Monday, January 22, 2018

Come and join us!

Do you remember what He's called you out of? 
Do you remember where you were? 
Let us not take advantage of His love 
Lest we forget that we have been forgiven 
Without Him we can do nothing 

We gathered around an early evening backyard campfire at the home of brand new friends in Idaho.  Song time was about to commence.  As the guitar was being tuned, we asked our hosts if they knew any Petra songs.  

Eyes lit up, and a comment about not having heard a Petra song in years was made.

Red is the color of the blood that flowed
Down the face of Someone who loved us so
He's the perfect Man, He's the Lord's own Son
He's the lamb of God, He's the only One
That can give us life, that can make us grow
That can make the love between us flow

At evening devotions with friends in southern Mexico, while sharing favorite songs, our kids unanimously declared we must sing “Grave Robber”.   And so we did.  And now it is one of our friends’ favorite songs as well.

Many still mourn and many still weep
For those who they love who have fallen asleep
But we have this hope though our hearts may still ache
Just one shout from above and they all will awake
And in the reunion, what joy we will see
Death will be swallowed in sweet victory

Powerful words, powerful music, powerfully sung.  It only seemed fitting to us as newlyweds back in the ‘80s.  Songs by the christian music group Petra held common themes of valuing what God values, not being deceived, having faith in an almighty God, depending on him, praying.  

I lived an illusion with no one else to blame
I found a solution when I called on His name
I may not have money or riches 
but I found something better to be
To be a servant of Jesus, 
He means more than the world to me
I just want to be, I just want to be 
I just want to be His disciple

These were ideas with which we were not raised.  As we wore the dreaded “horse hoof” sounds into the cassettes by repeated play, the words and lessons were being impressed on our hearts. It was a means God used to encourage us in truth that is despised by the world.

Some say this life I live is only foolishness 
No waiting pot of gold in the faith that I possess 
But the treasures of this life will slowly turn to dust 
And this fool will find his gold in the Savior that I trust 

Fool's gold - it's waiting in a crown 
Fool's gold - in a city coming down 
I'll leave the gold I can't afford 
For the higher prize I'm pressing toward 
I'll preach the foolish cross of Christ 
And wait for my reward 
Fool's gold 

As children were added to our family, many of the analogies in the songs took on greater depth:  struggling with our own lack of self-discipline, the need to shift priorities, to care more for pleasing the Lord than pleasing men.  

And it takes so long to see the change
But we look around, and it seems so strange
We have come so far, but the journey's long
And we once were weak, but now we’re strong

As our children have grown, they have learned and loved these songs as well.  Petra put to music many truths, priorities and promises which they have been blessed to know from their earliest days.  

We love figuring out how to play and sing old favorites.  And so the idea grew...a Petra Sing Along night!

Our gracious friends at the Family Vision Library are excited to host this special evening, so we want to get out the word.  

Whether these songs are like old friends to you or you would just like some fresh encouragement from days gone by:  if you are in or near the Saint Louis metro, please come and join us! 

There's a Light over the horizon 
I'll keep walking down this road of hope 
Faithful in my prayer 
There's a Light over the horizon 
Though I may not know what lies ahead 
I know that you'll be there 
You'll be there

You won’t find the polish of seasoned road warriors, but we hope to make noise that somewhat resembles some of our favorite songs.  We will project the words and everyone can sing along.  We pray it will be a night of fellowship and refreshing as we encourage one another and praise the Lord with melodies from our hearts.  

You may be weary, but you gotta be leery 
When somebody says that you will never finish the race 
They can discourage but don't lose your courage 
You gotta narrow the margin and keep up the pace 

You gotta run for the prize
Don't look over your shoulder
Gotta keep your eyes
On the straight and narrow
Gotta run for the prize
There's no time to be wandering
Gotta make your way
Just as straight as an arrow

Please join us on Friday, March 16, at the Family Vision Library.  Bring snacks if you would like. And tell your friends!  

It would be fun and helpful to RSVP and suggest some of your favorite songs for us to consider as we compile our song list.  

More power to ya!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Volo Bog in Illinois

In March of 2016, we held our first CocoaConf of that year in Chicago, Illinois. We were able to all come out as a family this time, which is always fun. :) During the conference, those not directly involved with the conference duties made a few excursions to explore the area.

On the last day of the conference, some of us went out to see Volo Bog. Our family first heard about Volo Bog from Dr. Kurt Wise, in a lecture some of us heard a few years ago. He showed some video clips from Volo Bog to illustrate what a quaking bog is like. And since we were less than an hour’s drive away at our hotel in Chicago, we didn’t want to pass up the chance to check it out ourselves. :)

Volo Bog is the last quaking bog in Illinois with an open water center, and the furthest south of such bogs in North America. And what, perchance, is a quaking bog?

The dates are a little off, sure, but the basic concept expressed in the pictures is helpful. :)
At the end of the Ice Age, ice left behind from the retreating glaciers melted, and left large lakes in the northern parts of North America. Over time, vegetation begins growing in over the lake, and silt accumulates, and the lake slowly becomes covered over. 

The vegetation mat is floating over the lake, hence the quaking nature of the bog. You can get a group of kids to stand in a circle on the surface, hold hands, and jump up and down in sequence, and you can make concentric waves that travel through the ground and sway the plants and trees. Pretty neat! :)

Sadly, they don’t allow standing on the surface of Volo Bog – you have to stay on the boardwalk. But they did have this little model so you can experience the feeling to some extent.
There’s a short boardwalk that goes right out to the open water center of the bog, so you can see all the different environments of a quaking bog.

A quaking bog has five zones that encircle the open water in the center. Starting out, we walked through the marsh zone.

And we found a critter! A muskrat, we think.
Whilst watching said muskrat, Noah’s glasses lens fell out and joined the bog ecosystem. Oops!
They have a little brochure with numbered descriptions of various parts of the bog, and numbered posts along the boardwalk, so you can give yourself your own tour.
From the marsh zone, we came into the tall shrub zone. As you may infer, a major constituent of this zone is tall shrubs. :)

Next is the tamarack zone. Tamarack pines are here in abundance, and we learned that they are an unusual pine – they’re deciduous!

Abi, our resident biology enthusiast, particularly enjoyed the little things most of us walked right past. Like this sphagnum moss. :)
In the right season, you can also find pitcher plants. But this was early Spring, so they weren’t showing their little faces just yet.

And here, behind Daniel, you can see the last two zones: the low shrub zone, and the herb zone. I suppose the distinction between the two isn’t particularly sharp. And then it’s open water!

Closer to the open water, a few of us had fun grabbing the tamarack pines by the trunk and bouncing them up and down, though it was a bit difficult to get adequate leverage from the boardwalk.

One cool feature of a quaking bog is the false bottom, which you can see here, in the marsh zone. We tried finding something sturdy enough laying around to pierce through the false bottom, but the best we could find was tall grass that wasn’t too cooperative. Nonetheless, were you to stick your foot down there you would just keep going down. :)

After the boardwalk, we went in to see the little nature center they have there, in an old barn and silo.

Daniel got to meet a snake!
This elevator is built in the silo, and it has one glass wall so you can travel up and down a timeline of the Volo Bog area over time.

They had a nice fossil collection.
A little research library.

And then, after some fun perusing in the center, we headed back to help wrap up the conference. :)

The Warrior and the Drop of Blood.

This story is taken from A Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands, written by John Williams. John Williams was an English missionary to Polynesia in the 1800s, and, with the help of native Christians who left their own home islands to join his missionary efforts, he spread the Gospel to many island nations where it had never before been heard. This story took place on the island of Raiatea, John Williams’s base in the South Seas.

- - -

    In my own church was an old blind warrior, called Me. He had been the terror of all the inhabitants of Raiatea, and the neighbouring islands; but in the last battle which was fought before Christianity was embraced, he received a blow which destroyed his sight.

    A few years after my settlement at Raiatea, Me was brought under the influence of the Gospel, and when our church was formed, he was among the first members admitted. His diligence in attending the house of God was remarkable, whither he was guided by some kind friend, who would take one end of his stick, while he held the other. The most respectable females in the settlement thought this no disgrace, and I have frequently seen principal chiefs, and the king himself, leading him in this way to chapel. Although blind, he attended our adult schools at six o’clock in the morning, and by repeating and carefully treasuring up what kind friends read to him, he obtained a great familiarity with the truths of the New Testament.

    On the first Sabbath after my return I missed old Me; and not receiving the hearty grasp of congratulation from him to which I was accustomed, I inquired of the deacons where he was, when they informed me that he was exceedingly ill, and not expected to survive. I determined, therefore, to visit him immediately. On reaching the place of his residence, I found him lying in a little hut, detached from the dwelling-house, and on entering it, I addressed him by saying, “Me, I am sorry to find you so ill.” Recognising my voice, he exclaimed, “Is it you? Do I really hear your voice again before I die? I shall die happy now. I was afraid I should have died before your return.”

    My first inquiry related to the manner in which he was supplied with food; for, in their heathen state, as soon as old or infirm persons become a burden to their friends, they were put to death in a most barbarous manner. Even for a considerable time after Christianity was embraced, we found it necessary, when visiting the sick and afflicted, to make strict inquiry as to the attention they received. In reply to my question, Me stated that at times he suffered much from hunger. I said, “How so? You have your own plantations;” for, although blind, he was diligent in the cultivation of sweet potatoes and bananas. “Yes,” he said, “but as soon as I was taken ill, the people with whom I lived seized my ground, and I am at times exceedingly in want.” I asked him why he had not complained to the chief, or to some of the Christian brethren who visited him, and his affecting reply was, “I feared lest the people should call me a talebearer, and speak evil of my religion; and I thought I would rather suffer hunger or death than give them occasion to do so.”

    I then inquired what brethren visited him in his affliction to read and pray with him. Naming several, he added, “they do not come so often as I could wish; yet I am not lonely, for I have frequent visits from God – God and I were talking together when you came in.” “Well,” I said, “and what were you talking about?” “I was praying to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better,” was his reply. Having intimated that I thought his sickness would terminate in death, I wished him to tell me what he thought of himself in the sight of God, and what was the foundation of his hope. “Oh,” he replied, “I have been in great trouble this morning, but I am happy now. I saw an immense mountain with precipitous sides, up which I endeavoured to climb, but when I had attained a considerable height, I lost my hold, and fell to the bottom. Exhausted with perplexity and fatigue, I went to a distance and sat down to weep, and while weeping, I saw a drop of blood fall upon that mountain, and in a moment it was dissolved.” Wishing to obtain his own ideas of what had been presented to his imagination, I said, “This was certainly a strange sight; what construction do you put upon it?” After expressing his surprise that I should be at a loss for the interpretation, he exclaimed, “That mountain was my sins, and the drop which fell upon it was one drop of the precious blood of Jesus, by which the mountain of my guilt must be melted away.” I expressed my satisfaction at finding he had such an idea of the magnitude of his guilt, and such exalted views of the efficacy of the Saviour’s blood, and that although the eyes of his body were blind, he could with the “eye of his heart” see such a glorious sight. He then went on to state, that the various sermons he had heard were now his companions in solitude, and the source of his comfort in affliction.

    On saying, at the close of the interview, that I would go home and prepare some medicine for him, which might afford him ease, he replied, “I will drink it, because you say I must, but I shall not pray to be restored to health again, for my desire is to depart and be with Christ, which is far better than to remain longer in this sinful world.” In my subsequent visits, I always found him happy and cheerful, longing to depart and be with Christ. This was constantly the burden of his prayer. I was with him when he breathed his last. During this interview, he quoted many precious passages of Scripture; and having exclaimed with energy, “Oh death, where is thy sting?” his voice faltered, his eyes became fixed, his hands dropped, and his spirit departed to be with that Savior, one drop of whose blood had melted away the mountain of his guilt. Thus died poor old Me, the blind warrior of Raiatea.

Messenger of Peace, the ship built by John Williams
and used in many of his missionary travels

Saturday, July 02, 2016

As One Does In Chicago...

In March we made a trip out to Chicago for a CocoaConf. On most of our trips for CocoaConf, we send a delegation, and we were very happy that it worked out for us all to go this time!

We all help out in various aspects for a Cocoaconf, but usually most of the work is during initial set up and then teardown (during the conference we only need a handful of people there to keep things running). So while the conference is going on, the rest of us who aren’t busy helping hang out at the hotel, catch up on laundry, or (most exciting :) go sightseeing. The Lord has allowed us to see some pretty neat things on our trips for CocoaConf — since the conferences are held all over the country, we get the opportunity to explore lots of interesting and fun places.

This time, we visited Wheaton College!

(I'm not sure if that counts for typical sightseeing, but it's quite the sort of thing we like to do :)

We had a few potential places to see lined up, one of which was a museum at the Billy Graham Center. But then we learned the Billy Graham Center also houses an archive containing materials from many American missionaries. Our family reads lots of missionary biographies, and we were very excited to be able to see some of the original writings of missionaries we had read about!

So Mom got in touch with the folks at the Billy Graham Center, and arranged a time for us to visit.

It was exciting just to be at Wheaton, as some of our family's favorite missionary
heroes, Jim Elliot and Nate Saint, were students here in the 1940's.

After we arrived, Mom took the little boys to see the museum, leaving Hannah, Joanna, Bekah, Susanna, Sammy, and me in the Manuscript Reading Room.

(I think we all liked the fact that we got to be in a room called the Manuscript Reading Room — it just sounded so scholarly.)

Before we left for the Billy Graham Center, we pulled up their catalog page on their website, and we selected some collections of documents to look through. Everything was in numbered folders, packed in labeled file folder boxes. We only went through one box at a time, to keep from mixing things up.

First we looked at a box of materials related to/written by John and Betty Stam (missionaries in China).

John Stam's journal

We were able to take pictures of whatever we liked (as long as it wasn't restricted, and we didn't look at anything that was). Before we were through we had succeeded in draining the batteries and/or filling up the camera rolls on all of the four iPhones/iPods that we had brought with us. :)

Betty wrote this poem for her father (Charles Ernest Scott)

At first we were all rather nervous, and proceeded with all due ceremony — I as the oldest very carefully opening the first box and very carefully passing out the folders to the others who sat very carefully watching me. All done very carefully.

Joanna and Hannah

After a while we got over being nervous and abandoned further ceremony (while trying to maintain the aforementioned carefulness).

This was my favorite of the many poems in the Stams' folder.

Next we looked at some things from John and Isobel Khun (missionaries to the Lisu in China).

Isobel and her two children, Kathy and Danny.
Letters between John and Isobel before they were married.

Joanna and Bekah reading some Khun letters.

We also got to see a few things from Hudson Taylor (mostly scans of documents related to a trip he took to the US).

I was very excited to see some things from Hudson Taylor, but I had a hard time reading his (lovely :) cursive handwriting and didn't think to take more pictures for those at home who could! I did get a nice picture of his signature:


Last of all we looked at some things from Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth (missionaries in China in the late 1800's and early 1900's). We hadn't really planned it, but all of the missionaries whose writings we looked at were from China.

Another thing we hadn't planned was the order in which we looked at (something), and we ended up saving the best (or should I say biggest :) for last! The Goforths' manuscripts were close to twice as many as any of the others that we saw that day.

The manuscript for Goforth Of China
This page made me smile. :)
We got to look at the manuscripts for several of Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth's books
— several of them were handwritten in (very old!) composition notebooks

We had previous read this story (How "Old Autocrat" Was Won By A Sketch)
in Rosalind Goforth's book Miracle Lives of China, and Joanna found
the manuscript for it — in Rosalind's handwriting!
Looking at the manuscript for a book by Jonathan Goforth about
the Boxer Rebellion.

While we were busy being fascinated upstairs, Mom and the boys enjoyed looking around the museum downstairs.

The original score for the hymn "The Ninety and Nine"

They also took a spin around the Wheaton College campus...

We finished up at the archives around 5:30 pm. We spent about four hours there, but I'm quite sure we could have spent the whole day and had plenty to keep us busy! We had an amazing time and we're very grateful for the opportunity!

We grabbed a selfie before leaving (minus Suby)

Like I said earlier, our family reads lots of missionary biographies. It has been a tremendous blessing to us — to me personally, to hear and read the stories of great Christians of the past, and to see “at a glance,” so to speak, what God did in and through them. It was wonderful to able to see an touch the letters and journals of some of the heroes of the faith that we’ve read and heard of so much before.

One thing I’ve seen many times in the lives of many great Christian men and women is their relationship with Jesus. It came first. First they learned to walk with God, to love and obey Him. That relationship was central in everything else they did.  That’s what made them what they were.

From the book Borden of Yale '09  William Borden was the son of a Chicago millionaire
who had dedicated his life to being a missionary to Muslims. He died in Cairo,
where he had gone to study Arabic, at the age of 26.

I’ve had to continually remind myself that Hudson Taylor, or David Brainerd, or William Borden, or any other Christian I read about, wasn’t just an extraordinary person. Each of them was a normal person that surrendered themselves to an almighty God, and He worked in them and through them. And that’s exciting, because that’s something that all of us who love the Lord can do too! We can have that same relationship with Jesus, and experience the same love and joy and strength — His love, His joy, and His strength. We might never end up in the Amazon or in Shanghai, we might never be martyrs, we might never have books written about us, but that isn’t the point, is it? The point is that God is glorified, and He is glorified when we surrender to Him and let Him work in us. And God will take care of the rest.

Well, I don’t know about you, but if I end up in Chicago again, I think I know where I might be spending some time! :)

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, 
let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, 
and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; 
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, 
despising the shame, 
and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2