Wednesday, July 30, 2008

by God's grace

We are working at working in some hymn singing into our family table time these days and have begun with a hymn that our kids are familiar with Amazing Grace, written by John Newton.

Did you know that John Newton wrote a few more stanza's and did not actually write the fourth stanza we usually sing. Here's the three stanzas that most of us are unfamiliar with . . .

The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

These are great verses, too. I will teach them to my kids and vote that we start singing them in church. What say you?

Anyway, that's not where I was really going with this post. In looking up the original stanzas, Susie stumbled on to yet another great quote by Newton.

I am not what I ought to be...
I am not even what I hope to be...
But by the grace of God
I am certainly not what I was

Amen, Amen, Amen!

Monday, July 28, 2008

GSN 2008: Talent Show Tomorrow

Grace Summer Nights 2008 has been a kick these last few weeks. Last week, in the spirit of Galatians, we enjoyed square dancing and line dancing in our Ministry Center. . . . first time we've had any kind of official dancing event on campus. . . . I had several people note that and thank me. Our family had a great time.

Tomorrow we close out this year's Grace Summer Nights with our 2nd Annual Talent Show. Should be a casual and fun time as a church family. Hope you can make it. Yours truly will be featured in the talent show, but you've got to come to see how. . .

Here's a cumulative Grace Summer Night's slide show. . .

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Worth Your Time Today

Former White House Press Secretary, Tony Snow, passed away earlier this month on July 8th. Sharon Ernstrom passed this on to me. . . It's worth your time today.

Blessings arrive in unexpected packages—in my case, cancer.

Those of us with potentially fatal diseases—and there are millions in America today—find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence What It All Means, Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.

The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the why questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.

I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is—a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.

But despite this—because of it—God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.

Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere.

To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life—and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many nonbelieving hearts—an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live—fully, richly, exuberantly—no matter how their days may be numbered.

Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease—smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see—but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension—and yet don't. By his love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.

'You Have Been Called'

Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet; a loved one holds your hand at the side. "It's cancer," the healer announces.

The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. "Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler." But another voice whispers: "You have been called." Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter—and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our "normal time."

There's another kind of response, although usually short-lived—an inexplicable shudder of excitement, as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tinny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions.

The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul, traipsing though the known world and contemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the morrow, but only about the moment.

There's nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue—for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do.

Finally, we can let love change everything. When Jesus was faced with the prospect of crucifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the holy city. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf.

We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us—that we acquire purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God's love for others. Sickness gets us partway there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy. A minister friend of mine observes that people suffering grave afflictions often acquire the faith of two people, while loved ones accept the burden of two people's worries and fears.

Learning How to Live

Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God's arms not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live. They have emulated Christ by transmitting the power and authority of love.

I sat by my best friend's bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was a humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He retained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. "I'm going to try to beat [this cancer]," he told me several months before he died. "But if I don't, I'll see you on the other side."

His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity—filled with life and love we cannot comprehend—and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms.

Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

When our faith flags, he throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it.

It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up—to speak of us!

This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.

What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place—in the hollow of God's hand.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cabo Cruise

Last weekend, my grandma treated the 52 of our family to a cruise to Cabo. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime gathering with no one missing. I met some of my cousin's spouses and children for the first time.

The cruise itself was an experience. Lots of people and lots of food. Cabo was our only port and we were only there for about 8 hours. All in all, it was a memorable experience. My kids loved it.

Here's some pics. . .

Our clan. . . Henrietta Van Boven in the center

3/4 in the ship's pool

self-portrait. . .. our ship in the background

On the beach in Cabo

Thursday, July 24, 2008


What do you think of when you hear the word "family"?

What do we mean when we use the word "family" around Grace?

We received some thought-provoking feedback the other day from one of our beloved and involved singles who described feeling put off and left out by our promotion of the "Grace Family Campout." Having come to the campout in the past, he said he is not coming this year, because the event is "for families." He also went on to say something to the effect that singles are "second class citizens at Grace and at most churches".

It saddens me to hear all this...

It saddens me because this is obviously how this single feels. Its his reality. Even if every single at Grace doesn't feel this way, this one does.

It saddens me because this person misunderstands our heart and hope for the body of Christ at Grace.

When we use the term "family", we almost always, and especially when referring to the "Church Family Campout" use it in a dual sense. In one sense, the campout (and other events and programs we host) exists for the strengthening of the nuclear family. We believe "the nuclear family" is one of three God-ordained institutions along with the church and the state." As such, we believe we have a responsibility to do all we can to support, encourage and build up "families" especially in these days as we see the breakdown and redefinition of the traditional family. I want to be unapologetic in our commitment to family in this sense. I don't want to give away the term "family" because singles might feel put off in our use of it.

But there is a second sense intended when we use the term "family" and that's the idea of the "Church Family"." This second sense is definitely what we have in mind in the designation "Church Family Campout." Isn't it striking that the Bible repeatedly casts the church in "family" language? We are adopted into God's family as His sons. We are brothers and sisters of the household of God, our Father. The Bible intends that we belong to the one another like family, love one another and be committed to one another like brothers and sisters. We (singles, marrieds, families, young, old) are family! This is truly our hope and heart with the "Church Family Campout" and most of our other "family billed" events . . . that they would foster and facilitate the growth and building up of the church family.

Surely we can do better communicating these twin aims/intentions in our use of the word "family." I don't think they are mutually exclusive. We must pursue them both.

Together let's make sure we're welcoming and purposefully including all who enter or continue in the circle of Grace. No one left out. No one put off.

I welcome your thoughts and reflections . . .

Let love of the brethren continue. --Hebrews 13:1

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

going global

I was encouraged during our prayer time on Tuesday morning as we prayed for all our short-termers scattered around the globe this week. . . .join us in praying for them. It is such a joy to be able to send and go for the cause of Christ around the globe.

  • Jenny Nelson July 25 to August 12 in Philippines serving at the Aeta Children’s Home
  • David Balderston July 13 to July 26 in Uganda counseling and aid to war-torn children
  • Ron & Cyndie Hamley July 10 to July 27 in Guatemala with International School Project (Biblical morals course taught to educators)
  • Jazmine Harvey July 8, 2008 to May, 2009 in Columbia teaching with Resource Christian Education International
  • Lee Shirey, Cami Grey and Bobby Cleath July 3 to August 15 in Romania working at a camp with underprivileged children
  • Mark Piester June 26 to July 25 in Russia working with locals to hold three summer camps for 126 orphan children
  • Jen Peet & Ben Matthias June 23 to August 7 in Middle East working to establish Campus Crusade evangelism team.
  • Arijaan Bulk, Ryan Cahill & Rose Valliere June 12 to August 9 in Santa Monica with Campus Crusade doing evangelism

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Check out Pandora...Radio like you've never experienced it.

Tell me what you think.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

GSN 2008 #1: Mustang Water Slides

Our 2008 Grace Summer Nights kicked off nicely last Tuesday at the Mustang Water Slides. . . 315 people attended, 60 were guests, 66 pizzas consumed.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Photos can be accessed here.

Next Tuesday we are gathering at Port San Luis. Invite those same friends and some new ones. Its going to be another great family time. See you there!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Somehow, at lunch yesterday, our staff wandered into the topic of sex change operations. (I am gratefully naive and sheltered!)

Anyway Debbi Weeks sent this Breakpoint article to us all after lunch.

I thought the Johns Hopkins bit was interesting.

I am thinking through how to talk to my children about this mad world and where it's going. Not even sure where to begin sometimes. Any thoughts?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Picnic Fun

Many thanks for Jack Hutchinson for putting together this awesome vid capturing the spirit of our 4th of July Picnic games. If you missed it, you missed it. . . .

Saturday, July 05, 2008

tooth on the cob

Zeke was trying to lose his first tooth this evening at the dinner table while biting into his corn on the cob. It worked. . . . He was pretty excited.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Grace Summer Reminders

Back from Catalina. Great, great time. Hope to share more soon. . .

We have some fun summer activities that I wanted to remind you of.

This Friday is our annual July 4th picnic. It is from 11:30-3:00 at Meadow Park on South St. The BBQ this year is tri-tip and chicken, so you won’t want to miss it! The cost is $5 per person or a max of $20 per family. Bring your picnic blankets and chairs and plan on an afternoon of fun. If you haven’t signed up, please reply to this email or call the church office (543-2358) right away. If you can help, we can use it! Let us know by contacting the church office.

This Tuesday, July 8th kicks off our first Grace Summer Nights. It will be "Family Night at the Mustang Waterslides" out at Lopez Lake from 6:00-8:00. We have rented the entire park for our church family and we will serve pizza for dinner all for the incredibly low price of $2.00 per person! We really want you to bring your friends and neighbors so invite them and they can come for free!!! Even if you don't want to go down the waterslides just come on out for the fun and fellowship. Plan on carpooling with friends. Our church bus is at Hume Lake, so we won’t have it available for this evening.

We really need to know if you are coming so please RSVP by filling out a form in the courtyard this Sunday, filling out a tab in the worship folder, or you can reply to this email or call the church office and let Dori know @ 543-2358.