Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Alexa Grace's Birth Story

BY FAITH
As we drove up the Thompson canyon to the Estes Park marriage conference, Travis joked about how having a baby in the canyon would make a great story, and I just said how I didn’t want a good story; I just wanted to get to the hospital.  Neither of us knew these would be famous last words. 
We were planning on rooming with Mom and Dad Grove, but after hearing Mark Darling on Friday night, Travis and I found out we had our own hotel room in Best Western.  We headed over, had a snack, talked about what we learned, and went to sleep.  It was a fitful night’s sleep, with me reading my Bible at 3:00am in the bathroom about obedience being better than burnt offerings.  Around 4:45am I woke up again, and prayed in bed if I was in labor, God would make it clear.  I kept tossing and turning, so at 5am I whispered to Travis I was moving to the other bed so I wouldn’t keep him up.  As I walked to the other bed, I felt a trickle and, after checking in the bathroom, announced to Travis I was pretty sure my water just broke.  Unbeknownst to me, Travis was skeptical, but agreed we needed to head down the mountain.  After gathering up our things, picking up my mom and checking with Rachel if she did indeed want to come with us, all four of us were off. 
Travis drove quickly but carefully down the mountain and we did our homework of reading Psalm 119 together.  This helped me not just focus on my contractions which were 3-5 minutes apart, lasting for about 30 seconds.  As we approached Fort Collins, we swung quickly in our house and headed to PVH.  After checking in, and confirming my water did break, we geared up as labor quickly intensified.  Travis had many great verses to read to me; Hebrews 4:16 being a favorite.  Another of God’s answered prayers was the nurse He gave us I knew from teen conferences growing up.  She attends the Summitivew church in Loveland, and was an amazing help!  My mom was also amazing rubbing my head, getting anything that was necessary, or just giving Travis and I time together.  Rachel was also faithfully praying and helping during the final parts of labor.  As Travis continued to pray for me, hug me, help and encourage me, we got to transition and ready to push.  At 9:18 she literally came flying out.  She came out screaming and did not stop for completely for some time which helped us narrow down her name to Alexa which mean “Defender of Mankind.”  Her middle name Grace is in honor of our dear friend Grace Wieman as well as a good reminder to us both how we desperately needs God’s grace daily as we seek to live our lives for His glory. 
Now, a few weeks later, as I reflect on another amazing birth story, I am once again struck with God’s faithfulness to answer specific prayers.  First of all, Alexa Grace was born healthy.  She was also born in less time than Tessa (4 hours and 18 minutes from when my water broke,) but we got to the hospital with two hours to spare. J  By God’s grace, this labor also came without a C-section, episiotomy, or other drugs.  I was also able to start labor rested (kind of J) we had a great Doctor and nurses, I was full-term, Travis and I were united during labor and I’m pretty sure I was respectful (but you can ask Travis.)  Alexa has been a good latcher for eating and gained back her birth weight in less than a week.  Now, I can move on to prayers for transition and wisdom with each moment of each day, but I don’t want to forget how God moved on behalf of our prayers for Alexa Grace Neidert.  She is a precious gift and reward from the Lord!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hope Springs Eternal

BY TRAVIS
This year two important holidays fall on consecutive days (a couple months ago two other important holidays fell on the SAME day, but I wrote about that in another post)

Of course I am talking about Easter (or Resurrection Sunday as some folks like to call it) on April 8 and Opening Day (or the Colorado Rockies First Home Game of the Season as technically correct folks like to call it) on April 9.

Opening Day is my favorite day on the sports calendar. It signifies everything as being new and fresh. Everything in the stadium from the restrooms to batting helmets are scrubbed clean and polished up in anticipation of a new year. All disappointments and failures from last year are forgotten.  Every team is 0-0 and every player is batting 1.000. No errors have been committed and there's potential for everybody to have a career year. For the next 6 months, 750 players from 30 teams will grind through 2430 games. Many will get tired, injured or demoted. But on Opening Day everybody is rested, healthy and full of hope.

And for the Christian, Easter is a reminder of many of  the same things.  Jesus rose from the dead to give every one of his children a fresh start. We no longer have to be weighed down by the failures of the past. We have been scrubbed clean and there is no longer a record of our past mistakes. Life is a long grind through the disappointing and the ordinary, but the resurrection makes every day a renewal of God's grace.

One of the most amazing events I've personally witness happened 19 years to the day before this year's Opening Day. As the first Rockies batter to ever take the plate in Colorado, Eric Young sent a long ball over the left field fence.  That moment is forever etched in my memory, but that "miracle" is meaningless compared to the real miracle of an empty tomb and eternal hope.

This should be a good weekend.

"There is no sports event like Opening Day of baseball, the sense of beating back the forces of darkness and the National Football League."--George Vecsey

"It's like Christmas except it's warmer."-- Pete Rose on Opening Day

he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,”—Titus 3:5

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl XLVI and Birthday XXXIII

BY TRAVIS
Super Bowl Sunday is my favorite holiday and here my annual recap of the afternoon’s most important aspects.

THE GAME
For a game that was such a tight, back-and-forth battle, this thing was pretty dull.  Everybody was out of their seats for the final 2 minutes, but that’s because it was a one-possession game.  Until then there was little energy or emotion to go around.  The epitomizing play was Ahmed Bradshaw accidently scoring the final touchdown by rolling on his butt while trying to NOT score.  New England let him score and he did barely enough to make it happen.  And thus went Super Bowl XLVI.

HALFTIME
The past two weeks many people have scoffed at Madonna playing halftime, but I thought she was a logical choice.  For more than a decade the NFL has tried to book megastars (with the exception of last year’s “Black Eye”).  There is a short list of true megastars and most have already done the Super Bowl.  The Queen of Pop was due her turn.

The performance was what we expected:  Mid-career hits with lots of background dancers.  Millions of Super Bowl parties simultaneously had the same “Who is that singing with her now?” conversation.   I didn’t like the muddled feel.  First was ancient Greece , then high school cheerleaders and marching band, then a gospel choir.  C’mon Madonna, just pick one thing and go with it.

(One of the only megastars that have not played the Super Bowl starred in the worst  commercial this year. I predict him to be performing next year.)

THE ADS
It was a strong year for auto commercials.  If I were ranking my Top 10, most would be for cars, but I only have the drive to write about the Top 3.

VOLKSWAGON—This was actually a double ad.  The fat dog was pretty funny, but then it switched to the Star Wars cantina and a reference back to last year’s (overrated) VW commercial.  Big points for that twist.
CHRYSLER—A halftime performance by somebody OLDER than Madonna.  A full two minutes long and more powerful than most movies Clint Eastwood has made in my lifetime.  It’s being overanalyzed for possible political messages (another auto bailout?), but it got me pumped up for America’s second half...whatever that means. 
CHEVY—Chevy says this is not halftime for America.  It’s actually the end.  Barry Manilow…Twinkies…Raining frogs.  I liked it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

BY FAITH
As I prayed through Day 26 from a 30 days of prayer for the Voiceless, I have become convinced, that without Jesus Christ, women will never be treated well. I have prayed for rape, incest, abortion, eating disorders, prostitution, dowries, genital mutilation, pornography, barren women, human trafficking, child prostitution, China, Pakistan, the purdah (complete body covering for Muslim women) and more. It has been sobering, angering, and has overwhelmed me as to what can be done to stop these atrocities.

While praying, I have found myself needing to pray for all parties involved to be wrapped in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without people recognizing that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them….God saw all that he had made and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:26 and 31a), there will never be equality. Women are seen as commodities to be sold or used to bear children. When female children enter the world in these countries, they are seen as a burden to feed or are never given the chance for life because their life is taken while still in the womb or they are left to die shortly after birth. “Every year, up to 3 million women lose their lives as a result of gender-based violence or neglect.” (htttp://www.yepakistan.com/people/missing_women.asp In America, where our heritage is based on a fear of the Lord, and as women, we have equal rights to education and life, but if Jesus is not the center, women are used where “might makes right” and seen as sexual objects or are forced to try and be “better men than men” to succeed.

As Tessa is 20 months old, and another girl on the way, I pray to be able to raise them to see their intrinsic value as a women. They are different than men, but completely equal and made in the image of God to represent part of God’s character. But, both men and women are stricken with the sickness of selfishness and sin. These sins lead to the atrocities listed above, but praise God for loving us enough in our depravity to send Jesus Christ to rescue us from ourselves. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” (John 3:16-17 the Message).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Books of 2011

BY TRAVIS
Sometime last summer I realized I had been reading more books than usual.  I decided to start writing down the books I read. Now it’s the time of year when every media outlet publishes year-end lists so here is my list of 2011 books in the order I read them. I realize 14 books in a year might not be a lot for some people, but it’s probably triple my personal average. I’ll include my thoughts and a grade for each one.

Ministries of Mercy (Tim Keller)—Very practical insight for Benevolence Ministries. It addresses several key balances to guide deacons (i.e. Conditional vs. Unconditional giving) and contains a lot of Biblical, realistic insight for helping the needy. A

Decision Points (George W. Bush)—A good recap of American history 2001-2009.  I gained more respect for Mr. Bush and a better understanding of the office of the president in general. A-

Child Training Tips(Reb Bradley)—As the title implies, it’s pretty heavy on the nuts & bolts with a strong emphasis on “what” and “how”, but very little about “why”. It doesn’t pretend to be anything more.  Bottom Line: Say it once and expect obedience. B+

The Great Gain of Godliness (Thomas Watson)—I read this for Men’s Spring Training 2011. Yes, it’s hard to grasp 250 year old verbiage, but I did understand several clear principles on gaining a proper fear of God. Convicting. B

Family Driven Faith (Voddie Baucham )—We read this as a D-Team.  It is loosely written, but Voddie is passionate about getting families to persevere in following Jesus.  Family devotionals is one habit the Neidert family has applied after reading this book. B

48 Days to the Work You Love (Dan Miller)—Pretty standard job seeking advice. I probably would have liked it more had I actually been seeking a job while reading. C+

Crazy Love  (Francis Chan)—Covers many topics from God’s nature to bold gospel sharing to sacrificial giving to the needy (ironically, I read it on a cruise ship).  Overall, the most challenging book on this list. A

Bringing Up Girls (James Dobson)—A mishmash book of different articles and transcripts Dobson has collected. Some chapters really resonated with me…others not so much. Overall it stirred my heart for what it means to lead a little girl. It also pointed out some potential major blind spots. B+

End of Days Survival Guide (Philip Mackey)—Written by the husband of a friend of Faith’s.  It took me a couple chapters to be sure that it is total satire and not at all meant to be taken seriously.  After that, I appreciated some of the humor, but it loses major points for parts that mock Biblical end times. D

Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl (N.D. Wilson)—I’m a pretty concrete guy.  This is a pretty abstract book. C

Radical (David Platt)—Very similar to Crazy Love in theme, subject matter, style and length. As I think back there are some points which I can’t even remember which book I read them in. However,  I think Chan did slightly better (but that might be just because I read Crazy Love first) A-

The Prodigal God (Tim Keller)—The only repeat author on this list and also the shortest book.  I was very challenged and convicted by this book. I am an “elder brother” in every sense. This should be required reading for any person who has been (or thinks they have been) a Christian for more than 5 years.  A+

The Act of Marriage (Timothy and Beverly LaHaye)—I read large parts of this book the month of our wedding and put it back on the shelf. It’s a COMPELETELY different book now. B+

Blink (Malcolm Gladwell)—A pop psychology book that has me overanalyzing my own subconscious decision making process.  The first half was interesting, but then the repetition got annoying.  One would think a book about snap judgments wouldn’t have to belabor each point. C+

Note: This list doesn’t include dozens of titles such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? and God Makes Nighttime Too which I’ve read dozens of times each (and in some cases memorized). 2011 was a high water mark for these types of books as well, but they have been omitted from this post for my own sanity’s sake.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Next 30 Years

BY TRAVIS
(Sorry, this post has nothing to do with any Tim McGraw song)
Sometimes it can be a struggle for me to expect something fresh out of a teaching about Christmas.  How many times can I hear about shepherds and wise men?  Part of this morning’s teaching was semi-familiar territory about Mary and the downright terrifying circumstances she endured before and immediately after the birth of Jesus.  But it got me thinking, what was the next 30 years like?

Most houses (and some business the ACLU hasn’t gotten around to suing yet) have some sort of nativity scene displayed in December.  Everybody knows that story, but what happened next?  We have very little information about what happened to Jesus or his parents between the stable in Bethlehem and the wedding in Cana some 30 years later.

Given what we do know and making reasonable assumptions to fill in the gaps a likely timeline was something like this:  Jesus was a human baby who did all the things normal human babies do. He had to learn basic life skills and experienced all the pain and frustration that comes with living on earth.  At least two younger brothers were born.  All along he endured the stigma of being a bastard son and everybody in the community knew about his promiscuous mother.

This is where Mary’s faith was really stretched. Her eldest son was without sin and I’m sure that impacted her.  He also displayed deep wisdom (Luke 2:51-52), but there was no solid event that she could point to and prove to herself and others that this boy was in fact the Messiah.  The promise that he “will be called the Son of the Most High” and “reign over the house of Jacob forever” must have seemed like a distant memory most of the time.

Or what about Joseph?  It’s most likely he died sometime during Jesus’ teenage or 20-something years never seeing a single miracle or hearing a single sermon by the boy he raised.  He was ridiculed too.  Did he ever start to doubt the assurance he had received during his engagement?

Nevertheless, there is no evidence that Joseph and Mary ever lost trust in the promise they had received.  They heard it once and held it as truth for the rest of their lives.

God has promised me many things too. Unfortunately I have trouble remembering or believing them in the long term.  He has told me that what I ask for in prayer I will receive (Mark 11:24), but I pray with timidity. He has told me his word is living and active (Heb. 4:12), but I approach it with scant enthusiasm.  He has promised me peace because he has overcome the world (John 16:33), but I get frustrated when my browser gets some bug that makes it crash repeatedly.

When I feel like I’ve been waiting for a long time for God to make good on a promise I should try to remember the trust displayed by Jesus’ earthly parents.  If Mary had owned a copy of the NT I’m sure she would underlined Philippians 1:6  “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Modern Corinth

BY TRAVIS
This past Wednesday morning I read 1 Corinthians 5. The main points from the chapter are:

• A rebuke to the church for tolerating sexual sin
• A warning that the sins of one person can devastate many lives like yeast working through dough
• A command to not associate with immoral people who call themselves believers

After reading I closed the Bible, said a quick prayer of reflection. Five minutes later I started my car for my short drive to work. I heard the last few minutes of a morning show interview of a campaign strategist. She was contemplating if Herman Cain could regain his poll numbers after four allegations of sexual harassment. The commentators expressed skepticism of everything his campaign has said.

They moved from that story to an update on the Penn State situation. The disgusting acts of one individual have led to the devastation of a major university’s reputation; the destruction of several careers and worse of all damaged the lives of many young men.

Next there was a quick blurb about Justin Bieber agreeing to a paternity test and then I was at the office parking lot.

Walking to the door I thought back about what I had just read and heard. The world has glorified sex as the ultimate pleasure without consequences, but the consequences push through incessantly. Even if these accusations are false, the destruction of lives are brought by associating with the “greedy” and “slanderers” (also warned in 1 Cor 5)

Biblical wisdom is mocked and ignored. Many, many people consider Christian sexual values to be restrictive and obsolete. Few people consider the results of rejecting these “stuffy rules”. Abortion, adultery, rape, incest, homosexuality, pornography, prostitution and molestation are what is left when God’s standards are ignored.

Paul’s warning and exhortations were made 2000 years ago and it is amazing how relevant they are today—even in a 5 minute news cast. The world still has the same problems and the Bible is still the only answer.