Hebrews 12:1-2

"..let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." - Hebrews 12:1-2

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

On this Thanksgiving Day, I pause to consider all that God has blessed me with over the past year and I am a bit overwhelmed.

God has continued to provide me with a job that provides us with the ability to live a comfortable life in a nice house near family. While my job hasn't exactly been challenging or rewarding (especially lately), it has given me the ability to leave my work at work and not stress out about any of it while at home.

Lisa was able to transition to the Labor & Delivery area at St. John's in January and a few weeks before the move was informed she would be on first shift. To this day, she has never had to work an overnight shift at the hospital (including nursing school), which is extremely rare and a huge blessing.

Both Lisa and I have remained healthy over the past year and have been blessed to avoid a lot of medical/prescription costs.

God blessed with the opportunity to help lead several ministries this past year:
  • I have served as a leader in our college group at the Realm for the past 18 months and have been blessed by the opportunity to live life alongside these students. (Keep the younger generations in your prayers - they, like us, need it everyday.)
  • I have been singing on the praise team at FBCH for almost a decade now and have been able to participate in that ministry again over the course of the last year. The times spent in front of people helping lead them in musical worship are always special and God has allowed me to experience this several times this past year.
  • Over the course of this past summer, I was given the privilege of leading the musical worship time at Redeemer Church. It was a refreshing time for me and I was blessed to have that time of being able to help fill the need of a young church by using the vocal talents God has given me. In His prefect timing, God provided a more permanent solution and is growing that body.
  • In June I became one of five members of our Pastor Search Committee. This process is long and arduous, but I am confident that God will provide the man He has for us in His perfect timing. This process could be grueling - filled with animosity or the agendas of each member of the group, yet God has blessed us to have a group of loving, humble, God-focused Christians who are striving to find God's man for our church. I am humbled to be a part of this group of Christian leaders in the church. Please keep us in your prayers.
Lisa had an almost picture-perfect pregnancy. At the beginning, when her "morning sickness" was more of a "fuzzy head" feeling and she wasn't actually getting sick, we praised God for that blessing. As we saw the ultrasounds at 12 and 20 weeks, we praised God for His protection and the fact that everything looked perfect. We were blessed to be able to do a lot of things that most pregnant couples don't do (camping at 37 weeks!) and we were able to spend a lot of time with friends and family throughout the pregnancy. And then, at the end, we had a day of labor that was relaxed (shopping at Sam's), spent in conversation and for the most part enjoyed as the perfect end to an amazing journey. I was thankful that God allowed Lisa to only have to push for 20 minutes or so, as I am not sure I would want to have to endure that for a longer period. I am thankful that He gave me the strength I needed to help Lisa through that time. I am thankful that God provides people with the skill, talent and desire to become doctors, nurses, specialists, technicians, housekeepers and receptionists and that they did an amazing job helping us welcome our baby into the world.

Obviously, the main event of the year was the birth of Lydia Leigh. We looked forward to her birth for 9 months and had talked about having children for longer than that. (Actually, we have talked about children since we first started dating.) I am thankful that God completed His work perfectly in forming and fashioning Lydia, and she is a beautiful little girl who had her father's heart in her hands at the moment of birth. I am thankful that God allowed me to be present at her birth and that He has given Lydia such an amazing collection of people to make up her family and friends. She doesn't even know it yet, but she has a lot of people looking forward to meeting her and playing with her in the coming years (some of whom have yet to be born).

I have too much to be thankful for to even attempt to capture in these words.
The Lord has been good to me and has blessed me beyond measure.
I look forward to seeing what God has planned for our growing family.
I trust in the fact that He is Good and that He will continue to be Good for the year to come.
His Goodness isn't bound to giving me great things or a comfortable life and I recognize His ways are above mine.
This year I am thankful He has seen fit to bestow me with mercy and grace and blessings abundantly.

Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Holding Fast - A Review

Holding Fast: The Untold Story of the Mount Hood Tragedy by Karen James

In December of 2006, three mountain climbers went missing on Mount Hood and were trapped in the worst storm to hit the region in over a decade. In this book, Karen James, wife of one of the climbers, sets out to tell the story of what happened on the mountain during the days of the search.

The first nine pages of the book are a dramatic read, placing you in the snow cave with Kelly James and allowing the reader to hear what ended up being the final conversation between a man and his family. After such a dramatic beginning, the book rewinds the clock and walks you through Karen and Kelly’s relationship from their unlikely beginning to their engagement on a mountain and works its way up to the point of Kelly leaving on the plane bound for Mount Hood. With the relationship background set, Karen then begins the journey of her ordeal from the first phone call telling her husband was missing up through the final television interview.

While the book is an easy read, I feel that it fails to deliver the story of the climbers in a way that is clearly defined and well thought out. While there is the chapter at the beginning to entice the reader, the actual details of the rescue attempt and the clues they found to help tell the story of the climbers are relegated to the final few chapters over 150 pages into the book. The few sections that do talk about the climbers and their actions are almost entirely devoted to her husband Kelly James, to the neglect of the other two climbers. Essentially, this book is the story of Karen James and what she and her family lived through at the base of the mountain and after the came back home.

While Karen states throughout the book that she had her faith tested through the ordeal, there is very little more than brief prayers prayed to God in desperation and the searching of God’s reason for the tragedy to define what her faith is based on and how it helped her through the event. With the exception of a few sparse verses of Scripture scattered throughout the pages, there is very little that would suggest that there is any attempt within the book to promote conversion to Christ. With that being said, I believe that there are a couple of portions of this book that are uplifting and could be a source of encouragement to Christians.

One distraction that I found quite annoying was the fact that every time a curse word was used, the author chose to simply type the first letter and underline the rest of the empty space. In my opinion, this editing practice did not make the book “more Christian”, it just made you realize and focus on those words all the more. While I understand that this book is published by a Christian publisher and I would assume is geared mostly toward a Christian audience, I cannot understand why the author would not either change the word or use it as a true reflection of her frustration and panic in a time of distress. I feel that by editing a curse word out of a sentence in such a way not only cheapened the attitude and emotion of the moment but also damaged the credibility of the book and its publisher in my mind.

While I wouldn’t discourage anyone from the reading this book, I would have to state the disclaimer that while this book has everything to do with the climbers who died on Mount Hood, it seemingly has very little to do with them and is focused almost entirely on Karen James.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Introduction

Lydia Leigh Walker
Born on Monday, November 10th at 7:07pm.
She weighed 8 pounds 9 ounces and was 22 inches long.

More photos of Lydia Leigh Walker

Friday, November 7, 2008

An Arkansas Adoption Victory?

I was flipping around on the radio and listened to Dr. James Dobson for a few moments this morning. Naturally, he was talking about the election and its aftermath and what he said kind of made me sit up and talk back to my car speakers.

His comments were something like this:
My wife and I watched the television from 3 o'clock until midnight, watching the numbers and calculating what they meant... When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I was depressed by all that we had lost. But then I began to see the nuggets of hope and sunshine that had also occurred the night before.
For instance, in Arkansas they voted to approve the ban on allowing homosexual couples from adopting children. This is a huge victory for the family in America and we need to celebrate this win, along with others.
There are several things in those comments that stood out to me, but I want to focus strictly on the Arkansas comment at the moment. Something about what he said bothered me, so I went and looked up what the Unmarried Couple Adoption Ban was all about and learned a few things about it. It was passed by attaining 57% of the popular vote. I learned without surprise that the Ban was proposed and promoted by the Family Council, which worked very closely with Focus on the Family Action, which is the political arm on Dr. Dobson's Focus on the Family ministry.

The Unmarried Couple Adoption ban states the following: "an individual who is cohabitating outside of a valid marriage may not adopt or be a foster parent of a child less than 18 years old."

In Arkansas, a valid marriage is declared as being between a man and a woman. This means that with the passage of this ban, it is now illegal for not only a homosexual couple to adopt a child, but also an unmarried couple to do so. In addition to those restrictions, this bill would appear to make it illegal for a single person to adopt a child, regardless of their sexual orientation.

And this is where I am struggling. Is it right or appropriate to eliminate the possibility of a child being adopted strictly based on the idea of a Biblical family structure? In promoting the Christian agenda of marriage being between a man and woman, it appears that Dr. Dobson and his organization may have also eliminated the possibility for single people to adopt a child.

Even if this is not the case, Focus on the Family Action has effectively eliminated the possibility of a child being adopted by a homosexual person and so they have declared it a victory for the American Christian family and a huge win towards promoting the cause of marriage. While I understand the conclusion they have reached, I find myself believing that it is a flawed one at best.

In choosing to battle in the legislative arena for one issue, I believe that Focus on the Family has done so without regard to the ramifications of their proposed legislation and may have, in fact, rejected one of the ideals of their faith in pursuit of enforcing another. It is my belief that by helping to enact this law, Focus on the Family has brought harm to children who are orphaned or abandoned and has rejected what James proclaimed to be true religion (James 1:27).

While I understand that their efforts were to promote a healthy family, which is noble, I believe that this law will cause children who might have been adopted by a homosexual couple or a cohabitating couple to now remain isolated and unloved. Would it not have been better to promote adoption within the church and share Christ's love through Christians adopting as opposed to legislating against sinners who are drawn to express love toward these children who remain unloved by the body of Christ?

In doing so, I do not believe that Christians in the state of Arkansas have won a victory for the family. I believe that, due to the passage of this law, Christians in Arkansas, Focus on the Family and Dr. Dobson might have grieved God the Father, who has commanded us to look after widows and orphans, not promote legislation that makes it harder for orphans to be adopted.

I understand the initiative behind this legsilative action, but I am disheartened by how those desires and convictions have been led to a piece of legislation being implemented that appears to contradict the Scriptures that Christians claim as their own.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One Outcome, Two Speeches

I watched American history unfold last night on the television and I was proud of how the moment was handled. After a long, hard, tough election that has dragged on forever, Americans went to the polls and made their choice for the 44th President of the United States: Barack Obama. Below are my thoughts on how the two candidates handled their respective moments on stage.

John McCain's concession speech was honest, respectful and attempted to begin the process of uniting the country behind Barack Obama.
My friends, we have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly. A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Sen. Barack Obama — to congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.

In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans, who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president, is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.

And then McCain reflected the great amount of love and pride he has for these United State of America by saying this:

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

and then this:

I would not be an American worthy of the name, should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century. Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone and I thank the people of Arizona for it.

Tonight — tonight, more than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Sen. Obama, I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president.

There are two specific moments in Obama's acceptance speech that I found memorable and well said.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.
I appreciated the fact that Obama acknowledged McCain for what he has accomplished and what he has endured for our nation. And then there was this:

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can.

This was his closing portion of a speech that seemed quite subdued and melodramatic considering the historical context of the outcome. I thought this section was a well-written and spoken overview of the past 100 years in American history, all the while capturing the moment and looking ahead to the future. By utilizing one of his campaign chants throughout this portion of the text, Obama was able to get the massive crowd involved and took on the role of African-American preacher making a statement and expecting a response. It seemed a fitting way to end a long campaign - a single man alone on a huge stage in front of millions around the world, evoking emotion and response from those in attendance, promising them a brighter tomorrow than what they have today and declaring that he will be the one to take them beyond the politics of today.

I find myself hoping that some of what he says will come true, all the while hoping that the change he brings doesn't alter our society in a negative way.

The next four years should be interesting to say the least...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Oprah is Waiting for Her Salvation to Arrive

ABC News just talked to Oprah in Chicago at Grant Park and she mentioned "the Bible verse that talks about gaining the world and losing your soul" and she knew that if she did not support Barack Obama she would have lost her soul.

It's a good thing so many people listen to Oprah and drink whatever Kool-Aid she is peddling without question..

Electing a Messiah

The following sections come from Mark Driscoll's post "In God We Do Not Trust":

This election season which has dominated the cultural conversation for many months has been particularly insightful regarding the incessant gospel thirst that abides deep in the heart of the men and women who bear God’s image. Without endorsing or maligning either political party or their respective presidential candidates, I am hopeful that a few insights from the recent election season are of help, particularly to younger evangelicals.

First, people are longing for a savior who will atone for their sins...

Second, people are longing for a king who will keep them safe from terror in his kingdom...

The bottom line is obvious to those with gospel eyes. People are longing for Jesus, and tragically left voting for mere presidential candidates. For those whose candidate wins today there will be some months of groundless euphoric faith in that candidate and the atoning salvation that their kingdom will bring. But, in time, their supporters will see that no matter who wins the presidency, they are mere mortals prone to sin, folly, and self-interest just like all the other sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.

Obama is not the Messiah people think or want him to be and neither is McCain.

God reigns and Jesus is the Messiah that everyone in every country of every political association needs.

Barack vs. Obama

(HT: Gateway Pundit)