Celebrating Our Father’s Loving Care: An Update on Cullen’s Progress

It’s mind-blowing how drastically the human body can change in a matter of days.

On March 1st my youngest son, Cullen, was running around like a wild man. The morning of March 2nd he had a stroke and for two full days couldn’t even stand to his feet. On March 4th he took a few steps while holding two hands for support. The next day he took a few more steps, and did so holding only one hand. By March 6th Cullen was walking across the room and back while holding one hand, and he even took several steps without assistance. On March 7th and 8th he was walking all over the place. Though still a bit shaky, he was getting much faster and never asked for help. March 9th we took Cullen to see the physical therapist at Children’s Hospital here in Birmingham, AL. He ran full speed for the first time since the stroke. He also walked up and down stairs without any help. The physical therapist gave him a great report and didn’t even schedule a follow-up visit.

As far as we can tell, Cullen is back to his boisterous, acrobatic, pre-stroke self, with just one minor exception: he has not yet regained full control of the right side of his face. He’s making progress in this area, but things are moving slowly. We still have no information with respect to the cause of the stroke. We should be receiving test results within the month, and we are scheduled to meet with a neurosurgeon in two weeks. Hopefully he will have some answers for us. Whether or not we discover the cause of the stroke, we are grateful to our sovereign God for his healing touch. We may not ever (at least in this life) find out what exactly happened to Cullen on the morning of March 2nd. Sometimes we aren’t meant to know. And in those mysterious occurrences, those times when we know the least, we lean most on the Lord. The doctors may not be able to take actions to decrease the chances of future strokes. Whatever happens, we take comfort in the fact that Cullen is in the care of our loving Father, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, things high and low, visible and invisible, great and small. This God is not weak; He is almighty. He is not whimsical; He is faithful. He is not reckless; He is wise.

We will provide additional updates if new information comes to light. Literally thousands of people have followed Cullen’s story and prayed fervently for our family over the last week and a half. Again, we would like to express our sincere gratitude.

Grace, mercy, and peace,

Dillon, Jamie, Aidan, and Cullen

Emerging from Our Chasm: An Update on My Son, Cullen

In the early days of this week my family lived deep in a dark chasm of anguish. No one else lives in this chasm. Not even God. Or so we felt at times.

On Monday, March 2nd, my three-year-old son, Cullen, fell and hit his head on the gymnasium floor at his school. My wife, Jamie, teaches at Cullen’s school, and was in the gym when the fall occurred, though she did not see exactly what happened, nor did any of the other adults who were present. Cullen’s mouth was bleeding, and he was crying, but Jamie was able to calm him down, and he sat in her lap for the next hour or so. Things appeared to be getting back to normal–no harm done–when suddenly Cullen started coughing and vomiting. Jamie rushed him to the bathroom where he continued vomiting and then lost his balance and fell over. As Jamie describes it, Cullen did not seem to be unconscious, but it appeared as if he suddenly lost all feeling in the right side of his face, the same side he had fallen on an hour earlier. A wonderful friend of Jamie’s who serves as the co-director of the school rushed her and Cullen to the ER in Tuscaloosa. I met them at the hospital shortly thereafter. Within the next few hours Cullen vomited two more times and appeared very tired. We also noticed that he had a pretty bad fat lip on the right side of his mouth. At this point, Jamie and I both thought he had a concussion. The hospital in Tuscaloosa did a CT scan, and they didn’t find anything disconcerting, but the doctor wanted us to go to Children’s Hospital in downtown Birmingham to have Cullen examined by the specialists there. Just before we left Tuscaloosa, the doctor said, “In the end I think this is just going to be a fall at school combined with a case of the flu. I don’t even think he has a concussion.” And so we headed by ambulance to Children’s, hopes high.

When we arrived at Children’s we met with the general pediatrics team and the neurology team, and they almost immediately expressed their concern for Cullen. By this time, the right side of Cullen’s face appeared swollen, he could not move his eyes to the right, and he could not stand to his feet or walk. He also insisted on laying only on the right side of his face. They did another CT scan, this time taking a close look at the neck as well, but again the scan showed nothing problematic. We stayed in the hospital overnight and were told they would most likely do an MRI the next morning. At this stage, we knew it was more than the flu, and the two teams at Children’s were in agreement that it did not appear to be a standard concussion. So we prayed. And we questioned God, albeit quietly. All night long.

On Tuesday, March 3rd, they did the MRI. Cullen did fine in the “bear cave,” as we called it, and as he rested in the hospital bed I stepped out to get a cup of coffee. I returned to our room to find a neurosurgeon talking to Jamie. She was crying. The MRI revealed that Cullen had suffered a stroke. “Are you sure?” I asked. “He’s three years old! How can he have a stroke?” We met later with the neurology team; they confirmed the news. Indubitably, our little boy had suffered a minor stroke in his pons, the message station of the brain. The pons contains nuclei that deal with equilibrium, eye movement, facial expressions, posture, and so on. This fit with what we had been seeing in Cullen. The general pediatrics team came by later to tell us that we would be staying one more night. They also informed us that they would be starting a series of tests, trying to determine the cause of the stroke. Our tears were our food that night. And with the one who penned Psalm 42, we screamed at God: “Why have you forgotten [us]?!”

Wednesday, March 4th, the neurology team visited us again. In short, they said that Cullen is a medical mystery. For starters, strokes among children are very uncommon. Additionally, the doctors do not currently know what caused Cullen’s stroke. Nor do they know if the stroke and the head trauma are related. Finally, they do not know why the stroke affected the right side of Cullen’s face but not the entire right side of his body. “It’s kids like you,” the chief neurologist said to Cullen, “that keep us doctors humble.” The much more encouraging news was that everyone seemed optimistic about Cullen’s recovery. The portion of his pons that was not getting the blood it required to function properly is no longer operational. There is no “reviving” this section of the brain. But what often occurs in that small number of children who have strokes is that the brain rewires itself, so that other parts pick up the slack caused by the part that is no longer functioning. If this happens with Cullen, the neurology team told us, he will eventually get back to normal.

We’ve been at home for a few days now, and we have good reason to think that Cullen’s brain is rewiring itself. His eye movement has improved greatly, as has his balance. He no longer complains of dizziness or blurred vision. He is getting his appetite back. He seems to be regaining control of the right side of his face. And he is starting to walk again. On Wednesday he took several steps while holding both my hands. Thursday he walked across the room holding only one hand. Today he walked across the room and back without assistance. He is still very shaky as he walks, but we are definitely moving in the right direction.

Many, many friends and family members have been praying for us this week. For this, we are so very grateful. Please continue praying in the weeks and months ahead. Specifically, please pray for six things. 1) Pray for a full recovery for Cullen. 2) Pray for the doctors to learn more about the cause of Cullen’s stroke. If they can determine the cause, hopefully they can prevent this type of thing from happening again. 3) Pray for Cullen to stay flu free. Until the doctors learn more about the cause of the stroke, they have put Cullen on aspirin. If he is exposed to the flu while taking aspirin there is a small chance he will develop Reye’s syndrome, a very serious, potentially fatal condition. 4) Pray for Aidan, Cullen’s five-year-old brother. Obviously, Aidan does not understand everything that has happened, but he knows that something is wrong. Pray that he will not think the increased attention mommy and daddy are giving to “Culley” means a decrease in affection for him. 5) Ask the Lord to supply strength and patience for me and Jamie as we work with Cullen each new day. 6) Pray for our extended family as they cope with all of this.

We are emerging from our chasm, though “emerging” sounds too triumphant. Crawling is more like it. There have been hours where God seemed absent. But we are beginning to understand that He wasn’t absent; we were just unaware of His presence. Like Aslan before Lucy finds the proper spell in the magician’s book, God was invisible to us. We couldn’t see anything properly when our eyes were blurred with tears. But the spell has been found. We have seen the Great Lion. He was with us all the time. And now we know Him more intimately than ever before. For without sickness, you cannot know God as Healer. Without pain, you cannot know Him as Comforter. And without despair, you cannot know Him as Sustainer.

If “Being in Love” Doesn’t Last

It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, so a few comments on “being in love” are in order. When in Rome.

If I had to chop down a tree every time a magazine interview, TV show, or movie sent us the message that the moment you “fall out of love” with someone is the moment it’s okay to end the relationship, we’d all be living in Thneedville. (That, dear reader, is a reference to The Lorax. Yes, I have children.) And if we all lived in Thneedville, a hollow of artificiality–no real trees, plants, or flowers–love would lie dormant, because romance cannot exist without roses, of course.

Jesting aside, here’s what I want to say. The message our culture bellows is this: Fall in love. Get married. Fall out of love. Get a divorce. Start again.

As I wrote about last Friday, I’ve been spending some quality time with C.S. Lewis this year. In Mere Christianity (1952), Lewis writes of “being in love” and “loving.” His comments are a far cry from what we often hear today.

Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true … But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense—love as distinct from ‘being in love’—is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other … ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it (Mere Christianity, 108-109).

 

The Importance of Tech Boundaries for Children

Rick Stawarz, founder of Appinstructor, has written an excellent little piece titled, “Creating Healthy Tech Boundaries for Your Kids.” Here are two of my favorite parts:

The first step in establishing boundaries is to consider how you the parent actively model usage of technology. Kids will simply mimic what they see you doing. Many of us have felt the conviction of our child’s request to put down the phone and listen. If we ourselves do not recognize the addictive nature of technology, then how can we expect to instruct our children along the same lines?

Regularly talk to your kids about what they are doing on their iPad, and invite them to ask you the same thing. Asking what someone is doing on their iPad or smartphone (in a polite way!) can actually be a fun way to open up new conversations with your kids. Likewise, if they learn that Mom and Dad use their iPad for reading rather than social media, it will communicate right usage of these devices. Encouraging these interruptions proves to your kids that you prioritize them over email.

I encourage you to read the full post here. Rick is a fellow Beeson grad. He presently serves as an Academic Technology Administrator at a Christian school in Minneapolis, MN, while also running the Minneapolis branch of Appinstructor.

A Family That Doesn’t Do Sleepovers

Tim Challies and his wife, Aileen, have set what I think is an excellent rule for their children. Challies writes about the rule here. And here is a short section of his post:

Before my children were even old enough to ask, Aileen and I talked it through and decided we would not allow our kids to do sleepovers. Now let’s be clear: there is no biblical command that forbids them, so this was not a matter of clear right and wrong, but a matter of attempting to act with wisdom. We determined we would make it a family rule: Our children would not be allowed to spend the night at their friends’ homes. We believed they would face a particular kind of vulnerability if they found themselves alone and in bed outside our care, and we wanted to protect them from it. So they have stayed at their grandparents’ and have stayed with my sisters when we’ve visited the South, but they have not stayed at friend’s homes.

Some may call this overprotective behavior. I prefer to call it discerning parenting. I have often said that the job of the Christian parent, simply stated, is to prepare your child to leave your home and go out into the world as a participant in the Triune God’s plan of redemption. It seems to me that one of the ways we prepare our children to leave our homes as devoted disciples is by keeping them in our homes when they are young. Of course, I don’t mean for you to keep your child in your home all the time. Just this morning I was trying to think of a way to get my two boys out of the house so I could get some work done in peace and quiet! What I mean is that the more opportunities for families to eat together at the dinner table, the better. The more gatherings for evening family worship, the better. The more words prayed by a father and mother over their children as the children are tucked in at night, the better. You get the idea. Overprotective? No. Loving? Caring? Wise? Yes.

Teaching My Boys the Apostles’ Creed

We have devoted part of our family worship time in recent months to learning the Apostles’ Creed. If you are unfamiliar with the Apostles’ Creed, I recommend Alister McGrath’s book, “I Believe”: Exploring the Apostles’ Creed. McGrath writes: “[The Apostles’ Creed] is the oldest and simplest creed of the church. All Christian traditions recognize its authority and its importance as a standard of doctrine. To study the Apostles’ Creed is to investigate a central element of our common Christian heritage. It is an affirmation of the basic beliefs that unite Christians throughout the world and across the centuries” (14). Here is a video of my sons reciting the Creed (with only the slightest bit of coaching from dad).

 

 

 

“Back to school, back to school, so my dad won’t think I’m a fool…” –Billy Madison

It’s the start of a new school year in the States, so here’s some helpful reading. First, for parents: “Educating Our Kids: Exploring the Options.” Second, for college students: “10 Things to Do in College (Probably) More Important Than Going to Class.” And a hearty “Yes!” to numbers 1, 4, 7, and 10. Here’s number 10:

10. This is the single greatest piece of advice I’m going to give you: Go to Office Hours.
This is time that faculty has (to) set aside to meet one-on-one with students, and you should take advantage of it. Go early and go often: Form relationships with your teacher, ask questions about difficult material, prime them for that moment when you’ll ask for a letter of recommendation, and show them that you care — not just about your grade, but about your education. Do this whether your instructor is a TA barely older than yourself, or a world-famous professor once interviewed on The Daily Show. Just don’t be surprised if that hilarious, engaging lecturer acts, in office hours, like you’ve just walked in on him in the toilet. Academics are some of the most socially awkward people on the planet.

I hope I don’t fit the stereotype…

Reminiscences of a Trigenarian or Random Thoughts of a Guy Who is Getting Way Too Old

Thirty. It’s the speed limit on Back Beach Road here in Port Chalmers, New Zealand (which is about as fast as I feel comfortable driving on any New Zealand road!), and it’s now the number of years I have been alive. Such a monumental occasion calls for a blog post. On this first of (hopefully) many days as a trigenarian, I would like to reflect on a few of the things in my life for which I am thankful. In the fashion typical of a Type-A individual, my reflection takes the form of a list. The list is in fairly random order.

1. I am thankful for God’s grace. By grace I have been saved through faith. And this is not my own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that I have no right to boast (Eph 2:8-9). Before the foundation of the world, God chose me (Eph 1:4). For this, I am so very thankful. As Charles Spurgeon says, “I believe in the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with such special love” (Defense of Calvinism).

2. I am thankful for my beautiful wife, Jamie. For eight years now, Jamie has been by my side. We’ve become parents, moved house–from Alabama to New Zealand–and experienced numerous other adventures together. Since Jamie and I met, I have been involved in both pastoral ministry and theological education (as a student, teacher, or both). Without Jamie’s unselfish concern for the advancement of the gospel, my work would not be possible. I am truly blessed to have such a loving, supportive, talented, and beautiful wife. (Seriously, what in the world is she doing with me?)

3. I am thankful for my rambunctious boys, Aidan Thomas and Cullen Timothy. I have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in truth (3 John 4). Nothing makes this Reformed dad happier than to hear Aidan and Cullen name their stuffed animals “Augustine the Hippo” and “Luther the Lion,” and to hear both boys respond to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Plus, I love having two little fishing buddies.

4. I am thankful for my parents. From childhood I have been acquainted with the sacred writings (2 Tim 3:15). I have my parents to thank for this. As the fellow once said: “When your son asks you how long he has to go to church, just tell him that he has to go until he wants to go.” That’s about how it was in our house growing up. Our family worshiped together. Our family read Scripture together. The first time I heard about Jesus, I heard about him from my mom and dad. For this, I am thankful.

5. I am thankful for my grandparents. My grandparents are some of the greatest people I know. When I think of the one who has passed away, and the three who are still with us, I think of Paul’s words in Gal 5:22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Faithful saints. That’s my grandparents.

6. I am thankful for my two brothers and their families. They may make fun of me for wearing the same sweater every year to the family Christmas party, and one of them may call me “Pope Dillon,” because I am not currently serving in a Baptist church (and apparently for him all non-Baptists are Roman Catholics…), but I have many memories of great times with my brothers. Some of these memories involve a Chinese buffet, a .22 caliber rifle, and golf clubs (but not mixed together). This is not the place to provide the details.

7. I am thankful for my extended family. My extended family get-togethers are always entertaining. Many of us have started our own families now. And some of us live far away, so we are not able to fill our spot on the stairs for the yearly family picture (I’m still in mourning about this). But folks in my family are always there for one another. For this, I am thankful.

8. I am thankful for my father-in-law and mother-in-law. They have loved me and supported me in so many ways since we first met in freezing-cold Wisconsin eight years ago. They set a great example for their grandchildren by using their talents for the glory of God. And they have officially gotten me hooked on Disney World.

9. I am thankful for my brother-in-law. Who else would be crazy enough to climb the foothills of Aoraki/Mount Cook with me at such a ridiculously rapid pace?

10. I am thankful for the churches I have served in through the years. I think of my years at Bellview, Hunter Street, Flint Hill, New Beginnings, and now my time at Owaka Grace Fellowship, and I remember all the wonderful people in each of these churches who have made such an impact on my life. I hope and pray that, despite my many weaknesses and failures, I have been a faithful shepherd of the portions of God’s flock that he has temporarily entrusted to my care.

11. I am thankful for my call to pastoral ministry. How grateful I am that God summoned and gifted me, an obviously plain man, to proclaim the excellencies of the one who called me out of darkness and into the marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9). While there is in our day no shortage of “philosophies of ministry,” I appreciate John Calvin’s approach. In his commentary on 1 Timothy, Calvin writes: “Men often set before them some other aim than to approve themselves to Christ; many seek applause for their cleverness, eloquence or profound knowledge, and that is why they pay less attention to the basic necessities which are apt to produce less popular admiration. But Paul tells Timothy to be content with this one thing, that he should be a faithful minister of Christ. And we should certainly regard this as a far more honourable title than being called a thousand times over seraphic and subtle doctors. Let us remember therefore that it is the greatest honour than can befall a godly pastor to be accounted a good servant of Christ, so that during his whole ministry this should be his only aim.”

12. I am thankful for the professors who have trained me for ministry. I think especially of Beeson Divinity School, and the world-class academics/front-line churchmen and churchwomen who taught me so much. My three years at Beeson were some of the best years of my life thus far. I also think of the University of Otago, and my superb supervisor, who has influenced me tremendously.

13. I am thankful for my colleagues in ministry. For friends ministering in the name of Christ Jesus all over the world, I am thankful. I thank you especially for your prayers and the encouraging words you send my way from time to time. Continue to hold me accountable. I will do the same for you.

(Note from the Narrator: At this point in the post, a terrible case of writer’s block set in, and Dillon could no longer think of serious things for which he is thankful. But he simply could not allow himself to make a list of thirteen items. There are two reasons for this. First, the number thirteen is considered by many to be an unlucky number. Dillon does not really believe in luck, but, as he is getting older now, he figured it was not a risk worth taking. Second, Dillon has obsessive-compusive disorder, and odd numbers make him uneasy. Thus, the list continues, but without the sincerity that characterizes the first part above.)

14. I am thankful for our adventures in New Zealand. New Zealand is a beautiful country. The grass is always green. The water is always blue. You can surf and snow ski in the same day. There is no traffic. There are no snakes. And there are more sheep than people. What more could a guy ask for?

15. I am thankful for the sun. I suppose I’ve always been thankful for that great big ball of heat in the sky, but I am much, much more thankful for it now that I live in New Zealand. When the sun is shining in the winter, you see, the temperature in our house rises to a blistering 55 degrees fahrenheit, which is so warm that I can’t even see my breath when I exhale. Aidan is always deeply bothered when this happens. He usually cries out, “Dad, where did your smoke go?”

16. I am thankful for central heating. The central heating I once had. See # 15.

17. I am thankful for coffee. According to my latest tally, I’ve had 1,092 cups since I started working on my doctoral thesis. Coffee is my lifeblood. Tea is fine, and I’ve tried to start drinking more of it since we moved to New Zealand. But coffee… well… it completes me.

18. I am thankful for Johnny Cash. I once read his autobiography, Cash, and I have been hooked on his music ever since. He’s the only guy I know who can follow a song about a drunken Native American with a song about the crucifixion and get away with it. Read the autobiography and you’ll understand.

19. I am thankful for Netflix. The watch instantly feature is the best invention since sliced bread. It’s television shows with no commercials and no waiting until next week to see what’s going to happen. It gives you the chance to get caught up on all the old shows you never got to watch when they first aired. Like Arrested Development. How did I miss this show the first time around? Never again will I be able to keep a straight face when someone calls me a chicken.

20. I am thankful for Felonious Gru. If you don’t know Gru, he’s the main character in Despicable Me and in Despicable Me 2. Steve Carell does the voice, and he’s hilarious. He has a Russian accent (even though, according to an interview, he comes from Albuquerque, New Mexico), is the adoptive father of Margo, Edith, and Agnes, and the current boss of the Minions. He has been given a knighthood, once had his own cooking show, and can hold his breath for thirty seconds. Both my boys love the character, and pretty much everything about the films. And even if my boys didn’t love the films, I would probably still watch them. You’re never too old to laugh at a Russian with a long nose.

(Note from the Narrator: I warned you.)

Give the Gift of Augustine

Attention parents and grandparents: there’s still time to pick up a few more Christmas presents for the kids, so let me recommend two great gifts that require no assembly, no grooming, and that make no noise!

If you have time, go here and read my final article for Christian Today Australia. It’s entitled, “Augustine, the Hippo: Theological Tools for the Tots.” The article tells you about a couple of fantastic books for your children.

You can find both books for a decent price at amazon.

Fathering and Pastoring: A Must-Read for Men in Ministry

The Gospel Coalition has just published an excellent post by Barnabas Piper entitled 7 Things a Pastor’s Kid Needs From a Father. If you are a man in ministry, it is definitely worth reading. You can access the full article here. One of my favorite sections:

Yes, you are called to pastor your family, but PKs want a dad—someone who plays with them, protects them, makes them laugh, loves their mom, gives hugs, pays attention, teaches them how to build a budget and change the oil and field a ground ball. We want committed love and warmth. We want a dad who’s not a workaholic. It’s hypocritical to call your congregation to a life of love, sacrifice, and passionate gospel living while neglecting your own family. If a mortgage broker or salesman works too much at 60 hours a week, so do you. Leave work and be present for your kids. Your children will spit on your pastoring if they miss out on your fathering.

On Adopting “Weird Children”

I don’t think Pat Robertson reads the Bible–ever. And if you listen to Robertson and find no error in what he says, then you must not spend much time in the Scriptures yourself. Robertson is well known for his absurd positions. Add the latest comments on adoption to his ever-expanding resume of exegetical idiocy.

Here is Russell Moore’s response to Robertson’s abominable comments about adoption. It’s definitely worth reading. And here is a link to Moore’s book on adoption.

Study the Scriptures, friends. Please, study the Scriptures.

Our First Visitors in New Zealand

I’ve been out of touch (blog-wise) for a while. We’ve been pretty busy lately, and, well, New Zealand is not really a tech-driven kind of place. As the t-shirts here say: “No cell phone, no email, no problems.” I tend to agree. But I figure it’s time for a brief update on life over here in Dunedin. July has been a great month for us: the second chapter of my thesis was accepted, I was asked to teach Greek at the University, we got Aidan on the waiting list for kindergarten, and best of all we had our first visitors.

My parents, Larry and Pam Thornton, stayed with us for three weeks and we all had a blast! Of course, it’s winter here and summer in the U.S., so they had to get adjusted when they first arrived–they went from almost 110 fahrenheit in the States to about 3 celsius in New Zealand. Additionally, they had to get accustomed to the chilly housing in New Zealand; this time of year only two rooms of our house stay warm and the rest of the abode is quite cold (about 48-50 fahrenheit). I think my parents wore two pairs of socks, two pairs of pants, and two or three shirts the whole time they stayed with us! I have to admit, it was funny watching them as they tried to get used to the cold.

They also had to get used to the fact that we drive on the left side of the road here, and the roads are extremely windy and hilly, nay, mountainy–with no guardrails. Sometimes all it takes is a mere meter to the left and you plummet down a jagged cliff. Not much room for error. I tried to get them to take a shot at driving while they were here, but neither of them felt ready for that just yet. I can’t say that I blame them. It does require either bravery or insanity to drive here. Maybe next time they visit they’ll dare to drive, and I won’t have to serve as the chauffeur for the length of their stay.

Though I did all the driving, mom and dad helped pick the destinations, and we got to see so many beautiful places while they were here. We took them to all of our favorite spots: Aramoana, Sandfly Bay, Tunnel Beach, Orokonui, Long Beach, St. Clair, the Botanical Gardens, the Otago Museum, and the list goes on. We also got to explore new spots with them; we took our first ever trip to the west coast, visiting: Manapouri, Te Anau, the Fiordland National Park, and Milford Sound. We also went about an hour north of Dunedin and visited Moeraki for the first time. I’ve included some of the best photos we got from the many breathtaking places we saw. New Zealand is teeming with gorgeous beaches and majestic mountains, and the country has the greenest grass and the bluest water you’ll ever see. There’s really no way to fully describe the beauty. You probably just need to come visit us and see for yourself.

But visits, by definition, are temporary. Sadly, we had to say farewell to mom and dad yesterday. It was wonderful having them with us for three weeks, and they did so much to help us while they were here. We are so very grateful. The Lord has truly blessed me with godly parents. They have taught me so much over the years, and they continue to guide me today. I am thankful for the way they love each other, and for the way they love me, my wife, and my boys. I am thankful, most of all, that from the time I was a small boy they have pointed me to Christ. Thank you, mom and dad, for your faithful example.

We miss you already and we eagerly await your next visit. In the mean time, I’ll work on warming up the house for you…

Real Marriage: To Read or Not to Read?

As per usual, Mark Driscoll has people talking.  I’m not even going to take the time to read Real Marriage and write a review of it.  I’ve read and heard enough of Driscoll’s stuff to know what’s coming.  He’s a broken record.  If you haven’t read the book yet, I would urge you not to–not if you are looking for a great book that will help you have a godly marriage.  I’m not saying the book is terrible (again, I haven’t bothered to read it).  I’m not even saying the book isn’t decent (which it might be).  I’m just saying that life is too short to read a bunch of substandard stuff, so go with something like Kostenberger’s God, Marriage, and Family, Piper’s This Momentary Marriage, or Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage if you want a truly great book on marriage.

But, if you feel you must read Real Marriage, then at least be aware of some of the problems with the book.  I’ve listed some notable reviews/opinions for you.  If you have the e-book version of Real Marriage, pay special attention to the review by Challies.

Credo

Books and Culture

Doug Wilson

Phil Johnson

Tim Challies