Out of the Mouth of Babes

Just had to share this brief clip of our little Bubby saying the name above all names (along with a few other odds and ends below). It took my breath away when he said it, not unlike when he said “Bible” a few weeks ago. His receptor language skills have always been good, and now his oral capacities are taking off. Best of all, we get to see him again tonight. Let the spoiling begin continue!

💙🙌🩵💙🙌🩵💙🙌🩵💙🙌🩵💙🙌🩵


I should be arrested.
Indeed.
Haha! But the Avalanche Ranch was a blast.
When a great actor conflates his lines.
Haha! The MBTI meets Sesame Street!
Speaking of introverts…

Credits: Our Daily Bread, The Trend Spotter, The Babylon Bee

Three Weeks from Today

Levi Timothy is supposed to arrive three weeks from today. It’s quite possible, though, that he’ll come early. I’m told his head is down, and he is in just the right position to come at any time. We’ll just have to wait to see what happens. We’re all so excited to meet him!

Meanwhile, Samuel continues to charm. He’s speaking full sentences now—a third of which is usually discernible to us. The rest makes sense only to him. He’s a happy little boy, and he loves coming to our house. That’s good because we love having him! 💙

We’ll have to work doubly hard to make sure he still feels special when his brother comes along. I think we might be up to the task. 🙂

He loves the water. I’m thinking that might be genetic.

“I love being outside.”
“Ladies first.”
“Playing with my cousins is a blast!”
“I like the slide, too.”

Bonus:

Samuel has places to go in his new car. In fact, his mommy has a birthday four days from now, and she may have a new car, too. Shhhh!!!

Et cetera

I forgot to share with y’all that I’m the sheriff this week at our church’s Avalanche Ranch Vacation Bible School. I even have my own personalized badge. 🙂 Haha! I learned my very first Bible verse at a VBS many years ago as a child: “God is love” (1 John 4:8b). Not a bad place to start, eh? We’re having a blast with all these munchkins.

Listen to the Rain

Praising God here in eastern Pennsylvania for the desperately needed rain. How could I not think of the ever enchanting sounds of Enya? Water seems to be a major motif in her work. 

“Listen to the Rain”
“Echoes in Rain”
“A Day without Rain”
Diaphanous dynamism!

I should also share a hymn we did yesterday that doesn’t get enough airtime. Our folks were blessed, and maybe you will be, too.

Jesus, I am resting, resting
in the joy of what thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
of thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon thee,
as thy beauty fills my soul,
for by thy transforming power,
thou hast made me whole.

Refrain
Jesus, I am resting, resting,
in the joy of what thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
of thy loving heart.

O how great thy lovingkindness,
vaster, broader than the sea!
O how marvelous thy goodness
lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in thee, Beloved,
know what wealth of grace is thine,
know thy certainty of promise
and have made it mine.

Refrain

Simply trusting thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold thee as thou art,
and thy love, so pure, so changeless,
satisfies my heart;
satisfies its deepest longings,
meets, supplies its ev’ry need,
compasseth me round with blessings:
thine is love indeed.

Refrain

Ever lift thy face upon me
as I work and wait for thee;
resting ‘neath thy smile, Lord Jesus,
earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory,
sunshine of my Father’s face,
keep me ever trusting, resting,
fill me with thy grace.

Refrain

Photo Credit: “Rain’s Rustle in the Park” by Leonid Afremov

A Musician in the Making?

I’ve been really bad at posting lately. My apologies! It’s mostly because the latest chapter for my dissertation was 60 pages long. Oh, and there are nine appendices totaling 139 pages. Maybe I overdid it. 😊 Anyway, here are some recent clips of the Bubster. I think he’s a musician in the making! He brings so much joy to our lives. I’m off to read something light and airy for a few days before I start the next chapter. Any recommendations?

A song about Mama and Dada.
Carrying a tune.
Ringing the bell.
Where do we go on Wednesday’s? Papa’s and Gaga’s!
And who gets him the ice cream?
When the electricity goes out, tubby time can be done with glow sticks in the water!

Only 6 more weeks until we get to meet Levi.

💙 👶 💙 👶 💙 👶 💙 👶 💙 👶 💙

Sticker Shock!

Micah and Bethany recently got Samuel a Cocomelon sticker to put on his wall. He was absolutely thrilled with it. He started yelling, “Bus! Bus!” because he associates Cocomelon (or as he likes to say, “Coco”) with the video the two of us most often watch together: “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round.” After that, we usually watch, “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” followed by “The Bath Song.” Then we try to do something less passive and more cognitive, like reading books or playing in the yard.

Speaking of the yard, the flower beds are now mulched, and the Mother’s Day flowers are now planted. This year we’re trying geraniums (red and white) in the back row, and marigolds (burnt yellow) in the front row. For the ten hanging baskets, we’re going to give impatiens (multi-colored) a try. We’re also trying impatiens (purple and lavender) for my mother-in-law’s flower patch. We also planted tomatoes and peppers in the garden. Lots more to come, but it’s a good start to the new season. Such a joyful time to be alive. 💙 💙 💙

The new Cocomelon sticker.
Helping Daddy Micah with the yard.
Helping Daddy Micah wash his car.
Did Daddy Micah help Samuel wash his car?
The new vanity license plate.
When you can’t even wait to get out of your pajamas.
Flower beds mulched.
Geraniums and marigolds planted.
The blooming roses.
Decorative rock wall restored (though I need to work on it more).
My Japanese maple is giving it a good go.
Back to another Samuel clip: “Bubby bubbles!”

The Best Bubby Ever!

I was out of state last week teaching a doctoral residency (along with conducting another remote learning course, a prayer meeting, a variety of staff meetings, and even some dissertating). I couldn’t wait to get back and see our little Bubby. (Yes, and everyone else, too.) In fact, I got choked up on the flight home at the thought of reconnecting with this little munchkin and getting to make a “Samuel Sandwich” again. 

What a joy to return to this adorable, pleasant, and wonderful little boy. His receptor language has always been good, and now he’s starting to talk up a storm. He said “Bible” the other day, which was another reason to get choked up. He was also the ring bearer at a wedding last week. He’s only 17 months old, but he made it down the aisle (with a little help)! 

He’s the best Bubby ever, and every day I get a little more smitten. Below are some random snaps and video clips, in no particular order. 

Enjoy!

💙🥰💙🥰💙🥰💙🥰💙🥰💙🥰💙🥰💙🥰💙🥰💙🥰

Happy about eating out.
Exploring the great outdoors.
Pondering the mysteries of the universe.
Too cool for school.
Time for a piano lesson.
Working in our flower bed.
Taking a happy break.
Challenge accepted.
Dressed for the wedding.
Out on the dance floor.
Down the slide with “Gaga.”
Sing us a song, you’re the piano man.

Out of gas, but resting up for tomorrow.

In addition to which…

Here are a few bonus pictures that didn’t upload the first time.

Trying to eat a grilled cheese sandwich in one bite.
Lots of room to roam.
The label on the swing gets it right.

I May Have Just Melted

We took Samuel to the Twilight Acres Creamery & Bakery in Womelsdorf yesterday. It’s a charming little shop that makes for a great Friday Fun Day. The ice cream and baked goods are outstanding. We had a lovely time together, and the little guy still apparently remembers our date. (See video below.) Earlier on Friday Bethany and I went to Hobby Lobby and then had lunch at the Longhorn Steakhouse. Bubby charmed the whole restaurant. I may have gotten him a Cocomelon doll at the store because he kept saying “Co-co,” which charmed me

Friday Fun: New England Khakis

It’s been an extra joyful week this week, so I just had to post one of these. (Our little Bubby stayed overnight last night, so I’m over the moon. Also, after completing all the translations and primary source analyses, I started writing chapter 1 of my dissertation!) Actually, I can’t remember the last time I did a Friday Fun post, so let’s see if I still remember how to do this. Samuel is smitten with his new Cocomelon school bus, and I’m smitten with this laugh-out-loud meme. Enjoy both! And have a great weekend.

Variety Is the Spice of Worship, Scripture Is the Meat

We sang a lovely new (for us) song yesterday in church. It’s called “By Faith” by Keith and Kristyn Getty, which came out in 2009. (How did I miss that one?) We didn’t try to replicate the Irish pipes in the intro, but we did the rest as written. It’s structured like a hymn, but it feels more like a contemporary praise and worship song—my favorite combo, though I appreciate many kinds of music styles.

Currently we sing at least two organ-led hymns every Sunday with piano, flute, and trumpet accompaniment. We also sing at least two worship songs led by a piano, keyboard, flute, cahon, and two vocalists. We’re looking to add a guitar in the near future, and maybe some more vocalists. So, it’s an “ancient-future” approach to worship that we’re practicing these days.

Even when we add a second service, which will likely be band-led instead of organ-led, we’ll still retain the richness of our hymn heritage, albeit with some updated sounds. Regardless of music style, however, robust worship is an act of rebellion against the powers of darkness. That’s why we look for the meatiest stuff out there. What do you think of “By Faith”?

Yesterday we also sang Kari Jobe’s “Forever,” which always sends my spirit soaring. And, since we had a guest speaker from Gideon’s International, we also sang “Ancient Words” by Lynn DeShazo, a simple yet profound piece about the power of God’s eternal Word.

Whatever worship styles we use in the future, our church will always give significant time in the morning worship service to lectionary readings. As Paul said, “Devote yourself to the public reading of scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13). Too many churches read a short passage of Scripture before the sermon, and that’s it. But that’s not enough for our spiritual nutrition, IMHO.

Our two hymns yesterday: “God Hath Spoken by His Prophets” and “Take Time to be Holy.” It was a marvelous time of worship, and the congregation got a much needed break from me. 🙂

Radiant Tulips

Audrey Hepburn once said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” If that’s the case, my front garden has taken us back to the future again. It’s the same bunch of tulips every year, but I’m always thrilled to see them again. The combination of red, yellow, and apricot colors truly makes my heart smile. They are both radiant and delightful this time of year. I had to take some snaps today since they don’t last very long. Enjoy.

A Special Day, a Special Week, a Special Period

April 13. It’s my “Gotcha Day”! I’ll be forever grateful that Carl and Cherie Valentino hand-picked me out of an orphanage in Philadelphia many years ago and made me their own son. Yes, as I’ve indicated on several occasions, my adoptive father could be extremely harsh at times, and that harshness left a few skid marks on my soul and placed landmines in my path for years to come.

But mom and dad did a beautiful thing for me, and I am blessed that I didn’t have to languish for years as a neglected ward of an impersonal state. Besides, Dad was the child of two alcoholic parents, so he carried his own share of pain in life. In the end, he came to know Jesus—praise the Lord.

Holy Week was rich and meaningful this year, as always. Our church broke attendance records all over the place, but that was minor compared to the massive blessings we shared together. Even though many “free churches” today make little room in their calendar for these kinds of special observances, the worldwide church historically has felt compelled this time of year to align their focus to the Passion Narrative in Scripture.

As such, during these special days we cleared our calendar to focus exclusively on the events of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, which are at the very heart of our Christian faith. Meetings and ordinary business were not allowed. All our attention was directed toward the person and work of Jesus Christ as:

  • The triumphant yet humble King (Palm Sunday);
  • The Servant of God and Mediator of the New Covenant (Maundy Thursday)
  • The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sin of the World (Good Friday); and
  • Christus Victor—the Risen Savior of the Human Race (Easter Sunday).

The theological rationale for such a special week is how the Gospels themselves are laid out. In terms of sheer space allocation, the attention given to Jesus’ final week of ministry before the crucifixion, along with the 40-day period after the resurrection, occupies a significant portion of Gospel texts:

  • Matthew—8 of 28 chapters (29%)
  • Mark—6 of 16 chapters (38%)
  • Luke—5.5 of 24 chapters (23%)
  • John—8.7 of 21 chapters (41%)

All told, 28+ of the 89 chapters in the Gospel story (32%) are devoted to the period of time between the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and his ascension back to the Father. Yet this period is less than 1% of Jesus’ entire 3.5 years of public ministry. 

In terms of literary style, this space allocation suggests that while the birth, life, teachings, and miracles of Jesus were important to the authors, it was the Passion of Christ (i.e., his final acts, sayings, trials, sufferings, and death) and the Resurrection of Christ (i.e., his empty tomb, post-resurrection appearances, and ascension) that were centrally important to their purpose for writing. 

Martin Kähler, a late 19th-century German New Testament scholar, stated that the Gospels are “passion narratives with extended introductions.” While perhaps somewhat overstated, this assessment does strike at the ultimate goal of Jesus’ earthly career.

As noted before, I’m way behind on posting sermon summaries, so here’s a real quick look at where we were in the Word this past Holy Week:

Palm Sunday
“Don’t Miss the Donkey” (Zechariah 9:1-11)
If we miss the point of Jesus’ donkey, we will miss the point of Jesus’ death.

I think I shocked some folks when I asserted that the palm branches were the chosen symbol for this day by the people who misunderstood Jesus, not Jesus himself. The symbol Jesus chose was the lowly donkey. Big difference.

Maundy Thursday
“Washed by God” (John 13:1-17) and “Fed by God” (Luke 22:14-23)
Our God does feet. He also does souls. We need to give him both.

The shock here is that God in Christ came all the way down to give us what we needed most—himself. He cleanses us and nourishes us with his body and blood. May we never get over the jolt of these incredible truths.

Good Friday
“A Really Good Friday for Barabbas” (Matthew 27:15-26)
Jesus takes our place on death row so that we might live eternally with God.

Of all the Good Friday sermons I’ve done, I had never given one on the the release of Barabbas. This year, I felt a strong urge by the Holy Spirit to do so. Fascinating aspects of the story include: (1) the manuscript evidence for Barabbas’s first name being “Jesus”; and (2) the four failed attempts by Pontius Pilate to get rid of the case against the Nazarene. I stirred in some archaeology and Greco-Roman backgrounds to go with the theology and exhortation. My three main movements were:

  • Barabbas and Us—Everyone lives on spiritual death row.
  • Pilate and Us—Everyone will eventually deal directly with Jesus.
  • Jesus and Us—Everyone can be released from spiritual death row by trusting in Jesus.

Interestingly enough, I had a funeral on Good Friday—something I’ve never done before. That made for a tight schedule, but it was a special request from a special family, and I was happy to help. So, Wednesday night and Friday morning I was back in my old stomping grounds of Fleetwood, PA. The family’s home is on Main Street, and the funeral home is on Kutztown Road.

I was wondering what it would feel like to be back in the area. All was well as I drove around town and went down memory lane. I even found myself praying prayers of blessing over others, whether I thought they deserved them or not. Such is the amazing grace of God. Besides, as George Herbert once said, “Living well is the best revenge.”

Some chapters in life are better than others, but when you let the Author of life author your story (and stop trying to grab the pen yourself), the ending is always maximally great. Some of my favorite writers specialize in the surprise ending—Guy de Maupassant, Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, O. Henry, Charlotte Brontë, et al. Those little “Aha!” moments in literature point to the one great “Aha!” moment that’s coming at the end of the age.

Anyway, as per usual, I sobbed my way through Jesus of Nazareth during Holy Week, and then (part of) The Passion of the Christ on Good Friday. I only got to see part of The Passion this year because I had to finish writing my sermon. I just barely made it! 😊

Easter Sunday
“It Doesn’t Sting Anymore!” (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)
When the risen Christ returns, he will make a brand new you.

I had a lot of fun with this one. Hopefully I’ll be able to say more later, but here’s the outline for now:

The PRESENT LIMITATION of our bodies (15:50)

  • Your present body cannot endure on earth.
  • Your present body cannot enter into heaven.

The FUTURE TRANSFORMATION of our bodies (15:51-53)

  • The believer’s body will be changed in a moment of time.
  • The believer’s body will be changed for all of eternity.

The ETERNAL CELEBRATION of our bodies (15:54-57)

  • The prophecies of Jesus anticipated the swallowing of death.
  • The pardon of Jesus eliminated the sting of death.

After the church service (which featured a special light-to-dark opening), we had a big ham dinner with the whole family. Afterward I got to play with Samuel, which was pure delight. All of us probably had too much candy, so it’s probably time once again to mortify the flesh.

On another note, the nine long appendices of my dissertation are now complete, and I am ready to start writing the chapters. Sheesh, it was a lot of work playing around in (and translating many of) the ancient Near Eastern, Greco-Roman, intertestamental, and rabbinic primary sources. But, oh, how they illuminated my topic! I very much want to share some of my work now, but I’ll resist the temptation to do that and just provide the title:

TORN VEIL IN THE TEMPLE: GOD’S COMMENTARY ON THE DEATH OF HIS SON AND EPICENTER OF HIS NEW CREATION IN CHRIST

I hope you’re intrigued. My thesis is set, and I can hardly wait to share my findings and defend my conclusions. But—all in good time. I think a massive blog post series may be in the future.

Finally—note to self: No more doctorates after this one! 😊 Like the last one, this has been a great learning experience, but it’s been awfully time consuming, and I’m ready to get on to other things. It’s been a special period that needs to wrap up within the year. 

Enya has been my musical companion whenever my academic stress levels spike. Her vibe is just so soothing. Speaking of Enya, I worked one of her pieces (“A Day without Rain”) into the Maundy Thursday pre-service playlist. It worked quite well to help set a tone for the evening. I think I’ll go for a walk now and play something of hers that’s a little more exuberant. Any suggestions? Most of her stuff is quite mellow.

Since several rabbinic writings I encountered mention angels being made by God from fire, I’ll leave you with “The Forge of the Angels” from Dark Sky Island.

Be blessed.

The First Haircut

Snip, snip here! Snip, snip there!
Watch the barber cut your hair.
It’s the perfect place to stop.
Sneak a peek in the barber shop!

– From a children’s book I read to Samuel. 


Our little Bubby had his first haircut today. He did well—no fear, no tears. Of course, it helped that he sat on daddy’s lap the whole time. 😊 He also went to a new park today, and he enjoyed it. All the swings were new to him, as was the merry-go-round. He had to think long and hard about whether or not he liked spinning around in a circle like that. 

I can hardly believe it, but Samuel turned 16 months old today. Yesterday he helped me celebrate my birthday. Actually, I got him two presents. Nothing wrong with that, right? They’re riding toys, and he had a blast breaking them in. (As noted previously, I’m the softie. Haha! I enjoyed going back and looking at that post again.) 

💙 💙 💙

Samuel got me a matching picture frame for his brother’s sonogram, and I adore it. One birthday anticipating another. I can hardly wait to meet Levi.

The curls prompting the cut.
Digital distractions are helpful.
Looking good.
The finished look!
On to the new playground.
Learning to drive already.
Changing a flat tire.
Do I like this thing or not?

The Flowering of New Life

Between proffing, pastoring, dissertating, and Holy Week-ing, I’ve been really bad at posting lately. I’m massively behind on sermon uploads, too. My apologies! As somebody once said, the faster I go, the behinder I get. 😊  The pile has been high lately. (When has it ever not been high?) And then there are various birthday events this week. (I’m still not sure if I was born on the 30th, the 31st, or the 1st. My adoptive parents chose the 31st because if it’s wrong, it’s the least wrong. Good call on their part.) 

Anyway, there are signs of life all over the place, and it’s so encouraging to the soul. It’s a nice diversion from the pain of social media and the latest school shooting. (The targeting of Christian children now by tranny-terrorists? And the corrupt mainstream media will never cover it accurately. Thank God for independent media.) But the new life to which I refer is, first of all, Levi. He’s due July 18, although they may revise that date. I’m banking on the 14th to the 21st, and the spoiling strategies have already begun! Below are some sonograms from his latest ultrasound. He’s smiling already!

The other new life is the explosion of color in our flower beds. The spring daffs and hyacinths have taken off, and the tulips are on their way. Best of all, our treatment plan on the cherry tree seems to have worked, at least in part. We finally have some characteristic pink flowering taking place. So, welcome to spring. But, please, dear season of newness, keep your allergies to yourself.

EDIT:

Oh, and it’s Opening Day, too. Heading to the store now to get some non-pareils. It’s a tradition! 🙂

Farewell, Ol’ Blue

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.