Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

One advantage to putting our annual Christmas letter on-line, is that I no longer have to count my words. If that makes the letter far too long, you can either A) bookmark this page and come back to it later over a cup of hot cocoa and a candy cane, or B) decide that you pretty much have the gist of our year, wish us well, and go back to playing with your new Nintendo DS.

The other advantage is that I can link you to more detailed accounts of our year's highlights. For those of you who may be new to the World Wide Interweb, a link looks like this: LINK! If you click on it, you will travel to a new post which you may read, ignore, or roll your eyes at. You may have to scroll up to read the whole entry, but you'll get the hang of it.

2008 was a year filled with tropical travel. In May, Lisa and I spent a week in Maui (3 links worth). Lisa earned the trip with her hard work for Creative Memories and we were treated like royalty without paying a dime!

In June, the whole family visited San Diego. Despite fun trips to the zoo, to Sea World, and to LegoLand, some of the most memorable moments of the vacation were spent in our hotel room, watching the Fresno State baseball team win the 2008 College World Series! After the final out, we ran outside to whoop it up...only to realize that nobody else in San Diego really cared.

Lisa and I celebrated our 10th anniversary in October with a weekend trip to Pismo. We were both sick, but we still enjoyed the sunsets and clam chowder. Most of all we were both so grateful for the blessing of our marriage, our family, and the remarkable way that God enriches relationships over time.

We continued our celebration with a cruise in November to the Mexican Riviera (6 links worth! Only for diehard link clickers). Lisa and I traveled with our good friends, the Nelson's, and enjoyed a vacation that was a true rarity: the kind where you're actually rested when it's over! We are so grateful for the opportunities to enjoy God's creation, for neighbors who will take care of house and cat while we're away, and for Grammies and Grandmas and PaPas and others who will spend important time with James on those occasions when we sneak away.

James turned 7 this year and he has grown up a lot. He's still a silly, fun-loving kid, but this year he truly became a student. He is in the 1st grade at Mt. View Christian School. His teacher gave him the daunting task of reading 1000 pages this year. We worried about such a large number, but James became so voracious a reader that he completed the assignment during the first quarter! He still enjoys cartoons, video games, and wrestle time, but he's added reading aloud in the car and quietly in his bedroom to his list of favorite activities. He played baseball again this summer and also began karate lessons in the fall. The boy seems to grow an inch every day and he is so much fun to be around. If I could be allowed to use his own fake word to describe him, I would say that he is "Boo-Yahsome!"

Lisa continues to be a whirling dervish of activity. She is full-speed-ahead with Creative Memories. She works part time plus as the bookkeeper at Mt. View. She is mom and wife and cook and nurse and teacher and everything else at home. But above all, she continues to serve God wherever needed. When someone is needed to help with dinners, deliver Christmas gifts, help with Children's Church, put together the directory, run copies, run errands, or just plain run...Lisa always gets the first call. She takes great joy in helping people and honestly (I'm not just saying this) wishes she could somehow do more.

I am in my 10th year of teaching high school at Sunnyside and my 22nd year of my teaching career. Every time I find myself doubting it's actually been that long, I go look in the mirror at all my grey hairs. I enjoyed another year of teaching and preaching at the College Church, but my preaching will be greatly curtailed from here on as College has hired a full-time minister for the first time in 12 years. I'm excited for the church and the new direction. I do still feel the call to preach however and, to that end, I began taking classes at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary this year. I have never enjoyed schooling more and, even though it will take some 5 years or so, I hope to complete a Masters in Christian Ministry and work full-time for the church some day.

2008 was a year of great blessings. I haven't even mentioned the thrill of watching James ride his bike for the first time...a summer of Indy, Iron Man, and the Dark all-too-brief visit from Fabio, our foreign exchange student...watching 100 Angels victories...taking James to his first concert (The Newsboys!)...or the times spent just enjoying life. We're grateful for all of you and pray, as always, that God will bless you in 2009.

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3: 14-19)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We're Going Green!

In an effort to save some paper, the annual Thurman Christmas Letter will appear on this blog later this week. Just one more thing to look forward to during the holiday season!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Meeting Times

Cecil was writing recently about the danger of changing the meeting time of a Sunday evening service. We take these things so seriously, don't we? His story reminded me of another one related earlier this year by my seminary professor. I may have some of the details wrong but it went more or less like this:

Tim's church had several young families and they were trying to decide whether to move the Sunday meeting time up to accommodate the young children of those families or to move it back for those who wouldn't mind meeting later in the evening. The difference of opinion actually threatened to split the church. Both sides were asked to present their arguments and then the church prayed for a week. When they met again to vote, Tim felt that they weren't ready yet and asked them to make it a point to talk to as many other church members during the week as they could. Finally it came time to make a decision...and here's the part I really remember...and really like.

Instead of voting on which meeting time they preferred, everyone was asked to write down which meeting time they felt was best for the church. The earlier time was written down unanimously. Time, patience, prayer, fellowship, and the Holy Spirit prevailed over selfishness and rushing to a decision.

I wonder how many fights could be avoided if we would take this approach.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who's Asking?

"After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers." (Luke 2: 46, 47)

It's the time of year that I always find myself thinking about the human Jesus. When I think about that little baby lying in the manger, it's a far cry from the miraculous, supernatural Christ. I don't know why it's so hard for me to see the "fully man" side of Jesus, but I suspect it has something to do with growing up and going to Sunday school. See, I learned a lot of stories about walking on water, healing the sick, and raising the dead. But I never heard any about being tired or hungry.

Even this 12-year-old Jesus that stayed at the temple when his mom and dad had left for home seems to have more of a Godly persona in my mind than a human one. The way I always heard the story, indeed the way I read it in most commentaries, is that the boy was quizzing the Rabbis. These were the questions he was asking them, and the answers which amazed him were to those queries.

My problem with this is that it steals from Jesus one of the most human qualities there is: the act of learning. Certainly, there had to be a time in his life when Jesus didn't know who he was, just as we know there was a time when he certainly did know. Barclay thinks that his moment of discovery was this day at the temple. I'm really not sure...and I'm even less sure about the accepted interpretation of the question-and-answer session. Couldn't Jesus and the teachers have been asking each other questions? And couldn't their astonishment stem from the realization that this young boy was their peer?

I don't know. But seeing Jesus as learning, as understanding his mission as he grew and matured helps me to see the human side of him. I'd love to hear other thoughts.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas? Christmas???

I just finished my first seminary class and I don't have my grade yet but I'm clicking refresh on the seminary website about every fifteen minutes or so and I have written the final for my Algebra II class but the printer isn't working so I don't know how I'll give it to them tomorrow and I have my Calculus review assignment done so that they can take their finals Thursday and Friday and I'm finally getting over my cold but now Lisa has it and, oh yeah, I'm preaching Sunday and really excited about it and...

...what? What's that? Christmas? When? Couple months?


It's just been that kind of year. I'll start thinking about it for real next Monday. We did get our tree though. It's decorated and beautiful. Lisa (my incredibly wonderful awesome wife) has taken care of all of the present-buying. But the actual holiday has snuck up on me once again.


Thursday, December 11, 2008


Yeah, I don't blog much when I'm sick either.

During Sunday night's screening of "Kung Fu Panda" (in the wonder of Blu-Ray!) I had that horrible feeling. One minute I was fine and the next I realized I wasn't. There's something really lousy about that instant where you realize you are getting sick. But there was a busy week ahead...buying a Christmas tree...writing my final essay...teaching my class. I didn't have time to be sick! Lisa has been working extra hours too so the net result was lots of tired evenings.

I did miss work on Tuesday and worked on my paper, a 5-page essay due tonight. I was so pleased when I found that elusive conclusion and wrote the last paragraph. Joy turned to despair, however, when I scrolled to the top to begin my first proofread and realized that I had only written four pages. I don't count well when I'm ill. So I added a few thoughts yesterday, ended up with just over 4 1/2 pages, called it good, and e-mailed it in. Instantly, my shoulders lifted and a bit of the fog parted. I suddenly realized that all 7 books had been read, all 7 papers had been finished (for better or for worse) and the only thing left to do was attend class one more time, tonight, and enjoy a final lesson.

I hope to write more about the final book and paper. I learned a great deal about how the church has fallen in line with worldly powers and what we can do (rediscover our weakness) to break free. But those are blogs for another day...when my head is clearer and my pocket is free of cough drops.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

One (Almost) Down

I can't believe that my first semester of seminary is almost coming to an end. I am finishing up the last book and my final essay is due a week from tomorrow. It has been an exhilarating experience and I am so grateful for all the prayers and support.

Yesterday I registered for the Spring semester. I am going to try to take two classes, mostly because I am bending to Jim's peer pressure...(and believe me, calling Jim a "peer" is an honor in itself). Biblical Interpretation will be offered online and I will continue to take a Thursday night class from Dr. Tim Geddart, this time on the Gospel of Luke.

Dr. Geddart is a fantastic teacher. His class this semester on the church has been illuminating. I have learned so much about what the church is and what it can be. I can't wait to start teaching class again at College so that I can pass on some of these great ideas. Teaching the lessons helps them solidify in my poor little brain.

In addition to the great Thursday night lessons, we have read seven different books on various aspects of the church. We are currently reading Marva J. Dawn's Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God. Jim has already blogged about a couple of sections of the book but I want to add one of my own. Yesterday I read this Timothy Savage quote about the citizens of Corinth:
"When Corinthians evaluated each other they looked for the same symbols of worth which they prized for themselves -- wealth, assertive speech, abusive behavior, a head carried high, anything which might elevate them above their neighbors.

The same values influenced their perspective of religion. It mattered little who the gods were or what the cults taught. What was important was whether one's needs were being met."
Sound familiar?

The more I study, the more I realize that humans never change...that God never changes...and that we have so much still to learn about His awesome love and His purpose for us in this world.

Monday, December 01, 2008

9 Days Off

I'm not much for blogging when I'm on vacation. The week was very restful and Thanksgiving at Mom's was, as ever, tasty and enjoyable. We got to see the Powers' too, which is always a wonderful treat. We even tricked them into sleeping on our air mattress (Bwah ha hahhh).

I did break down and finally do some things around the house on Saturday and Sunday. A small project turned into something a bit larger.

The basic idea was to use the double bookcase in the computer room solely for my Bible books. That meant moving the graphic novels to the bedroom bookcase.

That meant moving some of the books in back to the bookcase in the front room.

That meant moving Lisa's photo albums to the shelves in the entertainment center.

That meant moving the CD's off of those shelves.

That meant cleaning up the mess of VHS tapes and CD's that had collected on the DVD/CD tower and on top of the CD player. While I was at it, I moved all of the CD's in the entertainment center cabinets, transferred the movie DVD's to their place, gave James his own area for his movies, and reorganized all the TV DVD's back in the tower.

That meant finding a place for all the CD's in storage. That meant cleaning out the closet in the computer room. That meant finding a place for all that stuff. That meant throwing out some things, giving some other things to The Salvation Army, and doing some rearranging of other things.

My back hurts. And the books still aren't where they belong. When all is said and done, I worked for two days to clear off one shelf of one bookshelf. But I'm closer now than I was then. And glad to be back at work so I can rest up a bit.

I missed all you blog buddies. I look forward to catching up a bit. And taking some Advil.

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