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.