Saturday, December 22, 2012

McGarvey Christmas Letter

Dear family and friends,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

2012 in the McGarvey household was filled with lots of life and growth. To be sure, there was plenty of struggle and sin and “I’m sorry” and so on, but God’s grace is stronger and more decisive. We look back on such a wondrous ton of grace and mercy and kindness – a very conspicuous and beautifully contoured ton. We are very thankful.

Beth and I have been married 16 years now. We’ve experienced so much grace in our marriage. Each year has been grace-filled, tough patches included, but this year we’ve had a particularly sweet awareness of God’s grace toward us. We thank God for it.

And then there are these five kids…

Parenting is obviously a lot of hard work. And all that hard work doesn’t guarantee desired outcomes. Our kids are far from perfect. There were plenty of pull-your-hair-out moments (each week?!) in 2012. Dad and Mom are painfully aware of their parental sin. And yet, God has been so gracious. What a joy these children are to us! We thank God for each of them.

So…here’s the run down on the kiddos:

Hannah is 12 now and in 7th grade. She’s a great big sister (and little mother) to her siblings. She is a diligent student and enjoys participating on her school’s volleyball and basketball teams. When she has time, she likes arts and crafts and giving expression to her creative impulses. One of the highlights of this past year was that she was baptized in November. Daddy had the privilege of baptizing her. You can hear her testimony here. It’s been a deep joy to observe God’s grace at work in her life.

Sam is 10 now and in 5th grade. He has a lively imagination and sense of humor. His interests this year have ranged from Pirates of the Caribbean Legos to Captain America and the other Avengers to The Lord of the Rings books (and Legos) to the Harry Potter books. Whatever he is into, he is all in. Aimed at the right things, that trait will serve him and others well in the future. He also enjoyed participating in the school’s Drama Club this Fall, culminating in his role as Inspector Nick Kerbocker in the short play “CSI New Pork.”

Lily is 8 now and in 2nd grade. She is still our sweet little flower, and she still loves flowers. When we go to Longwood Gardens, she wants to be the family photographer and take a picture of nearly every flower she sees. Though her love of flowers has remained, her love for animals has eclipsed it. She would happily move to a farm, and her Christmas wishes are to ride horses and swim with dolphins. She wants to be a kindergarten teacher when she grows up, and regularly practices her pedagogical methods with her willing pupil Jonathan. The treehouse is regularly set up like a classroom in session.

Jono is 5 (and a ½!) now and in Kindergarten. He has happily made the transition into school and loves his teacher and all he is learning. The first day of school, he came home proud of the fact that he had grossed out his classmates. He acquired a love for dried seaweed via his best friend Daniel Ho. He packed it as his snack and relished the reaction. He loves to color, and is meticulous about his work. He is a gym rat (along with Lily) when Mom is leading practices for Hannah’s basketball team. He has a special affection for his little brother. He tells us, “I love him to life!” His explanation: “I don’t like the expression, ‘I love him to death.’” He loves to wrestle with and pummel dad, regularly pulling a Jimmy Johnny SuperFly Snuka dive onto his unsuspecting target.

Ben is now 1. He is growing so fast. It’s no wonder. He eats like a teenager. To look at him, it’s pretty obvious he’s not missing any meals; but seriously, the kid can pack it away! His interests include high speed home demolition (the boy is B.U.S.Y.), taste-testing anything he can get his hands on, removing all items from any surface he can pull up to, grabbing and throwing any ball in sight, seeing the moon at night, cruising around on the driveway in his walker-saucer thing, raiding the chip and cracker shelf in hopes of shaking food loose, music and dance (we’ve learned to decipher the “please turn on the music” grunt that gets aimed at the ipod speaker), his siblings (he lights up to each of them and they sure love him!), waving at strangers in the store (you’d think he watched the Miss America pageant one too many times), and cat wrestling (see video - note: no cats were injured in the making of this video).

We continue to be thankful for our wonderful church family at Bethel Baptist Church. They truly are our spiritual family. Chris is thankful for the privilege of being their pastor and Beth enjoys her leadership role with women’s ministry and her various other involvements. The Lord is teaching and growing us in a many ways.

This Christmas, we’ve been pondering the irony in the typical American Christmas experience. Songs fill the air painting idyllic scenes of inner (and world) peace and relational harmony. But we know better. The world is a mess, and a lot of our relationships are too. Christmas seems like irrelevance and irony for many. The season is a thorn in their flesh rather than a warm fuzzy in their stomach.

The marketeers keep preaching their gospel of acquisition. Advertisements evangelize us left and right. All you have to do is trust and obey. Happiness is right around the next consumer corner. Just receive their message into your heart and follow. You’d think we’d know better. You’d think we’d be offended by their shameless confrontational evangelism. They are bold. Their promises are disproportionately large. They never deliver. And yet we aren’t offended. We welcome this preaching. We drink it in. We pour it out on others once we’ve drunk deeply ourselves. We are dissatisfied, but we still find ourselves as harried shoppers frantically searching for the stuff to satisfy ourselves and others.

The highest and saddest irony is the posture of so many toward Christ and Christmas. They may tip their hat to the baby in the manger. They may throw him and that common crèche in with the sentimentalism and irrelevance of holiday tradition. They may reject him as the symbol of yesteryear’s religious narrowness and intolerance. And yet…if God really did take on flesh and dwell among us, to live with us and die forus, to save us from our sins – and if that is irrelevant and merely sentimental, and if the false gospel of the marketeers doesn’t offend us, if the gospel of Jesus does, then that is the sadist irony.

The world is a mess and can’t save us. A big screen TV or an iPad will not “change your life.” There are a lot of voices preaching to you this Christmas. We hope the living words of the Living Savior will rise above all the din and fill you with true and lasting peace and joy and love.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

With much love to you all,
The McGarveys

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Like Adoption

This is beautiful. Grab the kleenex.

Our Father's got a great big house, and through the death of his Son, he's rescuing all kinds of kids from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. Family is everything.

Rom 8:15
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"
1 John 3:1
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What Would You Say To A Leader of Hamas?

If you had the opportunity to speak to a leader of Hamas, what would you say?

Here's what Ravi Zacharias, the gifted evangelist and apologist, said:

I love the power and beauty of the "weakness" and ugliness of the cross!