Archive for March, 2010

Just read this.


Thank you, Missy.

May this ring somber and true… and also fill you with joy unspeakable… as you prepare to celebrate Easter, the great sacrifice and victory of our Lord Jesus Christ.


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“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”  – C.S. Lewis

Yes, I know… I’m reading Don Quixote.  I promised, after all.  🙂

Between chapters, however, I am wholeheartedly continuing my quest to read pretty much every good juvenile fiction book that exists.  When I started this obsession notable endeavor a few years ago, I convinced myself that I was merely doing due diligence, surveying the landscape of literature available to younger readers so I could knowingly guide my children to those books most worthy of their time and attention.  But I’ll admit it:  some of the books I read are among THE best I’ve read in terms of storytelling.  I’m not talking the type of “deep” writing demanding its own graduate-level course here, but stories… stories you inhale, you digest, you enjoy so thoroughly that you remember them fondly forever.  That’s the kind of good stuff I’m talking about here, folks.

So, aside from the obvious “must-reads” in this category — The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the like — I have come across in recent reading some pretty wonderful, compelling stories that I would love to share with you (and in case you’re wondering, I added the ones I didn’t like at the end… gotta be real here).

Leepike Ridge:  This was a great book written by N.D. Wilson (Pastor Douglas Wilson’s son, FYI). I read it along with some other books aimed at the same age group (including more famous books by Rowling, Funke). This book easily stands head and shoulders above the rest. Tightly yet vividly written, the story has you racing to its end but enjoying every step along the way. Wilson does not “write down” to his readers, including words in his prose only rarely found in any current adult fiction, let alone fiction created for “young readers”. I was very impressed.

100 Cupboards trilogy (100 CupboardsDandelion FireThe Chestnut King):  Also by N.D. Wilson, this series is a magic/good v evil/fantasy/kids discovering their powers kind of tale.  For those who appreciate really, really good writing, especially geared to juvenile readers (who may not be the same people who liked Harry Potter and the like), this author does not let you down; Wilson weaves a compelling, extremely well-written story that leaves you waiting with anticipation to read each next book in the series.

Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy (I only linked you to the first one, but they’re all wonderful):  Well-written, fast-paced books about a group of child geniuses out to save the world, with a great story and likable characters that make you cheer.  I love when juvenile fiction writers choose to challenge, rather than condescend to, their young audience; my boys will love these books in a few years.

George MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind:  This was my first exposure to MacDonald’s writing (C.S. Lewis loved the guy so much he wrote his biography), and I’m thankful for the introduction. Beautiful story, wonderful characters, and a feeling of intimacy (can’t find another word to explain it) that you don’t often get in books today.  It may feel a bit old-fashioned to some, but to me that’s part of its beauty.

Madeline L’Engle’s Time Quintet:  Believe it or not, this was my first time ever reading these lovely books… and I loved them all.  While A Swiftly Tilting Planet was my favorite of the five, all were extraordinarily imaginative, tightly-written, and neatly wove both history and some pretty complex scientific concepts into the plot.  Bravo.

Douglas Bond books (I’m currently reading Hostage Lands):  Great historical fiction; reminds me a bit of Stephen R. Lawhead but for a slightly younger set.  The stories are gripping, smart, and historically accurate, and they give the reader the feeling he/she is always in the middle of the action.  I love that.

Despite all the wonderfulness I described above, it wasn’t all lilies and roses; here are a few books I recently read that I do not — I repeat, do NOT — recommend:

The Tunnels series (Simply put?  It’s yucky, horrible, graphic, the writing is mediocre at best, and the plot is super-thin and not tied together well at all.  Some of the reviews called this grossness the next Harry Potter… whatever.  Blech.)

Anything by Cornelia Funke (I heard all these wonderful things about her… Inkheart, blah blah blah… and then I picked up The Thief Lord and learned she’s a plagarist.  Come on, do you have to copy the age-shifting carousel idea verbatim from one of the greatest fantasy writers of all time?  Seriously.  That one bad read turned me off to anything else she could offer.)

What other “juvenile fiction” books have you read that you would recommend?  Are there any I should definitely avoid?

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Annie’s Baptism

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  – Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

Annie wasn’t saved on Sunday.  But she was recognized as a child of the covenant, to whom the promises and blessings of God extend.  With a few screams and more than a few tears, she was baptized by our friend Pastor Steve Sage and brought formally into our church family… with faith that God will bring her to faith.

Here are a few memorable shots from the day.

Annie in her baptism dress, courtesy of Grammy.  Here she appears to be contemplating the events to come… that, or deciding whether to eat her shoe.

Here we all are, with Pastor Steve and Duane Hermanson (one of our elders), right after Steve doused her with a handful of water.  You may notice that Annie is pretty blurry, because she was being quite feisty… she wasn’t a fan of the total face shower.  🙂

After the service, we wanted to get a few nice shots of our freshly-baptized girl in all her finery.  Sounds easy enough, right?  But Annie was not in the mood to cooperate; instead, that child was in the mood to MOVE.  What camera?  You want me to look where?  HA.

Here are some of the better outtakes:

Pound the table! BAM BAM!!!

Hey... this table is slick! I can scoot backwards.. ya hoo!

Hey, what's this funny thing in my hair?

Wait... is this the look you were going for, Mommy?

Let me tell you… I took probably 100 pictures; Annie was flapping her hands wildly (equating to looking like a hummingbird in the photos) in approximately 85 of them, and most of the rest looked like what you see above.  But FINALLY we captured a couple of moments that did her — and her pretty princess dress — justice:

That’s my beautiful girl.  🙂

We also managed (courtesy of my sweet mom, who I now believe has never actually used a digital camera before… that’s a whole ‘nother story) to get one decent family shot to remember the day.  This one, with Annie showing off to the camera, was definitely my favorite:

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Bode’s Big “3”

As you know, the Bodester turned three last week.

It was time for much celebration… and not a few presents (thanks in large part to Grammy and Nonna):

Football and baseball pillows... yippee!!

Thanks for the John Deere tractor, Grammy!

"Man time" with Daddy... and some really blue ice cream 🙂

Of course, for his birthday Mommy had to make a really cool cake bake something resembling a cake and then frantically figure out a way to make it go with Bode’s chosen cake theme.

The theme?  Disney’s “Cars”, which the boys just saw for the first time (thanks to Aunt Jane and Uncle Toby!) at Christmas… and it has been a family favorite ever since.  Oh, and did I mention Bode also wanted it to be a pound cake in a bundt pan?  Hmmm.. never made one of those before… there’s always a first time, I guess!

Here’s my effort/interpretation:

I chose to leave the pound cake well enough alone on the cutting board so it could be a “butte” in the background of Route 66 (any resemblance to an erupting volcano is purely coincidental and probably not geographically accurate).  🙂  I briefly considered frosting a “Nice Butte” sign on the roadside, but then thought better of it… it was a kiddo’s cake, after all!  The road was just construction paper, and the rocks were, well, rocks.

We asked Bode who he wanted to come to his birthday party (aka the time to eat cake, and not much else), and he said “Esther.”  Esther is an adorable 4-year old from church who once took Bode aside and informed him that when they were both “growed up” they were going to get married.  Bode would do absolutely anything for that little girl.  🙂  I mentioned a few more names, and he said “sure.”  So I quickly emailed Esther’s very understanding mother to make sure she could be there before contacting anyone else.

Thankfully, Esther made it… everyone else was either out of town or had sick kiddos.  But Bode didn’t care.  Esther took the seat of honor right next to him, and his birthday was complete.

Blowing out the candles with (apparently) his future wife 🙂

All in all, it was a very good day with one extremely happy and — by the end — exhausted birthday boy.

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CONFESSION:  Here’s my Don

Looks pretty fresh, doesn’t it?  Nary a wrinkle in that flimsy paperback spine… like it has barely been opened.  And that’s about right.  I did get all the preliminaries (TOC, cover, intro) out of the way though… yesterday.

I’ve been sick, people. For a month.

Excuses, excuses… I know, I know.  But since it should now be obvious that I have the equivalent of a snowball’s chance in you-know-where to finish this wee little book by March 27, I’m going to give us ALL a break and extend the deadline to April 12 for the first read, April 19 for our first “great discussion.”  Because I’m the facilitator, and I can.  🙂

But in the meantime… I’ve been meaning to tell you about something pretty awesome for a while now, but — as I mentioned above — the events/sicknesses/life craziness of the last several weeks have gotten the best of me.  So here it goes.

I made a new friend in the bloggy world a few months ago… during a time of intense prayer and soul-searching (and not a small amount of adoption blog surfing) as we sought to determine whether/when/where to adopt a child.  Somewhere in the midst of innumerable Google searches I ran into Andrea… and discovered what a gem she truly is.  Awesome photographer, crafty-mama, God-lovin’ and God-fearin’ woman, with a smile as big as an ocean… and her kiddos are TOO CUTE.  I’ve been going through a one-year Bible reading with her (and likely a few hundred others… and just an aside, as of yesterday I’m finally caught up!  Did you hear that, Andrea?  Ya hoo!!).

Andrea and her lovely family began their personal adoption journey not all that long ago… but they have felt God’s call to care for orphans and widows for some time now.  Following their heart — and in the process putting their time, money, and selves where their mouths are — they joined with a few other families in the greater Atlanta area three years ago to found a non-profit ministry in Zambia, Africa called Wiphan.

From their website:

“Wiphan Care Ministries is an African-based ministry that exists solely to nurture and develop widows and orphans in the compounds outside of Ndola.  Wiphan’s desire to “look after” widows and orphans comes directly from God’s word in James 1:27.  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”  The mission of our ministry is to love and care for the materially poor in Ndola, Zambia.  Our aim is to relate to the children and ladies in our program through the love of Jesus Christ.  As we develop these relationships through love, service, and community, their spirit is strengthened and we see firsthand how we are made to love others.

Wiphan has set up two school campuses in neighboring compounds…one called “Sinia Center” and the other called “Mapalo Center”.  Together these schools serve 400 orphans and vulnerable children as well as 100 widows.  Wiphan provides biblical education, skills training and daily meals.  The ministry is run by local Zambian Christians partnering with an American support board in Atlanta, GA.  Americans can be involved through prayer, financial support, trips, and child sponsorship aimed at developing relationships with our children, giving them a broader perspective on life and following Christ.

Wiphan Care Ministries

(photo courtesy of Wiphan)


• To empower widows and children with skills to become independent.
• To equip widows with necessary knowledge of childcare and home economices.
• To provide widows and children with healthcare and counseling.
• To provide spiritual, moral, and social education to widows and children as they face life’s challenges.
• To provide shelter, meals, and clothing to orphans in the community.
• To empower the orphans and widows through the teaching of God’s Word.”

Take a glimpse into the lives of those Wiphan touches… I dare you not to be moved.

Told you so.

So now that you know, what is God telling you to do about it?  Pray, share, sponsor, love?  All of the above?

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…” – James 1:27 (ESV)

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The boys needed hair cuts.  Badly.

Case in point: Jonah pre-cut (yes, there’s a face in there somewhere).  That kid has crazy-thick-wavy hair, especially first thing in the morning:

But as we are completely strapped financially right now, I figured Mommy would do alright giving the cuts this time around.

Did I mention Bode wanted a mohawk?  Yep.  I found a quick tutorial on the internet and gave it my best shot.  Check out the results!

Bode’s new ‘do:

And yes, his hair will still lay down okay… so he won’t be sporting that particular look when Annie gets baptized this Sunday.  🙂

Both boys post-cut:

We’ve got some good pics from Bode’s birthday weekend in the camera as well… I’ll try to post some in the next few days (they’re on their way, Grammy!).

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… I do like Glenn Beck (insert audible gasps from my more liberal-minded friends out there).  I think he’s exposing much of what needs to be open to investigation and scrutiny in American politics.

I also know that he, like the rest of us, sometimes tends to over-state to get his point across.  Like last week, when he told folks to run away — and quickly — from any church that preaches “social justice”… because (he said) that’s code for Communism.  Yes, he was explicitly referencing those churches out there, like Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s, who elevate social justice at or above the level of the Gospel itself.  And yes, that’s bad.  Really bad.  I agree.

But as we’ve already seen, Glenn’s comments are (of course) being construed to oppose any and all churches who “do justice and love mercy.”  And that’s no good either.

Because there is a movement within the American church right now — one that doesn’t sacrifice the Gospel or the Truth — that is bringing believers by the droves into the fight for social justice throughout the world… in and for the name of Jesus.  And that, my friends, is very good.  Awesome, in fact.  Listen to this beautiful call from Pastor Tim Keller:

“The ideology of the Left believes big government and social reform will solve social ills, while the Right believes big business and economic growth will do it. The Left expects a citizen to be held legally accountable for the use of his wealth, but totally autonomous in other areas, such as sexual morality. The Right expects a citizen to be held legally accountable in areas of personal morality, but totally autonomous in the use of the wealth. The North American “idol”—radical individualism—lies beneath both ideologies. A Christian sees either “solution” as fundamentally humanistic and simplistic.

The causes of our worsening social problems are far more complex than either the secularists of the Right or Left understand. We wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with powers and principalities! We have seen there is great social injustice—racial prejudice, greed, avarice—by those with the greatest wealth in the country (and sadly, within the evangelical church itself). At the same time, there is a general breakdown of order—of the family and the morals of the nation. There is more premarital sex (and thus there are more unwed mothers), more divorce, child neglect and abuse, more crime. Neither a simple redistribution of wealth nor simple economic growth and prosperity can mend broken families; nor can they turn low-skilled mothers into engineers or technicians.

Only the ministry of the church of Jesus Christ, and the millions of “mini-churches” (Christian homes) throughout the country can attack the roots of social problems. Only the church can minister to the whole person. Only the gospel understands that sin has ruined us both individually and socially. We cannot be viewed as individualistically (as the capitalists do) or collectivistically (as the Communists do) but as related to God. Only Christians, armed with the Word and Spirit, planning and working to spread the kingdom and righteousness of Christ, can transform a nation as well as a neighborhood as well as a broken heart.”  (from Keller’s book, Ministries of Mercy)

What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think Glenn Beck believes that God-fearing men like Pastor Mark Driscoll or Gary Haugen, who are among those leading this “mercy” movement, are Communists.  And if he does, I’ll stop listening to him and call him out on it.  Loudly and publicly.  Because we’re all just doing what God has called us to do… for Him and Him alone.  And therein lies the difference between us and the wanna-be Hitlers of the world.

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