Happy Christmas, everyone! Things have been super busy since I got home. I guess I’ve been too busy living life to blog about it 🙂 It’s been wonderful to be home with my family again. I also got to go on a super spontaneous trip to Nashville to see some dear friends. We had a blast.
just a note to say that it’s frigid here. my body is in shock. today my hands were so cold that i couldn’t even type. my room is the coldest in the house…anne has been kind and gracious enough to allow me to sleep in her warm, cozy room upstairs. she even gave me her bed three nights in a row and took the floor for herself. she’s pretty much an awesome sister! we’re supposed to get a snow storm tonight. it’s going to be so cold that it hurts on monday…
I’m in North Carolina!!! Ahh, I can’t even tell you all how good it feels to be back in the USA. It was really hard to say goodbye to everyone yesterday. I got all choked up and everything. But boy it’s good to be back home. The flight was GREAT. Seriously, I’ve never had such a great flight before. It was only about 30% full, so there was no one in front of me or behind me or bedside or in the row beside me. I stretched out and slept like a baby. I went to sleep around 10pm est and got up 5:30 est and feel fresh as a daisy. That NEVER happens. Customs was a breeze — the officer was so nice and responded quite nicely to my early morning friendliness. I forgot that chocolate counted as a food item and had to tell him that I did indeed have food. He was super nice about it and just said, “oh no worries, if that’s the worst thing you’ve done today, I’d say you’re in really good shape! Enjoy the snow in Boone and have a great day!” Yeah that made my day. Then I made a new friend in the security line. So pretty much this day has gotten off to a fantastic start. I’m looking forward to seeing all of those familiar, loving faces in Raleigh, then Burlington and then finally BOONE TOWN!!!!!!
Oh my gosh. I’m leaving tonight. I’ve been looking forward to this day and seeing my family for weeks, but now that it’s finally here, I feel so sad. I mean, I’m still super excited about going home and seeing family and friends, but I can’t believe I”m leaving my family here and my new friends! Last night I had to say goodbye to Ana. It was way harder than I thought it would be. I have no idea when I’ll see her again…so sad! I’ve had a wonderful time here and it’s really because of the people. I will miss my Brazilian family so much and my new friends.
These past couple of months have been wonderful and challenging. I’m so thankful for the time that I’ve had here. It’s been such a treat to come and learn the language. I wish everyone could have an experience like this. I have enjoyed tasting all of the new foods, seeing the new sights, meeting new people and making new friends. I hope to come back soon to visit!
Feliz aniversário, pai! Feliz cumpleaños! Happy birthday to the best dad in the whole wide world! Yep, that’s my dad! There are tons of things that make my dad great, but here are just a few; he fears God, he loves my mom, he’s honest and is a man of integrity, he has a super sense of humor, he loves to read, he is humble and never a snob (like me…), he is kind and generous. I wish I could be there to celebrate….
The Story of a Friend’s Cab Ride in London from the Desiring God blog.
by Rick Segal
Wednesday night I was on my own in London. Such a void in the schedule gives me the chance to taxi in from Chelsea Harbor to Central London to Foyles, my favorite bookstore in all the world.
The distinctive, boxy, black London taxi is a masterpiece of western civilization. In no other city can one navigate urban traffic in a cleaner, more spacious, more professionally operated vessel at a more reasonable price. Unlike the usually filthy, dinged-up yellow cabs of Manhattan, often driven as if they were offensive military weapons, a London cab is a parlor on wheels, and depending on how chatty the one is who ends up picking up your fare, it can be almost like a confessional booth. I took seat in my taxi and dispatched the driver to Foyles on the Charing Cross Road.
“Have they got a book signing or a lecture there, tonight,” the driver asked.
“No, I’m just a reader. I’m just going there to browse awhile,” I replied.
“I’m a reader, too,” he said. “I like to read British history and the like. I have a lot of books. My wife grumbles at me all the time. They take up a lot of space, you know.”
I empathized with his spatial constraints and spousal grievances. “Have you tried any of these new e-readers,” I inquired.
“Not really a proper book, is it?,” he objected.
“My sentiments, exactly. Do you have any children who might like to inherit your library?”
“I’ve a daughter. She’s in the university. She may want some of them one day, but I suspect she’ll just sell them all to the auction house.”
“I don’t even like to think of it.”
“Me, neither,” he said. “I’m a keeper, I am. Me wife, she’s a reader, but she’ll buy ’em second hand, then take ’em to the poorhouse when she’s done.”
“A better soul than me she is,” I said.
“You and me, both,” as he edged the taxi almost on to the curb to permit the on-coming vehicle to make its way past us on the very narrow cross street.
I said, “About a third of my library is history and biography, a third business and economics and a third theology. The wife has most of the fiction down in the basement.”
“Theology!,” he exclaimed, “Why, that’s what me daughter’s a studyin’ at the university.”
“I have two sons studying theology.” I boasted. “One son is at a small Baptist seminary in Minneapolis, and another, an adopted son from Africa, is working on his doctorate at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.”
“Are they called to be ministers of the gospel?”
“Marshall definitely feels lead to preaching ministry. Dieudonne’ wants to return to Cameroon to teach in and maybe one day even lead the seminary there near his hometown, but he’s a mighty preacher, and I can’t imagine him without a pulpit, as well.”
“Are you a churchman, yourself,” he asked, “a Baptist?”
“Oh, I am a believer to be sure, but I’m not a Baptist. We’re in a small but global denomination called the Evangelical Free Church. It has Scandinavian roots. We used to be Methodists, but felt the denomination had gone somewhat adrift.”
“Aye, as it has here, mate,” he countered. “Here in the UK, the farther you get from central London, the more evangelical the Methodists are. Get into the center of town and you may find a Methodist church, but the people in it will be Methodists first and Christians fourth.”
I regret I didn’t then probe what were the other two levels in the British Methodist’s hierarchy of needs, but instead went on to tell him more about my reading habits. “One of the areas I’ve done a lot a reading in is that of the English Puritans of the 16th and 17th centuries.”
“You mean like Richard Baxter and old Sibbes?”
I laughed out loud. This was the tipping point in the conversation at which it turned surreal.
“Yes, and John Owen and Jeremiah Burroughs,” I replied.
“Ah, Owen, The Prince of the Puritans. And Thomas Brooks and John Flavel,” he volleyed back.
“And, later, John Newton.”
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see,” he bellowed.
“And George Swinnock, Thomas Watson and, of course, Bunyan,” I stoked.
“John Bunyan. Was there ever another like him,” he said accelerating through the intersection.
“‘A Pilgrim’s Progress’ has sold more books in the English language than any other book but the Bible,” I affirmed.
“And what a story it tells,” he said. “We’ve met every one of those characters along our own ways, have we not?”
The traffic had us stopped, now. The conversation subsided momentarily, then he said, “I’ll go out a limb here, mate. It’s just my own opinion, but if you strip Christian Reformed theology out of the story of Great Britain, you’ve got nothing left in it that would have made her great.”
This from my taxi driver.
“Are you familiar with an American preacher by the name of Tim Keller?” he asked.
“Yes, I am. I’ve read his books and heard him preach a couple of times.”
“I really like what the man has to say,” he replied, “We can’t leave the gospel a hangin’ back in the years gone by. It’s as relevant today as when God first spoke it, and Keller I think does a real fine job of makin’ it relevant to the day.”
“Well, since you’ve mentioned Keller,” I said, “I told you my son was in the seminary in Minneapolis. He’s studying under a pastor there by the name of John Piper. Are you familiar with him?”
“John Piper!,” he said in a ‘stop-the-car’ kind of way that, well, actually stopped the car. “My lands. Piper is the greatest living preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, your son is there at the Bethlehem Baptist Church with Piper himself. Oh, what a special privilege and blessing that must be for him.” He weaved around Trafalgar Square, passed The Crypt at St. Martin’s in The Field and turned on the Charing Cross Road. “We’re about there,” he said, “Say, do you know about the Banner of Truth Trust?”
“Yes, I own a lot of their titles” I replied. “Whoever endowed that trust did the Kingdom a great service by keeping the old Puritans in print.”
“Have you ever heard of the late Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones?”
“Perhaps the greatest expository preacher of the 20th century,” I said, “I’ve read some of his works and I’ve listened to recordings of his preaching.”
“He’s got a funny voice, doesn’t he?” He slowed the taxi, “Now, if you’re familiar with Ian Murray’s biography of Lloyd-Jones published by the Banner of Truth…”
“…I’ll have you know that this little church right here on our left was the very church in which The Great Doctor himself was married to his beloved wife. Right there.”
The building was but a dark, unlit interruption of the architecture on a block otherwise sparkling with the lights and adornments of the London Theater District. Still, it seemed to me more spectacular that it should suddenly present itself at this point in our conversation than all the neon blinking up and down the marquees of the Charing Cross Road.
“Well, here we are,” he said as he punched the meter to calculate my fare. As I fumbled for my billfold, he said, “You know, mate, there probably aren’t but a handful of people in all of this great city who would have the slightest idea or notion of what you and I have just been talking about. What are the odds that you and I would end up in the same taxi on this night?”
Through all of this short but meandering journey, I had only ever heard his voice, seen the back of his head and occasionally his bespectacled eyes, as lamp posts made them apparent to me through the rearview mirror. Now, I was out of the taxi, standing on the curb alongside the driver’s side door, finally looking him straight in the face.
“It was God’s will,” I said with a smile as I handed him my fare.
He chuckled and shook his head in astonishment. “It was God’s will. Indeed.”
This is such a cool story! It makes me want to go back to London…
Meet minha filha, Ana Beatriz. Everyone thinks she looks like me and the new joke is that I came to Brazil to have my kid. Edir seriously doesn’t want the joke to die. So when I bit my tongue eating an apple and consequently got the biggest sore ever (it prevents me from talking and eating…yeah I’m starving. I’ve eaten a pear and a piece of ham today) Edir asked me who I had been kissing. He keeps joking that I’m some wild thing and that he needs to call my parents and tell them that not only do I have a daughter, but I’ve also been going around kissing men that he doesn’t know. He cracks me up! But really, isn’t she adorable? She is such a happy little baby and I really did fall in love her! And as for the sore in my mouth I’m praying that this medicine works and that I wake up and am able to eat a good breakfast, because I’m starving!
Today is my birthday. It’s the first time I’ve ever won shorts, a tank top and sandals to my birthday party. I’ve definitely never been so smokin hot before either…haha. The day began at 6:45am when I woke up and realized that I had stupidly set my alarm for 6:15 EST and that it wouldn’t go off until 9:15 my time. So I sprang out of bed and hurriedly got ready and crammed some coffee and toast down my throat in order to be ready for our 7:15am departure time. Josefina had a nice shiny package waiting for me at the breakfast table — an adorable deep purple dress! No, really, it’s so cute! I love it. After I almost choked myself on the toast and burned my tongue on the hot coffee we ran out the door and caught the bus just in time. Not going to lie, it was really hot and uncomfortable. So many people crammed on one bus without air conditioning is definitely not an ideal situation. We arrived in Niterói and caught the boat to Rio where Cintia met us and took us the bus that would take us straight to Corcovado. The train up the mountain was pretty cool. There was a Samba band on the train serenading us. We go to the top and thankfully it was much cooler.
We got to the top of the mountain and then had to take an elevator up to the base of the Christ. We got on an elevator with a group of British tourists. Gosh, they were so funny. So today there were a ton of Brits and a ton of Germans. Well the nice old British ladies on the elevator commented on their European neighbors saying, “I’m so glad we beat the Germans up. You know it’s always good to arrive anywhere before the Germans. They’re just so pushy.” Once we got off of the elevator we still had a few escalators to go before we reached the top. It was really a spectacular view of the city. The Christ statue was pretty impressive, but I thought it would be bigger. The weather was beautiful and I could see all of the important points in the city. Josefina and I had a wonderful time.
Afterwards we headed over to Plaza Shopping and ate lunch and I grabbed a few last minute gifts. It was also super nice to be in a climate controlled building. Seriously, the heat has been absolutely brutal. Wander told me today that December is much hotter than normal — it even made the news. Gosh and after a much cooler than normal November, this heat is just awful. I don’t think I could survive January and February here. The heat makes me feel so tired and sluggish. Plus, I just feel terribly stinky and gross. I don’t even try to make myself look nice anymore. It’s not worth it; my clothes immediately become moist with sweat, my face gets all red and is constantly beading up with sweat, I stink, and my hair is in an eternal ponytail to keep it off my neck. As for makeup, yeah that would literally just melt off of my face. So I have to be content looking…umm, natural…
Oh yeah and while we were at the mall, Josefina bought me the most beautiful earrings. We went to a really nice jewelry shop and she told me to pick a pair. Like I’ve said before, everyone here is so generous and kind to me. It’s really quite overwhelming.
Then we got home and Giselly was waiting with a gift in hand for me. Ahh, another adorable present! She bought me the cutest purse. Then we hurriedly left to go to Davi and Lucas’ school for their Christmas plays. They were both so adorable. Davi’s was much longer and there was a reception after. Davi was Papai Noel! So cute, he had a Santa outfit and everything. Their class sort of sponsors an orphanage and the orphans came to watch the show and at the end each child brought a present for one of the orphans. It was really sweet. Lucas only sang a couple of songs and then they went to their classrooms to take pictures and give the parents some gifts that they had made.
I got back home and ate some dinner and watched “Ti ti ti,” with Gi, Josefina and Avó and just kind of relaxed. Giselly and Wander had another present waiting for me. Another absolutely adorable dress! It’s black and white and oh so cute, I already know Annie is going to want to borrow it…:) Cintia also gave me a gift then. She and Eduardo bought me a really cute pillow with all of the tourist points around the country! A great way to remember my time here and it’s sooo soft and cozy! I saw it in the mall one day and really liked it…:) A little while later the doorbell rang. It was Ana!!!!! She came for my surprise party! Her brother dropped her off, but he came back later after picking up Bill. Some other friends from church came, too. I had a fantastic birthday and will always remember it. I’m exhausted now…it’s midnight here. So, I’m going to sign off for now, but I’ll post the pictures soon…hopefully tomorrow!
PS thanks for all of the birthday tweets, e-mails and e-cards! they helped to make this day extra special! love to all!
By Kevin DeYoung
I have a growing concern that younger evangelicals do not take seriously the Bible’s call to personal holiness. We are too at peace with worldliness in our homes, too at ease with sin in our lives, too content with spiritual immaturity in our churches.
God’s mission in the world is to save a people and sanctify his people. Christ died “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15). We were chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4). Christ “loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her…so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).
J.C. Ryle, the Bishop of Liverpool from the nineteenth century, was right: “We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world…Jesus is a complete Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, He does more–He breaks its power (1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 12:10).” My fear is that as we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ saved us from, we will give little thought and make little effort concerning all that Christ saved us to.
The pursuit of holiness does not occupy the place in our hearts that it should. There are several reasons for the relative neglect of personal holiness.
1) It was too common in the past to equate holiness with abstaining from a few taboo practices like drinking, smoking, and dancing. In a previous generation godliness meant you didn’t do these things. Younger generations have little patience for these sorts of rules. They either don’t agree with the rules or they figure they’ve got those bases covered so there’s not much else to worry about.
2) Related to the first reason is the fear that a passion for holiness makes you some kind of weird holdover from a bygone era. As soon as you talk about swearing or movies or music or modesty or sexual purity or self-control or just plain godliness people get nervous that others will call them legalistic, or worse, a fundamentalist.
3) We live in a culture of cool, and to be cool means you differentiate yourself from others. That has often meant pushing the boundaries with language, with entertainment, with alcohol, and with fashion. Of course, holiness is much more than these things, but in an effort to be hip many Christians have figured holiness has nothing to do with these things. They’ve willingly embraced Christian freedom, but they’ve not earnestly pursued Christian virtue.
4) Among more liberal Christians a radical pursuit of holiness is often suspect because any talk of right and wrong behaviors feels judgmental and intolerant. If we are to be “without spot or blemish” it necessitates we distinguish between what sort of attitudes, actions, and habits are pure and what sort are impure. This sort of sorting gets you in trouble with the pluralism police.
5) Among conservative Christians there is sometimes the mistaken notion that if we are truly gospel-centered we won’t talk about rules or imperatives or exhort Christians to moral exertion. To be sure, there is a rash of moralistic teaching out there, but sometimes we go to the other extreme and act as if the Bible shouldn’t advise our morals at all. We are so eager not to confuse indicatives and imperatives (a point I’ve made many times) that if we’re not careful we’ll drop the imperatives altogether. We’ve been afraid of words like diligence, effort, and obedience. We’ve downplayed verses that call us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), or command us to cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit (2 Cor. 7:1), or warn against even a hint of immorality among the saints (Eph. 5:3).
I find it telling that you can find plenty of young Christians today who are really excited about justice and serving in their communities. You can find Christians fired up about evangelism. You can find lots of Generation XYZ believers passionate about precise theology. Yes and amen to all that. But where are the Christians known for their zeal for holiness? Where is the corresponding passion for honoring Christ with Christlike obedience? We need more Christian leaders on our campuses, in our cities, in our seminaries who will say with Paul, “Look carefully then how you walk”? (Eph. 5:15).
When is the last time we took a verse like Ephesians 5:4–“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving”–when is the last time we took a verse like this and even began to try to apply this to our conversation, our joking, our movies, our you tube clips, our t.v. and commercial intake? The fact of the matter is if you read through the New Testament epistles you will find very few explicit commands that tell us to evangelize and very few explicit commands that tell us to take care of the poor in our communities, but there are dozens and dozens of verses in the New Testament that enjoin us, in one way or another, to be holy as God is holy (e.g., 1 Peter 1:13-16).
I do not wish to denigrate any of the other biblical emphases capturing the attention of younger evangelicals. But I believe God would have us be much more careful with our eyes, our ears, and our mouth. It’s not pietism, legalism, or fundamentalism to take holiness seriously. It’s the way of all those who have been called to a holy calling by a holy God.