Friday, January 20, 2017

John Piper On Inauguration Day

I'm wrestling deeply with the reality and implications of Donald Trump becoming the 45th president of the United States. Perhaps you are wrestling, too. I appreciated John Piper's post entitled, "How to Live Under an Unqualified President." I encourage you to read it.

He begins like this:
Today we will inaugurate a man to the presidency of the United States who is morally unqualified to be there. This is important to say just now because not to see it and feel it will add to the collapsing vision of leadership that enabled him to be nominated and elected.
He explains why he is unqualified, and then goes on to talk about what leadership is and why it's so important. Here are a few of the reasons he gives:
A leader should lead. That is, he should set the pace, define the path, embody the vision, and inspire emulation. He himself should be what he is calling others to be. That is what it means to lead. Donald Trump is not such an embodiment of what we want the citizens of America to be. In important ways, he is the opposite. 
A leader should be a good example for our young people in matters of character and moral uprightness and civility. Few parents would say to their young people: strive to be like Donald Trump. That is a great sadness. 
A leader should not model the success of immoral behavior, and thus further destigmatize and normalize evils which, if spread, will bring discredit and ruin to our nation. To reward Donald Trump’s immoral behavior with the presidency does just that — it says to our children, and to the world, that these evils are not that bad, and can be embraced with no great negative consequences.
Again, read the whole thing to see how he then gives some helpful historical perspective to remind us that we are not the first Christians to live under unqualified leadership. In fact, for many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, and throughout history, their situation has been much, much worse. There is grace and wisdom for this. So he closes with 7 suggestions for how we should then live under President Trump.

Psalm 16 - A Brief Fighter Verse Meditation

Psalm 16:2
I say to Yahweh, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you." 
Augustine
The sum of our goods, and our perfect good, is God. We must not fall short of this, nor seek anything beyond it; the first is dangerous, the other impossible.
Psalm 16:5, 8, 9
Yahweh is my chosen portion and my cup.... I have set Yahweh always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
C.S. Lewis (They Stand Together, Walter Hooper, ed., (New York, 1979), page 465. Italics original.):
I think one may be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion — which raises its head in every temptation — that there is something else than God, some other country into which he forbids us to trespass, some kind of delight which he ‘doesn’t appreciate’ or just chooses to forbid, but which would be real delight if only we were allowed to get it. The thing just isn’t there. Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly as he can, or else a false picture of what he is trying to give us, a false picture which would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing. . . . He knows what we want, even in our vilest acts. He is longing to give it to us. . . . The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply good spoiled. . . . You know what the biologists mean by a parasite — an animal that lives on another animal. Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.
Psalm 16:11
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Gratitude: What's In It For Me?

I was struck recently by an NPR article entitled, "Feeling Less Grateful? Some People Are Just Wired That Way."

The article asks whether gratitude is really as beneficial as so many claim.

Wait a minute. Stop and think about that.

Is there something in gratitude for me? If so, great. I'll cultivate some thanksgiving. If not, then I shouldn't beat myself up if I don't value or practice it that much.

A few sound bites:
...not everyone experiences gratitude as a positive force in their life. ... 
Does that mean that people who experience gratitude as negative should push through it anyway in pursuit of some benefit? "That's a big 'I don't know,'" says [Anthony] Ahrens [professor of psychology at American University]. "We will need data to answer that." ... 
Gratitude is clearly associated with physical and mental well-being. It's linked to better sleep. People who are more grateful seem to have more energy, less depression and possibly even a lower risk of heart disease. Those positive associations hold for both the trait of gratitude — that is, being a generally grateful person — and the state of gratitude — a temporary behavior or feeling, says Philip Watkins, a professor of psychology at Eastern Washington University. But, some of the broader claims about the benefits of gratitude aren't backed up by science, says Watkins.
Basically, the article is saying we need more data to better assess the real value of gratitude. It seems beneficial. Some studies seem to make that clear. But if it turns out that the claims are inflated, then by all means let's stop blowing so much hot air about how important gratitude is to our well-being.

So, the question seems to be, "What is the real street value of gratitude?"

Leave it to our narcissistic, neuropsychology-is-king generation to come up with this crazy utilitarian approach to gratitude.

Then again, if there is no God-from-whom-all-blessings-flow, whether you give thanks or not is really a matter of what's in it for you.

Just don't let the irony escape you.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

McGarvey New Year Letter

Dear family and friends,

For the annual McGarvey update, we're going to go month by month and hit some highlights, mainly by means of pictures.

January 

Sam continues to enjoy theater and hone his acting skills. He had several opportunities to do so in 2016, beginning with his role as the White King in "Wonderland" (based on Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass) for the Carousel Performing Arts Center.

Big Sis proudly poses with the White King post performance

February

Jono turned 9 and had a blast at his Minecraft themed birthday party, where the three women in his life rocked the party planning. Jono was also hired by Five Below to be their leprechaun greeter. I believe this photo was taken after he was asked for the 47th time where was his pot of gold ("Duh, it's at the end of the rainbow!").

* The thing about Jono being hired by Five Below - it's a joke.
This is just the kind of thing that happens when we take our kids out.
We try to do so only when necessary. 
Hannah had a great basketball season last winter. She even received all conference honors!

March 

The McGarvey's headed to Texas. Chris's dad was surprised on Christmas (2015) when his wife Yvolene gave him a calendar saying we were coming for a visit. She had worked it out to fly us down for the kids' spring break (Thank you, Yvolene!).

Flight delay with 5 kids? As long as you have bananas, it's no sweat.

With GPA & Yvolene (and Ollie) at their house.

April

Sam turned 14. 

Hannah tried her hand at Lacrosse for the first time and received the award for "most improved player."


May 

Jono played little league baseball for the first time and enjoyed learning the game. 



June

Sam participated in another Carousel production. 

"Prince Frank" and company at the curtain call

We enjoyed a wonderful visit from Nana!

At the rock wall in Alapocas Run State Park

It's never serious for long with these five

We also took a very fun family vacation in FL (despite dad stepping on a huge nail a few days before we were scheduled to depart). Never thought we'd go to Disney (for a variety of reasons), but we did, and we had a great time. The trip also afforded us the opportunity to visit Chris's sister Jenn and her husband Canas on our way down. It was great to see them on their own turf in Savannah, GA. 



July 

Beth and the kids drove out to Chicago to spend one last time at 1928 Dorset Drive. Ama & Papa Russell sold the house they lived in for over 25 years and downsized. It was quite the reunion. All but one of the 17 grandkids were able to be there. 


Sam was asked to play the Mad Hatter at a special event at an art studio in Chester, PA. He made the costume himself (Hannah did the make-up) and had to be in character for three hours for all comers to the "Mad Hatter Tea Party" open house. His was a surprise and delight to his "guests."


He and Jono also participated in the Missoula Children's Theater "Tour in Your Town" production of Jungle Book. It's a unique program where the traveling theater company arrives in town, holds auditions and casts on Monday, holds practice daily that week, and then performs the show on Friday afternoon and evening. Sam played Tabaqui and Jono was one of several who together played Kaa (the snake).


August

Hannah turned 16(!) and began driving! She's a good driver, and hasn't given her parents too many additional gray hairs...yet.

This is the picture Beth took on the way home from the DMV.
The smile says it all.

Ama and Papa Russell made several trips in 2016 to join the McGarvey family chaos. In August, we were able to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary together!



Thanks to a friend, we once again spent a fun day at Hershey Park before school started back in session.
Beth's idea to organize our seating this way to catch a pic with 6 of our 7


As the start of school approached, volleyball season got started for Hannah, and Sam decided he wanted to play football. Lily also got started with her first year of volleyball on the middle school team. It was, at times, a bit of a challenge logistically, but we had a lot of fun following their seasons. Beth also coached the JV girls volleyball team, and was an assistant coach for the Varsity girls.

The Lions had their best season in school history,
ranking in the top 10 in the state of DE and making it to the 2nd round of the state tournament.
Sam ended up playing the same position Papa played in college,
and he was able to pick Papa's number for his jersey!
Lily was thrilled to start volleyball!
And then...school started. All 5 are now in school. Hannah in 11th, Sam in 9th, Lily in 6th, Jono in 4th, and Ben in Kindergarten!


September

September is hereby dubbed "random picture" month:
Come to our house and you might be greeted by this guy...

...or this crew!

Sometimes you need to be spontaneous, get your PJ's on and head out for ice cream!
Lily is going to make a great babysitter!
She is always happy when she has Avery on her hip!

Lily is a nature lover.
On a daddy-daughter date to Ashland Nature Center, Lily impressed our guide with her ability to spot things.
Here she found a monarch butterfly caterpillar. Can you?

October 

Ben turned 5!

The birthday boy sporting his blue ribbon!
I think he won first prize in the "cutest 5 year old" division.
Annual family outing to go apple picking and eat apple cider cinnamon donuts!


November

Lily turned 12!

The Cubs won The World Series!

We celebrated Thanksgiving with Ama and Papa at the house they are renting for a year in Wheaton.


While there, Dad took Hannah for a Wheaton College prospective student visit. This can't be happening! (That's our student tour guide on the right)


December

Chris and Beth celebrate their 20th anniversary! Whoo-hoo! We're still happily married!

We actually celebrated early at Thanksgiving so we could spend an overnight in Chicago!
We closed out the year at Nana's. We enjoyed time with Chris's sister's family, as well as Zsi-Zsi Ann.



The most important highlights in 2016, whether our circumstances felt like highlights or lowlights, whether we even recognized them or appreciated them, were the unceasing, overabundant, daily measures of steadfast love and mercy from our faithful God.
"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)
And every bit of that love and mercy was purchased for us on the cross by Jesus, our tender Savior and sovereign King. 
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing." (Ephesians 1:3)
And so we end, appropriately, with Ben singing The Doxology (it's in video format, but there is only audio):



Amen.

With love,
The McGarveys

Saturday, December 24, 2016

"The Sweet Dropper"

Have you heard of Richard Sibbes?

He was a Puritan theologian in England and lived from 1577-1635. He is known as “the sweet dropper,” because such grace-filled sweetness dropped from his pen. Charles Spurgeon, the famous London preacher of the 1800s wrote of him, “he scatters pearls and diamonds with both hands.”

Inspired by Isaiah 42:1-4, he wrote a book called The Bruised Reed. I HIGHLY recommend the whole book, so let me scatter some sweetness from his pen in hopes that your appetite will be whetted for more. 

First off, he says that the "bruising" itself is God’s work:
Our hearts, like criminals, until they be beaten from all evasions, never cry for the mercy of the judge. ... [T]his bruising makes us set a high price upon Christ. Then the gospel becomes the gospel indeed; then the fig-leaves of morality will do us no good. And it makes us more thankful, and, from thankfulness, more fruitful in our lives; for what makes many so cold and barren, but that bruising for sin never endeared God’s grace to them? (4) 
The heroic deeds of those great worthies do not comfort the church so much as their falls and bruises do. [And, he gives examples beginning with] … David [who] was bruised until he came to a free confession… (5) 
It is no easy matter to bring a man from nature to grace, and from grace to glory, so unyielding and intractable are our hearts. (6) 
Physicians, though they put their patients to much pain, will not destroy nature, but raise it up by degrees. Surgeons will lance and cut, but not dismember. (7)
 Listen to how helpfully he speaks of the winsome character of Christ:
A mother who has a sick and self-willed child will not therefore cast it away. And shall there be more mercy in the stream than in the spring? Shall we think there is more mercy in ourselves than in God, who plants the affection of mercy in us? (7) 
As a mother is tenderest to the most diseased and weakest child, so does Christ most mercifully incline to the weakest.” (10) 
…if we have this for a foundation truth, that there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us, there can be no danger in thorough dealing. It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell. Therefore let us not take off ourselves too soon, nor pull off the plaster before the cure be wrought, but keep ourselves under this work till sin be the sourest, and Christ the sweetest, of all things. And when God’s hand is upon us in any way, it is good to divert our sorrow for other things to the root of it all, which is sin. Let our grief run most in that channel, that as sin bred grief, so grief may consume sin. (12-13, emphasis added)
 He also follows with implications for those who follow this Jesus as their Master:
The ambassadors of so gentle a Saviour should not be overbearing…Some think it strength of grace to endure nothing in the weaker, whereas the strongest are readiest to bear with the infirmities of the weak. (34)
That's just a taste. Get the book for more food for your soul. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

We Need More 'Both And' Believers

“Augustine expressed his faith not with his heart alone, for the heart does not think . . . nor with his mind alone, for he never grasps truth in the abstract, as if it were dead. Rather, to his task as a theologian he brought emotional tenacity, immense intellectual power, purpose of will, deep spirituality and heroic sanctity.”

“The Significance of Augustine,” Christianity Today, 11 December 1987, page 22.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"Crappy Theology." Amen.

McGarvey family road trip not long ago. Kids watching The Sound of Music.

The "Something Good" song scene comes on.

Here are the lyrics:

Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth

For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

I was just about to stop the movie and ask the kids what they thought of those words when Sam blurts out, “Well that’s pretty crappy theology.” I would have preferred a better choice of words. But I'm thankful he can recognize the anti-gospel when he hears it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Sweet Temper of Our Savior

You've probably never heard of Benjamin Grosvenor. He was an English pastor who lived from 1676-1758. He once preached a sermon entitled, “The Temper of Jesus.” It was a reflection on Luke 24:47, “...that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Taste the sweetness he squeezed out of these words by his meditation on the character of the One who said them.
It is very affecting, that the first offers of grace should be made to those… who least deserved it. They of all people had most deserved the contrary! That they who had abused Christ to a degree beyond the most pitiful description, should lie uppermost in his care, and stand foremost in his pity, and find so much mercy from one to whom they showed none at all!
One would rather have expected the apostles should have received another kind of charge; and that Christ should have said, ‘Let repentance and remission of sins be preached, but carry it not to Jerusalem, that wicked city… let not the Gospel enter those gates, through which they led me, it’s author, to crucifixion…
But Gods thoughts are not as ours… our way is, to make the chief of offenders examples of justice; to avenge ourselves upon those who have done us personal injury or wrong; but Christ chooses out these, to make examples of mercy, and commands the first offer of eternal life to be made to them, and all the world are to wait.
Tell them, you have seen the prints of the nails upon my hands and feet, and the wounds of the spear in my side; and that those marks are so far from giving me vindictive thoughts, if they will but repent, that every wound they have given me speaks in their behalf, pleads with the Father for forgiveness of their sins…
If you meet that poor wretch that thrust the spear into my side, tell him there is another way, a better way, of coming at my heart, if he will repent, and look upon whom he has pierced and will mourn. I will cherish him in that very bosom he has wounded; he shall find the blood he shed an ample atonement for the sin of shedding it. And tell him from me, he will put me to more pain and displeasure by refusing this offer of my blood, then when he drew it forth.
HT: DH 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ask Good Questions - Help for (Potentially) Heated Conversations

John Stonestreet at Breakpoint offers six questions he's found helpful for healthy dialogue about issues of faith and culture:
What do you mean by that? The battle of ideas is always the battle over the definition of words. Thus, it’s vital in any conversation to clarify the terms being used. 
How do you know that is true? Too often, assertions are mistaken for arguments. 
Where did you get this information? 
How did you come to this conclusion? 
What if you’re wrong? 
What if you’re right?

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19, NIV, emphasis added).

Monday, December 19, 2016

Lay Aside the Weight of Irritability

Here's a word I need to hear...often: "Lay Aside the Weight of Irritability" by Jon Bloom. Perhaps you need it too.

A few excerpts:
We like to blame our irritability on someone or something else. We try to convince ourselves (and them) that they make us irritated. If they were different, we wouldn’t be irritated. Or we blame it on being tired, ill, or stressed. But Paul diagnoses irritability as a heart disease; a failure to love: “Love . . . is not irritable” (1 Corinthians 13:4–5). 
… 
Our irritability never has its roots in the soils of righteousness. It springs out of the soil of selfishness and springs up fast, like the sin-weed that it is. We get irritated or easily provoked, not when God’s righteousness or justice is scorned, but when something we want is being denied, delayed, or disrupted. It works like this:
After giving some examples of the real roots of our irritability, Bloom goes on to suggest a practical strategy for laying it aside using the acronym "S.T.O.P."

Laying aside irritability, let us run the race set before us, looking to Jesus.