Sunday, December 31, 2017

McGarvey New Year Letter

Dear family and friends!

Happy New Year! We are grateful to God for all his grace and faithfulness in 2017 and we are so thankful that we can expect his mercy and faithfulness each and every day of 2018 (Lamentations 3:21-23; Hebrews 4:14-16).

Chris and I celebrated 21 years together this December and are so thankful to be doing life together!

Chris is serving in his 9th year as lead pastor of Bethel Baptist Church. Most of his free time is spent throwing a football with the kids, reading to the family (it’s like radio theater!), meeting the family for one of our child's sporting events, or taking out the next child in line for a “daddy-daughter date” or “dude-time” (with the boys). He works hard to try and keep our dates regular too!

Beth is staying busy being the "bus driver" (now with Hannah’s help!), leading Women’s Ministry at church, coaching volleyball, and substitute teaching. On the side, when time permits, she loves to paint. She has also slowly been working at remodeling rooms in the house, one at a time. She's keeping Chris on his toes with an ongoing “honey do“ list.  She is ever so thankful that he is the ultimate handyman!!!

With all that activity, this is often how we feel:

Hannah (17) is a senior in high school.

She still loves volleyball and basketball, enjoys singing on our worship team at church, could eat fried pickles and drink bubble tea for days, is a great big sister, worked hard all summer as a nanny, and hopes to attend Wheaton College in the Fall to study elementary ed.

Sam (15) is in his sophomore year.

Sam loves football -- playing for the Lions and watching the NFL, especially the Steelers. He's not the only fan in the family: 

Sam also loves theater and got to play a dream role this year as the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.

He also played the Prince in Sleeping Beauty with the Carousel Performing Arts Studio. Taking his penchant for the dramatic to another realm, he entered the Poetry Out Loud contest for the first time. He advanced to the state finals where he took 2nd runner up.

Lily (13) is in 7th grade.

She's creative and witty, considerate and tender-hearted. She loves the outdoors, animals, insects, birds, flowers, the sky and the stars. She and her two younger brothers are regularly found exploring and making little habitats for the wide variety of interesting critters they find. Lily has an eye for beauty and received a camera for Christmas. She looks forward to honing her photography skills in the coming year.

Jono (10) is in 5th grade.

Along with his love for football, Jono also loves to read, drink coffee (whenever we'll let him), build with Legos, and play with his siblings. For his age, he's conscientious and responsible and has a soft heart.

Ben (6) is in 1st grade.

The "I'm 6 years old" pretzel!

Ben is a ball of energy, 110% boy! Being a gym rat comes pretty naturally and he can usually be found running around in Jono's shadow. His reading has taken off this year, opening up a whole new world. He enjoys school and is growing up way too fast. His siblings all love him to the moon and back and give him special attention. The benefits of being the caboose!

We enjoyed a couple of wonderful family vacations this year -- one to Niagara Falls for Spring Break and one to Vermont for summer vacation.

Real life hiking candid. Anyone know where Ben is? Probably about to dive bomb from above.
From our crazy family to you and yours, we wish you a blessed New Year! May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all.

Sincerely in Christ, 
The McGarveys

Friday, September 1, 2017

Follow up on "Lust and Faith"

Last Sunday in our "Summer in the Psalms for the Fight of Faith" series, we covered "Lust and Faith" from Psalm 119:9-16

I read some stats on how pervasive the porn problem is in our day. I said I'd send a link to the Tim Challies post where I found them. Here's the post: 

It's very sobering. It ought to get us asking, "How can a young man (or young woman, or older man, or older woman) keep his way pure?" And we ought to be on the lookout for answers and grace wherever we can find it. 

There are a lot of helpful resources out there. If you're looking for some accountability software and you don't know about Covenant Eyes, I'd encourage you to check it out. In addition to their accountability and filtering software, they also have a lot of helpful articles and resources on their website.
If you have kids, the Disney Circle is an effective tool as you seek to help protect your kids. Tim Challies reviewed it HERE. Our family has used it for about a year now and we can recommend it. 

And for a good one stop round up of helpful book reviews and articles, check out THIS POST. Challies provides links to 10 articles he's written on porn and also recommends a number of good books written by others.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Psalm 100 Follow Up

A little follow up to yesterday's message "Grumbling and Faith" from Psalm 100.

First, some humor (I saw this at the store last night, shopping for school supplies with Sam):

Second, a simple and practical idea:

A good friend of mine has long been a model to me of durable, steady, buoyant, gospel-saturated gratitude. He often leads off conversations by asking, "What are you thankful for?" He fights for grace-fueled gratitude through thick and thin. He influences others to remove the myopic lenses of negativity and put on the panoramic lenses of gospel grace. I'm really thankful for him.

What if you started asking yourself, daily, what you're thankful for? (See Psalm 103:1-14 and Colossians 1:12-14 to prime the pump.) And what if you started asking others, regularly, what they're thankful for? Rather than disseminating negativity, we would be curbing it, and pumping grace and gratitude into the atmospheres of our homes, our churches, our places of work, our neighborhoods, etc. All with a simple question.

Feeling Relationally Vulnerable?

I ran across this quote today. It's part of a prayer post by Scotty Smith:
We need the gospel to keep us sane, centered, and satisfied. There are many lonely husbands, many lonely wives, many lonely single people who are primed for a fling, targets for an affair—aching, yearning, reaching for a few minutes of pleasure to medicate months, years, even a lifetime of disconnect and emptiness. It may never become physical, but emotional affairs offer exhilaration bordering on intoxication—an intoxication that can lead to addiction; and an addiction whose GPS is set on our destruction.
Here is one clear place that we need to EXPERIENCE the truth of Psalm 73:23-28
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. 
Smith finishes his prayer:
So we turn our hearts to you, Lord Jesus. You, who have won us, are constantly wooing us in the gospel, saying, “Come away, my beloved. My desire is for you and my banner over you is love.” 
Who do we have in heaven but you, Lord Jesus, and being with you, who or what could we possibly desire more on this earth? Should our wildest fantasy be realized, it wouldn’t be enough. You alone have words of eternal life, grace sufficient for our souls, peace that passes all understanding, and the joy we desperately crave. So very Amen we pray, in your loving and holy name. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Don't You Want to Thank Someone?

Great song by Andrew Peterson:

Good preparation for this Sunday's installment in our "Summer in the Psalms for the Fight of Faith" series. We're going to be looking at Psalm 100:
A Psalm for giving thanks.
1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! 
2 Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 
3 Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 
5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Satisfied in You by The Sing Team

Our series in the Psalms this summer is aimed at helping us in the fight of faith. This song, based on Psalm 42, helps me in the fight. You might find it helpful too.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Safe for Sinners or Safe for Sin?

The church must be a place that is safe for sinners, but not safe for sin (HT: RO). That's what the church ought to be, reflecting the image of Jesus.

Luke 5:31-32
And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
Luke 7:34
The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'
Luke 15:1-2
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
Jesus was always going to the sinners and sinners were always coming to him. And encountering Jesus, they were never the same. Though they felt safe with the Son of God, their sin was no longer safe. It was exposed in the light of his presence. The deadly cancer eating their souls was subject to the radiation of his gracious glory, and it shriveled.

So, his church, having been transformed by his grace, will shine with his light. We will always be going to sinners and sinners will be coming to us.

Sadly, it's often the other way around. This is the anti-church. Where it is safe for sin, but not safe for sinners. Wretched, God-forsaken place! Filled with Pharisees who look squeaky clean, but inside are stinking piles of self-righteous, self-serving, self-protective dung (Matthew 23:23-28). This place cares more about image than reality. Behavior management is the fast track, not heart transformation.

It's where all manner of ugliness can find shelter behind a thin veneer of religiosity: where buying shares of control passes for generosity; where abuse passes for headship; where a good show of "having it all together" passes for maturity; etc. ad nauseum.

What ends up happening in such places of institutionalized hypocrisy? They are not safe places for sinners. They give off the impression that church is only for "good," moral people who have their act together. People who are honest enough to know they're a mess won't see any reason to come.

A plague on these hypocritical houses!

May the loving Lord Jesus build his church - where sinners find safety and welcome by the gospel of grace -- the grace that goes too deep to leave us unchanged.

Friday, August 4, 2017

What The Devil Did Last Night

Gospel newsflash for today:

Heads up, everyone! The devil prowled around last night and switched all the price tags. He put all the really valuable, precious things on the clearance rack. Now all the cheap, tinny, worthless stuff is on display out front, and it's waaaay overpriced.

If you buy that cheap and worthless stuff, it'll cost you dearly AND you'll be left with nothing of substance.

Saying "no" to the costly cut-rate wares can feel like loss, but God offers his true gains as gifts, free for the taking (see Isa 55:1-2). His stuff is substantial, and it lasts.

So as you go about your day today, pay attention and be a smart shopper.

Matthew 13:44
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Philippians 3:7-8
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
Mark 8:34-38
[Jesus] said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Letters to a Would-Be Adulterer and Adulteress

Have you ever entertained the possibility of having an affair?
Fantasized about it?
Wished you were married to someone else?
Do you ever daydream about that person at work or church or whose Instagram life you wish you were living?

Have you ever cautiously enjoyed a growing emotional bond with someone who is not your spouse?
Have you ever found yourself wondering if that person was sending you "signals"?
Do you believe you're capable of infidelity?

If you answered yes to any of these questions (and I'm guessing that's just about every married person alive), then John and Noel Piper wrote you a letter.

John's letter to husbands is entitled, "Husband, Lift Up Your Eyes: Letter to a Would-be Adulterer."

Brief excerpt:

  • Ask God that he would make sin sickening to you, not just morally wrong.
  • Ask him to make biblical realities, like hell and heaven, terribly and wonderfully real to you — real enough to taste and feel.
  • Ask him to open your eyes to the glory of the spiritual world “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
  • Ask him to give you a massive desire for ultimate Pleasure in God that is so strong that it makes sinful pleasures nauseous.
  • Ask him to transpose the pleasures of intimacy with your wife into foretastes of the unending ecstasies of heaven.

When you have prayed, lift up your eyes. … Take your eyes off your computer, off your mirror, off your pain, off your dead dream, off your self-pitying lust. God is speaking to you. He is waving a thousand flags to get your attention. He has more to give you than you have ever tasted or felt or dreamed. The price he paid to satisfy his people, with never-dying joy and ever-new beauties, was great. Don’t push him away.

Noel's letter to wives is entitled, "Will You Cleave and Leave Your Man? Letter to a Would-be Adulteress."

 Brief excerpt:
What did it boil down to during my darkest nights? I was saved from wandering by some form of this question: What kind of a cleaver am I? Am I the deadly implement who will split my family — with a husband and five children — into shreds? Because, with or without divorce, that is what unfaithfulness will do to us. 
Or will I cleave to the husband God has given me? Will I cling to my marriage and pray desperately for something different? I chose to cling, and God is still proving his faithfulness. He will do the same for you.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Is Human Baby Cruelty as Concerning as Cow Cruelty?

Do you know what an "ag-gag" law is? I didn't either, until I read this NPR article entitled, "Judge Overturns Utah's 'Ag-Gag' Ban On Undercover Filming At Farms."

An ag-gag law "typically refers to state laws that forbid the act of undercover filming or photography of activity on farms without the consent of their owner--particularly targeting whistleblowers of animals rights abuses at these facilities." The state of Utah, and at least 15 other states, have adopted "ag-gag" laws.

Back to the article. A federal judge in Utah recently found this ag-gag ban unconstitutional. In other words, he ruled that undercover filming or photography should be allowed under the protections of the First Amendment.

The judge stated that the safety of the animals was at issue, and under this ban, the state had failed to ensure that safety. In other words, the well-being of the animals trumped the farmers' privacy. I'm sure the presence of animal cruelty in the past and present also fed into this judgment. If there is reasonable cause for suspicion and concern, and if the ban increases the likelihood of animal endangerment, then undercover filming or photography to document and expose such cruelty should not be banned, but protected.

Consider the following from the article (emphasis mine):
The challenge to Utah ban was filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA, and Amy Meyer, the director of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition. Meyer was arrested in 2013 while she filmed workers using heavy machinery to move a sick cow at a slaughterhouse in Draper City. At the time, Meyer was on public property; the charges against her were later dismissed.
"I was shocked when I was the one charged with a crime instead of that animal's abusers," Meyer said after the court ruled in her favor Friday. "It should never be a crime to tell the story of an animal who is being abused and killed, even if it's for food."

Now, when I first read the NPR article headline, I immediately thought of the undercover videos made by David Daleidan and Sandra Merritt as they attempted to uncover Planned Parenthood's complicity in the illegal sale of baby parts.

They have been charged with a number of felonies by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. They have also been subject to a gag order which prohibits them from making these videos public, even to law enforcement.

In one statement, Mr. Becerra noted,
The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society. We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.
But what if the dignity and humanity, the cruel commodification, of human babies is at issue? What if under this gag order, the state of California (not to mention Planned Parenthood) has failed to ensure that safety? In other words, what if PP's violation of laws prohibiting the sale of baby parts trumped their privacy? I'm sure the presence of baby cruelty in the past and present should feed into our conclusion on the matter. If there is reasonable cause for suspicion and concern, and if the judicial protection of Planned Parenthood under the guise of First Amendment protections actually ends up protecting criminal activity, then undercover filming to document and expose such criminality should not be banned, but protected.

The irony of these two contemporaneous cases is sad and telling. Shouldn't human baby cruelty be considered at least as concerning as cow cruelty? Is this a justice issue, or is it an issue of who wields the most cultural clout?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

An Early Morning Exercise in Justification by Faith

Why is it that we often feel most anxious or guilty or defeated or depressed or blah first thing in the morning?

I wonder how often it’s because all we have in the morning is yesterday’s mistakes.

            “Why did I say that?!”
            “I can’t believe I did that!”
            “I can’t believe I gave in to that temptation…again.”
            “I can’t believe I spent that much time scrolling Instagram last night.”
            “That was a waste of money.”
            “I wish I wouldn’t have watched that show.”
“Ugh! I forgot to ______, again.”
“Haven’t got to that yet, or that, or that…or that…or that…or that!”
“I just can’t seem to keep up at work.”
            “The finances are still a mess.”
            “The house is still a mess.”
            “My life is still a mess.”
            “(fill in your failure de jour)”

Yesterday’s failures and folly crowd around us at the foot of the bed, or just outside the shower. And crowding in just behind them are the failures and procrastinations from the last 3-6 months. A great crowd of witnesses to your worthlessness.

We wake up and the weights and sins and burdens are right there waiting to pile on. And we don’t yet have today’s activity yet to help shake them off, or counterbalance them. (Is jumping into the spin class of anxiety an attempt to feel like we’re “doing something about it”?)

If this crowd doesn’t disperse for you until the busyness and productivity of the day gets going, then that’s just the problem.

Our early morning burdens can be a set up for the soul twisting effects of self-justification. We contort ourselves to get a glimpse of our “good side” in the mirror of our self-reflection. We bend over backwards to shift the blame. We scramble to leave our guilt and regrets in the dust. Or, we beat ourselves up and hope the self-flagellation salves our guilty conscience. We have so much to prove, so much to lose. No wonder we’re so tired and weary.

Perhaps these burdensome early morning moments are ordained by God to teach you the gospel. Perhaps a big part of our problem is that we don’t face our first moments like Christians. We face them like everyone else who is trying their best to outrun and shake off and fight off their burdens and failures.

But it’s not our battle to fight.

Our early morning burdens are a set-up to strengthen us by means of justification by faith. Believing the gospel is the early morning exercise routine we all need, every morning.

What if we woke up and worked on tuning our hearts to believe, and then sing, this gospel grace? (Don’t let the familiarity of the words dull you to their power.)

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save me from its guilt and power.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All could never sin erase,
Thou must save, and save by grace.

Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace:
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

What might happen if you read (sung?) those lyrics and then Matthew 11:28-30 and Lamentations 3:21-25, first thing, every morning, for a month?

Matthew 11:28-30 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."

Lamentations 3:21-25 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

Your God and Savior says his mercies are new every morning. He doesn’t say his favor is available to the high achievers and winners.

Our hands that are empty of activity in the early morning (even if they are full of failures and regrets and burdens) can remind us that “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” That’s how we began this race of faith when we woke from our spiritual stupor and saw the glory of Jesus, our rest-giving redeemer. That’s also how we make progress in this race, each and every day, as we wake in need of fresh mercy. And that’s how we will faithfully finish the course, eyes fixed on the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, waking from death to see him face to face. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Love Constrained to Obedience

I love these lines from William Cowper's poem, “Love Constrained to Obedience”:

To see the Law by Christ fulfilled,
To hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child
And duty into choice

Psalm 100:2 "Serve the LORD with gladness!"

Monday, July 3, 2017

Singleness, Dating, and Marriage - Some Interesting Data

Crossway Publishers recently released some research data (from 7000 responders) and summarized their findings in the form of an infographic. You can find the data and some helpful takeaways HERE.

They linked this infographic with two helpful posts about singleness, dating, and marriage: "10 Things You Should Know about Being Single" and "10 Things You Should Know about Dating."

This is all in conjunction with the release of a new book they are publishing by Marshall Segal entitled, Not Yet Married.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How A Ministry to Strippers Was Born

Read the story HERE of how "Scarlet Hope" got started. It's heartbreaking, yet incredibly encouraging. The same Jesus who saved prostitutes while on earth is willing and able to save them today through the courageous and sacrificial love of women like Rachelle Starr.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Homosexuality, Identity, and Safety

I'm so grateful for Sam Allberry's courage. He is a pastor in the Church of England and he has dealt with same-sex attraction all his life. His transparency about his sexuality and his uncompromising commitment to the teaching of the gospel is beautiful. Sam is the author of Is God Anti-gay? (highly recommended). He recently addressed the Church of England General Synod. I strongly encourage you to watch his 2 minute statement.


Sam also recently wrote a really helpful piece for The Gospel Coalition website entitled, "How Celibacy Can Fulfill Your Sexuality." What he writes is extremely important for single Christians (and married Christians!). Take another 2 minutes and read it. Be sure you find out what he means when he says, "If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency."

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Why We Look into the Word

I pray Psalm 119:18 nearly every time I begin reading the Bible.
"Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law."
This is a prayer for spiritual sight. I want to behold the glory of God revealed in his word, with the eyes of faith, aided by the Spirit.

The goal of reading the Bible is not to earn blessing points with God, as if time logged could be cashed in for stuff or better circumstances. The goal of reading the Bible to behold the glory of God. And the glory of God is an end in itself. We don't use God as a stepping stool to get on to bigger and better things.

So, we need to see his glory. Because if we're blind to his glory, we'll fixate on all manner of fool's gold "treasures" that this world offers for our satisfaction. And we'll end up with lots of sand in our mouths as we run after each mirage and land face down in the desert of unfilled promises.

So, I commend the prayer of Psalm 119:18 to you, along with the sharper focus that is provided by 2 Corinthians 3:18:
"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."
If our Bible reading is aimed at seeing the wonders and glory of God, the sharper focus is found in the face of his Son. If we want to see who God is and what he is like, we must look at Jesus.

In context, the glory of "the Lord" here is the glory of the Lord Jesus. We need to see "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, ... the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:4, 6). And we need the Spirit's help to do so. "For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."

The blessed result of this kind of "seeing" or "beholding" is that we become like the One we admire. "And we all...beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed in the same image (the image of Jesus), from one degree of glory to another." We are changed. We are transformed. The word there is the one from which we get our English word 'metamorphosis'. That same word is used in Romans 12:2 (emphasis mine):
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Now pull it all together. We look into the Word to see the glory of God. The glory of God is most clearly and radiantly revealed in Jesus. When we behold that glory, we are changed. Our values align with the infinite worth of the Son of God. We turn from the fool's gold offers of this world and we trust in and treasure Jesus. We are no longer conformed to this world. We are transformed by the renewal of our minds. We begin to reflect his glory more and more ("one degree of glory to another"), and we grow in wisdom and walk in the good will of God. And we more clearly show this dark, blind world -- by radiant, Christlike lives -- the glory of our God. We help them see what we've seen.

So, why do you look in the Word? Why do you read the Bible?

Read The Book to behold The Glory. Look for wondrous things! Look for glory! Look for it in and through Jesus. Don't merely look for intellectual stimulation, as if new and interesting Bible data could change you. Look for a greater glimpse of the glory of Christ. You're going to need the Spirit's help for that to happen. Pray for it. Seek it. Ask, seek, knock. And find the One you've been looking for all your life.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Song (and a Quote) to Thrill Your Soul: Meditations on the First & Second Adam

The Bible talks about two Adams. We are all "in" the first or the second. Take a few minutes and read carefully through Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-23, 45-49 and you'll see what I'm talking about.

We don't meditate on these realities enough. So, here's some help.

First, do yourself a favor and check out the song "This My Soul" by The Gray Havens. It's best listened to with the volume way up and time to take in the lyrics. You can find the lyrics here.

Second, savor this quote by John Stonestreet (found here):
The first Adam yielded to temptation in a garden. The Last Adam beat temptation in a garden. The first man, Adam, sought to become like God. The Last Adam was God who became a man. The first Adam was naked and received clothes. The Last Adam had clothes but was stripped. The first Adam tasted death from a tree. The Last Adam tasted death on a tree. The first Adam hid from the face of God, while the Last Adam begged God not to hide His face.
The first Adam blamed his bride, while the Last Adam took the blame for His bride. The first Adam earned thorns. The Last Adam wore thorns. The first Adam gained a wife when God opened man’s side, but the Last Adam gained a wife when man opened God’s side. The first Adam brought a curse. The Last Adam became a curse. While the first Adam fell by listening when the Serpent said “take and eat,” the Last Adam told His followers, “take and eat, this is my body."
In the name of the Second Adam, Amen. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Do You Grieve the Gap?

Do you grieve the gap between what you know to be true and your experience of that truth? Between the concept of a gracious God and the reality of your gracious God?

This gap is not okay.
It ought to bother us.
We ought to grieve.
It's not something to throw up the white flag on and make a truce.
It's something to fight to close.

We don't want to be hypocrites. We don't want Jesus' words in Matthew 15:7-9 to apply to us:
You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
We want to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps 34:8) and "trust in the Lord with all our heart" (Prov 3:5-6) and be "satisfied with the steadfast love of the Lord" (Ps 90:14) and "know his love that surpasses knowledge" (Eph 3:19) and "rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory (1 Pet 1:8).

Nevertheless...the gap will always remain, to some degree or other, in this life.
And it will often be a painful, frustrating, discouraging reality.
It will bother us.
And it should.

Nevertheless...the gap will not always remain.
One day, faith will become sight.
One day, all of our doubts and unbelief and coldness and spiritual insensitivity will be eradicated.
White-hot, holy, whole-hearted, single-minded, sincere and sweet love for God and others will be our constant lived experience!
We will know fully even as we are fully known.

AND (here's why I'm writing this), the experience throughout our lives of grief and longing and sorrow and frustration over the gap, will actually make the closing of the gap that much sweeter.
In God's mysterious and merciful providence, the painful longing for wholeness will make the experience of wholeness that much sweeter when it is fully and finally fulfilled.

So, let's keep grieving the gap.
Let's keep seeking to close the gap.
Let's set our hope fully on the day when the gap will no longer remain (1 Pet 1:13).
But let's remember this: not only will that gap one day close in the restoration and renewal of all things, but the presence of grief over the gap in this life will make the presence of perfectly integrated enjoyment of God that much sweeter.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Priming the Pump for Sunday - 1 Corinthians 5

We're going to be studying 1 Corinthians 5 this Sunday as we return to our "Cruciform Living" series through the book of 1 Corinthians. I'd encourage you to read the chapter in advance so it's fresh on your mind for Sunday morning.

Here are a few questions that might help you slow down and wrestle with what's in this sobering and important chapter:
  • What are your connotations with “church discipline”?
  • How might those associations affect you as you approach 1 Corinthians 5?
  • What is church discipline? How would you define it?
  • What seems to be the biggest problem Paul is addressing in 1 Corinthians 5?
  • Is there a difference between making wise judgments and being judgmental?
  • If so, how do you know the difference?
  • Does Paul describe any good purposes for church discipline in this passage?
  • Are there any other good purposes for church discipline that you can think of (even if they’re not directly addressed in 1 Corinthians 5)?
  • How does “Let us therefore celebrate the festival” (v8) fit into Paul’s line of thought?
  • What’s with the Passover reference? 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Do You Know Mildred Fay Jefferson?

You should! She was a real life heroine!

Mildred attended a segregated high school in Carthage, TX. She went on in 1951 to be the first African American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, the first female surgeon at Boston University Medical Center, the first woman admitted to the Boston Surgical Society, and a professor of surgery at Boston University Medical School.

In addition to these (amazing) accomplishments, she was a tireless proponent of the Pro-Life cause. She did so on the basis of her Christian faith and the Hippocratic Oath.

She wrote:
I’m opposed to abortion as a doctor and also because I know it is morally wrong. An individual never has the private right to choose to kill for whatever reasons, be they whim, convenience or compulsion. Because I know abortion is wrong, I will use every means available for free people in a free country to see that it is not perpetuated.
I became a physician in order to help save lives. I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow the concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged, and the planned have the right to live.
With winsome clarity, she argued for her position. She did so in 1972 in one episode of the series, "The Advocates." Her presentation persuaded the then CA Governor Ronald Reagan. In his words:
I hope you won’t mind my writing to you, but I had to tell you how truly great you were in your testimony on the “Advocates” program regarding abortion. Yours was the most clear-cut exposition on this problem that I have ever heard. . . . Several years ago I was faced with the issue of whether to sign a California abortion bill. . . . I must confess to never having given the matter of abortion any serious thought until that time. No other issue since I have been in office has caused me to do so much study and soul-searching. . . . I wish I could have heard your views before our legislation was passed. You made it irrefutably clear that an abortion is the taking of a human life. I’m grateful to you. 
She challenged not only the medical community and political leaders, but all of us:
The fight for the right to life is not the cause of a special few, but the cause of every man, woman and child who cares not only about his or her own family, but the whole family of man.
Read more about her here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Gospel Freedom

William Cowper (pronounced "COO-per"):

To see the Law by Christ fulfilled,
To hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child
And duty into choice.

From his poem "Love Constrained to Obedience" 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Priming the Pump for Sunday - Jonah

We're going to be studying the book of Jonah this Sunday. I'd encourage you read the book in advance so it's fresh on your mind. As you read, it might be helpful to keep a few questions in mind. They just might help you understand and catch the impact of this book a bit more:

  • What’s the point of the “appointed” language (ESV) in Jonah?
  • Do you find any irony in the book of Jonah (hint: there's a lot)? What's the purpose of the irony?
  • What does this book reveal to us about God?
  • With whom do you identify in this book? Why so?
  • Why do you think the book ends so abruptly? What might be the purpose of such an ending?
  • If you were to summarize the book in a sentence, what would you say? 

How to Welcome New Neighbors

Ed Stetzer (professor, author, etc.) recently moved from Nashville, TN to Wheaton, IL. His new neighbors welcomed his family to the neighborhood with a 4 page letter! It wasn't cranky or awkward. It was warm and loving and practical. Stetzer writes about his neighbors' welcome and concludes by saying:
"Now you won’t care about all the details, but we did—we consulted this list regularly. And every time we saw their invitation to the church. 
Their list made us know: 
  • They were glad we were here. 
  • They took time to welcome us and care (and we just had dinner with them). 
  • They invited us to church.
So, what a great idea for you to make with new movers."
I really recommend you read the post. It's not long. As he said, you won't care about the details (even though I did because I know all about the "local color" recommendations having lived in Wheaton for 16+ years!). But the real point of reading it is the beautiful example of loving, thoughtful, missional, intentional neighboring it provides. We need more examples of that. So, read on, and let's get intentional about becoming the loving, neighborly examples the church and our world so desperately need!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

"What the Transgender Debate Means for the Church" by Russell Moore

The transgender debate is not going away. We need to think through it well so we are prepared to stand for God's truth with gracious confidence. We need to prepare our hearts to sacrificially welcome and love wisely when the wreckage of sexual brokenness comes knocking at our door.

Russell Moore responded with this post the day after the White House rescinded President Obama's executive order regarding transgenderism in public schools. Here are some excerpts (emphasis added), but I encourage you to go and read the whole thing.
...the cultural conversation on gender identity issues requires more than good policy. It demands a gospel-centered response from the church
Ultimately, the transgender question is about more than just sex. It’s about what it means to be human. Poet Wendell Berry responded to techno-utopian scientism with the observation that civilization must decide whether we see persons as creatures or as machines. If we are creatures, he argued, then we have purpose and meaning, but also limits. If we see ourselves, and the world around us, as a machine, then we believe the Faustian myth of our own limitless power to recreate ourselves. ...
The Sexual Revolution has always whispered promises of this kind of godlike self-autonomy. ... If human sexuality exists solely for our self-actualization and satisfaction, then it makes no sense to impose restrictions based on something as seemingly arbitrary as gender. 
So how should we as Christians respond? 
First of all, we should never mock or belittle those suffering gender identity disorders. ... They feel alienated from their identities as men or women and are seeking a solution to that in self-display or in surgery or in pumping their bodies with the other sex’s hormones. In a fallen universe, all of us are alienated, in some way, from who we were designed to be.
...this also means that we will love and be patient with those who feel alienated from their created identities. We must recognize that some in our churches will face a long road of learning what it means to live as God created them to be, as male or female. That sort of long, slow, plodding and sometimes painful obedience is part of what Jesus said would be true of every believer: the bearing of a cross. ...
Second, we must bear witness to the goodness of what it means to live as creatures, not as self-defining gods and goddesses. God created us as human, and within humanity as male and female (Gen. 1:27). We are all sinners, so we chafe against having ourselves defined by a Creator, and not by ourselves or our ideologies. ...
If Christians see ourselves as people who are “losing” a culture rather than people who have been sent on a mission to a culture, we will be outraged and hopeless instead of compassionate and convictional. If we do not love our mission field, we will have nothing to say to it. 
We Christians believe that all of us are sinners, and that none of us are freaks. We conclude that all of us are called to repentance, and part of what repentance means is to receive the gender with which God created us, even when that’s difficult. We must affirm that God loves all persons, and that the gospel is good news for repentant prodigal sons and daughters, including for those who have trouble figuring out which is which.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hero Husbands

For all your Christian husbands, I commend sustained meditation on Ephesians 5:22-33. By "sustained meditation" I mean, like, say, reading it everyday for a month (for starters). And when you read it, I don't mean blow through it in a minute and run off to work. I mean read it slowly and thoughtfully and prayerfully. There's nuclear-powered grace in there for your marriage.

Christian marriage is about the gospel. It's intended to be a living parable of the gospel of Jesus - his love for his bride, the church. And, Christian marriage only becomes a beautiful portrayal of that gospel when it is soaked in that gospel. So, dive into the deep pool of gospel grace in Ephesians, all won for you by the sacrificial love of Jesus. And then you'll find power that animates you to live that parable in your marriage.

I love an illustration I've heard Russell Moore give on a couple of occasions. It's a great example of the fruit of meditation on Ephesians 5. It goes something like this:
What if I said, 'Men, I want to draw your attention to (fill in your name) here. This man is a hero. Do you know what he did? 
When he went to bed last night, he adjusted the pillows in such a way as to provide maximum comfort for his body. 
When he woke up this morning – imagine this! – he got into the shower and washed his body with warm water and soap. He cares for his skin in such amazing ways! 
He then lovingly checked the weather – he checked the weather! – just so that he could clothe his body in clothes appropriate to the day’s temperature range. 
And that’s not all! He then went downstairs and he prepared food. He did the hard work of getting out a bowl and choosing a cereal that appealed to his body’s appetite. He then pulled the cold milk from the fridge, and poured that milk over his cereal and he intentionally!, proactively!, perseveringly placed bite after bite of delicious cereal into his mouth so that his body could have energy from which to draw strength for the day. 
Can we get a round of applause for (your name)? This guy is a hero!'
Silly, huh? But it's actually pretty serious...and convicting...and helpful.

It's aimed at helping us understand Ephesians 5:28-30, and live it out in real time.
"In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body."
You and I are called to love our wives as our own bodies. To love your neighbor-wife as yourself. We all naturally nourish and cherish our own bodies. Well, the Bible says that our wives are one flesh with us! No closer "neighbor" than that! We learn to love them by paying attention to how we take care of ourselves, and then applying that same care to them.

What if you loved your wife AS YOURSELF?
What if you cared for and nourished and cherished her as much as you do your own body?
What if you wanted to nourish her emotionally and spiritually with as much desire as you have for your physical appetites to be satisfied?
What if you cherished her and sought her well-being as much as you cherish your well-being and comfort? 
What if you were as jealous for her to have time to rest and read and pray as much as you want time to relax?

When you see a desire for your own good, God is teaching us to connect the dots for the sake of love!

Are you loving your wife as your own body?
What if it was as AUTOMATIC as it is for your own body?
Wouldn't your marriage begin to tell a different story? 
It would be a living parable of The Greatest Love Story.

You'll need serious grace for this. God knows that. So, the gospel is not only the pattern for Christian marriage. It's also the power. This kind of humble, loving, sacrificial, servant heart will only grow in you as you keep your eyes on Jesus (again, remember that commendation of sustained meditation on Ephesians 5:22-33?!). How has he loved and served you? We dare not lose sight of it!

The man in Russell Moore's illustration isn't a hero. It doesn't take any grace to take care of yourself. But it does take a ton of grace to love your wife as Christ loved the church; to love her as your own body. Praise God, grace is available by the megaton! 

There is a Hero Husband, and it's not you. Jesus loved you with a totally undeserved, even-when-you-were-running-the-other-way, to-the-utmost, almost-too-good-to-be-true, never-say-die sort of love. Get your eyes on that Hero Husband, and his grace will enable you to love your wife in truly heroic, sacrificial, steady, sweet, strong, sensitive, non-self-pitying, free-from-score-keeping, gospel-adorning ways.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Refuse Stick Figure Virtue

We love to use our personality type and other versions of our natural "wiring" as an excuse.
"I'm an introvert."
In other words, I can't come out of my shell and love people like that.
"I'm an extrovert."
In other words, I don't like to sit alone and still for very long with the Lord, and I don't really like to read or think deeply.

Of course we're all going to have our strengths and weaknesses, but don't we want to grow and become more like Jesus?

How about this:

Enough of accepting static, reductionistic, one-sided personhood. We know it is God's will that we be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). And he most certainly wasn't one-sided. The grace of God is stronger than our excuses. There's no reason for us to remain stick figure humans, when well-rounded, multi-faceted, Christlike humanity is ours for the taking.

So, let's push back on our weaknesses and un-Christlike inclinations of soul. Let’s go deep like introverts and move toward people like extroverts for the sake of become more and more like Jesus. 

He loved people proactively and he retreated to be alone with his Father and pray.
He was tough and tender.
He was lion-hearted and meek.
He was thick-skinned and soft-hearted.
He loved in word and deed.

Let’s not sell the grace of God short! 

Do we have to choose tenderness or toughness? NO! 
People or tasks? No!
Compassion or courage? No! 

Enough either/or.
Let’s go for both, in Jesus' name.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Intro to 1 Corinthians & Getting Hungry For Sunday

We start our study through 1 Corinthians this Sunday. We'll be considering the whole of chapter 1.

Any time you spend familiarizing yourself with the book as a whole will help keep you from "losing the forest for the trees." A good study Bible (like the ESV Study Bible) can provide this kind of introduction and overview.

The Bible Project videos are another great way to gain an introduction and overview of any Bible book. Here's the one for 1 Corinthians:

In addition, I would encourage you each week to read over the upcoming sermon text several times before Sunday. Try to get a grasp on what it's all about. Write down any questions that pop up and see if repeated reading and thinking will yield answers. Take some time to pray over the passage and ask God to prepare your heart for it and pour out his blessing on our church as we meet together.

The Puritans used to talk about Sunday's as "the market day for the soul." We don't have "market days" anymore, but you can easily picture the old village "market day." All the farmers and artisans peddled their wares such that there was a rich supply of provisions to stock up on for the week. Sunday should be like that. A rich feast of grace and truth for the soul to stock up on for the week ahead. Pray that it would happen.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Speaking Truth to the Power of Temptation

C.S. Lewis:
“The great discovery for me was that the attack does not last forever. It is the devil's lie that the only escape from the temptation is through yielding. After prolonged resistance it will go away: what seemed yesterday impossible to turn one's mind from will today be utterly unenchanted, insipid, tedious.” 
--Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, 3:920; from a 1958 letter to 'Mr. Pitman'--emphasis original

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

James 4:7-8
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. ...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

10 Things You Should Know about Abortion by Scott Klusendorf

Scott Klusendorf is a powerful advocate for the Pro-Life position. He is the president of Life Training Institute and an author of several books. He wrote a post for the Crossway blog entitled, "10 Things You Should Know about Abortion." It's a short and very helpful primer for the pro-life position.

Here are a few of the "10 Things" he wants us to know:
1. Pro-life advocates present a formal case for their position.
  • It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. 
  • Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. 
  • Therefore, abortion is wrong.
3. That abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being is conceded by many who perform and defend the practice. 
  • Feminist Camille Paglia frankly admits, "abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue." 
9. Abortion-victim photography changes the narrative.
  • "When someone holds up a model of a six-month-old fetus and a pair of surgical scissors, we say 'choice' and we lose," writes feminist Naomi Wolf.
10. The remedy for post-abortion guilt is not avoidance. It's forgiveness.
  • Post-abortion men and women do not need an excuse. They need an exchange: Christ's righteousness for their sinfulness. Like all forgiven sinners, post-abortion men and women can live each day assured God accepts them on the basis of Christ's righteousness, not their own.
 Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Spiritual Adolescence and The Humble Gratitude of Heaven

Children are usually blissfully oblivious to the sacrifices and cost their parents pay to care for them. Financial burdens, emotional tolls, heavy investments of time and energy.

Sometimes a child surprises you with unsolicited recognition and appreciation for costly investment, but most of it goes unnoticed and unappreciated. As parents, we don’t even require that they realize it all. “He’ll never know….” It's the glory of parental love. 

As the child gets older, we do resist the roots of dishonor and entitlement that entangle our teenage soul. Sometimes we resist righteously. Sometimes (read: more often) we rant and rave. Neither strategy can seem to be all that effective. Teenagers are not typically paragons of gratitude and appreciation. 

But if it's happened once, it's happened a thousand times. The take-it-for-granted, frequently disappointed or complainy teenager grows up and becomes a parent. And then so much of the sacrificial love and generosity of their parents come into clearer focus. They begin to see it, and appreciate it. 

This post is not about parents commiserating or rejoicing over these phenomena. Instead, it's an opportunity to see ourselves for the "clueless teens" we are. And then to look ahead to the day when we will finally grow up. One of these days, we’re going to really appreciate all that God has done for us through Christ and by his Spirit!

1 Corinthians 13:12 
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Until then, we absolutely need to awaken to the megatons of mercy and grace God lavishes us with every day. We most certainly need to cultivate a humble, grateful heart.

Even so, we're still pretty clueless.

But on the Day when we know fully, our newfound and deep experiential knowledge of the Father's love will not be met with chiding and sarcastic parental retorts. "Oh, really! It's about time! Took you long enough!" Oh, no. There will only be a bright smile on the fatherly Face of faces, and there will well up within us deeper joy and humbler gratitude and happier praise than we ever thought possible.

Monday, January 23, 2017

No Fine Print With Jesus

Good leaders are up front about the costs, as well as the benefits, of following them.
Bad leaders love to inflate the benefits, while hiding or minimizing the costs. 

Jesus is a good leader.
Satan is a bad leader.

Matthew Henry, “Satan shows the best, but hides the worst, because his best will not [counterbalance] his worst; but Christ’s will abundantly.”

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it." (Mark 8:34-35)
"But the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'" (Genesis 3:4-5)
There's no fine print with Jesus.

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." 
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.


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


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!


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.


Sam turned 14. 

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


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


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. 


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).


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 started. All 5 are now in school. Hannah in 11th, Sam in 9th, Lily in 6th, Jono in 4th, and Ben in Kindergarten!


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?


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!


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)


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):


With love,
The McGarveys