Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Are We The Only One's?

We received a package today in the mail from Heather's parents. It was full of things we left at their house recently as we spent Christmas with them. As you can see we didn't just leave some socks or a book. We left my shoes, Heather's cell phone, a pacifier, a bib and some snacks. Are we the only one's who do this?


Acacia Tree

This is one of my favorite pictures. I have no idea where we got it. It could have come from the Internet or from some friend who traveled to Africa. But what I do know is that it makes me smile every time I see it. Why? It makes me think of my second born, Acacia. You see, this is an Acacia tree. The tree is so beautiful, just like our Acacia.


Monday, December 29, 2008

The kids were there too!

Here is evidence that the kids were there too. :) The snow wasn't really good for "playing". It was a little too icy and hard and there wasn't enough of it for any real serious play. But the kids enjoyed slipping around on the deck and James had his first lesson in shoveling snow. They don't know what they're missing so they had a blast with what was available.

Jason had his chance at some snow fun too!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Full Day

The day is drawing to a close, and what a full day indeed. My day began this morning with church. Pastor Steve Jackson preached from II Timothy 2:3-7. The text is a good reminder as I head into 2009 that I need to be living as:

1. A Soldier - one who has a singular focus = to please God. No matter how hard, how unpopular or what damage it might cause on a human level I need to make it my aim to Him and Him alone.

2. An Athlete - one who runs this race with integrity and obeys God. There are many shortcuts in life that can be taken to gain instant wealth, fame and pleasure. But all of them would be a slap in the face of God. He has clearly said that if you Love Me You Will Keep My Commands.

3. A Farmer - one who toils and labors for the fruit of the harvest. The farmer puts in great effort to reap the rewards of the field.

My day ended with a reading of Mark 13. Jesus' words are clearly a warning in verses 35-37. These few verses read:

"Therefore stay awake - for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning - lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: 'Stay Awake.'" (ESV)

Does the beginning of my day and the end of my day have anything in common? I think so. If I am living as a soldier, an athlete, a farmer than I will be ready and will not be caught off guard when Jesus returns.

Lord help me to be ready. And return Quickly!


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Our Christmas Weather Surprise

On Christmas Eve Heather and I, along with the kids, traveled up to Sonora, California to spend Christmas with her parents. We had a fun time with them celebrating the birth of Jesus, eating great food, relaxing and opening up Christmas presents. One treat that we did not expect on Christmas day was the weather that we were blessed with. Below are some pictures of how the day progressed.


This picture was taken off the front deck at my in-laws house. A mist of rain mixed with snow started to come down on Christmas morning.
Not long after the first shot the weather turned to pure snow!

The weather changed around mid-day to sleat (or hail, I don't know the difference between the two. I live in Southern California, all I know is that hard stuff was falling from the sky.)

The sleat got pretty aggresive.

It didn't take long for the sleat to start to have a winter wonderland affect on the neighborhood.

Just about dusk on Christmas night!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

All I Want For Christmas...

The picture says it all! Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Vacation Tasks

There are many things that one could do with 2 weeks off of work. The cars could be washed (thankfully the rain is doing that right now), the garage needs cleaning, the backyard is in desperate need of some care, the inside of the house needs some touch up, the toilet handle needs to be fixed, pictures needs to be hung... I am sure that most of these will get done over the next two weeks. But, what I really want to do is.....

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sometimes Peter Did Get It Right

One of the more common jokes about Bible characters surrounds the Apostle Peter and his propensity for sticking his foot in his mouth. There is the amazing scene in Matthew 17 of Jesus being transfigured before the eyes of Peter, James and John. This is an incredible moment for the three witnesses of Christ’s glory. They see amazing things on top of that mountain and the first thing that comes out of Peter’s mouth is “it is good for us to be here.” Duh! Talk about a moment killer.

Peter is also famous for wanting Jesus to wash his whole body, not just his feet; for promising Jesus that he would never deny Him and for asking about the future of John. Peter messed up so many times with his words that most people think that he never could get his words right. But in John 6 we see that Peter did get it right, at least once.

The first 6 chapters of John are an amazing account of the early ministry of Christ. Jesus, over and over, would tell the crowds that they must believe in Him if they want eternal life. By my count the word believe is used 24 times and the word(s) life or eternal life are used 22 times in these chapters. Jesus’ teaching was very clear. If you want eternal life you must believe in the Son of God. As a matter of fact that last sentence is very close to what Jesus said in John 3:36 ~ “Whoever believe in the Son has eternal life.”

It is recorded several times in the first six chapters that many people “believed.” They liked this message that Jesus was preaching. They liked the miracles that He did. The signs and wonders performed by Him captured their attention. They wanted to follow this man. On top of that Jesus was standing up to the religious elite and calling them on the carpet for their fake religiosity. But, when Jesus told them what following Him really meant at the end of John 6 many of them decided for reject Jesus and turn away from him.

Granted, Jesus’ words at the end of John 6 are tough to swallow (no pun intended). It reads

53Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Verse 60 clearly points out that the crowd had a hard time with these words. Some have suggested that the people understood this to be a literal command of Jesus. That if we were to follow Him, believe in Him, have eternal life, than we must literally eat His flesh and drink His blood. I don’t think this is what they had trouble with. What they had trouble with was that if they wanted to be true followers of Jesus they would need to whole heartedly grasp, take in, surrender to and believe that Jesus is the only way to God. He was the only means of salvation. This they could not do.

As a result many of these false disciples left and turned away from Jesus. They refused to believe that He was from Heaven and the only way for them to get there. They walked away. In response Jesus turns to His true disciples and asks “Do you want to go away as well?” No doubt this was testing time and Peter stepped up and hit a home run. He says in verse 68 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Wham! Peter opened his mouth and the right answer came out. Peter and the other apostles got it. Remember, Jesus had been preaching since the start of His ministry that “you must believe in me and if you do you will have eternal life.” And Peter and the other apostles got it. They know that the only way to God was through Jesus Christ. They were true disciples.

Think about Peter’s words for a minute. He starts off by declaring that Jesus is “Lord.” No one else is Lord, Jesus is. Lord is an amazing word. It is defined as “one who has power; or a position of authority.” Right away Peter acknowledges who Jesus really is. He is not some dime store trickster who can do some really cool magic like turning water into wine. Jesus is the One who has the power of God, the One who has the authority of God because He is God. He acknowledges that no one else has the right direction by saying “to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter makes it very clear that all other people who claim to have a path to God are charlatans. Their path is false and will only lead to death and destruction. Jesus and Jesus alone has the words of eternal life. He then pronounces that they “believe.” No doubt these words were a source of encouragement to Jesus. He just watched a multitude of people walk away and reject believing in Him. But, His 12 apostles have just said “we will not follow the crowd, we will believe in you.” Not only do they believe but they have “come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Scripture clearly tells us that the apostles did not understand most of what Jesus did in His earthly ministry. They only understood after He rose from the grave and ascended to the father and sent the Holy Spirit to “teach them.” But in their limited understanding they were able to say “Jesus, you are the Holy One of God.”

All of this must force you to ask the question: Can you answer as Peter did? Do you believe? Do you believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God? Do you believe that He is The Way, The Truth and The Life and no one can come to the Father accept through Him? If so, rejoice during this season as we celebrate Jesus becoming a baby that was born to die.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Speaking the TRUTH

Heather and I chose, before our kids were born, that we would not teach our kids that Santa Clause was real. This was an easy decision for us. Santa Clause was a lie and we didn’t want to lie to our kids. Since that initial decision we have had many wonderful conversations with our kids about Christmas and the real celebration of that day. Over and over again we would talk, we would sing, celebrate Advent, read Scripture that was about baby Jesus and why He came and what He did on the cross for us. We have purposefully trained our kids to know that Jesus is the celebration focus of Christmas.

However, we have not left Santa out of the picture. Anyone who lives in America must deal with the issue of Santa. At this time of year you see him all over the place. He is on commercials, TV shows, billboards, magazines, at the mall (he has been at our mall since the week after Halloween), he even paid a visit to our dentist’s office. Kids see him all over the place. The way we have addressed it with our kids is that Santa Clause is a very fun story. The kids read fun books about Santa, they watch fun movies with him as its central character and sing silly songs about him. But we always remind them that He is a fun story. I liken Santa Clause to Mickey Mouse. Both are fun make-believe characters, but that is all that they are, make-believe.

Why do I bring this up? A few days ago Isabel’s teacher called us to let us know that Isabel got into an argument with the rest of the students in her class. The subject of the argument - Was Santa real and what is the real celebration of Christmas? The class insisted that Santa was real and Isabel insisted that he wasn’t and that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. Apparently neither side was giving in and the argument continued. Eventually the teacher restored order and moved on to another activity. She did feel it was important to call to tell us about the exchange.

When I found out what Isabel did in class I had several conflicting emotions.

Emotion #1 Frustration

We have talked to both Isabel and Acacia about the issue that not every kid, as a matter of fact most kids do not believe in Jesus. They know that most kids believe that Santa is the reason for the season and it is he who brings them presents and at their age they do not need to argue about this issue with their friends. This is such a big issue they could possibly lose friends over it. As a parent, I don’t want to see my kids go through losing friends because of an argument.

Emotion #2 Fear

The second emotion that hit me was fear. I kept thinking: “How many parents are going to call our house seeking to ‘chew us out’ because our daughter has ruined their Christmas by spilling the beans about the truth of Santa Clause?”

It didn’t take long for me to realize that rather than being frustrated with my daughter and to fear the reaction of the parents I should be proud of my daughter for standing up for Jesus Christ. I was too wrapped up in man’s opinion. Quickly the Holy Spirit laid it upon my heart that Isabel should stand up for the Truth. She should be bold about her belief in Jesus Christ. And if she is bold for Jesus the Bible is very clear as to what will happen: Persecution. I should not be surprised that Isabel might lose friends over this. I should not be surprised, nor afraid, of parents who would be upset at what Isabel said about Santa being a fake and Jesus being the reason for Christmas. Scripture is very clear that unsaved man is at enmity with God. Any thought of Jesus would naturally bring about hatred from unredeemed man. Isabel was bringing in front of their eyes that Jesus is real. And if He is real than mankind has a big problem. That problem being sin and how it separates us from God. That problem being that Jesus clearly claims that he is THE way, THE truth and THE life and that it is only through Him that we can have peace with God. Failure to believe in Him means a complete submission to the just reward of falling short of the glory of God: Death and Eternal Separation from Him.

Emotion # 3: Good for my daughter for speaking loud and clear about Jesus being the reason for the season.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Lights

Not far from our friends Jason and Mary's house is a street that sells it soul to Christmas decorations. Virtually every house on the street has every nook and cranny covered in lights and Christmas decorations. Tonight we were able to visit this festive street. We have driven through this small neighborhood in the past, this time though we parked the car and walked around the block to look at each and every house. It didn't take too long, about 45 minutes, and the kids had a blast.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Canyon Country ~ Winter Wonderland

Last Saturday we had some good family fun in the snow. Acacia made a snow angel, Isabel used a cardboard sled to slide down a snow bank and James made snowballs.

The Truth is...

wait for it....

Isabel's school rented a snow machine to make snow for the students to play in. We paid $4.00 per kid to play in a patch of snow that was 20 ft x 20 ft.. What is this world coming to?

Just so you know: the kids did have fun!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Isabel's Turn

Anyone we've talked to since August knows what 1st grade has been like for Isabel. While loving school, her teachers and her friends it has been difficult and more work than we could have ever expected. She perseveres with a good attitude and mostly a happy heart but the academic side of school has been hard and at time challenging. At parent conferences a couple of weeks ago amidst discussing these challenges her teachers also informed us that she would be receiving an award at the next awards assembly. She didn't know about it and they asked that we would keep it a surprise.
Well, last Friday morning was the assembly. Acacia, James, Brenton and i waited in the multi-purpose room for the students to arrive and the assembly to begin. You can imagine Isabel's excitement when, while marching in with her class, she spotted us. Not only was she thrilled to see us, waving and blowing kisses, but she also knew that this was her day; she was getting an award. The principal called students up one at a time, announcing their achievements, Math Whiz, Super Speller, Excellent Reader, and so on. After this first group of students received their awards and recognition and headed back to their seats Isabel looked back at me very concerned and said "I didn't get an award". I told her to just wait, her turn was coming.
The next group of students received awards for their character. When Isabel's name was called she leaped out of her seat and ran up the middle aisle to receive her certificate for "Caring for Others" She beamed as she stood with other students recognized for kindness, trustworthiness and caring.
it is with joy that I celebrate this award with Isabel. Isn't this what scripture says we are to do - to love kindness, to care for one another, to follow after Jesus!? I don't want to downplay Isabel's hard work and progress academically. In four short months she has gone from reading a handful of sight words to Days with Frog and Toad. Her academics will come, but I am even happier to see the growth in her character. She cares deeply for her friends and people she doesn't know are just friends she hasn't met yet. I am thankful for her sweet heart and pray earnestly that regardless of her studies at school, she continues to learn and cultivate her care for others. Thank you God for such a sweet girl!

Isabel racing up the aisle

Standing with the other "Good Citizen" award winners.

Posing with her certificate.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fun Decorating the Christmas Tree

Last night our family had the joy of putting together our Christmas Tree. (Actually, we started on Saturday, but our tree lights didn't work and it took us two days to pull off the old lights and put on the new one's.) Anyway, here are some fun shots of the kids.