Merry Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas!  Looks like a white Christmas for us… It’s been snowing almost non-stop for the last few days.

One of the things I’ve started to understand more this year is Christ’s humility, not only in dying on the cross to offer us salvation, but also in leaving heaven and revealing Himself by stepping into His creation and becoming a man.  Here’s an except from our church newsletter:

He deserved the worship of myriads and myriads of angels. He enjoyed unbroken fellowship with the Father from eternity past. He was untouched by sin and human sinfulness. He was unaffected by this creation and its fallenness. He had the conveniences, pleasures, and joys of Heaven. The glory of that place was His.

If He were to leave that and come to the greatest palace on earth, to be fawned over by thousands of servants and waited on hand and foot, it would be an infinite condescension. If He were to leave Heaven and have His every need met, His every wish fulfilled, and receive the best treatment ever afforded a King, the incarnation would still be an unimaginable humiliation.

Osman, Jim. “A Savior Who is Christ the King” Kootenai Communicator Dec 2015

The gift that God gave is something to ponder.

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Well, off to shovel more snow.   It might be time to buy a snow blower.  |:-)

King Cake

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Ben and Eli making King Cake (2014)

We started a tradition last year where Eli and I make a Birthday King Cake on New Years day (which is also Eli’s Birthday).  We still had to call Kris a dozen times to help us interpret the recipe but I think we did a little better this year.

Eli has gotten pretty good in the kitchen, a month ago I was making Beignet Donuts and I needed a few eggs, I cracked one egg and turned my back on Eli to dispose of the shell and I hear “WHACK!”–I turn around in time to see Eli decided to take it upon himself to crack the next egg and… fortunately he got it in the bowl!  So I let him do another one, “WHACK!” …the second one missed and ended up on the floor.  Oh well.  You have to learn somehow… while I was cleaning up Eli helpfully decided to get a new egg from the fridge and “WHACK!” .. but for some reason the yolk didn’t come out… and that’s when I realized he got an egg from the refrigerator door that Kris had hard boiled!  Sometimes you just can’t win!  But today he cracked two eggs perfectly for our King Cake.

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Eli’s 3rd Birthday on New Years with King Cake

The tradition of the King Cake dates back to the middle ages.  The cake is made to honor the wise men who followed the star to find Jesus.  Today the tradition is most popular in New Orleans where the cake is decorated with the Mardi Gras colors–created in 1872 by Krewe Rex.  Purple for Justice, Green for Faith, and Gold for Power.  Hidden inside a King cake is a plastic baby so as you eat the cake you’re looking for it just as the wise men were searching for Christ.  When I was a kid we often visited Grandpops and Grandma Bee in New Orleans and their tradition was that whoever found the baby got to be king for the day… although I think most people have the tradition that whoever finds it gets to bring the King Cake next year.

king_cake_breakfast
This is the only birthday where the number of candles will line up with his age.

Here’s what we know of the visit from the Wise Men from Matthew:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying,

“Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”

And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

(Matthew 2 ESV)

The cakes are usually made during Carnival season anytime from Epiphany (Jan 6th) until Mardi Gras.  The best gluten free King Cake recipe I have found is gfjules King Cake Recipe  except I use the Namaste Perfect Flour Blend (Amazon).  If you haven’t tried King Cake I highly recommend it, it also makes a great breakfast!

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Eli’s 4th Birthday.  Unfortunately I didn’t do a good job at getting pictures before we ate the cake this year.  This was the last piece.

Tim Cook, Gay American Hero Vs. Brendan Eich, Evil Christian Villian

I was waiting on someone to make this comparison.

Flashback: Mozilla CEO Steps Down Over Gay Marriage Views

Phil Robertson Suspended for His Faith

 

drudge report duck dynasty

 

I saw the above headline on the Drudge Report last night.  I just discovered the show a few months ago and have been enjoying it, it’s a great clean humorous show with good American and Christian values.  Normally I just read the headlines, but in this case I had to see what all the fuss was about.

Excerpts from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/duck-dynastys-phil-robertson-indefinite-666808, cited December 19, 2013.  (my emphasis noted in bold):

 

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,” A&E said in a statement. “His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

GLAAD on Wednesday condemned his remarks as “some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication” and said “his quote was littered with outdated stereotypes and blatant misinformation.”

“Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe,” GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz said. “He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans — and Americans — who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors, who now need to re-examine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.”

GLAAD responded to A&E’s suspension, commending the network for its swift decision. “What’s clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike,” GLAAD’s Cruz said late Wednesday. “By taking quick action and removing Robertson from future filming, A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value.”   <– I don’t think I’m the only one that sees the irony in this!

The Human Rights Campaign also slammed Robertson for his statements.

“Phil Robertson’s remarks are not consistent with the values of our faith communities or the scientific findings of leading medical organizations,” president Chad Griffin said in a statement. “We know that being gay is not a choice someone makes, and that to suggest otherwise can be incredibly harmful. We also know that Americans of faith follow the Golden Rule — treating others with the respect and dignity you’d wish to be treated with. As a role model on a show that attracts millions of viewers, Phil Robertson has a responsibility to set a positive example for young Americans — not shame and ridicule them because of who they are. The A+E Network should take immediate action to condemn Phil Robertson’s remarks and make clear they don’t support his views.

I’ve only watched the first season, but a positive example is exactly what Phil sets.  What did Phil say that was so “vile and extreme”?  I decided to read the actual interview here http://www.gq.com/entertainment/television/201401/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson and what they’re so offended by is something Paul wrote to the Corinthians.  Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Phil is paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. 

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, ESV)

There is nothing hateful or vile in Phil’s remarks.  A&E didn’t suspend Phil Robertson for vile or extreme remarks against homosexuals.  They didn’t suspend him for discriminating.  A&E suspended him for his belief, or rather, talking about his belief in the the Bible.  This sounds like discrimination against Phil’s beliefs to me.

It will be interested to see how this plays out.  As far as I can tell there are a lot of fans outraged by the decision all over Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc.  I even read a comment from a gay fan saying that even though he disagrees with Phil he thinks Phil should have the right to free speech.  The governor of Louisiana has also criticized A&E over their decision.  http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/12/jindal_criticizes_television_n.html

Related headlines from Drudge:

 

Dr. Ben Carson: Obamacare ‘Worst Thing That Has Happened in This Nation since Slavery’

Dr. Ben Carson’s excellent speech at the Values Voter Summit 2013.

Meditating on Psalm 1

The Way of the Righteous and the Wicked

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1, ESV)

Badness compared to Commitment to Evil ChartThis is one of my favorite passages, it uses three parallel trilogies that increase in intensity describing what a blessed man does not.  He does not walk, stand, or sit, each action becoming more committed to evil than the previous action.  …with the wicked, sinners, or scoffers signifying a progression of occasional ungodly influence (wicked) to outright deliberate and intentional evil (scoffers).

I see verse two as what prevents the man from unintentionally going down that path to being a scoffer.  Continually reading and meditating on Scripture enables him to recognize ungodliness so that he doesn’t “walk” near it in the first place.

The man becomes like a tree that is transplanted near streams of water–and as a result will eventually bear fruit and prosper.

The Hebrews word for wicked here doesn’t necessarily mean complete and utter evil; it usually means a man without a relationship with God.  He may still do good works, but God determines he is evil since God knows the heart of man.

Chaff
© Evelyn Simak, cc-by-sa.

Chaff = husks of grain that blow away in the wind.  The main idea is the wicked are worthless, they have no value to God.  I don’t think David intended this but I could also see it meaning the wicked go wherever they are influenced to go.  They have nothing to constrain their wicked desires or passions.

God will separate the righteous and wicked.  They will not be together in judgment.

 

The way = one’s whole manner of life, from what directs it to what is produced.

The Lord knows the way of the righteous (being known by God is equated with Salvation), the wicked (those who do not have a relationship with God) will perish.

Kootenai Community Church Building Fundraiser

If anyone would like to help donate towards my church’s building fund (we are currently renting out a school auditorium, and that’s not really big enough for the church), there’s a match up to $5,000, plus Ed will shave his hair (the phone number below is in the 208 area code).
Barba Fundraiser

http://sandpointbonnercounty.kxly.com/news/community-spirit/93371-fund-razor-kootenai-community-church

Mossberg 500 Shotgun

Mossberg 500 Shotgun on my desk

 

Kris Firing Mossberg 500 Shotgun
Kris actually hit some targets!

In January I picked up a Mossberg 500 and finally got a chance to shoot it this weekend.  Dave & Melody (and their puppy) came along and showed us a great shooting spot not too far out of town.  This was Kris’s first time firing a gun and she did very well, even hitting the targets!  We also got to try some of Dave’s guns, including a Taurus .40.

Reloading
Anyway, the Mossberg 500 performed well, it’s a great multi-purpose shotgun and can be used for home defense or hunting anything from small fowl to moose.   A few observations / thoughts:

  • The two most popular pump-action shotguns are the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870.  They are both great guns, I went for the Mossberg because of the ambidextrous tang safety (I’m left handed).
  • 12-gauge is very versatile and you can get shells for just about any purpose from bird-shot for waterfowl to refiled slugs for Moose hunting.
  • I wanted a pump-action because they’re extremely reliable (and also a lot cheaper) compared to semi-automatics.  The action can be worked very quickly.
  • It’s designed to work under harsh conditions; built with loose tolerances like an AK-47, it will fire in just about any condition even if it gets dirty and wet.
  • Magazine holds 5 shells and can drop a sixth round directly into the chamber.  Mossberg also sells tactical models with a shorter barrel and extended magazine that holds 7 or 8 shells but that more than doubles the price in the current market.
  • The kick isn’t bad with #7 target shells, but both Kris and I had sore shoulders after going through 40 rounds.  If I was only going to target-shoot all day I’d probably go for a 20 gauge, but I think 12 gauge is the best for an all-purpose gun.

 

Perspective on Gun Deaths

 

Here is an estimated breakdown of how people will die in the United States this year.
Ways People Die Chart
  • Death by a person controlling a gun: 31,000
  • Death by Car Accident: 32,000
  • Death by Suicide: 38,000
  • Death by Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,000
  • Death by Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,000
  • Death by Diabetes: 69,000
  • Death by Alzheimer’s: 83,000
  • Death by Accidents: 121,00
  • Death by Stroke: 129,000
  • Death by Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,000
  • Death by Cancer: 575,000
  • Death by Heart disease: 598,000
  • Death by a person choosing to abort her baby: 1,212,000
(Not included in these stats is the number of people saved by guns and cars, also, it’s possible to die of many other causes that I didn’t list.).
Sources:

23rd Day of Advent

Last Sunday our Scripture Reading was Psalm 23, it is a solemn reminder that we constantly live with death.  There isn’t a second of relief from the possibility of loved ones or ourselves dying at any moment.  But it also is a comforting passage, as Christians we are comforted by Jesus Christ.  Because of Christ’s death on the cross we will receive goodness and mercy, and our ultimate fate after death is to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.




As I meditated on Psalm 23 last Sunday it reminded me of our recent experience of losing a son last December 23rd.  …which I’ve been meaning to share on my blog.  One of my sisters, Noelle, started a Christmas tradition where on each day of Advent we email each other what we did that day and how it relates to Christmas, so I sent this letter to my family:


On Mon, Dec 24, 2012 at 11:18 PM, Benjamin Bryan wrote:

The 23rd Day of Advent was sad for us, Kris had a miscarriage and we had to go into the emergency room and spend most of the day at the hospital.  I called Dave (a friend from church) to come watch Eli–I broke down crying…somehow he gathered I was at the hospital and came to pickup Eli.  The doctor and at least one of the nurses were Christians, I really couldn’t have picked better people to get us through this, and being in a small town we pretty much had them to ourselves.  A few hours later Kris and I held our son.  He would fit in the palm of my hand and I could see his fully formed hands, feet, ears, eyes, nose…. while we were crying I asked Kris what we would call him, she didn’t know so I said, “how about Paul?”  So I named him Paul Bryan.  I told Kris I was going to let God give him his middle name. God has probably given him a much cooler name than Paul by now anyway.  I was amazed at the support our local church gave us, Jess (one of the pastors) came by to visit us immediately following the church service and Jim (another pastor) got me in contact with a grave place and told me the church would pay for the cemetery plot and service.  And since Kris is supposed to rest for awhile Andrea the farmer lady arranged for people to bring us gluten free food.  So at least we won’t starve while Kris tries to rest.  …our church also offered us much more help that we declined, they’re doing far more than we need already!

I know people try to find reasons for things like this, and I don’t know if it’s possible to know what that is.  The reality is we live in a fallen world and so death happens.  I have some comfort that God’s divine providence works out for our good, but that doesn’t mean things are supposed to be this way.  Our world should be perfect the way God created it, but it isn’t.  That’s why God sent His Son, the reason we celebrate Christmas, to die for our sins so that we might be saved.  Because of Christmas we’ll one day live in the presence of God in a world where there will be no death, no sadness, and no sin.
After Eli went to bed (and he barely noticed we were gone all day, he didn’t want to leave his friends when we went to pick him up) Kris and I watched the Making of Charlie Brown Christmas (thanks Mom!), which happened to be on YouTube.  Then we went to bed, it took a long time for me to fall asleep, but I finally did.

Love,
Ben