to the Sovereign Grace site, download the free song, listen to the sample and check out the lyrics. This is an excellent CD and a great Christmas gift idea!

Rejoice – Words and Music by Todd Twining

All the earth rejoice
Your Creator reigns
As the only awesome God
The Alpha and the Omega
Who was, is, and is to come
Let the oceans roar and the mountains sing
He provides for all He has made
So be comforted as He rules with grace
Rejoice, all the earth, rejoice

All the world rejoice
For the baby comes
As a humble prince in the night
The Word made flesh, Emmanuel
The Everlasting Light
Let the warmth of heaven reach the coldest heart
With the gospel of His grace
For His heel will bruise the serpent’s head
Rejoice, all the world, rejoice

All the church rejoice
For your King returns
On a white horse wearing a crown
He will break the sky with the angel’s shout
Descending from the clouds
Then the dead will rise from the land and sea
All His people will ascend
We will reign with Him for eternity
Rejoice, all the church, rejoice

© 2006 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI). Sovereign Grace Music, a division of Sovereign Grace Ministries.
From Savior. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. North American administration by Integrity Music. International administration by CopyCare International.
You’re So Vain …

How many worship leaders does it take to change a light bulb? Just one. He holds the bulb and the world revolves around him. I know – the poor worship leader gets a bad rap. I am self-centered and I bet you are too – at least in your unguarded moments. Selfishness has to be the oldest false god. Our world is filled with the idols, artifacts and wreckage of selfishness.

I could choose from countless examples, but one of the evidences of selfishness is divorce. Thankfully, our church family is doing well right now, but there are marital struggles everywhere. This will sound terribly simplistic, but the root cause of divorce is selfishness. The degree of selfishness is usually imbalanced between husband and wife one way or another, as is the subsequent victimization of one or the other. It is usually a two-way street, however, is it not? Please refrain from thinking of particular case studies, I have generalities in mind here.

CJ Mahaney has an excellent message on James 4:1-2 entitled “Cravings and Conflicts.” You can find a version here (October 26, 2006 at SBTS). I listened to another presentation of this message from www.covlife.org quite a while ago. It is very helpful. CJ says that when you have conflict, “The problem is worse than you think” and “The solution is easier than you think.” These conclusions come from a biblical understanding of sin and grace; an admission of self-centeredness and embracing the Gospel. If you are struggling with cravings and conflicts, this message will undress you, spiritually speaking (I’m reminded of Eustace Scrubb, the dragon).

I’m frustrated at my own selfishness. I know that the best antidote is worship – “seeing and savoring Christ,” as John Piper would put it. Nothing else will do it. I know my willpower will not do the trick, for even if I attain some sort of external conformity to a standard of behaviour and service, I’d be proud of that. No, immersion in the Gospel is required. The bonus of this approach is that getting rid of my selfishness is no longer the primary objective – knowing and enjoy God is. I’ve wasted a lot of prayer time over the years rehearsing my sins and failures. Confession is good and necessary, but God calls us to focus on Him first and foremost. This is where the truth of the Gospel brings blessed freedom.

When the church minimizes sin and downplays the cross, it misses the power of the Gospel to bring deliverance from the destructive false god of self. If we really love people, we will confront them with God’s perspective on sin and God’s remedy of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

By the way, if anyone finds the Carly Simon song I used for the title going through their minds now, I apologize. What a silly song. It really illustrates the spirit of the 70s, doesn’t it? Not that it’s any worse than popular music today.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pathetic.

7-3 to the Avalanche. The worst loss of the season. It was just one of those nights.

I'm sure Kim feels really bad for me. Go here and here for the background to that comment. Speaking of comments, make sure you read them on these posts. The battle of the sexes! Sort of. I may have made an unfair comparison but Buggy ... well, you'll just have to go see for yourself!

Monday, November 27, 2006

AN UNFINISHED SYMPHONY (Part 3 of 3)

A Grandfathers Thoughts on Sudden Infant Death (SIDS)

A Guest Post by John K.

Kadence : June 27 - November 15, 1999.


I am thinking of the bedtime episode with the 23rd Psalm. Kadence never met my own mother, her great grandmother. I am confident they have met now. I can picture them sitting together in heaven and Kadence telling her, Hey, Great Grandma, you know what? Grandpa said the 23rd Psalm to me just like you said to and guess what! It worked! It reminds me of the importance of passing our faith from generation to generation. In the Anglican church I attend we close every service with this: Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation, in the Church and in Christ Jesus, for ever and ever. Amen. It is from Ephesians 3:20,21. From generation to generation. As has been said, Christianity is always one generation away from extinction. Keep the faith... pass it on.

We went in to the apartment to get a few things in preparation for the memorial service. Jon and Jen had not been back since the night at the hospital, so everything was just as it had been left the night of that panic trip to emergency. The high chair was in the kitchen. There were three different Bibles, each open to the same passage. There was a Strongs Concordance open on the table, and a couple of textbooks. Jon had been doing his Bible school homework at the kitchen table; an essay on Ruth, the story of the bond of love between a daughter and mother.

* * *

There is some question whether someone should clear out the babys room before Jon and Jen return to the apartment. They think it may be too painful for them to see her things. Having walked into her room, I dont think so. Even with the initial lump in my throat, I found it somehow comforting to be among her things. To see her change table, her crib, her dresser with the coloured knobs, her outfits in the drawers. To strip the room bare as if there were some terrible secret, something to hide, I think would not be the right thing to do. It would be like the closed off wing of a Victorian mansion where the insane relative was kept. It will be good, I think, for Jen to see Kadences things once again, and to tidy them up herself, in her own time.

* * *

Its not supposed to be like this. Its tough when its not supposed to happen. I have lost both my parents, but that was different. They were supposed to die, eventually. Yes, there was sadness, but not the overwhelming grief there is now. When one loses parents, one has many memories to look back on. Those memories are something that cannot be taken away. With a tiny baby, just beginning life, the memories are still in the future. They havent happened yet. They have been stolen even before they occur.

* * *

It hurts so badly when your own child is hurting, but this is worse. Your own baby is in pain because she, herself, lost her own child. The pain is doubled.

* * *

From time to time, black thoughts creep into my head; dark thoughts of blame and fault. These are thoughts that dare not even be thought, let alone written. Kadence is gone; let healing begin. I keep thinking, It didnt have to happen. And yet it did, and it cannot be changed.

People say that only time will heal the pain. Why doesnt time just jump forward so I could be over the anguish.

* * *

The Bible talks of God comforting us in our troubles so that we in turn can comfort those in trouble themselves. Thats alright for some troubles, but for this? Is that the reason for all this? Surely not! That would be too cruel.

* * *

How selfish is my grief. Do I mourn for Kadence or for my own pain?

* * *

Why? Why Kadence, child of Christian parents, grandchild of Christian grandparents? Is it because as Christians we are supposed to find it easier to take? Is our faith supposed to make this easier to bear? Is that it, God? If so, its just plain cruel.

* * *

I have asked the question over and over again. Why? What was the point?

Oddly enough, this is the question upon which I now, in a sense, dwell the least. Its not that I know that some day I will have the answer. It is that when that day comes, I will no longer have the question. I will not even have to ask it. When I see her again, the question will be gone forever from my mind before it ever comes to my lips. I think of what was said by the prophet Isaiah,

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. (Isaiah 65: 24)

* * *

My trust in the sovereignty of God has been strengthened through all of this, not lessened. The sovereignty of God had been a mere phrase of dogma, a teaching of the church, a concept to which I subscribed. Yes, there had been times in my life when it came close to home, but nothing like this. Here I have had to think about it, analyse it, wonder about it, wrestle with it. Faith has been tested, and it has been made stronger. This has been the refiners fire.


* * *

Kadence : June 27 - November 15, 1999.

A cadence is a rhythmic flow of a sequence of sounds...

Just as a beautiful sequence of notes falls with pleasure upon the ear bringing peace to the soul, joy to the heart and a smile to the lips, so did Kadence come into our lives.

But just as a beautiful note flares brilliantly and then fades into silence, she did not linger nearly long enough.

In a classical symphony, as one movement fades into stillness, we wait quietly, expectantly, for the next movement to begin. But here there is no next movement, at least not in this world. The music has ended before it has any right to do so. We sit, dumbly, waiting for more, but there is no more. The performance has ended. The musicians are putting away their instruments even before the applause has begun. We are shocked, silent. We are not ready for this. But thats all there is. This is, truly, an Unfinished Symphony.

* * *

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil of fade -- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by Gods power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

(1 Peter 1: 3-9)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

AN UNFINISHED SYMPHONY (Part 2 0f 3)

A Grandfathers Thoughts on Sudden Infant Death (SIDS)

A Guest Post by John K.

Kadence : June 27 - November 15, 1999.


We were blessed to have Kadence for the weekend before her death, Friday and Saturday nights. Memories of her are more recent and real. Sunday we took her to church, and it was the best I had ever seen her. She was so bright and alert, babbling away during the hymns and choruses, looking all around and smiling at everyone she saw. Everyone could not help but smile back at her. She had a nap during the sermon, but as one friend said, tongue in cheek, “She may not have been the only one.”

Friday night she had slept in another room. Saturday night my wife said she would feel more comfortable if we moved her playpen into our own bedroom, so we did. Kadence was a little restless during the night and I found I heard every little fuss and whimper. At about two oclock I could not sleep so I got up and went into the spare bedroom. Still, I could hear intermittent cries coming from our room, even through two closed doors. I lay awake until probably about four oclock, feeling guilty for leaving Kadence in Evas care, so I got up and went in. Eva had Kadence in bed with her, but the baby was still fussing and not sleeping. We tried offering her a bottle, but she did not take it. I thought the husbandly thing to do was to let my wife get some sleep so I took Kadence into the spare room with me. I tucked her in, lying on her back beside me in the double bed, with the covers under her arms (she always liked her arms free, so it was no good to try to cover them, she would just throw off the covers).

When I was a little boy, I remember my mother telling me that if I couldnt sleep, to recite the twenty-third Psalm from memory. She always said that I would be asleep before I got through it twice. Funny, as much as I like the more modern translations of the Bible, the twenty-third Psalm just sounds better in King James English. I lay down beside Kadence in the dark, gave her her soother, gently placed my hand upon her tummy, and began to recite softly;

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

By the time I was finished, she was asleep. I didnt even have to say it the second time. I suppose that because she was so tiny, she didnt need the full dose.

* * *

It is Friday night, the night before the memorial service. I am sitting in my study staring out the window. People are passing by, walking, jogging or walking their dogs. They dont seem to care. Dont they know what has happened? Dont they know there is grief here? Life has no business going on as normal. I am thinking about what I have written; about tucking her in that last night with her arms over top of the covers when suddenly I can visualize the scene so clearly. I can see here little face and shoulders above the blankets and her little pink sleepers. Its as if Im right there. And it hits me, God! Kadence isnt here. She wont be with us anymore. I curse myself for all my intellectualizing. For all these words Ive written. What business have I, feeling pain. It is Kadence who is gone. She wont be with us any more, ever. O God!

* * *

C.S. Lewis, in A Grief Observed:

There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in... Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

We were extremely thankful for peoples presence and calls. Even if it felt awkward and people didnt know what to say, it was nice having them there. There were times when we merely sat in a circle on chairs in the living room, no one speaking for minutes on end, but I am still thankful for their being there. It would have been unbearable to be alone. People sent notes with names mis-spelled. People stammered, not knowing what to say or how to react or how we would react. It didnt matter. The mistakes were somehow most precious of all because it showed people willing and wanting to help regardless of appearances. The faux-pas made it seem almost more genuine. I will try to remember that if I ever have the opportunity to comfort someone in a similar position. One might think, I should leave so they can be alone, or, I wont call because I dont know what to say, or, Theyve probably had too many calls already, but that is not the case. A grieving person needs the company, and to know that others are caring, even if they cant say so.

* * *

Christians say, I will pray for you. Non-believers say, I will keep you in my thoughts. What an incredible difference there is between the two! How sad not to know the power of prayer. Even though the heart is in the right place, and those thoughts are much appreciated, that is all they are; thoughts. They are so ineffectual, compared to the mighty power of a believers prayer.

Who will ever know the effect in all of this of the prayers of our brothers and sisters in the faith. As excruciating as the pain was, what would it have been like if not for those prayers; some of them from people we did not even know. People came up to my wife in the mall, saying, Were praying for you. Psalm 124 begins: If the LORD had not been on our side ... I wonder… what would it have been like if He weren’t. I think of it often.

Free Grace

I have listened to the White Horse Inn radio show for years. I hear Indelible Grace clips on the show from time to time. They played this one a few weeks ago and it fit the theme very well. If you don't yet listen to Indelible Grace or the White Horse Inn, why not? Go get 'em!

1. You children of God,
by faith in His Son
Redeemed by His blood,
and with Him made one
This union with wonder
and rapture be seen
Which nothing shall sunder,
without or within

2. This pardon, this peace
which none can destroy
This treasure of grace
and heavenly joy
The worthless may crave it,
it always comes free
The vilest may have it,
it was given to me

Chorus: Free grace has paid for all my sin
Free grace, though it cost so much to Him
Free grace has freed even my will
Free grace to the end sustains me still

3. It's not for good deeds,
good tempers nor frames
From grace it proceeds,
and all is the Lamb's
No goodness, no fitness
expects He from us
This I can well witness,
for none could be worse
(Repeat chorus)

Bridge: Sick sinner, expect no
balm but Christ's blood
Your own works reject,
the bad and the good
None ever regret it that on Him rely
Though guilty as Saul or Jonah or I
(Repeat chorus)

©2001 Detuned Radio Music (ASCAP).

Lyrics: Joseph Hart (1712-1768) Bridge: Matthew Smith

Friday, November 24, 2006



AN UNFINISHED SYMPHONY (Part 1)


A Grandfathers Thoughts on Sudden Infant Death (SIDS)

A Guest Post by John K.


Kadence : June 27 - November 15, 1999.


Monday November 15, 1999

It was nine oclock in the evening and I was alone in the house when I got the call. It was my son-in-law, Jon. He sounded worried, but the full impact of what the call was about did not strike me.

Can you meet us at the University Hospital emergency department, he asked.

OK, I replied, Whats up?

Its Kadence. Shes not breathing. The paramedics are here.

Alright. I said, and started to stammer some questions, but I must have begun to realize that it was urgent, so I cut myself off and said only, Im on my way.

The first thing I did was say what a pastor of mine once called an arrow prayer, asking for Gods protection over her. Then I started to scribble a note to my wife, Eva, on the back of an envelope, not knowing quite what to say, and in too much of a hurry to try to tell the whole story. After a couple of false starts, thankfully, I heard her coming in the door. I spluttered out something about having to go right away, that there was something wrong with Kadence, and said, without hesitating to try to explain, Lets go! Once we were in the truck and on our way, I told her what little I knew.

It is about a half-hour drive from our house to the University of Alberta Hospital. The further we drove, the more I became aware of a knot of fear and worry in my stomach. As we pulled up to the emergency entrance, I dropped her off and then went to find a parking spot. When I reached the emergency department after parking the truck, the receptionist directed me to a small room over to one side. I entered. Everyone was in tears. Theyve lost Kadence. they said.

* * *

I had prayed often that God would watch over my granddaughter, to protect her and set his angels around her to keep her from harm. I can only accept now that He has done just that. We may never know from what harm He has saved her. We can only trust that He knows.

* * *

Jen had come in after teaching her dance class. As she did every night, she went into the babys room to check on her. As she did every night she touched the baby gently. It was to check to make sure she was breathing, although of course she never expected she wouldnt be. It had become an almost mechanical motion: the touch, the smile, the kiss. But this time was different. It took a split-second to realize that it was so. It took a split-second for the thought to register, No, shes not breathing! Still not comprehending, she rocked her baby gently with her hand. Kadence felt lifeless, like putty. Picking her up, Jen saw that she was blue. It was a feeling of utter shock and despair and unbelief. A groan escaped her which was not a scream, not a cry for help; just a groan of realization of something which was too unthinkable to be realized. Jen told me later that as she held her baby she knew it wasnt her. It was her tiny little body, but Kadence wasnt there.

A question for atheists: What is the difference between a living body and a dead one? Certainly it is not chemical or physical. Every atom and molecule that was there an instant before death is still there an instant after, so whats the difference? If there is no God, if man does not have a soul, what is the difference? It is a question I dont suppose many atheists have considered at any great length. It is a question for which I cant imagine them having a very satisfactory answer. Satisfactory even for themselves.

* * *

Sometimes, I think, it is as if God has two wills; an active will and a passive, or permissive will. If we believe in the sovereignty of God, we must accept that nothing happens outside of His will. Sometimes, though, can we say that He doesnt actively cause things to happen, but He allows them? We dont know why, but in faith we must assume that He has a good reason.

* * *

I cannot fathom how someone would cope with this, not having the hope that we have, not having a faith. I thank God that there is a Heaven. Equally, I thank Him for giving me the assurance that there is such a place, and that Kadence is there. Some things exist whether we know them or not, and whether or not we believe in them, but is nice to know for sure, isnt it? God, in His grace, has not only given us eternal life through Jesus Christ; He has given us the knowledge and assurance of that life. We dont have to go through this life in suspense, wondering what lies ahead in the next. What a wonderful and thoughtful thing to do; not only to provide for us, His children, but to give us that comfort as well.

I thank God for Jesus. It is only because of him and what he has done that it is possible for Kadence to be in Heaven and for us to join her there some day.

* * *

Will we recognize Kadence when we get to Heaven? I dont know. It may be that she will recognize us, rather than the other way around. A pastor friend told me this: Let it be your prayer that she be the second in line to greet you when you get there.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Potluck

Links:

  • I recommend the whole 1 Corinthians series at Covenant Life Church, but I particularly have to refer you to an excellent message by Jeff Purswell on 1 Corinthians 5, "Protecting Church Purity." Part of his text is the "New Lumps" passage, thought that's not the only reason I thought it was great. I love the fact that they have several men preaching the same book series - even a guest in the case of Jerry Bridges!
  • Years ago I came across an article by Richard D. Phillips called, "The Biblical Pattern of Reformation" (I can't find the article online, but if you want it I can email you a Word doc). It really changed the way I read my Bible. I recently found a series of four messages by Phillips at the Oklahoma Conference on Reformed Theology (free MP3 downloads). Jeremy Weaver recently posted on a new book by Richard Phillips on the same topic. Highly recommended - particularly if you think "Reformation" is not a biblical category!
Quizzing:

My two older children are involved in a regional Bible quiz meet on Friday and Saturday in Ft. Saskatchewan (North-East of Edmonton). My wife is the coach of our little team. I have been delighted to see the diligence of our team and the growing team spirit, not to mention all the Bible memory that will serve them well in the future. At the first meet, the kids were very impressed at the gracious spirit the teams had in winning, losing and encouraging. There will be about 300 young people at this meet and they are quizzing on memory work from the book of Acts.

Coming Up:

My friend John Kivell sent me some reflections on the death of his granddaughter that he wrote at that difficult time seven years ago. This journal is very moving. It reminded me of C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed when I started reading it. In fact, John quotes from Lewis' book, though his observations are very original and personal as you will see.

John asked me if he could guest post these thoughts on my blog. I encouraged John to start his own blog to post this because I think his writing should be available on the 'net in his own space. However, he's afraid that it might lead to too much writing. No problem, John; if you post as infrequently as I do, blogging hardly takes any time at all!

I know John hopes that these thoughts won't just be a cause for moving our emotions, but that they will be of some comfort and assistance for any readers that might have had a similar loss. Stay tuned - part one of three will be coming very soon.
A New Addition

We finally got a kitten yesterday. I'd been dragging my feet for ages, but I was outnumbered.

Here it is:
Oh, wait - wrong picture (when you see the right one, you'll understand the confusion):




Our friend Roy, the dad of the home we got the cat from, called the kitten Sylvester. I thought that was a perfect name. Turns out the cat is a she. We can't have a male name now, can we? I don't know if we've settled on a name yet. I've been told it's "Princess Arjumund." That's a modern literary allusion - To Say Nothing of the Dog. Mandy (?!) for short.

Honestly, it's a cat. I don't care what we call it. Really, I don't.

Nope, not at all.

Just not "Princess" please.

As you can tell, I've been really negligent with my blog lately (it's not getting any better with this post, I know). I do have ideas, but by the end of the day, I'm just out of gumption.

Happier News: The Oilers beat the Flames by 2-1 tonight, ending a streak by the Flames. That certainly perked me up!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Home Again

We are thankful to be home again and thankful for our home after being away for a week and travelling on some nasty winter roads. We went to our Fellowship Baptist National Convention. For your information, the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada is an association of about 500 churches from coast-to-coast.

The convention was in Richmond, B.C., about 1000 km/600 miles from our town of Edson. We all went together in our Suburban, but came back in separate vehicles as I bought a car on the coast. Juanita was a good sport about driving the Suburban back, and was a really good sport regarding the crazy idea of buying an 11 year-old car while at Convention. I have a wonderful wife!

We are all very tired. I have more post ideas that have been building up, but they will have to wait. I'm thankful for a day off and I'm going to take advantage of it.

Oh, for anyone who is curious, we bought a '95 Toyota Avalon. It is a local coastal car, so it hasn't endured harsh winters with salt, rock chips and etc. It is in very nice shape for the age and it drives beautifully. It's quite a luxurious car - it even has heated seats! It also has a rare feature for a Japanese car - a front bench seat and column shift. All six of us will fit, though the 'Burb will still be better for holidays, etc. This passenger capacity was one of the things that attracted me to this car when I found it online.

For anyone reading this, thanks for your patience during my absence!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Thy Mercy, My God

My Sunday hymn comes with a note this week. I should say something about my lack of blogging!

Rebecca is encouraging expressing of thankfulness these days. That's a good thing. Of the many things I'm thankful for, I'm thankful that I don't have to blog every day. I like blogging, and I have had some thoughts for posts this week, but I have been really busy with sermon, Sunday School and Bible Study preparation this week.

We're leaving for Vancouver tomorrow after a potluck at the church. Our Fellowship Baptist National Convention starts Monday afternoon. We're going as a family because it is so close this year (only a 10 hour drive, if the roads are good). Because I'm away next week, I have been working on two messages this week - that's unusual for me!

I may post some next week. The hotel is supposed to have wireless, and my other study work is in pretty good shape right now.

Now, here is this week's hymn. It, too, expresses thankful thoughts on very important matters!

1. Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart. and the boast of my tongue;
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Hath won my affections, and bound my soul fast.

2. Without Thy sweet mercy I could not live here;
Sin would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through Thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.

3. Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.

4. Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own,
And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son;
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.

©2001 Same Old Dress Music (ASCAP).

John Stocker (published works in 1776)

Monday, October 30, 2006

How Marvellous, How Wonderful…
A Guest Post for Reformation Day, 2006

By John Kivell

You will notice that I have taken as the title of this post, if not the content, lines from the chorus of a favourite hymn. This will not be some grand theological treatise, but rather a few very personal thoughts on the significance of the Reformation.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Eph 2:4,5 NIV)

How marvellous is God’s plan of salvation – a plan that could have been written by no human hand or imagined by no human intellect. How wonderful is this truth, even if it may seem to from time to time have been forgotten; buried in the mists of time, or tradition, or fashion, or ignored in favour of some formula of human invention that transfers sovereignty from God to man. But the truth is always there, even if it is forgotten. It is there even if we don’t know it, or indeed whether or not anybody knows it. In fact it was there, for each of us, even when we didn’t know it, because as Paul writes, “…While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8b)

The reformation did not bring a new thing – it remembered an old thing; an ancient thing; a thing that had been there all along, as truth always is.

But how marvelous to know it. How wonderful the assurance of it!

What a blessing to those who first discover it, or to a Church that re-discovers it.

Chesterton has written of the deaths of the church, although as he was a Catholic, I’m sure he didn’t write it in approval of the Reformation. But I think the image fits. Just as out of the seeming destruction of a forest fire springs regrowth and new life, so out of the ashes of a dead and corrupt church came the rediscovery of these earliest truths and the Church was reborn.

How marvellous to realize we are saved by God’s grace alone, not by our works, which would be so pitifully inadequate to earn us the right to stand in His presence.

How wonderful to be assured that no further suffering beyond that of Christ on the cross was necessary as payment for our salvation and that the fictional netherworld of “purgatory” is a mere fabrication of man. “Jesus paid it all!”

How marvellous to know that the hand of God has written the formula for our rescue from sin. How wonderful to realize that Jesus, by his death and resurrection, has accomplished it. How beautiful that God has told us of it in His Holy word. How comforting that He has given us His Holy Spirit that we might be confident in Him.

How great is our God!