26 July 2011

Heather's 7/26/11 update

Hello everyone,

This week has been full of surprises and blessing. My love language is acts of service and when you read what our friends have done for us this week you will see why my heart is exploding with love this morning!

Thursday we picked up our homestudy. It was one of the last things we needed for our dossier. However we found out that our social worker forgot one document. She is on vacation this week and they are closed today so hopefully on Wednesday we will be able to get that going so our dossier can get to Haiti.

Friday morning was our first day of our garage sale fundraiser. It was a HOT day but that did NOT stop people from flooding our yard. We made $900 in one day! It was crazy. Saturday was not nearly as busy but in the end we made about $300. We had severe weather for about an hour in the afternoon. Thankfully my mom lives in MN and called us about an hour before it hit and told us "GET EVERYTHING INSIDE!" We started working hard to move everything into the garage and within minutes of tarping what wouldn't fit in the garage the winds came and the rain flooded the streets. We had some wet clothes that we had to hang to dry but other than that things went back to normal after a few hours. We met lots of great people over the weekend that came to the sale and were blessed by great friends who watched kiddos and helped sort and fold and manage the huge crowds. Thank-you to all of our friends and family who donated items and helped this weekend to make this such a huge success! I wonder who next year's garage sale will be for?????

On Friday morning we recieved a call from our social worker from our agency that works with our kids. She said that the orphange had a change in policy and that they wanted to send us our official referral (which includes all the info they have on the kids) NOW so that they can start processing paperwork while our dossier is on it's way to Haiti. So that afternoon we recieved and additional photo of the children and all of the history that is available. It was a total surprise and so exciting to see things getting more official!

On Monday morning I had lot of questions for the kid's social worker. Our main one was when could we go see them! It is very likely that we can go towards the end of October to meet them! No words to express how exciting that was to have dates for the family bonding weekend that they have scheduled and that we may get to go!

On Monday night we had our Pizza Ranch Fundraiser. It was a huge success! We raised over $550 in only 3 hours! It was so much fun to serve people and to share our story. It was such a fun night that was only made possible by Liz Blier, Eli Hammer, Brian King, Steven Vancourt, Randi Johnson, Michelle Baxter and Kara and Chris Wensink who watched our kids for us! Thanks so much you guys!

Then we came home exhaused after our whirlwind weekend to find another NEW photo of Yoldine and Vladimy from our social worker. Vladimy has a huge Incredible Hulk expression/smile on his face. I think he will give Tessa a run for her money on the "I want to be the center of attention" front. He is definatly an extrovert :) Yoldine looks like a girly girl in this photo. She is wearing a cute dress that she is holding out like she is doing a curtsy and has her head tilted with kind of a sweet, shy smile that that you think of when you think of sweet little girls.

So today I will be tracking down (hopefully) the last document that I need for our dossier, and getting ALL the paperwork out that needs to go out! Otherwise tomorrow things will go out.

So that is all of our news and updates for the moment. Please be praying for our process to go quickly and for the kids to be safe and peaceful hearts for us as we wait.

We love you all and thank-you for all that you are doing to help us bring our kiddos home!

With much love,

The Kanz Family

17 July 2011

Book Review: The Gadarene

I received this book as a gift from Desiring God ministries.  It is a graphic novel based upon John Piper's poem, the Gadarene.  It walks through the imagined life story of the Gadarene demoniac, described in Luke 8.  This was my first experience with a graphic novel, though I was not encouraged to seek out more of them.  The story was interesting and vibrantly portrayed, but I found it too difficult to track a thought.  3 stars. 

Book Review: How Should I Live in This World?

This was the last of five "crucial questions" books I received from Ligonier Ministries.  In this short volume, Sproul asks the question "how should I live in this world?"  Essentially, this book is an exposition of Christian ethics and morality.  He spends a bit of time discussing the folly of an ethical worldview from a post-modern, relativistic mindset.  Near the end of the book, he makes his case for three issues that Christians face: abortion, capital punishment/just war, and materialism.  Though he makes his cases succinctly (abortion: no, capital punishment: yes, materialism: no [but wealth: OK]), there are inherent difficulties in providing such a short essay.  In particular, it is difficult to provide a nuanced answer to some very difficult questions in just a few short pages. 

Overall, I was satisfied with this book, and with the series overall.  Sproul is an exceptional thinker and communicator.  I have had the pleasure of reading several of his books and listening to many of his teachings.  If you want just a taste of his writings, this may be a good place to start, though I would rather put my recommendation behind books like Chosen by God. 3 stars. 

Book Review: Give Them Grace

This book by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson has received a lot of press in Reformed circles over the past several months.  Prior to its release, several bloggers were recommending it as one of the best parenting books written.  I ordered an advanced copy and awaited its arrival.

Give Them Grace was written by Christian counselor Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter Jessica Thompson.  I have read two other books by Fitzpatrick, Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ and Comforts from the Cross (Redesign): Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time and I have been impressed with her heart for the Gospel.  Counsel from the cross is a particularly good read. 

This book joins the ranks of Christian parenting books, of which there are many (in fact, the authors point out that in 2009, there were 142 new Christian parenting books according to Amazon).  Unlike many (most?) of the books out there, however, this is not a book to provide a formula for how to create better behaved children.  It is a book about grace.  They ask, "how would you raise your children if all you had was the Bible?" (p. 159).  It encourages parents to show grace to their children and grace to themselves.  It reminds us that it is God who works in us, not our own abilities that matter in our parenting. 

I  was particularly encouraged by this statement when I read it this morning: "We think that compliant children will best teach us about his grace and the Gospel, and they can. Compliant, believing children are frequently reflections of his great kindness.  But the Lord also teaches us of his grace and the gospel through difficult children. We learn what it is like to love like he loved. We learn how to walk in his footsteps, and it is there, in our personal 'upper room,' where we learn how to wash the feet of those who are betraying us" (p. 152). 

Overall, this was a very good book.  It reminds me a lot of Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting by William Farley, which I have reviewed very favorably in the past.  Setting the two side by side, I preferred Farley's book, but I believe I connected with it better as a man.  I believe my wife would better resonate with this book and in fact, when she wakes up in a few minutes, I will probably talk with her about it.  4 stars. 

16 July 2011

Book Review: The Grace Awakening

I encountered the title of this book on Michael Patton's top 10 list.  He recommended it as a great book for understanding God's grace.  I picked it up as I prepare to teach on legalism versus liberty later this summer.  In that regard, it was a useful resource.  I moved through the book quickly, as Swindoll's aww-shucks, conversational style makes for an easy read. 

Swindoll pushes believers to blow the doors open in terms of their understanding of grace.  According to his estimation, the church is steeped in legalism, which drains the life out of people.  He argues instead for Christian liberty, which is founded on a true understanding of grace.  He spends much of the 14 chapters covering the same ground, but it was not at all cumbersome as it is such an important message. 

I found myself cheering through most of the book.  He helped to solidify much of my thinking.  In fact, some of the ideas that I had jotted down to share at church were presented in almost identical fashion in this book.  He definitely adopts a "live and let live" mentality when it comes to Christianity, most of which I found myself agreeing with.  With that said, I wish he would have better developed his thinking regarding the issues of discipleship, personal sanctification/holiness, and discipline.  He admits at points that Christians should comply with God's word, but this compliance almost seems to be an after thought. 

All in all, I found this to be a very worthwhile book.  I would recommend it to others, though it differs from much of what I typically might recommend.  4 stars. 

DVD Review: The Reason for God

I just finished watching this DVD based upon Tim Keller's book, The Reason for God.  It involves a conversation between Keller, a pastor and author and six nonbelievers.  There are 6 segments, each of about 20 minutes addressing the following questions: 1) Isn't the Bible a myth? Hasn't science disproved Christianity 2) How can you say there is only one way to God? What about other religions 3) What gives you the right to tell me how to live my life? Why are there so many rules? 4) Why does God allow suffering? Why is there so much evil in the world? 5) Why is the church responsible for so much injustice? Why are Christians such hypocrites? 6) How can God be full of love and wrath at the same time? How can God send good people to hell.

As I expected, this DVD was rather slick.  Everyone dressed in business shades (blues, blacks, creams) and seated in contemporary furniture.  I was pleasantly surprised by the civility of the conversation.  It was evident there were a few people with a fair amount of emotion surrounding Christianity, but everyone was able to talk in a gentle, kind fashion.  Keller was rather Socratic, spending much of his time asking questions, though offered a few opinions on issues. 

I enjoyed this DVD, but not for the reasons that I expected.  I anticipated solid apologetic arguments.  They were there, but were not presented aggressively or dogmatically.  Rather, Keller was the definition of winsome.

11 July 2011

Book Review: Slave

I finally finished Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ (2010), written by John MacArthur.  I was very excited about this book when I first heard it was to be published, though I received it at a time when I started several other books.  Reading a handful of books at the same time, I read the first few pages, and then shelved this one not due to any flaw in the book, but rather due to my attention spread to thin. 

A few days ago, I picked Slave up again.  This time, I found it difficult to set down.  MacArthur explores in depth the Greek word doulos, which is often translated as "servant" in modern Bibles, but which is better translated "slave."  He contends that Christians are bought with a price, purchased from the bondage to sin and become slaves to God.  Although what he presents is rather shocking to contemporary ears, his message develops more fully as the book progresses, demonstrating that not only are we slaves, we are also sons of the Father. 

Slave appears in many regards to be an extension of his incredibly popular, if not controversial, The Gospel According to Jesus (1988), a book that argues that easy-believism is no belief at all.  True Christians see Jesus not only as their savior, but also as their Lord.  Slave is definitely worth reading, though I have appreciated other MacArthur books more. 

3.5 stars.

08 July 2011

Book Review: The Shallows

I finally finished The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (2010). I purchased this book last year, having seen a review on Tim Challies blog.  The essence of the book is that the increasing dominance of the Internet is having a considerable effect upon our capacity to focus and think deeply.  Further, the author cites numerous research studies examining the psychological and neuropsychological effects of the Internet.

Practically, this book resonated deeply with me.  I have discovered, in my own life, that with increased time on the web, my capacity for focus has diminished.  More broadly, I have seen numerous patients who complain of attention problems, but I suspect their primary issue is that they live in a world of distraction.

In future years, I suspect we will see increased attention to this issue.  With all of the benefits offered by the Internet, the wise person will employ discernment in how it is used.4.5 stars.

06 July 2011

Book Review: The Christian Life

This Spring, I took a distance education course through CCEF.  There was quite a lot of reading required for the course including various articles and books written by David Powlison, the lecturing professor.  The one reading, however, that was not authored by Powlison was The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction, by Sinclair Ferguson (1981). 

I was initially puzzled why a book on doctrine would be required for a course on Biblical Counseling, though Ferguson makes clear that "Christian doctrine matters for Christian living."  Too often, it seems to me that we miss the link between right living and right beliefs, between orthodoxy and orthopraxy.  Even in the contemporary blogosphere, writers seem to fall to one side or another.  It seems on the one side, people are able to defend the minutiae of theology with surgical precision, yet lack any real connection with life.  On the other side, there are those who run out the door to tell people about Jesus, but don't really know the Jesus they are telling about. 

In this book, written 30 years ago, Ferguson outlines the importance of sound beliefs in informing sound practice.  He sees God's word and even theology as practical for our worship of the one true God.  It is certainly a worthwhile read, though I tend to prefer Dug Down Deep (Josh Harris) or Death by Love (Mark Driscoll) for books that deal with the practicalities of doctrine. 3.5 stars.

03 July 2011

Book Review: The Truth of the Cross

The Truth of the Cross (2007) is a brief book about what Christ accomplished upon the cross.  RC Sproul clearly discusses what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross as a penal substitutionary atonement.  He eloquently described how the sacrifice upon the cross was the only way for our salvation to occur.  For those interested in such things, he also gives a fairly clear explanation of limited atonement, the aspect of Reformed doctrine that is often the most difficult for people to accept.  Perhaps what I most enjoyed, however, was the series of questions and answers at the end.  It is definitely a worthwhile read if you want to understand the cross and what Christ accomplished there.  4 stars.

Book Review-John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock

A friend of mine had asked for book recommendations today.  He asked if I had any suggestions and whether I listed those recommendations on my website.  I decided it would be worthwhile to again offer some brief reviews of books read recently.  Though my reading has become less voracious, I still make it through a fair amount.  I will try to catch up with a few.

I received a free copy of John MacArthur: Servant and the Word and Flock (Iain Murray, 2011) from Grace to You, the ministry of John MacArthur. This biography is the first written about John MacArthur, though I suspect it will not be the last.  Murray wrote this biography similar to his other biographies, without interviewing the author.  This allowed for a degree of objectivity and a revelation of the man through his published works and what others have had to say about him.

Unlike many modern celebrities, John MacArthur is not flashy.  His power comes from his commitment to preaching the Word of God faithfully, week after week.  As this book reveals, he has faced a fair amount of criticism and fire from the media and other fronts, yet for decades, he has remained faithfully dedicated to scripture.  In fact, he has just finished preaching through the entire New Testament verse by verse, which took 30 years.

Despite his abundant accomplishments, his sole desire is to point others to Christ.  In the 1960's, he worked with several African-American churches in the South at a time when segregation was rampant.  He has remained committed to justice and to loving God's people.

Murray provides a brief summary of MacArthur's life.  I have gained a deeper insight into the man whose works have played an increasingly important role in my own spiritual development.  4 stars.