We bid farewell this week to our rusty, crusty 2001 Chrysler Town & Country minivan. After many years of serving as the “family truck,” it was time for her to get off the streets. She just plain ran out of gas. Well, not literally; the tank was fine. But she could no longer get started in the morning. Or the afternoon. Or the evening. Even the good mechanics didn’t think it was worth keeping her on life support.
Salvage (savage?) vultures wanted her catalytic converter more than we wanted the constant expense of getting her up and running again. But we appreciate all her efforts over the years in hauling recyclables, helping people move, transporting green waste, and all the other things trucks typically do for their owners. It was a good run. Time to start looking for another truck. Maybe a real one this time.
Thursday night we got to attend the “Family & Friends” production of Moses at the Sight & Sound Theater in Lancaster. It was their final dress rehearsal before opening night on Friday. Our son Andrew works there full-time as part of their support staff (including the post-musical prayer team, among other responsibilities), so we’re happily on the receiving end of complimentary tickets for each play.
The entire production was marvelous, taking us on an adventure through the birth and exile of Moses, the burning bush theophany and revelation of God’s name, the plagues against Egypt and its false gods, Israel’s first Passover and their dramatic escape through the Red Sea, and the giving of the law at the top of Mount Sinai. Moses is portrayed as an unlikely and imperfect hero—the only kind God ever uses. Except for Jesus, who makes a cameo appearance at the end of the play.
I don’t think any show could exceed last year’s production of David in terms of musical composition and emotional impact, but this show was right up there when it comes to lead performances, special effects, and execution. I was thoroughly inspired.
Moses runs now through October 7. Do yourself a favor and go see it.
Bethany had a regularly scheduled ultrasound today, and we got our first look at Levi Timothy. (Well, I guess this is technically our second look after the first ultrasound when he was the size of fingernail.) I love his profile in the first sonogram. His features seem to be similar to Samuel’s, though it’s hard to tell with all the shadows.
The second sonogram is harder to discern, but that’s because Levi raised his leg over his head at just the right time. I’m not sure if that’s because he’s going to run hurdles someday or if he’s just going to be a spazz over the course of his life. (Enya’s “Wild Child” comes to mind.) Either way, I love him to pieces already, and I can’t wait to meet him in person this July.
(From static shadows to a living reality—now, there’s a sermon illustration! Cf. Hebrews 10:1.)
Last year the schizophrenic weather here in Southeastern Pennsylvania knocked out my flowering cherry tree for the season. One week it was unseasonably warm—which got the buds interested in peeking out for a time—but then the following week the temperatures went back to Mr. Slurpee levels. Hence, the flowering cherry tree never got any flowers. Parts of it also seemed to die off over the summer, which was heartbreaking. So, I trimmed it back last fall in the hopes of witnessing a resurrection this spring.
Alas, this year it looks like the weather is trying to pull the same stunt. The warm temperatures hit recently, the buds came out, and then it got cold again. Shizo weather for the second year in a row. So, I covered up the tree to minimize the damage. (If the internet says to do it, it must be right, right?) Unfortunately, I did a pretty lousy job of it, so we’ll see what happens. I also covered my little Japanese maple tree. If ever I needed Linus’s blanket…
Bubby just learned how to feed himself. Some of the food even makes it into his mouth once in a while. 😊 I wonder if he’s going to be a lefty. Have I mentioned lately how much I love this little guy? 💙❤️💛💚
Samuel loves the Little Tykes car we got him for Christmas. He also loves the 3-D solar system his Uncle Tino got him. (He thinks the planets are balloons and tries to blow them up. He’s not too far off!) Yes, I’m spoiled living so close to him, but I enjoy every minute we get to be together. His vocab is growing by leaps and bounds. And he still lets me make those “Samuel Sandwiches.” I am blessed.
Cheez-Its are now a thing at our house. How did that happen? Right as Bethany was FaceTiming us yesterday, something hilarious took place during the call. I’m still laughing about it today. Samuel walked into the kitchen, out of view, and then he reappeared on screen moments later with a box of these cheddar crackers in hand! So, today, we went out and got him his own box for here at our house. (Yes, I’m the softie in the family when it comes to our little Bubby.) And yes, I may have given him a few bites of pizza for lunch today. And a few bites of a chocolate-covered pretzel. And a few bites of other things he probably shouldn’t have had. I wonder if momma’s ever going to let him come back to my house! 🙂
Just popping in here for little bit of silliness on this special day that everybody mispronounces. 😊 Then it’s back to the dissertation grind and off to teaching a fun class during our residency week here in Myerstown, Pee-yay.
I did a quick search of the top love songs of all time, and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” is routinely at the top of the list—or at least in the top five. So here it is for your listening pleasure. (My, oh my, what that lady could do with a syllable!)
And (just because I’m enchanted with her stuff) here’s an Enya love song, too. But best of all—speaking of love—below is a brief clip of our little Bubby. SamJam has gotten his first phone. I hope he calls me later today to wish me a Happy Valentino’s Day. 😊
P.S., Why is my second dissertation taking so long? Several reasons:
First, my literature review involves surveying 2,000 years of commentary and theological reflection. That takes a while to process, systematize, and chart.
Second, my work so far contains eight languages besides English (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Latin, Italian, French, and German), all of which I have to translate and verify for accuracy.
Third, my methodology involves a full biblical theology approach (i.e., a Genesis-to-Revelation analysis) rather than a simple exegesis of a few relevant texts. That’s a lot of ground to cover.
Fourth, my study would not be complete without a deep dive into the relevant intertestamental literature. That corpus is likewise vast and sometimes complicated.
Fifth, I am dual-employed (happily so) as a pastor and as a professor. Multiple hats on one head can be a balancing act sometimes.
Sixth, my mother-in-law lives with us, and she is in the seventh and final stage of Alzheimer’s. That can be quite challenging to handle, and it’s getting harder by the day.
Seventh, I spend as much time as I possibly can with my little SamJam. As readers of TNL already know, I’m totally smitten with him! ❤️
So, yeah, this is taking longer than I wanted, but I love my topic, and I really like how it’s turning out so far. More on that later. Probably much later. Haha! 🙂
Micah and Bethany are such good parents. Below are two clips that make my heart smile. The first is Mommy reading a “dino-snore” book to Samuel. He’s learned to yawn and snore at just the right time during the story. It cracks me up every time I watch it. The second clip makes me a little nervous, but it’s still adorable. Daddy gets a bit physical in mimicking the “Swish! Swish! Swish!” line of “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” song. Please don’t drop our little Bubby, Micah! 🙂 💙
Our little Bubby has been walking for well over a month now, and the words are starting to come, too—clearer and clearer each time. His first discernible word (beyond “Momma” and “Dadda”) was “hello” several weeks ago. It was adorable.
Yesterday he said, “Gampa” for the first time—not a bad attempt at “Grandpa.” Of course, I melted. The other day we thought we heard him try to say “fish.” Today he said it again, and the kids caught it on video. It sort of came out like, “shish.”
Thus it begins—a life of ambulating and annunciating. Walking and wording. Bring it on, SamJam. We’re eager to watch and listen.
Besides, Levi Timothy will need you to talk to him…and play with him!
On Mother’s Day 2021, Sonya was opening her gifts from her children. At one point she held up a gray T-shirt and started to cry. I was sitting on the other side of the room and couldn’t see what it said. I thought to myself, “I’m sure it’s a very nice T-shirt, but we don’t usually cry over T-shirts now, do we? So, what’s up with that?”
What’s up with that was the writing it featured on the front: “Best grandma ever.”
“Is this true?” she asked with a gasp.
It was. And after she turned the shirt around to where I could see it, I started to cry, too. Micah and Bethany were expecting their first child. As readers of This New Life well know, Samuel James White was born on December 1, 2021. I’ve been utterly smitten ever since.
Bethany always felt kind of bad that her mom got the news a split second before I did, so on Christmas Day 2022, I opened a similar gift. This one had a little red Christmas stocking in it with a piece of paper inside. “What in the world is this?” I thought. I was mystified—until I saw that the little paper was actually the sonogram of child number two.
I may have cried again once the news sank in, causing the others to wonder what was going on. It was my turn to be smug this time as Sonya was sitting across the room in confusion. Eventually everyone came to realize that Samuel was getting a sibling.
Last night was Micah’s birthday. We celebrated at Dogood’s Tavern here in Myerstown, and then we came back to our place to give him his gifts. To our surprise, he then gave us a gift. We had a hunch it might be some sort of gender reveal, much like they did for Samuel.
Sure enough, when we opened the box, a little white onesie greeted us with the joyful announcement:
Hello, my name is Levi Timothy.
Samuel has a brother, and that brother’s name will carry my own. Are you surprised that there may have been more tears? I’m still stunned. And I’m smitten with Levi already. This week he’s the size of a lemon.
We expect to meet Levi sometime around July 18, 2023. Until then, my prayer for him will be Luke 5:28: “And Levi got up, left everything, and followed [Jesus].” Come to think of it, that may be my lifelong prayer for him.
Until Levi makes an appearance, Samuel has the stage all to himself. So, here you go…
God has landed! Right in a manger. Right on top of cow spit and barnyard bacteria. Jesus came a long way to save us. Two thousand years ago, the eternal Son of God stepped across the stars of the universe to become a zygote in the womb of the Virgin Mary. And then he was born as one of us. “Manhood and deity in perfect harmony—the Man who is God,” wrote Graham Kendrick.
Christmas, then, is the ultimate display of meekness and majesty in one person. “Glory to God in the highest,” was the angelic response. They easily could have said, “Glory to God in lowest,” too. God is with us now in the person of Jesus Christ. On earth. Magi from the east were among the first to welcome him. Following the natal star, they set out on a journey to find the newborn king.
It was more than curiosity that drew this caravan of dignitaries and polymaths to Jesus. It was God himself. They saw him at work in the sky—speaking their language—and they wanted to go meet with him. Indeed, this passage shows us that God speaks in a variety of ways because he has something important to say. Matthew 2:1-11 reminds us that God makes himself known to us:
generally through creation. (1-2)
specifically through revelation. (3-6)
graciously through intervention. (7-10)
supremely through incarnation. (11a)
Are we listening? The Magi were listening, and that’s why they traveled hundreds of miles across the desert to go see the Christ. They were men of wisdom and learning. They were into math, medicine, astronomy, and human nature. Some of them were superstitious. We get our word “magic” from their title. Call them “wizards” if you like. It was basically the cast of Harry Potter who came to see Jesus. Mark it well: Gentiles (non-Jews) were among the first to welcome and worship the Christ, indicating that God means for Jesus to be the Savior for the whole world!
If the Magi teach us anything, it’s that it’s never enough for us to just be amazed at the wonders of God; we have to set out on the journey and follow him. Our calling is not just to stand in awe of creation but to get to know the Creator. That’s why God’s revelation of himself in Christ demands a response of faith in Christ.He is worthy of our treasure and our trust. Indeed, he wants everyone to come and worship his Son. He wants you to worship his Son. Even if you’re a wizard.
This interactive Christmas Day devotional is followed by a reading of The Tale of Three Trees, a wonderful story for children of all ages.
Well, apparently there is crying in baseball, contrary to Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own. Like every other Phillies fan around the globe this past Sunday night, I watched Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Diego Padres. As you may have heard by now, the Phillies won that game 4–3, and in the process, they also won the pennant. I may have gotten a little choked up during the post-game celebration. Raise your hand if you did, too. Be honest.
Now, I realize baseball is not everybody’s cup of tea, so this post is a personal reflection that goes beyond the world of sports. It’s more about those occasional flashes of joy that make our journeys sparkle once in a while, and for which we can be both happy and grateful. It’s about “high hopes” and learning how to wait patiently until those hopes are realized. (Thank you, Harry Kalas). Until a few weeks ago, it had been over a decade since the Phillies were involved in any postseason play. Now we’re in it to win it.
Sunday night: The Phillies had just surrendered a one-run lead in the seventh inning to put themselves on the brink of having to go back to California for the rest of the series. Nobody wanted to play Game 6 on Monday night at Petco Park. Not only would that squander our home field advantage, but it would also drag us right into the crosshairs of the Padres’ best pitchers. So, “the Phitins” wanted to clinch a World Series berth right here. Right now. This inning. Easier said than done.
Standout catcher J. T. Realmuto started the bottom of the eighth with a single to left field against right-hander Robert Suarez. That turned out to be huge, given what was about to unfold. The tying run was now on base, and the go-ahead run was coming to the plate. But who would be the next man stepping into the batter’s box? None other than our star cleanup hitter and likely Hall-of-Famer, Bryce Harper.
Everyone was thinking the same thing. A two-run bomb would put us back in the lead and on the verge of clinching. Harper certainly has the guns to do it (even to the opposite field), not to mention the drive, the talent, and the history to do so—but how much magic can we expect from one player? He had already done so much for the team in the postseason, along with Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, Zach Wheeler, and several others. But #3 lives for moments like these, and this was his moment.
Harper showed good discipline at the plate, laying off Suarez’s bread-and-butter pitch out of the zone. He then threw a 2-2 sinker toward the outer half of the plate. The location was good from a pitcher’s perspective, but somehow—with his trademark “violent swing”—Harper muscled the ball over the outfield wall and into the left-center-field seats for a two-run shot to take the lead. If you didn’t get to see it, take a look:
Fans at Citizens Bank Park went ballistic. Viewers at home went ballistic. I went ballistic. It was storybook stuff to be sure, and no one could have written a better script. It’s what every little boy dreams about from the time he can swing a whiffle ball bat. This dramatic video clip will be shown for decades to come.
It was another milestone in the history of the club—a team I’ve been cheering for since I was a little boy. That’s why I got choked up Sunday night. Not just because we held on in the top of the ninth to win the game, but because it brought back some truly precious memories. The last time we won the World Series was in 2008 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Before that it was in 1980 against the Kansas City Royals. Before that, it was—well, there was no before that.
The Phillies have won the World Series only two times since becoming an MLB team in 1883. Back then they were known as the Quakers. They became the Phillies later in 1890. For most of those 139 years, it’s been phrustrating to be a phan. I’ve often said that the Phillies are always good enough to give you hope but bad enough to break your heart. That’s been the story for most of my life, with a few notable exceptions.
Why then do I keep cheering for them? Three words—family, friends, and memories. My dad took me to Veterans Stadium for the first time when I was about six or seven years old. It’s a memory that finds deep lodging in my heart, even to this day.
I remember holding my father’s hand walking out from under the shadowy concourse into the bright, shining seating area. The sun sprayed the radiant green AstroTurf with a brilliance that illuminated a perfectly manicured ball field, dazzling this little rookie into silence. I was in awe at the sight of it. And the sounds of it. And the smells of it. It somehow felt like I belonged there. At that moment I fell in love with baseball in general and the Phillies in particular. I’ve been a “Phanatic” ever since.
I also remember my dad getting me a dish of vanilla ice cream poured into in a little red plastic Phillies helmet—my very first baseball souvenir (and one that may still be boxed away somewhere in my attic). We also got hot dogs, French fries, and Cracker Jacks that day, purchased from the vendors walking up and down the aisles hawking their treats. Dad was happy, and I was over the moon. I didn’t understand the game very well back then, but the Phillies won, and that resulted in a lot of loud cheering—something I had never experienced before at that level of intensity.
My family, friends, and I went to many more games over the years, and we got many more souvenirs. Of course, we watched more games on TV than we attended in person, but we always wanted to know how our Phillies were doing. We could catch the nightly news, or read the box scores and standings in the paper the next day if we missed a game on TV. (I had to share the tube with my dad since he was a Yankees fan. Obviously, I’m adopted.) My heroes back then were Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Dave Cash, Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, Bob Boone (who autographed a baseball of mine), Greg Luzinski, Gary Maddox, and Bake McBride.
I got to watch the second World Series victory in 2008 on the big screen with my church family. Several parishioners still remember the final out of that game—a strikeout by closer Brad Lidge—and they wrote us messages this week recalling that wonderful time of fellowship and celebration. Some of the kids were even at church in their pajamas that night.
Oddly enough, the Christian message is another good reason to stay with the Phillies through all their peaks and valleys. As Jesus sticks with those of us who keep striking out spiritually until we become more healthy, stable, and productive, so I can stick with the Phillies through tick and thin, regardless of their winning percentage. The theological word for that is “grace.” We all desperately need it, so we should all be willing to give it.
Having become a baseball junkie early on, I tried out for our middle school team and made the roster. By the start of my second year, I had worked myself into a starting position in the infield, and I loved every minute of it. Game days were always the best days, even when we lost. There’s nothing like going home tired, sweaty, and dirty after a game, knowing you did everything you could to help your team win. If you fielded well and got a hit or two, so much the better.
As life would have it, I was better at swimming than baseball, so that’s where I put my athletic energies in the years to come. I made it to the NCAA Division 1 Nationals, twice, and it wound up paying a big chunk of my college tuition, so that was the right call. But deep down, baseball was always my favorite sport. There’s just something about the game that captivated me as a little boy, and it’s never let go. Over time I learned that every pitch has a strategy, and every strategy has a counterstrategy. So, the issue is always one of anticipation and execution. Good teams do both well.
Back to this past Sunday. Right after preaching the morning service at our church, I came home and lost my voice. Laryngitis set in a few hours before the game, so, I couldn’t even yell for my team during that amazing come-from-behind, pennant-clinching victory. But I sure did grunt and snortle like a muffled rhinoceros a few times.
Then there were the silent but exuberant gesticulations of this little boy in a man suit whenever the Phillies put runs on the board. Sonya now knows how Michal felt when David danced before the Lord (cf. 2 Samuel 6:14–20), though I didn’t actually do anything that could remotely be called dancing. I just lumbered around the living room like a drunk baboon looking for a lamppost to lean on. (I’ll blame it on the meds I was taking.) In the end, though, myriad expressions of delight found ways to ooze out of my body from other portals besides my pie hole.
What will happen in the 2022 World Series? I have no idea, and I make no predictions. Houston has a great team, and I have a personal no-trash-talk policy. Athletes at this level are so good, any team can beat any other team on any given day. It’s just a matter of who’s clicking and who’s finding their groove in the moment. I never expected the Phillies to get this far, and I suspect very few other people did, too. So, even if they come up short at the end of this round, I’ll still be proud of them.
In the end, the best of our sports heroes are just human. They have good days and bad days. They have moments of great accomplishment and moments of great disappointment. They have seasons of good health and seasons of nagging injuries. They have big dreams and big hopes, just like the rest of us. Let’s let them be human and have some fun together, regardless of the outcome.
One dream I’ve had for a long time is to see the Phillies play in a World Series game—in Philadelphia, the city of my birth. I am blessed beyond measure to share with you that this longstanding dream will finally come true.
As of now, it looks like I’ll be going to Game 3 (Monday, October 31) or Game 4 (Tuesday, November 1). Look for me on TV. I’ll be wearing red and white. And if I get my voice back, I’ll be cheering as loud as everybody else, too.
I plan to buy myself a little red plastic Phillies cap filled with vanilla ice cream (yes, they still sell them!), and I’ll think of my dad while I’m eating it. I’ll no doubt revel in the magical atmosphere again, just like I did my first trip to the ballpark. Just like I did on Opening Day this year, which was another first for me. Yes, I was there when Kyle Schwarber started the season off with a first-at-bat home run, something now known as a “Schwarbomb.”
And, like everybody else, I’ll be waving my red “rally towel” for the Phillies, grateful beyond measure that my father introduced me to this wonderful sport all those years ago. While I’m there, I’ll be keeping the seat warm for little Samuel. Maybe someday day he’ll want some ice cream in a red helmet, too.
It’s been way too long since I’ve posted any Samuel pics and clips, so prepare to be deluged with cuteness! Our little Bubby passed the 10-month mark earlier this month, and he continues to be a source of great delight to all of us. Sometimes I have to fight back tears of joy while simply holding him because I love him so much. What a gift the Lord has given us!
I have such a great time with SamJam when we’re together, and I’m exceedingly blessed to be able to see him at least three or four times a week. I’m thinking Christmas is going to be a blast this year. I had better start preparing now for “adorableness overload.” 🙂
Getting ready for his 10-month photo shoot…
Hold the sign a little higher…
There we go…
If you’re happy and you know it…
Helping Grandma do her grocery shopping…
Until it’s nap time…
“They do feed me, but when I’m teething…“
I could just melt when he looks at me like this…
Plotting his escape…
Held by Aunt Joan…
Video clip time: Learning how to jump…
Learning how to sing and dance…
Making fun sounds on Mommy’s thigh…
Rubber duckies, followed by the breaststroke kick…
Saying, “Ma ma ma ma ma ma ma…”
Giggling at “My Turn, Your Turn”…
First time eating mashed potatoes…
Learning to say, “More” using sign language…
Celebrating the Phillies post season run…
Coming over to see Grandpa…
I performed a wedding last weekend at Camp Swatara, and the autumn leaves were breathtaking…