Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hebrew characters and online characters

DR: This week begins the new quarter. I am learning Hebrew for the first time, and taking a Greek Readings class, to help keep fresh the Greek I've learned recently.

Hebrew is full of strange characters and odd-sounding words I've never seen or heard of before, and which are unlike anything else in the galaxy, I'm convinced. It's just plain weird.

But I guess anyone learning English for the first time would say the same about this language. Can you imagine being a non-native English student trying to understand our strange idioms (which seem "normal" to us) like "the whole kit and kaboodle" or "have at it"??? What kind of stupid sayings are those?

And so why should I expect Hebrew be any different? It's got its quirks, but so do all of us. And God still loves us. So I guess I should strive to love Hebrew, too. Aw, shucks.

And now, from Hebrew characters to online characters...

Stacye and I sheepishly entered the online world of Facebook this past weekend. We have heard a lot about it, mostly from friends of ours in the 18-25 year-old range, but had not yet explored it for ourselves.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Facebook, it is an online gathering place of sorts that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. Each person has their own page where you can post pictures, upload videos, share favorite quotes and books, email each other, have online discussions about things of common interest, you name it.

Facebook essentially allows people to keep in touch and build relationships with each other using the Internet as their "meeting place" versus having to travel to an "old-school" Rotary Club meeting or community center gathering. It's made up of many networks, each based around a company, region, or school. You can join the networks that reflect your real-life communities to learn more about the people who work, live, or study around you.

Anyhow, you can check it out at www.facebook.com where you can easily set up your own account if you don't already have one. This is the way today's youth talk and connect with each other.

And while joining Facebook won't stave off the wrinkles and gray hair that come with the joys of parenthood (and Hebrew), maybe it will help us stay in touch with our friends, family, and frontiers of society a bit more effectively.

Off to study Hebrew. Eventually. First, I need to see if I have any new Facebook friends!

Love and blessings,
Don, Stacye, and the girls

Thursday, November 22, 2007

True quotes - Dr. John MacArthur (revised post)

DR: Below is an excerpt from a message Dr. John MacArthur delivered on the National Day of Prayer this past May. He boldly and directly confronted the morally depraved state of our nation, coupled with what we can do in response, and what God promises to do as well.

Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, devoted two full days of his own national radio broadcast to airing edited portions of Dr. MacArthur's comments. You can listen to the edited portions of Part I of Dr. MacArthur's message here, and Part II here. And the entire written transcript of Dr. MacArthur's remarks can be found here on his website, Grace to You

Here is the quote I pulled from Dr. MacArthur's closing comments that touched my heart, and I pray touches yours as well. You can listen to an edited portion of the quote below firsthand; it begins just before minute 24:00 on Part II linked above:

"What do you have to pray for? You have to pray for the Word of the living God to be proclaimed across this nation. And if it's not being proclaimed in churches, it's not going to be proclaimed anywhere else.

This is not a time for weak men in weak ministries preaching weak messages. This is a time to call on God to raise up a generation of passionate faithful gracious loving preachers of the Word so that a nation can listen to God...

Your prayer and mine has to be that God would raise up faithful preachers and people who would proclaim His Word across this land. Pray for this generation of young men that God will call and shape and send, pray for pastors everywhere. Pray for lay people, for Christians to be bold.

There's only one solution and that's the truth--the truth by which God saves, by which God sanctifies, and if this nation will respond and listen to His truth, God will open the flood gates... But there's no other way than that people listen to (God) and walk in (His) ways. It's not going to happen if there's a famine of the hearing of the Word of God.

Pray that the Word, as (the Apostle) Paul said, would have free course and that it would run with all its power across this land. With all its beauty and magnificence, all its power and grace, that people would hear and believe and be saved and be obedient.

I don't know what God's plan is, I just see here what His heart is. 'O, that My people would listen to me,' (Psalm 81:13) that's the heart of God."

God be with you and bless you richly this Thanksgiving,
Don, Stacye, Hannah, Elizabeth (& Grammies!)

Monday, November 19, 2007

More True Quotes

(not as profound, though observant)

Hannah: Mommies don't have beards.
Mommy: No, Hannah. They usually don't.
H: Some Daddies have beards.
M: Yes, sometimes they do.
H: My Daddy doesn't have a beard. He has a chin.

(bawling and whining, in the middle of a looonnngg tantrum)

H: IIIII'm getting tiiiired of thiiiiiis...
M&D (laughing): Yeah Hannah, we are too.

(in the middle of a nap-time temper tantrum)
H: IIIIIII caaaaan't sleeeeeeep...
M&D: Um, yeah. Walking out to the living room and crying isn't usually conducive to sleep.

(at least once a day)
H: At my school, where Mrs. V. lives...
(and this is followed by some story about her preschool and her teacher, Mrs. Vande Vrede)

(we often hear this one when she's supposed to be taking a nap)
H: There's a bug beezing around my room.

And the kicker...Here's the background story: Hannah is currently sleeping on her mattress on the floor of our room while Elizabeth learns to sleep through the night in the crib in the girls' room. When I put Hannah to bed I sit on her mattress with her for stories and prayers. A few nights ago Don asked me not to sit on it because it's meant for kids, not adults. Of course, I forgot and last night I did the same routine and sat on her mattress. After the story, here's what she said:
H: Mommy, Daddy has told you several times not to sit on my bed because it's not for big people. It's supposed to be for kids. So maybe next time you can make it easier and just remember what Daddy told you and not sit on my mattress.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

True quotes

"I believe that it is actually much easier to imitate your hero than to be yourself: to claim your own identity and calling; to wrestle with your own brokenness; and to struggle minute-by-minute with God to figure out what is the best way to lead in your context."

-Christian author and columnist Angie Ward

Saturday, November 17, 2007

God's blessings and a broken heart

DR: We got to talking about money recently. For a moment during our conversation, I thought back to the path God has had us on financially in our lives, and what a blessing it has been.

I think God has given us enough first-hand credibility as a family to be able to speak forth frankly and empathetically about money and material possessions, particularly in regards to what the Bible has to say about it.

I would like to share with you our story as a married couple and family:

From 2001-2004, Stacye and I together as a household were among the top 1% of wage earners in Kern County, CA. Plainly stated, we made a lot of money.

In March 2004, being 7 months pregnant, Stacye resigned her job in anticipation of becoming a full-time stay at home mom. In late April 2004, I was unexpectedly fired for sharing my faith in the workplace. Nearly overnight, we went from being in the top 1% of money-makers in our county to both of us being unemployed. That is, both unemployed with a mortgage to pay and a baby due literally any day.

Thanks be to God, a position opened up at our church at nearly the same time I lost my job. I went to work for St. John's for three years, before enrolling at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis this past July.

And now, I am a full-time student and Stacye works only minimally part-time to ensure she can continue to be at home with our daughters. Thus, our current annual household income ranks us among the poorest in the nation.

And, in the 6 years since we've been married, our giving as a percentage of our gross income has consistently and intentionally risen year over year, and God has blessed us to be able to be debt-free (we had between the two of us over $100,000 in non-mortgage debt when we got married). During that same time, our savings increased, we never missed a mortgage payment--not one--and we never had a single late payment to any of our creditors. Thanks be to God, our credit scores are among the highest in the country.

We've been financially wealthy...a "middle class" family...and now--by the government's definition--poor. We've been in debt beyond (not just up to) our eyeballs, and we've struggled with the temptations that having lots of disposable cash on hand can bring. We've given away more than we think we can afford and we've seen God's hand guide, bless, and protect us all along the way.

Were it not for Him, we would not be where we are today. And thanks to Him, we are content. Truly.

In many ways, we can identify intimately with the Apostle Paul when he says, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Phil. 4:12-13).

It grieves me--indeed it breaks my heart--to see just how deeply people struggle with money issues in life. Because I've been there. We've been there. It particularly makes my heart heavy to see souls who place too great a value on their financial wealth and material possessions. Stacye and I confess that we used to define ourselves in our heart by how much money we were making, even by how much we were giving away. But God doesn't define us that way; that is the way of the world!

The Apostle Paul urges us in Romans 12:2, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

What does that mean? It means that we shouldn't seek after the things of this world to define who we are. We should not devote our lives to the pursuit of material wealth and status, but rather to the Lord and what God genuinely desires for us. We are to seek God's will, not our fleshly desires. We are to use our resources in accordance with God's will, not what the world tells us we should do. The two, indeed, are often in direct contradiction to each other. God's will leads us to glory, the world's will to death.

Oh, God, the burden I have for doing the Lord's will and helping people overcome the inestimable and worldly attraction of material wealth and possessions. Oh, my Lord, my heart is heavy. I pray. I pray...

I do believe, indeed, that this is one of the greatest challenges for American Christians today: learning how to use our money and our material possessions in accordance with God's will, and not in the ways of this world. The battle is fierce, the enemy is powerful, but thanks be to God that the Lord has already won.

Let us walk forth in this confidence, looking only to Him--not to our money and our material possessions--to derive our sense of self-worth and purpose in life.

With God's love and richest blessings,
Don Ray

Friday, November 9, 2007


Praise God, I passed Greek! And as you can see, I gleefully joined my brothers in the post-Greek ritual dive into the Concordia Seminary campus fountain! The very COLD fountain, that is! (Be sure to turn up the volume on your computer to enjoy the slideshow to its fullest!)

Thanks be to God and His work through Stacye's steadfast support, Dr. Voelz, my studious brothers, and the prayers of many, I got the second-highest final grade in our class. And I am absolutely thrilled to have passed! Thank you for your continued love and support.

Taking a dip for Jesus,
Don, Stacye, and the girls

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I need corks for my ears

DER: I can't recall a time where I've had this many details jammed into my cranium as I have right now, on the eve of my Greek final. The verbs, verb endings, nouns, rules, conjugations, principal parts, ooglies, nooglies, booglies, and all of their closely-related linguistic cousins are threatening to explode my head. My head feels like a tossed about New Year's Eve champagne bottle...and it's 11:59:58 and counting...

This YouTube video (immediately below, shot this past Summer) is evidence of the nuttiness Greek imbues to an otherwise sane soul.

Our illustrious Greek professor, Dr. Jim Voelz, is in the video as well (the only one in a suit). The other segments of the video (tossing trashcans in the classroom, shooting basketballs at a moving trashcan, tossing hats, and having thumb wars) are all ways my student peers let off stream during an otherwise nutty 10-week process. And yes, these ARE future pastors! I can say our Fall Greek class has done some mildly wild and wacky things to keep us level-headed as well, but thankfully our antics were not caught on video!

It remains to be seen if my classmates and I will take the plunge tomorrow after we pass our final. Mind you, the summer guys took a dip in August when it was 95 degrees outside; it is now November and hovering in the 40's. We'll indeed be excited to pass Greek...just don't know if we'll be THAT excited!

Will post again after we get word of the final results tomorrow afternoon. Your prayers are much appreciated.

God's love and blessings,
Don and the girls