Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Thoughts on Churches Inspired By Christmas

We're here in Greenville with my family for Christmas.  Yesterday evening we went to Greenville ARP Church for the Christmas Eve service.  This is the church where I was a member for many years until I married and moved away.

This time has made me think about the nature of churches, both old and new.

Being part of a church plant is hard.  It opens your eyes to many things: for example just starting a Sunday school is difficult.  Redeemer don't have a good facility for it, nor enough numbers for sizeable classes, much less identified teachers and curriculum.  And the ongoing problem for church plants is here too: we don't have an established practice to run with, just experiences each of us have had from other churches.  But all that has to come together to make Sunday school happen, and your people need to make that happen.  Also, we're largely transplants to the area.  Thus, many if not most of us travel for major holidays, leaving our numbers lower at various times of the year.

A church like Greenville ARP has a very different feel.  The church is nearly 100 years old, has had ups and downs, but is currently growing, has a good facility (in fact seems to be maxing out), and plenty of organization, groups and activities.  I've been essentially gone since graduating high school nearly 20 years ago, but I'm still recognized by many there and some in the youth group are still there as parents themselves.

The thing is, Greenville ARP (like every church) started as a plant at some point.  I don't know the history, but it must have started with all the uncertainty, doubt, and messy-ness I'm feeling now.  Those planting a church don't know if it will fold soon, fold after they're dead, fall into bad theology, or flourish to 30, 60, or 100 fold in terms of people and years.  We plant in hope and prayer that the Lord would be pleased to use Redeemer to disciple a flock right now, and for it to continue as a witness of His grace to the time and place where it exists.

I suppose the situation of the early church was similar to a church plant - the fear and doubt of starting something new, no nursery plan, etc.  However, look at how the Church has spread over the world.  There is good reason to hope for one more part of the body of Christ to be established in a place. 

Another thought I'd like to share is the beauty of a long faithful history.  The Christmas Eve service brought that home to my heart yesterday.  There was a comfort sitting there and seeing so many familiar faces and knowing many have served in this one church for decades.  In our mobile society (and my own multi-state life), that is a feeling of groundedness and "home" I long for.  

Seeing the elders serve communion added to this sense of faithful history.  I recognized many of them, yet there were new faces there as well.  Knowing some of them personally still, and seeing them still serving communion to the people was a moving and beautiful thing.

Even some liturgical forms they use put me in mind of faithful service.  Greenville ARP serves communion by having the elders pass the plates of elements along the pews.  Perhaps it was my perspective of sitting in the balcony, but I noticed that each elder had to bend over or "bow" at each row to give or take the plates.  It served as a picture of their service to the congregation, not lording over them but lovingly serving them communion.  Another picture of service is in how the pastor is served communion.  After the elders serve the congregation, the pastor serves the elders, then elders serve the pastor.  This communicates that each of us needs to be served - no one can serve grace to themselves.  Greenville ARP has done this as long as I remember, and the picture painted there always strikes me.

This Christmas is bittersweet.  The world seems a terrible place with much evil and sin.  Our church plant seems small and an introvert like me struggles with hospitality and reaching out to others.  This is also likely the last Christmas with my dad alive as ALS ravages his body.  And yet, there is beauty in many places: faithful people, good family, and loving churches.  Memories, such as of my own father serving communion  as an elder help as well.  My faith is not in these things, but they point me to the body and blood of Christ, still held out by sinners to other sinners.  Whether we, our family, or our local church stands or passes away, we must pursue faithfulness to our God today.  

Merry Christmas, and I encourage you whatever your circumstance to look for beauty and faithfulness, but most of all to "Behold your King."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Theorems of the Paci

Having experience with three children now, I would like to put forward some theorems on the physics of pacifiers (pacis, binkies, etc.). These are all based on my observations.

Theorem of Paci Uncertainty: It is not possible to know the location of all pacis designated for a single child at any given point in time.

Theorem of Paci Induced Equilibrium: It is necessary to know the location of at least one paci at any given time in order to sustain equilibrium. If no pacis have a current known location, one must be located in order to ensure equilibrium can be achieved.

Theorem of the Paci Property of Substitution: When the location of one paci becomes unknown, the location of that paci will not again be known until another paci has been located first.

Theorem of States of the Paci: A paci may exist in a continuum of subjective states of cleanliness, which are only able to be evaluated by the observer (parent). The state determines whether the paci is suitable to use to restore equilibrium. Some factors affecting the evaluation of the state of the paci include experience of the observer, gender of the observer, subjective evaluation of the cleanliness state of the location where the paci has fallen, application of the "three second rule," average hours of sleep the observer has experienced that week, and how far away the system is from equilibrium.

I hope these thoughts help parents pursue further study regarding the paci.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Philip's Birth Adventure

First, the announcement for those who may not have seen: Philip McLeland Nickles was born 12/16/2010 at 1:46 pm. He weighed 9 lbs even and measured 20 3/4 in. long.

Tuesday, 12/14 - Appointment with doctor. Everything looked fine, and she seemed indifferent regarding an induction at that point. While I had an overall good induction experience with Lydia, I wanted to avoid that with Philip. However, the weather was weighing heavily on my mind. The previous weekend, we had a few inches of snow - it wasn't too bad, but, at the worst of it, going to the hospital would have been difficult and getting the kids to SC would've been even more so. Sad to say, the weather motivated me to schedule an induction for 12/17 (I wanted 12/16, but it was unavailable :) ).

Wednesday, 12/15 - Stephen and Lydia go to Greenville that afternoon. Lee and I decide to have a date night - dinner at Nick and Nate's (I have the spicy Kickin' Chicken sandwich in my last effort to move things along) and a movie (Harry Potter!). We drove home through wintry mix and slushy roads.

Thursday, 12/16 - c. 4 am, I awake with back pain - walking, water, etc have no effect. I was thinking this was it! By 6:00, I can no longer walk around and get my last minute things done. My contractions' strength and spacing are such that I decide to call at 7:30 and not wait for the office to open; midwife calls back and tells me to head to hospital.

8:00 or so, Lee has loaded and warmed car, and helps me over the super slick ice that is our yard to car. That's when we looked at the road and saw ice! Not thin, difficult-to-see ice, but thick ice that Lee could break into large chunks. Our road has quite a slope; icy slopes and our vehicles don't mix. The temp was almost 32 at this point.

Lee shovels the road - I think mainly to have something to do - until he realizes there's no way. I call Labor and Delivery and tell the nurse that we're not on our way and then lie down to try to slow things down.

Around 10:00 - Lee sees that road's ice is beginning to melt but will still be a while. He decides to call 911.

15 minutes later - The Cullowhee rescue squad begins to arrive. Very quickly there are least 5 male strangers around me in my living room listening to me talk about my contractions.

Soon after that - 4wd ambulance arrives. By this point, I definitely need help walking outside. Two people help me to the ambulance. Meanwhile, Lee is scrambling to move essential bags from the car to the ambulance. Lee rode in the front, but I must have asked 5 times whether he was there - we were NOT leaving without him!

On the way down our road - Lee realizes that the traffic resulting from our 911 call cleared our road enough for him to drive down in our car. Oh well.

11:00 - We arrive at the hospital. I am 7cm dilated. Labor continues naturally (another blog post to follow).

1:46 pm - Philip McLeland Nickles is born!! Whew!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

One Month Old!

In honor of Philip's one-month birthday on Sunday, here are pics of all three at one month old.



Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: God's Technology video

My wife was given the opportunity to download a free copy of God's Technology, a video about training our children to rightly use digital technology. It is produced by HeadHeartHand and features David Murray, a professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Here is a review.

Dr. Murray presents some guiding principles in how Christians should think about digital technology and some practical steps to guide children to learn how to use them.

Some things I particularly appreciated:
  • He points to God as the ultimate source of digital technology and social media, and that He is to be thanked for them. 
  • Training our children in how to use digital technology doesn't just focus on behavior, but on the heart. He encouraged interaction with our children about their online habits, both good and bad. 
  • Digital monitoring tools are good supplements, but do not replace in person supervision, interacting, and good modeling.
As for the production, it is clean and professional. The visuals support the talk well without being distracting. My one complaint is putting in the animated clip about social networks in the middle of this video. I'm not sure it is necessary, and going between different production styles is jarring.

Overall though, I recommend the video for the practical advice that can be used with any age child on godly use of digital technology.