Winter Has Arrived in West Michigan! (Updated with Lake Michigan Pictures)

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No doubt those outside of Michigan have heard about the fast, furious, and frigid winter that has descended on us here in West Michigan. After a beautiful, mild, drawn-out Fall, winter came with a flourish in mid-December and has not let up yet – although the hope of a “January thaw” is in the forecast for next week.

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These are pictures taken back and front of our home last weekend when we received over a foot of lake-effect snow in two days. And this week on top of 8-10 inches of fresh snow, it has been bitter cold – -3 (F) this morning and wind-chills below 0 (F) all day yesterday and today – and colder yet tonight!

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But, as you can see, there is a marvelous beauty that is revealed in God’s winter work. Truly, He makes a wonderland of white that covers all the death and decay underneath and around us. What a gospel picture!

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And His creatures all look to Him for food – the deer and wild turkeys have been coming close at Seminary, poking around in the landscape for food (where are those luscious hostas?!) – or visiting Prof .Cammenga’s bird feeders for free seed.

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How do we snow-stricken, frozen-chosen Michiganders cope? Why, we get out and enjoy the snow, of course! Monday, a few brave souls in our family – including some grandkids for the first time – went cross-country skiing at Pigeon Creek Park west of us. It was cold but was it ever beautiful in the woods and along the creek!

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And if one really wants to have fun, do some backyard ice bowling! [This video appeared on MLive this week.] See what you are missing!

Late this (Saturday) afternoon my wife and I went out to Holland State Park to see Lake Michigan. Word was that the ice formations were amazing, so we decided to check things out, partly because the time-frame for seeing ice caves, etc. can be so short. Though we have seen icier conditions, it was still good. Here are a few pictures I took with my phone.

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Memories of a Steam Train Pullman

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Nothing on earth today is quite as snug and secure as a Pullman berth used to be once you were fairly in it, and it seemed to me at the time that to lie there feeling the swaying and jiggling of the car’s motion, listening to the faraway sound of the whistle, getting up on elbow now and then to peer out the window when we reached a station, and at last drifting off to sleep, was to know unadulterated happiness. It was best of all if one happened to wake up when the train reached Grand Rapids, which it did along in the small hours. Here there was a cavernous train shed, with cars on other tracks, a switch engine puttering about, people coming and going – none of your small-town depots, where the station agent doused the lights, locked the door and went home after the last train went through: this place was in action all night long. From the car window you could see the station dining room, with its gleaming silver coffee urns, doughnuts stacked under glass domes on the counter, belated travelers here and there having a final snack before going off about their business, and it looked so inviting I used to want to be there myself – except that it was so cozy in the berth, and it would be even cozier when the train began to move again, and it was sheer heresy to wish to be anywhere else.

Taken from chapter 4, “Whatever Is, Is Temporary,” in Bruce Catton’s Waiting for the Morning Train (Wayne State University Press, 1987).

The chapter is a wonderful description of steam train and steamboat travel in Catton’s childhood dates in northern Michigan, including trips through Grand Rapids. I’ve been on Amtrak trains, but never in a Pullman car. Catton’s description makes me want to experience one.

The added postcard picture of the Grand Rapids train shed comes compliments of Bob Drnek. Being a train man (collector), after he read the post, he sent me this replica of the shed. Thanks, Bob! A nice, extra touch to the reference.

Published in: on January 4, 2018 at 10:49 PM  Leave a Comment  

Word Wednesday: “Annus, year”

Anno Domini

I have already told you about my late 2017 word-book find – Dictionary of Latin and Greek Origins: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classical Origins of English Words (Barnes & Noble, 2000 –  co-authored by Bob Moore and Maxine Moore).

For our first “Word Wednesday” feature of 2018, we return to this dictionary, where we find this appropriate Latin root for the word “year” – annus, along with its common base forms – anni, annu, enni.

This is how the Dictionary lays it out:

An ANNUal event happens once a year, a semiANNUal report is published twice a year; a biENNIal plant such as parsley lives for two years, and a biennial meeting is scheduled to be held every second year. Anything that is perENNIal is supposed to be everlasting, continuous, ongoing, and enduring.

A biANNUal event occurs twice a year (or semiANNUally) or every two years is biENNially), depending on who makes up the schedule.

An ANNIversary is the annual return of the date of an event. A cent is a 100th part of a dollar; hence a centENNIal is a 100th anniversary.

Although a semicentENNIal is a 50th anniversary, a bicentENNIal occurs every two hundred years. The combining form sesqui means one and a half; therefore, a sesquicentENNIal is a 150th anniversary. The Columbus quincentENNIal was celebrated in 1992: 500 years had passed.

As a mill is a 1,000th part of a dollar, so a millENNIum is a period of one thousand years, although the word is often used to mean any lengthy period of time. “Your long absence has seemed like a millennium to me.”

An ANNUity is an annual payment, often made following one’s retirement. Annals are yearly records kept by an annalist or historian. A.D. stands for [you’d better know this one!] ANNO DOMINI, meaning ‘in the year of our Lord,’ and referring to all the years since the birth of Jesus Christ.

And so we have entered A.D. 2018. May our thought and talk, desires and decisions, plans and purposes, actions and anticipations show that we live consciously “in the year of our Lord.”

Published in: on January 3, 2018 at 10:06 PM  Leave a Comment  

Reading in 2018 (What to do and what not to do) – J. Bloom

ReadBookSculptureLast Saturday (Dec.30, 2017) Jon Bloom, a staff writer at “Desiring God” ministries, penned a post on “How (Not) to Read Next Year.” It is a helpful guide with valuable counsel as you make plans to “take up and read” in 2018.

Bloom begins with some thoughts about the value of a reading plan:

The amount of information that will inundate you next year through an unmanageable number of communication channels is only going to increase. If you don’t give some strategic thought to what you will and will not read, large amounts of your life will be eaten up next year reading demanding, urgent-sounding, trivial, or peripheral things, and you’ll hardly notice how much time they consume. You’ll simply get to next December and wonder where all the time went and why you managed to read so little of what you wish you had read.

And then he launches a list of reading pointers that are not necessarily new, but still serve as good reminders. Here are a few of my personal favorites from that list (to find the others, visit the article link above):

Do not not read books.

Most of what will demand your reading attention next year will be articles, blogs, posts, tweets, bites, and ads. The vast majority of these will be ephemeral and a waste of precious time. Some will be very helpful, but short-form writing can never replace long-form writing in the form of books. Good books develop and exposit big ideas and lines of reasoning in enriching, informing, comprehension-expanding ways short-form is simply unable to do. Neglecting to read books is to allow your attention, deep thinking, and reflection capacities to atrophy.

Do not neglect to read The Book.

God wrote a book. In it are the words of eternal life (John 6:68). At the end of the day, this is the only must read you need to heed. This is “no empty word for you”; it is “your very life” (Deuteronomy 32:47). Keep looking at this book. If you look carefully, you will see more glory, and be infused with more hope, and ultimately feel more joy than any other thing you will read next year.

 Do not read too fast.

Remember how your mother told you to “slow down and chew your food”? Chewing well is important for good digestion. The same principle applies to reading. Information overload is conditioning us all to eat words too fast. Slow down and chew your food.

Do not read to impress others.

Don’t choose books or set reading goals to gain someone else’s approval, or posture and flex like a weight room show-off, or even just to appear within some respectable relative range. Reading for the sake of others’ perception will set you on the wrong course and suck the joy out of reading. This sort of reading isn’t of faith and therefore displeases God (Hebrews 11:6). Read to gain wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 16:16) and for the sake of joy (Psalm 119:111)! Read to make your heart burn with love and longing for God.

Do not read only in your narrow interests.

 On the other hand, pay attention to what others are reading — not to impress them, but because you care about them. What is your spouse interested in? Your child? Your friend? Your pastor? Your co-worker? Read something about it. There is a world of glorious things outside the small circle of your familiarity. Explore! Read a book or thoughtful article that will help you see more than you do now. A humble mind knows how small and limited it is.
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Now, if you are looking for things to read in 2018, fellow WordPress blogger Nick Roark just published his “best books I read” list for 2017. It is one of the best lists by a Christian reader out there, with something for everyone – even birders and baseball lovers! Surely you can make a choice or find an idea from this fine collection of 36 titles. By all means, check it out!

Blessed and happy reading in 2018! Remember, read more and read better. For my part, I pledge to continue to point you to good reading material also in this new year. 🙂

Published in: on January 2, 2018 at 9:55 PM  Leave a Comment  

God’s Word: Our Heavenly Standard for All of Life

ps119105This meditation appeared yesterday from “Grace Gems” and makes a fitting post at the outset of this year. The one book we as Christians must read and retain more than any other is God’s Book, the holy Bible.

This is how Arthur W. Pink brings this home in this meditation:

A heavenly standard for the regulation of all our conduct

(Arthur Pink, “A Prosperous New Year”)

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth. You shall meditate on it day and night–so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8

“You shall meditate on it day and night.”
Only thus will its injunctions be fixed in the memory;
only thus shall we be able to ascertain our duty;
only thus shall we discern the rightful application of the Divine precepts to all the varied details of our daily lives.

The more I am regulated by the Divine Rule–the more I shall be preserved from the mistakes and follies which characterize those who follow a course of self-pleasing. But in order to do God’s commandments, I must be conversant with them; and in order to perceive their breadth and specific application unto any problem or decision confronting me, I must “meditate on it day and night.” Meditation stands to reading–as mastication does to eating. Spiritual prosperity eludes the slothful and careless.

“That you may be careful to do everything written in it.” This must be the dominating motive and object. God’s Word is to be appropriated and masticated–fed and meditated upon–not for the purpose of understanding its prophecies, or obtaining an insight into its mysteries–but in order to learn God’s will for myself, and having learned it–to conform thereunto. God’s Word is given to us chiefly–not to gratify curiosity or to entertain our imagination–but as “a lamp to our feet–and a light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105) in this dark world. It is a Rule for us to walk by–it is a heavenly standard for the regulation of all our conduct. It points out the things to be avoided–the things which would harm us. It tells of the things to be followed and practiced–the things which are for our good and our peace. It contains not only good advice–but is clothed with Divine authority, commanding implicit and unqualified obedience.

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In that connection, at the beginning of the year it is also good to have a good Bible reading plan in place. Perhaps you are continuing or carrying over a plan from 2017; that is good; stay on it. But if you are looking to start fresh this new year, Ligonier Ministries has some good helps to get you started.

“…We foolishly imagine that we shall nestle in this world forever.” – J. Calvin

Ps90-12For this final day of 2017, fittingly the last day of rest this year for us God’s pilgrim people, we consider these powerful words of John Calvin on Psalm 90:3-8, as found in his commentary on that passage (Vol.V, Baker, 1979, p.465, or online here).

The design of Moses is to elevate the minds of men to heaven by withdrawing them from their own gross conceptions. And what is the object of Peter? [in 2 Peter 3:8]. As many, because Christ does not hasten his coming according to their desire, cast off the hope of the resurrection through the weariness of long delay, he corrects this preposterous impatience by a very suitable remedy. He perceives men’s faith in the Divine promises fainting and failing, from their thinking that Christ delays his coming too long. Whence does this proceed, but because they grovel upon the earth? Peter therefore appropriately applies these words of Moses to cure this vice. As the indulgence in pleasures to which unbelievers yield themselves is to be traced to this, that having their hearts too much set upon the world, they do not taste the pleasures of a celestial eternity; so impatience proceeds from the same source.

Hence we learn the true use of this doctrine. To what is it owing that we have so great anxiety about our life, that nothing suffices us, and that we are continually molesting ourselves, but because we foolishly imagine that we shall nestle in this world for ever? Again, to what are we to ascribe that extreme fretfulness and impatience, which make our hearts fail in waiting for the coming of Christ, but to their grovelling upon the earth? Let us learn then not to judge according to the understanding of the flesh, but to depend upon the judgment of God; and let us elevate our minds by faith, even to his heavenly throne, from which he declares that this earthly life is nothing.

WORLD’s Top 25 articles and columns for 2017

As we end the year of your Lord 2017, we reflect on the many events that have transpired in our lives, in our churches, and in our nations.

We know that nothing happens by chance or without purpose, but all by the hand of our almighty Father and all for the good of His people and the glory of His name.

World magazine has posted its top 25 articles for this year (part of its “Saturday Series”), and it is worth remembering these stories and how they impact us as believers. And, of course, we remember these stories and reflect on them in the light of God’s Word, our spiritual lens for all things that happen.

Here is World’s brief introduction, followed by three stories from the list. Use the link below to read the rest.

In 2017, we witnessed tragedy and scandal. We celebrated a theological anniversary and said goodbye to a gifted Reformed communicator. As Christians, we responded to issues concerning our origins and the way God made us. As Americans, we fought for our rights to life and liberty. WORLD covered these stories throughout the year in our magazine, on our website, and on our podcast. Here are the Top 25 articles and columns that grabbed your attention the most.

6. Burying vs. burning

A preference and a proposal for Christians to choose burial instead of cremation

by John Piper 
July 8 | WORLD Digital | Saturday Series

5. Esther’s story

In a state known for legal assisted suicide, one terminally ill young woman instead chose to live each God-given day to its fullest

by Sophia Lee
Oct. 14 | WORLD Magazine | Features

4. Walt’s story

Walt Heyer is a man again, and he has a manly purpose: protect the vulnerable from the transgender movement

by Sophia Lee
April 15 | WORLD Magazine | Features

Source: WORLD’s Top 25 articles and columns for 2017

Most Expensive Book Sales in 2017 – Abe Books

As is their custom this time of year, the people at AbeBooks have posted their most expensive book sales for 2017. You might be surprised to see what led the way.

This is the introduction they give to their list:

Literary icon J.D. Salinger wears the crown as AbeBooks’s most expensive sale of the year. The American author scores extra points for appearing again at number 11. A signed poster – not a book – comes in at number two. Notable sales also included Dali and Picasso, three helpings of wizards and orcs, some vicious plants causing mayhem, ruins in the Middle East, a catcher (and not the baseball variety), and a book containing the first mention of ‘I think, therefore I am’. It was another great year for collectors.

And this is the first title – check out the rest at the link above!

1. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger – $22,500
A unique edition of Salinger’s second work, this was Little Brown & Company’s only file copy. The publisher’s penciled word count calculations (61,823) and pasted label stating ‘Sample – return to manufacturing department’ can be seen on the rear free endpaper.

Publisher’s file copy of Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

Do you have a rare edition of a classic lying around the house? Or maybe you are on the prowl at the local thrift stores? That unique item could catch you thousands!

Published in: on December 29, 2017 at 6:57 AM  Leave a Comment  

Rev. G. Vos 25th Anniversary Ministry Album: the Edgerton PRC Years, 1943-48

GVosOver the last several months we have made various posts concerning the recent treasure-gift for the PRC archives – a beautiful leather volume commemorating the 25-year ministry anniversary of Rev. Gerrit Vos (1894-1968).

The album (which must date from 1952 and probably at least a year before that) is filled with pictures and congratulatory notes from the four PRC congregations Rev. Vos had served up to that point – Sioux Center, IA, 1927-29; Hudsonville, 1929-1932; Hope, Redlands CA, 1932-1943; Edgerton, MN, 1943-1948; and then Hudsonville again, 1948-1966, which is where he was when his 25th anniversary in the ministry was celebrated.

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In our previous post we featured those years of Vos’ third charge, when he was in Hope PRC of Redlands, CA, from 1932 to 1943. Today (our final PRC archives post for 2017) let’s look at the time of his fourth charge, which was Edgerton (MN) PRC from 1943 to 1948.

We can easily post these pages from the album since there are but six (6) of them. But these too are packed with information – enjoy – especially those of you with Edgerton roots!

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Published in: on December 28, 2017 at 8:46 AM  Leave a Comment  

Christmas Sermon on Luke 2:1-14 – Martin Luther

luther-preaching-in-wittenbergThis sermon was preached the afternoon of Christmas Day 1530 by Martin Luther. His text was the familiar (for us) Luke 2:1-14, and the focus in this particular sermon was vss.10,11.

Here are some excerpts from that gospel message that will instruct and inspire our faith anew (I have slightly edited these quotations for ease of reading – not the words, just the formatting):

This is our theology, which we preach in order that we may understand what the angel wants. Mary bore the child, took it to her breast and nursed it, and the Father in heaven has his Son, lying in the manger and the mother’s lap. Why did God do all this? Why does Mary guard the child as a mother should? And reason answers: in order that we may make an idol of her, that honor may be paid to the mother. Mary becomes all this without her knowledge and consent, and all the songs and glory and honor are addressed to the mother.

And yet the text does not sound forth the honor of the mother, for the angel says, ‘I bring to you good news of great joy; for to you is born this day the Savior’ [Luke 2:10-11]. I am to accept the child and his birth and forget the mother, as far as this is possible, although her part cannot be forgotten, for where there is a birth there must also be a mother. Nevertheless, we dare not put our faith in the mother but only in the fact that the child was born. And the angel desired that we should see nothing but the child which is born, just as the angels themselves, as though they were blind, saw nothing but the child born of the virgin, and desired that all created things should be as nothing compared with this child, that we should see nothing, be it harps, gold, goods, honor, power, and the like which we would prefer before their message. For if I received even the costliest and the best in the world, it still does not have the name of Savior. And if the Turk [Muslim] were ten times stronger than he is, he could not for one moment save me from my infirmity, to say nothing of the peril of death, and even less from the smallest sin or from death itself. In my sin, my death, I must take leave of all created things. No, sun, moon, stars, all creatures, physicians, emperors, kings, wise men and potentates cannot help me. When I die I shall see nothing but black darkness, and yet that light, ‘To you is born this day the Savior’ [Luke 2:11], remains in my eyes and fills all heaven and earth.

The Savior will help me when all have forsaken me. And when the heavens and the stars and all creatures stare at me with horrible mien, I see nothing in heaven and earth but this child. So great should that light which declares that he is my Savior become in my eyes that I can say: Mary, you did not bear this child for yourself alone. The child is not yours; you did not bring him forth for yourself, but for me, even though you are his mother, even though you held him in your arms and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and picked him up and laid him down. But I have a greater honor than your honor as his mother. For your honor pertains to your motherhood of the body of the child, but my honor is this, that you have my treasure, so that I know none, neither men nor angels, who can help me except this child whom you, O Mary, hold in your arms.

If a man could put out of his mind all that he is and has except this child, and if for him everything – money, goods, power, or honor – fades into darkness and he despises everything on earth compared with this child, so that heaven with its stars and earth with all its power and all its treasures becomes nothing to him, that man would have the true gain and fruit of this message of the angel. And for us the time must come when suddenly all will be darkness and we shall know nothing but this message of the angel: ‘I bring to you good news of great joy; for to you is born this day the Savior’ [Luke 2:10-11]

And another section contains these words:

Take yourself in hand, examine yourself and see whether you are a Christian! If you can sing: The Son, who is proclaimed to be a Lord and Savior, is my Savior; and if you can confirm the message of the angel and say yes to it and believe it in your heart, then your heart will be filled with such assurance and joy and confidence, and you will not worry much about even the costliest and best that this world has to offer. For when I can speak to the virgin from the bottom of my heart and say: O Mary, noble, tender virgin, you have borne a child; this I want more than robes and guldens, yea, more than my body and life; then you are closer to the treasure than everything else in heaven and earth, as Ps. 73 [:25] says, ‘There is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.’

You see how a person rejoices when he receives a robe or ten guldens. But how many are there who shout and jump for joy when they hear the message of the angel: ‘To you is born this day the Savior?’ Indeed, the majority look upon it as a sermon that must be preached, and when they have heard it, consider it a trifling thing, and go away just as they were before. This shows that we have neither the first nor the second faith. We do not believe that the virgin mother bore a son and that he is the Lord and Savior unless, added to this, I believe the second thing, namely, that he is my Savior and Lord.

When I can say: This I accept as my own, because the angel meant it for me, then, if I believe it in my heart, I shall not fail to love the mother Mary, and even more then child, and especially the Father. For, if it is true that the child was born of the virgin and is mine, then I have no angry God and I must know the feel that there is nothing but laughter and joy in the heart of the Father and no sadness in my heart. For, if what the angel says is true, that he is our Lord and Savior, what can sin do against us? ‘If God is for us, who is against us?’ [Rom. 8:31]. Greater words than these I cannot speak, nor all the angels and even the Holy Spirit, as is sufficiently testified by the beautiful and devout songs that have been made about it.