Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Blessedness of “Being With”

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which translated means, "GOD WITH US.    – Isaiah 7:14; and Gospel of Matthew 1: 23

Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings from Wooster, OH on this first day of winter, and the first day in which snow has blanketed the landscape here in Wayne county.  Our hearts are full of gratitude to God for His provision of this location that we've been slowly making into a "home" by His grace.  He has sustained Abby and I through the year-long effort to sell our home in Cedarville and then through our move in October.  Now we are enjoying making connections with the amazing people and provisions needed to establish our home here in Wooster. 

We are thankful for our son, Brad, and his wife, Raquel; and for our daughter, Mindy, and her husband, Steve; and our grandchildren, Caleb (14), Kiara (10), and Della (4).  They have spent time with us in Wooster to help us during our move.  Thankfully, our move brings us just a bit closer to their homes in Ann Arbor and Erie, Michigan, respectively.  Please pray with us as we establish priorities related to each other, our parents and family, a place of worship and service, and as we invest time in this new chapter of our lives.

At this end of thirty-three years at Cedarville University, Grace Baptist Church, and the Cedarville community we miss those of you that we can no longer be with on a regular basis.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you as God reminds us of you.  We hope more of you will let us know if you are in the area so that we might arrange for you to visit us at 1041 Curtwood Drive, Wooster, OH   44691.

This week, we are planning our first multi-day period of being with mom Moser (Marietta) in her home.  At 85, after her stroke last year, she has not advanced beyond walking with personal assistance; and is advancing into Alzheimers.  We are thankful to be two hours closer to her so that we can join the rotation with Abby's six sisters in continuing to care for her in her home.  Mom Silvius continues to do well, but with limited mobility outside her home, at age 90.  She lives with my sister, Margie, and brother, Dan, and on the farm near Dundee where I grew up.   Both moms are within 1.5 hrs of Wooster.

With Carie Kurtz who helped us find a home; now a friend.
With the onset of a New Year, pending Abby's good health for which we are thankful, I will be undertaking some part-time involvements related to "projects" that will combine my interest in land stewardship with my profession of faith.  This goal comes with the intent of building friendships in Wayne County, including with those who are passionate about the "natural world" but who may not know of our Creator’s passion for reconciliation of all of His creation through His Son’s redemptive work to restore us (see Col. 1: 9-23).  Your friendship and prayers are much appreciated.

May God continue to strengthen and guide you all.   We hope you are encouraged in your remembrance of Emmanuel, “God with us.”  We thank God that He undertook His divine "rescue mission" to Earth to abide with us in order to ransom us (“buy us back” from the market of human pride, sin, and rebellion) that we might have Abundant Life now, and live with Him and the redeemed forever.

In Christ,
John and Abby

Monday, December 10, 2012

Putting Down New Roots

A fitting expression for people moving and settling into a new location is “putting down roots.”  Since our move to Wooster in October, this expression has a special meaning to Abby and I.  Let me explain how we have literally “put down roots” of a special tree that was given to us as a parting gift when I retired from Cedarville University last year.

Near the end of Spring Semester, 2011, when we were planning to sell our home during the summer and move to Wooster, OH, the campus environmental stewardship organization, Pro Terra Forma, gave us a little potted Pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba).  What a fitting gift from beloved students who were conscious of the value of trees which serve both mankind and creation as air purifiers, air conditioners, sound blockers, sound-makers (wind in the branches and musical instruments), providers of habitat, housing, and food; and are a source of aesthetic beauty in the landscape.

Because we had hoped to move within a couple of months, we nestled the potted Pawpaw in a pile of old potting soil in a partially shaded environment preferred by this understory plant species.   Little did we know that this “temporary” location would become home to the Pawpaw for the whole summer, fall, and winter as God seemed to be answering our patient prayers with a message of “slow down and wait for My timing.”

As the chill of Autumn days came on in 2011, we felt the chilling of the housing market and were resigned to the fact that we would be living in Cedarville Township for the winter.  Little Pawpaw dropped her leaves and I added some extra mulch to protect it for the cold of winter.

With the warming of Spring, the prospects for the sale of our home warmed, and by July, we were thankful to have contracts for the sale of our home as well as a contract to purchase a home in Wooster.  When moving days came in early October, we did not forget our tree friend who had grown a few new limbs.  We enjoyed a “moving ceremony” assisted by Tim Clark, the new owner of our home.  Together, we potted up Pawpaw for its ride to Wooster.

After a tending to a long list of “moving responsibilities” (Maybe you can relate?), we transplanted Pawpaw from the plant pot to the Wooster soil of our back yard at 1041 Curtwood Drive.  We again remembered with thanksgiving the students who gave us the gift.  We also reflected on our loving God Whose timing was perfect to allow us more time to fully adjust to the idea of leaving our Cedarville spiritual family and friends.

We hope that Pawpaw’s roots will grow and prosper so the tree can add its many “tree benefits” to our landscape on in the years to come while we nurture it, and then beyond.  Likewise, Abby and I hope that we will be good stewards of God’s provisions to us now that we are here so that we can enhance the Wooster community and those with whom He brings us into contact.

Thanks to so many of you for your friendship and prayers.  If you are in the area, please let us know so you can stop in and see where we are “putting down roots” for this new chapter of our lives.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Post-Election -- Guarded Optimism

Regardless of whether your pick for president won or lost, you are likely in camp with many Americans who are experiencing a “post-election hangover.”   I decided to wait at least 24 hours before ‘penning’ any thoughts.  Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking a lot, reading, and watching news reports and commentaries.

President Barack Obama celebrates election victory 2012
Whether you are discouraged by the Romney-Ryan loss, or by the current downturn in the stock market and looming “fiscal cliff”, here are some reasons for optimism.  I am…

·         Thankful that we have been allowed the freedom to vote for a clear choice representing two very different paths, and I hope that those who have placed their trust in an even larger government will not be undone by the consequences.

·         Thankful for candidate Romney who was acknowledged by many mature adults on both sides to be a decent and honest man who was reluctant to “toot his own horn,” almost to a fault; in spite of how he was misrepresented during the campaign.

·         Looking with hope and expectation that President Obama and the legislative branch will work together to use the “check and balance system” of our representative government to do its work.  If not, then hopefully our legislators will remember the 2010 election as they face 2014.

·         Thankful for the “laboratories” of sound fiscal management that exist in states like Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and New Jersey which should provide clues to the Obama Administration as they begin to provide leadership to Congress in efforts to address our fiscal crisis.

Greek protest against government austerity
·         Hoping that the negative examples of California and other states along with European nations like Greece will be a heeded challenge that America must curb her growing debt and stop excessive governmental intrusion and  provision of “free stuff” that we can no longer afford.

·         Opportunity for conservatives to reassess how to clarify and convey the message of how social and fiscal conservatism has been and still is the essential hope for Americans who which live free politically and spiritually.

·         Hopeful that when the tension and frustration of the campaign season (or years?) finally ends, the disagreements can morph into honest dialog from all sides with respect to issues including the following

o   Revival of spirit in America that recognizes the moral foundation of objective truth that must be nurtured if we are to reaffirm what President Obama said in his recent victory speech when he praised the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.  [More on this in another blog entry.]
o   Religious freedom that supports individual moral convictions and polite expression in the workplace, the media, the academy, and in the marketplace of ideas
o   Policies for health care and welfare that balance “social justice” with individual responsibility and accountability
o   Funding for adequate national defense and other government programs that is balanced with commitment to eradication of waste and duplication
o   Stewardship of natural resources that balances the needs of humankind with wise conservation.  This stewardship should define “resources” as not only “finite reserves in the ground” but also “useful and renewable products of creative technology” yet to be developed in an entrepreneur-friendly economy.
o   Economic policies that promote small businesses and entrepreneurship with recognition that simply “taxing the rich” will not support a ballooning federal bureaucracy an more than simply raiding the henhouse while failing to “feed the hens.”
o   Recognizing that our educational system is increasingly bankrupt pedagogically and morally as shown by our declining rank among civilized nations in the world.

Finally, I am hopeful because of the following post-election e-mail from my son-in-law, Pastor Steve Salyers, who is part of the next generation in our family: 

Hey John, this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in It (Psalm 118: 24).

I was reminded this morning as I opened the Word that regardless of who’s in the White House this solemn instruction (warning) stands as the Church's 'street-corner' message to the government leaders of this country: 

Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
 Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling.
 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry,
and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!   --
Psalm 2: 10-12  

However, more than living as prophets to the governmental leaders, the church stands as peacemaker as we're called to prayer and intercession: 

 [Instructions on Worship] I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  -- 1 Timothy 2:1-2

NationalMonument to the Forefathers
Be at peace, for He is the God of the ages and our times are close to His heart!  I choose to pray along with the saints of Revelation, How long, O God...?  Even so, Lord Jesus, come!

Blessings,  Steve

In closing, the challenge remains for us, as implied in Steve’s reference to I Tim. 2, to take up our responsibility to pray for our leaders, to hold them accountable, and to be intentional and polite “witnesses” to a lifestyle that affirms the value of marriage, family, sanctity of life, love for ethnic diversity, generosity, etc.  Christianity in the USA and world will become even more secularized and marginalized if we don't deliberately look for opportunities from the pulpit and the pew to be intentional about our valuing of these things in word and in action.  We should welcome the day of Christ's return in balance with an awareness of the great compassion Jesus has for the lost, not being willing that any should perish.  And how will they see and hear without our profession of the Gospel both in lifestyle and in words fitly spoken.

Today, I hope you are hopeful!