Archive for December, 2008

spotlight: book thoughts and the ‘Penny a Page Plan’

December 30, 2008 4 comments

Everybody knows how important it is to read to children.*

This is especially true for Christians, who want their babies to grow up to be children who enjoy reading and adults who delight in the written word – who love their Bibles.

20081230-storytimeWhat can parents do to cultivate a hunger for reading the Story of the Bible, the Story of Jesus?

I ask myself this question a lot.  We can read to them from day one, find books that capture their attention, minimize their time in front of a television, model a love for reading by being avid readers ourselves, but what are some other ways to raise up little book lovers?

My buddy Nate, a recent graduate from Union University, blogged about his dad’s plan for ensuring that Nate and his sister Joanna would grow up with a book always close at hand.

I have made his post this week’s spotlight:

Growing up Joanna and I received our allowances in a different way than most kids.

We got money for reading.

Allow me to explain.  For every book we read we would recive a penny a page, thus you have the name of this plan, The Penny a Page Plan.  This was how my parents fostered a love for reading for my sister and I.

As we grew older and into the later teenage years my dad uped the ante. The rules of the plan changed to this: For every nonfiction book we read we received 5 cents per page and for ever book that my dad recommended that we read we received 10 cents a page.

My dad was pretty fortunate after the rules changed for two reasons:

  1. The books that he recommended were very difficult to get through.
  2. By the time the rules changed Joanna and I were no longer reading for the money, but reading because it was something we loved to do.

I am grateful to my parents for putting this plan into effect in our house growing up. 

Nate, thanks for the thought provoking post.  I appreciate your new blog, it looks great.

The ‘Penny a Page Plan’ is a creative way to encourage children to read – it was obviously effective with Nate and his sister.

. . . . . . .

Engaged Reader: Here’s my question for you (all of you), how is it that you learned to love reading? or did you?

What is your personal narrative of your relationship with the written word?

Share your story on your blog or in the comments below, I would love to learn from your experiences – for better or worse.

* (not everybody knows how important it is to read to your children, more on that in an upcoming post)


raising abbey: giving the gift of memories

December 30, 2008 1 comment

I know, cut me some slack.

Beth and I have been putting some serious mileage on the Kia in our Christmas Road Trip of Pregnant Bliss and I think the tryptophan from the Christmas turkey has not only made me sleepily, but short on worthwhile blogging ideas.

I have some stuff coming down the pike, warming up in the bullpen, strolling up to the on-deck circle, layering on the makeup and squeezing into the clown car . . . so brace yourself.

oldhands-babyIn the meantime . . .

As you know by now, Beth and I have spent the better half of the last 8 months of our lives thinking about parenting.

In other words, we have been trying to figure out who you raise a kid to love Jesus and  not be really screwed up – important things, I think we can all agree.

This Christmas, we tried to give our families gifts that were about more than having a new possession to add to our collection of things.

Instead, we wanted to give the gift of experiences and memories to be shared with little Abbey Ruth when she finally makes here big appearance in February (if you ask Beth, January sounds pretty awesome about now).

I found a really great bundle of amazing children’s books at Westminster Bookstore before Christmas, so I ordered ‘The Prince’s Poison Cup‘ and ‘Sammy and His Shepherd: Seeing Jesus in the 23rd Psalm‘ and gave them as gifts to Abbey’s great grandpas.

I wanted to give them special books that they could read to their little great grandbaby girl and have memories of turning the pages, reading the stories, and helping the little one to know and love Jesus.

I wanted to give my little girl every opportunity to always remember her great grand-daddys; to see their wrinkled hands turn the pages of these special books, to hear their voices as the read, to see their loving smiles creasing their kind faces, and to be able to recall two men who helped her to know and love Jesus.

I want to always be able to tell her the story or how her great grand fathers read them the story about the Story.

I want Abbey to remember the smell of coffee on their breath when her mama and I read her these special books when her grandpas are gone … in Kerrville … in Kingwood … in heaven … with Jesus.

I think that this idea will pervade the best of our family Christmases to come, the idea of giving the gift of a memory.

Our hope is that our little girl would grow up cherishing people, rather than possessions.

Our prayer for Abbey is that she would grow up seeing the things that she owns as a means of loving, serving, engaging, experiencing, playing, cherishing, and enjoying the people in her family, church, and city – not that she would see people as the means by which she can get more things.

. . . . . .

Help us out: when you think about your childhood, what do your most cherished memories revolve around? Is is the people you love?  The stories (true ones) about Jesus that you heard? Or was it the gifts that you received?

What would you do differently if you had it to do all over again?

(This is not a trick question, or a hypothetical one, drop a comment and help a daddy out)

kids, christmas, christ: looking towards christmas 2009

December 25, 2008 3 comments

Beth is 7 months pregnant, so this is our last Christmas as a family of two.

So everything is different, we observe with news eyes, talk about new things, and brace ourselves for everything to change.

This Christmas has been filled with many, many conversations along these lines.  What will our family’s traditions be?  How will we make our Christmas celebrations a time that honors Christ over the accumulation of material goods?  What should we think about that Santa guy?

(Abraham Piper at 22 Words had a couple helpful post on the Santa question: ‘Who Cares?‘ and ‘He’s Fun‘)

In ‘Who Cares?’ he says:

I worry what to teach my kids about Santa like I worry what to teach them about Rumpelstiltskin.

That is, I don’t.


Anyways, the real point of this post is to confess that, in the midst of all the questions, we have very few solid answers and a lot more thinking to do.

But, one thing that we do know is that our family Christmases will depend heavily on Andrew Peterson’s ‘Behold the Lamb of God’

I wrote on Behold the Lamb last week and, since then, we have had the opportunity to go and see Andrew Peterson and friends perform live at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

That sealed the deal, Christmases at the Wilsons will be heavy on Behold the Lamb and light on ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and ‘Santa Clause is Coming to Town’.

. . . . . .

For your viewing pleasure, I have included my favorite ‘Behold the Lamb of God’ clips from the live performance at the Ryman in 2004:

‘Gather Round, Ye Children, Come’

‘Deliver Us (Derek Webb)’

‘Labor of Love (Jill Phillips)’

‘Behold the Lamb of God’

Note: if there is enough interest in it, I will do a post where I link all of the ‘Behold the Lamb of God’ project’s YouTube videos in order, so you can basically view the entire 2004 concert via YouTube.

spotlight: mark driscoll on a snowy Seattle sunday

December 24, 2008 Leave a comment

I just love me some Mark Driscoll and I appreciate his ministry in inumerable ways.

While Beth and I travel to Texas to see friends, family, and muchas babies, I wanted to share this candid post that Driscoll posted on his church blog after the lowest day of attendance at Mars Hill in many years.

(Re-posted directly from the Mars Hill Blog)

. . . . . .

Final Thoughts From Pastor Mark at 12:37am After the Lowest Sunday in Many Years

Note: This blog is not edited as everyone is on vacation and Pastor Mark had a few final thoughts before watching the Unit, eating chips and salsa, and passing out after the last day in a long and weary year so please forgive the poor grammar and punctuation.

After more than 12 years at Mars Hill I have found days like today are great learning opportunities and I want to share them with you before I log off and start to focus on the holidays:

1. We learn who sees Mars Hill as a calling and who sees it as a job.

Those who see it as a job are the first to call in and cancel their duties, not show up, dog it, or leave early. Those who see their service at Mars Hill as a calling go beyond the call of duty to cover for everyone else. Today, for example, we had a staff guy walk a few miles to work in the snow as his car was totaled by a drunk driver. We also had a volunteer catch a ride many miles in to serve the evening services and worked both evening services even though he had no way home and was just trusting that God would allow him to catch a ride with someone.

2. We learn about our own heart.

If we are depressed, complaining, or secretly wishing we could be home there is something wrong with us. Days like today are opportunities for us to love our volunteers, pour extra appreciation on those who come, and make sure that we do not neglect those who join us. Charles Spurgeon once said that when you pay attention to the seat that is empty, you are paying a disservice to the one that is filled. This fall we got as high as nearly 8000 people. But, today we dropped down to a few thousand for the worst snow and ice I have ever seen in Seattle. But, we were still statistically a mega-church today (around 2000 people) which only roughly 1500 churches in America are. Of that, about 2/3 of the attendance was at the video campuses and I spoke live to the campus with the greatest percentage decline. The total attendance at Ballard where I preach live was…666 people of all things. I preached to 80 people at the first service in a room that seats 1300, and the best attended of the four services today was about 250 people. But, those are people who Jesus loves and our attitude toward them says a lot about us. Even if there is one person, that one person is someone God has brought for us to minister to and if they are willing to come we must be willing to love them with Jesus love. I walked the floor acting as a greeter today, thanking the volunteers, and one kind woman asked me if days like this bummed me out. I said no and explained that I can still remember the days when even having 80 people at one service would have been a huge win. When you’ve pastored a church from your living room onward you learn that your job is to love everyone that God brings and search your heart if you cannot do so wholeheartedly because the attendance is not high enough for you to feel that so few people are worth your time even though Jesus considered them worthy of dying for. So, on days like this I try to get up early, have four contingency plans to get to work, work hard all day, and pray the Psalmists plea for God to search my heart. I know this can sound proud. I’ve failed at this for years. And, more and more this is a lesson God is teaching me. As I learn it bit by bit, I love our people more and appreciate that I get to pastor anyone.

#3. We learn about the deep love some people have for our church.

Today I met, for example, a couple who drive in nearly every week from over three hours away and they left very early in the morning before the sun was up to be at the morning service. Last week I met a couple that is from Virginia and listens online. They were coming to Portland for a Christmas break with their extended family and they so wanted to attend Mars Hill that they braved the snow and drove from Portland even though the wife was pregnant. On a good day it takes about three hours to make this trip and my guess is that it took them maybe 10-12 hours round trip to attend one Mars Hill service as they drove in, worshiped with us, and drove out. The commitment of some people is completely humbling and noble. The fact that they love Mars Hill is infectious and encourages me. Even if there are 80 instead of 1300 in a service, if they are 80 people who want to love and worship Jesus and are willing to do whatever it takes to get to church then those people are the hardcore of the hardcore and from what I heard they out sang crowds ten times their size because they were determined to fill the room with worship to Jesus.

On the worst days, we learn the best lessons. So, they are often the best days.

So, I want to thank Jesus for giving my saving my last Sunday in the pulpit for 2008 on the lowest attended day we have had in many many years. And, I want to thank the hardcore of the hardcore who made it to church, some even on sleds, and on snow shoes. You all were inspiring. I learned a lot, which made it one of the best days all year.

photo leak: photo shoot

December 23, 2008 1 comment

A few weeks ago in Louisville, Beth and I were able to get together with some of our most greatest super-duperest friends, Brandon and Beth Rogers, who are incredibly gifted photographers (check out their work by clicking on the image below).


On a butt cold Satruday morning, the Rogers had a stroke of genius and took some really amazing photos of me, Beth, and baby Abbey-to-be.

We have been trying to keep the paparazzi from getting their hands on the shots and putting them out in the press, but their ended up being a Facebook leak that spread like wildfire to the infamous Pittfest blog and, from there, it moved like lightening to hundreds of dozens of other blogs.

So, we figured, lets just accept the hand that has been dealt us and put some of those photos out for the enjoyment of friends and family.




Look forward to some more shots forthcoming.

(We just love to look at photos of ourselves on our own blog)

Thanks Rogers!

spotlight: barnabas on abraham’s blog about john and noel

December 23, 2008 3 comments

john_and_noel_then1Some of you got really excited as soon as you read the title to this post.

You got excited because you knew exactly which family Barnabas, Abraham, John, and Noel belong to.

You got excited for the same reason that you eagerly downloaded Mark Dever’s interviews with John and, more recently, Mark Driscoll’s interview (video or audio).

You got excited because John Piper changed your life.

Maybe it was his books, maybe it was his sermons, whatever it was you were transformed in your understanding of God, love for his glory, and desire to find your satisfaction in Him because of the biblical ministry of this man.

You got excited because you know the writer, you know the preacher, and you love to learn more about the man, the husband, the father.

This post, re-posted in part, is written by Barnabas (son of John and Noel) and posted on Abraham’s (also son of John and Noel) blog – 22 Words.

If you don’t read/subscribe to Abraham Piper’s blog, you really should. It’s outstanding.

Here’s Barnabas:

1. “Dussy da puppy”—What my daughter Grace said, when asked “what do you like about Grandmamma and Granddaddy?”

3. Mother’s leftover food creativity.

5. That Olive Garden classifies as a “fancy restaurant” in their book. (It wasn’t until after college that I realized this wasn’t really true in the public’s eyes.)

6. That they were excited to expand our family by adopting when they were 50 or close to it.

8. Daddy’s aversion to “cool”—I wouldn’t have it any other way.

9. That I had 18 years of unofficial homiletics to carry into my first preaching opportunities.

10. That Daddy is a living reminder of what the Trinity is like—he is one man in the pulpit and another man at home, but they are the same man.

11. That Daddy and Mother’s marriage is another reminder of the Trinity. They are very one and very two.

12. That they were strict without being legalistic when I was growing up.

13. Their delight at every additional grandchild.

15. That they taught me to enjoy going to church.

18. That they don’t meddle, but they’re always available with counsel when asked.

19. No TV—I’m so glad I learned to love reading and doing outside stuff.

20. That they encouraged me in my hobbies by getting me things like hand tools, power tools, baseball gloves, bikes, and paying the fee for every single sport I played for about 13 years.

22. That I learned to pray from listening to countless prayers from both of them.

If you were paying attention, you noticed gaps in the numbering.  The gaps are intentional, they are motivators, spurning you forward to check out 22 Words and see what Abraham Piper and his son Orison have to say via the world wide web.

Thank you Barnabas and Abraham for sharing a little bit of your family with guys like me.

. . . . . . .

Below is a list of some of my favorite John Piper books, just in case you have recently fled from an Amish community or Buddhist mountain temple compound and have never been exposed to John Piper (if you are in this category of individuals: 1. Congrats on figuring out the internet and 2. You need to buy these books and read them, like yesterday).

Desiring God

What to Do When You Don’t Desire God

God is the Gospel

Pleasures of God

Swans are Not Silent Biographical Series (scroll down to bottom of link for full series)

Let the Nations Be Glad: the Supremacy of God in Missions

Hunger for God

spotlight: more music gratis and my new favorite human being

December 19, 2008 Leave a comment

bboilenDave Ainsworth has just skyrocketed from his humble status as a friendly acquaintance and ‘friend of a friend’ to his new rank as my new ‘favorite human being’.

How can one man move up through the ranks of friendship with such unparalleled speed and voracity?

Two words: music gratis (free music)

It is now time to let Dave work his hoodooo voodoo friendship magic on each and every one of you.

Without further ado, check out this diamond encrusted, golden gleaming  comment left on my post ‘music gratis: Bon Iver ‘myspace transmissions’‘:

Such a great song. (Bon Iver’s ‘Skinny Love’)

If you’re looking for great free music, subscribe to the All Songs Considered Live Concert Podcast on iTunes and then download their old concerts.

I have free, full-length concerts on my iPod for Radiohead (2+ hours!), RaRaRiot, Fleet Foxes, Brandon’s precious Explosions in the Sky and Iron and Wine, and your Bon Iver, and others.

I also subscribe to the All Songs Considered Show, which is excellent.

I love Bob Boilen.

I love Dave Ainsworth.  I don’t care who knows it. I don’t care who hears those words usher forth from my lips.  I love the man.

Heed his advice, click the links, and while you are at it, throw him some blog love by checking him out at the writteninaforest blog.

. . . . . . .

Addendum: it is likely, if not certain, that my daughter, Abbey, and wife, Beth, will be making a return to the top of my list of favorite human beings when we go get another ultrasound at the doctor this afternoon.

Just sayin’.