Comfort in Life and Death

As you have noticed, I have been absent from these “pages” for a week. That was due to circumstances surrounding care for our ailing mother, whom God delivered out of this vale of tears and shadow of death and ushered into everlasting glory this past Monday morning.

A private family funeral and committal service was held yesterday morning and a public memorial service last evening, both in dad and mom’s home church, Hope PRC in Grand Rapids, MI.

moms-obituary-2017

Watching one’s mother die is one of the hardest experiences in life but, when she is in the Lord and has the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ in her heart, it is one of the most precious experiences in life. We praise God for His mercy to our dear mother, and for His sustaining, comforting grace to us as a family.

Today’s “Grace Gems” devotional was timely and comforting, as this is the way mom always taught us to live – one day at a time, without fear or worry for the next. I pray it comforts your heart as it did mine, whatever your circumstance may be today.

One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life!

(J.R. Miller)

“As your days–so shall your strength be!” Deuteronomy 33:25

One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life
, is to live one day at a time. Really, we never have anything to do any day–but the bit of God’s will for that day. If we do that well–we have absolutely nothing else to do.

Time is given to us in days. It was so from the beginning. This breaking up of time into little daily portions means a great deal more than we are accustomed to think. For one thing, it illustrates the gentleness and goodness of God. It would have made life intolerably burdensome if a year, instead of a day–had been the unit of division. It would have been hard to carry a heavy load, to endure a great sorrow, or to keep on at a hard duty–for such a long stretch of time. How dreary our common task-work would be–if there were no breaks in it, if we had to keep our hand to the plough for a whole year! We never could go on with our struggles, our battles, our suffering–if night did not mercifully settle down with its darkness, and bid us rest and renew our strength.

We do not understand how great a mercy there is for us in the briefness of our short days. If they were even twice as long as they are–life would be intolerable! Many a time when the sun goes down–we feel that we could scarcely have gone another step. We would have fainted in defeat–if the summons to rest had not come just when it did.

We see the graciousness of the divine thoughtfulness in giving us time in periods of little days, which we can easily get through with–and not in great years, in which we would faint and fall by the way. It makes it possible for us to go on through all the long years and not to be overwrought, for we never have given to us at any one time–more than we can do between the morning and the evening.

If we learn well the lesson of living just one day at a time, without anxiety for either yesterday or tomorrow, we shall have found one of the great secrets of Christian peace. That is the way God teaches us to live. That is the lesson both of the Bible and of nature. If we learn it, it will cure us of all anxiety; it will save us from all feverish haste; it will enable us to live sweetly in any experience.

Final Images and Impressions of the ACL Conference

Yesterday was the final day of the Association of Christian Librarians’ Conference, held this week at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids.

By the way, while working in the library for a while during a break on Wednesday, I discovered that CU’s Miller Library has a Torah scroll on special display. Impressive display room – you may actually walk into it and examine the scroll up close!

Each day of the conference began with a devotions and worship time (8 AM), but I missed those due to my other duties. I did, however, get to all but one of the workshops I  signed up for, including two yesterday.

Let me say something first about the special “solo librarians” meeting I attended Wednesday night. This is a special group (and online discussion group within the ACL network) in ACL for librarians who work alone, or with a very small staff. While there are large libraries employing many librarians that belong to ACL, there are plenty of us “small” people working in small institutions. And we have our own unique challenges and struggles (blessings abound too!).

I found it very helpful to be able to sit around a discussion table with these Christian colleagues for over an hour (including prayer time) and talk about things on our minds. This being my first experience, I mostly “listened in,” but I did find a few opportunities to ask questions and contribute to the discussion. And again, I found myself drawn to the “solos” at meal times and free times too, so that I could continue to benefit from good talks – especially with those librarians who work in small seminaries such as ours. Some of the key things I wanted to discuss were what programs do their libraries use (for technical services), what policies do they have in place, and how do they teach information literacy.

Yesterday morning I attended two workshops. The first was a great follow up to our “solo librarians'” meeting the night before, as this workshop was specifically on how to thrive as a “solo.” Presentations by six different solo librarians were given (two by video), all of them helpful and encouraging. They key thoughts were “persevere” and “keep evaluating and making improvements” (personally and institutionally), even if they are small.

Especially encouraging (moving, even!) was the talk by Paul Roberts, a “solo” (and a ACL Board member) from Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham, AL, whose school suddenly closed on May 31, leaving him along with many others without a job. He spoke about “scriptural encouragement,” and in the light of the sudden change in his own life, about how important it is to walk close to the Lord, in the Word and prayer each day. I learned quickly to appreciate this humble servant of God.

The second workshop was an “unconference” one (just means it was not specifically planned by the conference team) on library “technical services.” A librarian from Judson College in Marion, AL led a valuable discussion on how our libraries can best carry out these services. While the presentation was simple, the discussion was fantastic – I learned a lot about cataloging, preservation, and maintenance of collections!

At noon we gathered at the Frederick Meijer Gardens across the street for a fabulous banquet and tour of the gardens. The meal was amazing, the fellowship rich, and the tour was…. Let’s just say I had to (wanted to!) leave early so as to catch the end our senior seminarians oral exam at synod at Hudsonville PRC.

As you now know, all seven examinations were approved and all seven men declared candidates for the ministry of the Word and sacraments in the PRC. Graduation was held last night – a happy time for the men and their families, and for the churches. So thankful for these fine young men. For more on this, visit this news item on the PRC website.

Christian Librarians’ Conference

ACL-2017-conf

I am excited to attend and report on my first ever Association of Christian Librarians’ Conference, being held this week at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids.

Yesterday the conference began, including a special “meet and greet” for us “first-timers”, and I was able to connect with some new people already, including librarians from Dordt College and Liberty University among others – even an excited young man from Tanzania!

Today the main conference begins with a keynote speech this morning by Stephen J. Bell of Temple University and then various workshops and sectionals, including one for “solo” librarians (like myself) and a brand new one for seminary librarians. I am looking forward to learning new things and networking with new people to gain new information so as to better serve as librarian in our seminary.

tcl volume 57 issue 2 coverThe ACL also publishes its own Journal, The Christian Librarian, which is now available online here.

Perhaps a little humor is in order from my first-day conversations with several librarians about cataloging. We were discussing the importance of getting the right subjects in the record, and one librarian said he found a record recently on a work about God’s sovereign control of all things under the subjects “God” and “Providence”, with the words “Rhode Island” behind it. Oops!

Reset: Take Time to Rest

Reset-DMurray-2017We have been calling attention to a new book from local author David Murray (Puritan Reformed Seminary) published by Crossway – Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (2017). It is written with men especially in view, men in danger of burnout, as the title hints.

After chapters on doing a “reality check” (repair bay 1) and performing a “review” of our lives (repair bay 2), Murray takes us into repair bay 3, where he points us to the need for “rest.” And the rest he has in mind in chapter 3 is that of sleep – real, physical, lasting, fulfilling sleep. Which is deeply spiritual at the same time.

For as Murray points out, there is a “sermon we preach in our sleep,” and “few things are as theological as sleep” (p.54). To demonstrate this, he states that if we are boasting about being able to get by on five hours of sleep a night, for example, we are proclaiming the following five point “sermon”:

  1. I don’t trust God with my work, my church, or my family.
  2. I don’t respect how my Creator has made me.
  3. I don’t believe that the soul and body are linked.
  4. I don’t need to demonstrate my rest in Christ.
  5. I worship idols [p.55].

If you are a busy man who is sleep-deprived (self-induced, that is!), that theology of sleep hurts. Because the truth always hurts. And those five points convict us of what is going on in our souls while we are depriving our bodies of the rest we need and were created for.

But Murray carefully eases the pain by directing us to the benefits of longer sleep (physical, intellectual, emotional, financial, moral, and spiritual, etc.) and providing some helpful “sleeping pills” (discipline, routine, exercise, contentment, faith, humility, napping [that’s one of my favs – the “power nap” after supper!].

And he ends where he started, with “sleep theology.” Here, I will quote the author more extensively, for this too we (I!) need to hear:

Ultimately, sleep, like everything else, should lead us to the gospel and the Savior. First, it prompts us to think about death, that we all shall close our eyes in sleep, and wake up in another world (1 Thess.4:14).

It also teaches us about our Savior. The fact that Jesus slept (Mark 4:38) is as profound as “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). It reminds us of Christ’s full humanity, that the Son of God became so frail, so weak, so human that he needed to sleep. What humility! What love! What an example! What a comfort! What a sleeping pill!

It illustrates salvation. How much are we doing when we sleep? Nothing! That’s why Jesus used rest as an illustration of his salvation. ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matt.11:28).

It points us toward heaven. There remains a rest for the people of God (Heb.4:9). That doesn’t mean heaven is going to be one long lie-in. It means it will be a place of renewal, refreshment, comfort, and perfect peace [p.70].

Isn’t this a much-needed tonic for us as we end this week? After a busy week and a beautiful spring day today in which I again tried to cram too much in, my body – and soul! – are crying for rest. Yes, I did have my power nap. But I need more. More sleep and physical rest. But also, more of the theology of sleep. I need the gospel of grace. I need Jesus. I need His rest. I need heaven. What about you?

Which reminds us that tomorrow is God’s wonderful rest day. The Lord’s Day! Precious, wonderful rest is waiting for us in Christ. A glimpse of glory.  A foretaste of our forever with the Lord. Will we enter into it by faith and receive and rejoice in its benefits?

It will help us to spend tonight in sweet sleep.

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Being one of the editors (managing) for the Standard Bearer magazine, I have to know my rules of English grammar and punctuation.

When I first took over that position from Mr. Don Doezema three years ago, I had to re-learn a lot of rules. I learned much from asking “Mr. D” those first few years too. And, of course, one of the things he advised me to do was to buy the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, which sits right at my elbow when I work on the latest issue of the SB. There isn’t an issue that goes by that I don’t have to consult that grammar “Bible”.

But I also look for other quick sources for grammar help. Yesterday I stumbled on the website linked below – GrammarBook.com, associated with Jane Straus and her Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation.

You can sign up for their newsletter of grammar tips and helps, which I did, and today I received this first one. It points out the number one grammar error, and it may surprise you.

Since we can all use a little help with proper English grammar, I share this first tip with you.

#1 Grammar Error

Would you like to know the #1 Grammar Error?
Hint:
The word involved is small and it’s contained in this sentence.

That’s right: its vs. it’s
Yet the two rules are actually quite easy to remember.

Rule 1: When you mean it is or it has, use an apostrophe.

Examples:
It’s a nice day.
It’s your right to refuse the invitation.
It’s been great getting to know you.

Rule 2: When you are using its as a possessive, don’t use the apostrophe.

Examples:
The cat hurt its paw.
The furniture store celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Note: From what we understand, the possessive was also written it’s until a couple of hundred years ago. While we don’t know for certain, it is possible that the apostrophe was dropped in order to parallel possessive personal pronouns like hers, theirs, yours, ours, etc.

To see more and to sign up for this newsletter, visit the link below.

Source: Grammar and Punctuation | The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

End the Year in Worship and Song

Looking for a profitable way to end the year tonight? Allow me to give you a couple of ideas.

First, attend the special Old Year’s worship service held in one of the local PRCs.

Second, join the Voices of Victory, Sacred Harmonies, and the Covenant Quartet at Hudsonville Reformed Church anytime between 8 and 11 p.m. this evening, for a night of remembering, reflecting, and praising our God in song.

Here are the details! We would love to see you there! Come when you can, stay as long as you like.

vov-old-years-program-2016

Cubs Win! (the 1908 World Series) Could It Be Again in 2016?! (YES, It Is!) Cubs Win! (the 2016 World Series!)

MAJOR UPDATE: the Chicago Cubs are the 2016 World Champions of Major league Baseball! Incredible! Indisputable! Repeatable?!

Did you really expect me to be silent on this all week?! I just did not want every post to be about the Chicago Cubs in the World Series for the first time in 71 years (1945), anticipating their first series triumph in 108 years. 🙂

chicago-cubs-detroit-tigers-1908-world-series-stats-box-scores-last-time-won-champioship

Regardless of what happens tonight, what a great series it has been! We have seen it all already – masterful pitching, clutch hitting, dynamic fielding, fantastic managing, and incredible fan support. Great for baseball. Great for true fans of the game.

Tonight should be a classic, whether it ends up being a pitchers’ game or a hitters’ game. And when the Cubs win, well, it will be simply bliss in Wrigleyville. And in a certain home in Hudsonville.

Hey, we did it in 1908! over the Tigers! “Michigan in Pictures” featured that 1908 World Series last Friday, and so we reference it today, along with a part of that post (below) and a picture of those 1908 champions.Be sure and check out that scorecard from 1908.

Are you picturing what I am after tonight’s game?! That’s right, a photo of the Chicago Cubs, 2016 World Series Champions.

Heavy.com has a great account of the 1908 World Series that includes photos and a recap of each game. SPOILER ALERT: The Cubs won. They do a great job of setting the stage:

The 1908 series, with the Cubs facing the Detroit Tigers — who were led by the greatest hitter of his era, Ty Cobb — was only the fifth World Series ever played between the National League and the upstart American League which had been in existence as a “major” league only since 1901. The NL was formed in 1876.

The great American writer Mark Twain was still alive the last time the Cubs won the World Series, as was the legendary Apache Chief Geronimo, as Sports Illustrated writer Mark Rushin noted in his history of the 1908 World Series. Both Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were still around, and so was former slave and crusading abolitionist Harriet Tubman who, more than a century later, is about to get her face on the U.S. $20 bill.

Movies were still silent, and though radio had been invented about a decade earlier, the first baseball game broadcast in the new medium wouldn’t happen until 1921, 13 years after the Cubs last won the World Series.

Source: Tigers, Cubs, and the 1908 World Series

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Published in: on November 2, 2016 at 4:44 PM  Leave a Comment  

Late Sports News Flash: Cubs Win NLDS Game 1 over Giants!

ChicagoCubsPicWhat a beginning night for the National League Division Series (NLDS) playoffs between the beloved Chicago Cubs and the pesky San Fransisco Giants!

In a classic pitching duel between Cubs’ starter Jon Lester (19-5) and Giants’ starter Johnny Cueto (18-5), the Cubs prevailed in the bottom of the 8th inning, when Javier Baez hit a home run into left field seats. And when Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs’ flame-throwing closer, came on in the top of the 9th and shut down the Giants to preserve the shutout, Wrigley Field erupted into a chorus of triumph. Yes, Cubs win! Hey, Chicago, what do you say?!

I hope you have appreciated my restraint in bragging about this year’s Cubs team. With a potent lineup of young players (except for “grandpa” David Ross!) and a loaded pitching staff, the Cubs and their devoted fans had high hopes for this season. And, indeed, they started strong, faded a bit in mid-summer, but then surged to the finish line, winning a MLB-best 103 games (against only 58 losses) and their Central division by a mere 17.5 games over their heated rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.

With a cautious conscience but a hopeful conviction, Cubs’ fans have been asking, Is this the year?

Perhaps it is. But we have a ways to go, and the competition will be stiff. One game at a time.

But there’s no better  way to start the playoffs than with a shutout victory on a late-game home run. Go Cubs, go!

October is baseball at its best. Enjoy. 🙂

Here’s part of last night’s game summary as provided on the MLB website.

CHICAGO — How well are things going for the Cubs? Javier Baez, inserted to the lineup for his defense, provided the offensive spark in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Giants. Baez launched a full-count fastball from Johnny Cueto into the basket rimming the left-field bleachers with one out in the eighth inning to lead the Cubs to a 1-0 victory Friday night at Wrigley Field.

Cueto had followed Madison Bumgarner’s example and thrown 7 1/3 scoreless innings before Baez connected. On Wednesday, Bumgarner shut down the Mets in the NL Wild Card Game, and the Giants arrived riding momentum from that win. However, Jon Lester was ready. The lefty, making his fourth straight trip to the playoffs, served up a leadoff single in the first three innings but kept the Giants at bay. He departed after giving up five hits over eight innings, striking out five. Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.

Source: Cubs win NLDS G1 over Giants on Javier Baez HR | MLB.com

Published in: on October 8, 2016 at 6:44 AM  Comments (1)  

Pew Report: Americans Still Love Libraries, Especially the Books

library-world historyAs you might guess, we always appreciate good news on the library front, especially when reports say that people still love libraries, especially the books. This recent Pew report, therefore, was music to my ears. I want to shout (sing out!), “But, of course, how could it be otherwise!”

Part of me understands why our society would question the value of libraries today. Technology dominates the scene. Visual stimulation abounds as never before. And so, reading is down, no matter what form it comes in. With that, books can be perceived as being on the demise.

Yet, the library still stands in the center of our culture as a powerful source of information and means to obtain knowledge in all areas of life. And while the Internet may be often viewed as the source of information today, the ‘common’ book is still a mighty means. Once inside a library, PC’s and laptops may beckon, but those stacks of codexes are a irresistible draw. The books still define what a library is about.

In case you are in doubt, read this Pew report, part of which is quoted below (with the link to the rest afterward). Better yet, visit your local library this week. Find out what’s to love. The Seminary library (and bookstore!) is open too. 🙂

More than half of all Americans 16 and over used a public library in the past year, either in person or via the the Web, according to a survey report on library use released this week by the Pew Research Center. The survey also found that Americans continue to view public libraries as vital to their communities: some 77% say that public libraries provide them with the resources they need, and 66% say the closing of their local public library would have a major impact on their community.

Source: Pew Report: Americans Still Love Libraries, Especially the Books

Don’t Read Only Christian Classics – L.Ryken

GuidetoClassics-LRykenAs we continue to make our way through Leland Ryken’s recent publication A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015), we have moved into chapter 5, where Ryken begins to answer the question, How should we read the classics of literature?

In this chapter, “How Not to Read a Classic”, you will see that he answers this negatively first of all. He makes his point under six (6) headings, which we listed a few weeks ago. Today, let’s see what Ryken as to say under Bad Practice #5: Read only Christian classics:

The Christian classics naturally hold a very special place in the hearts of Christians – such a special place that it is understandable why some Christians want to limit their sojourns through the realms of gold to Christian classics. The counterpart of this devotion to Christian literature is to be suspicious of non-Christian literature and avoid reading it. But to read only Christian classics results in an unnecessarily confined literary life.

First, God’s common grace… enables non-Christian writers to express the true, the good, and the beautiful also [cf. my note at the end on this]. Much of the world’s greatest literature has been produced by non-Christians, and by virtue of being great, these works have much that can enrich a Christian reader’s life. To be cut off from this tradition is to be unjustifiably impoverished.

…The point at which a writer’s worldview enters the enterprise [of writing great literature which, first, carries a literary form and style “for a reader’s enjoyment,” and second, presents “human experience for our contemplation”] is the interpretation that a writer imposes on the presented material. As a result of this third task, interpretation, we can deduce ideas and ultimately a worldview from works of literature. Even when the interpretive angle is wrong, we can benefit from encountering the ideas of works authored by non-Christians. We expand our knowledge of the world and culture within which we live. We come to understand the non-Christian mind and life. We sharpen our own understanding and worldview as we interact with alien viewpoints of literature generally and hold the line against them (pp.49-50).

I agree with Ryken’s main point here, and find his comments about interacting with worldly worldviews in the last paragraph quite helpful.

But, we need not ground this justification for reading non-Christian classics (or secular literature generally) in a “common” grace of God. There is only one kind of grace according to the Bible – God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ (and that is not a minor, “picky” point).

What Ryken refers to in that second paragraph above is God’s providential gifts – gifts given to the unbelieving as well as to the believing; gifts to write and write well; gifts to understand and portray the creation and human life; even gifts to interpret life properly (to a limited degree, because natural man’s interpretation of life will always be marred by his depravity).

Knowing that the biblical writers read and interacted with the secular writers of their day (cf. Paul in Acts 17:16ff.) also helps us justify reading non-Christian literature.

Of course, we must be careful in this regard. The Reformed teaching on the antithesis (spiritual separation between the mind and things of the world and the mind and things of God) means the Christian does not fill his eyes and soul with the filth of the ungodly (and there is plenty of this available today that is “off limits” to the believer). But he certainly ought to be familiar with the classics produced by worldly men too.

There is plenty more that can be said on this subject, and perhaps we will have opportunity to say more as well. In the meantime, I welcome your input on these points as well.