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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Blog Moving Notice

In the interest of doing some more fancy stuff with our blog (like categories and other fun stuff), we're moving this blog over to our own host. Future posts will be posted at DingHome.net. All of our old posts and this blogspot site will remain (though we won't be adding new posts here).

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Training My Children to Sit Still

My Taming the Hurricane in the House post raised a question in the comments section on how I got to the point where kids could sit still while I made dinner.

The short answer is, "Practice, practice, practice."

Here's the long answer:

When my oldest was 15 months old, I started training him to sit still. I placed him in a regular chair or a highchair. I then set a timer for five minutes. He was required to sit and not come down. Whenever he tried to come down, I told him "no" and then placed him back in the chair. I did this everyday and as he got better, I increased the time to 10 minutes. Slowly and surely we worked up to 30 minutes. Eventually we transitioned into listening to a sermon together every morning, and this lasted anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. On a humorous note, the sitting and listening sometimes resulted in something a little more... sedentary. This picture was taken after we'd listened to a sermon from John MacArthur:

We have continued with this even as we've had more kids, even though it is no longer an everyday occurrence. Seeing their big brother sitting still, the little ones have learned to sit as well. As you might expect, when he acts up, it can sometimes be a poor example as well. One thing we've noticed is a direct relationship between frequence of "practice" and their ability to do so.

It may sound like we have perfected this training but please rest assured that our children still struggle with sitting still. There are still many reminders and "no's" whenever they are required to sit. There are still many Sundays where we come out of church service disappointed or frustrated because our children did not sit well. They are still in training. The key is to be vigilant and persistent. In the meantime, I eagerly await the day when they surprise and delight me by sitting still with not a single reminder or word of correction.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Let's Give Our Children "Eden"

We are sometimes criticized for being over-protective of our children because we carefully monitor what they can or cannot watch, hear, or do. Over the years I have given this comment a lot of thought. Are we really being over-protective? Is being protective good or bad? Are we sheltering our children in a way that hinders their growth instead of promoting it?

Whenever we hear the word "over-protective" or "shelter," it conjures up a negative connotation instead of positive. What I'd like to argue for is a positive connotation. It is a good thing to protect and shelter our children from harm. We see it even in nature where mama bear will fight and protect her cub should her baby be in any harm. One would think intuitively being a protective parent is a good thing when the children are young. However, as children move toward adulthood, it is not healthy if the parents are still protecting and sheltering in the same fashion.

I often wonder why parents don't send their two year olds on their own to cross the street? Why do they need to hold their hands all the time? Why can't the children be exposed to the reality of the street? Questioning this seems absurd. Of course you want to keep your children from physical harm. How is this different from keeping them from emotional and spiritual harm?

Because we are a homeschooling family, we were occasionally asked how our children will learn to deal with the unfairness of the world when they are grown if they are not going to face the playground bully at school while young. Believe me, I didn't make this question up. From what I know, children who were bullied while young often carry this scar with them up to adulthood. There are even programs in public schools to reduce this kind of activity — which seems to contradict the idea that we should expose our children to it (see here and here)! This doesn't prepare them for the unfairness of the world. In fact, it can cripple them. My goal is to shelter and protect my children while they are still children so as to better equip them for the world when they are grown up. As another example, why is that we send people to boot camp before they are sent out to fight in a war? Why can't we just send out anyone who wants to fight without any boot camp? The reason is obvious: the soldiers need training first before they can be sent out to the actual war. Likewise, our children need proper training and upbringing before they can be effective in the world — especially as ambassadors and soldiers for Christ.

My goal at this stage in my children's lives is to "give them Eden," a phrase borrowed from John Mark Reynolds of Biola University. The Garden of Eden represents the most perfect and beautiful place where truth, beauty, and goodness reign. Instead of exposing my children to the ugliness of this world, I want to give them Eden. When they are ready, they will surely learn about the reality of this world. Children who are exposed to the ugliness of this world early on tend to be disillusioned and have a difficult time appreciating beauty when they are grown. In other words, their worldview has been tainted and they carry with them a distorted view of the world — which can hinder them from appreciating true beauty.

My main point is that we want to do as much protecting and sheltering by giving our children "Eden" while they are young. As they mature, we will carefully unfold the realities of this world to them and trust God to enable to live discerningly with the tools we've given them by then.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Taming the Hurricane in the House

No, I'm not talking about the recently begun hurricane season in the Gulf Coast region. We live in sunny Northern California where all we have to fear is the "big quake" which will hit someday. That's okay, though. Even that is in God's hands.

I'm talking about the hurricane otherwise known as my kids.

Just over a month ago, I delivered a baby and Evers started a month of family leave to help at home. Now he is back at work and I've resumed my daily duties. This evening I found it difficult to make dinner with the kids running around and playing wildly. It finally dawned on me (yes, it takes a while now to remember things) that I can have the kids sit still while I make dinner. We've been training the kids to sit still for the purpose of sitting with us during church service as well as training for self-control.

So here's what I did: I had all three children (the baby was asleep at the time) sit in separate chairs, away from each other so they don't try to play with each other. I then set a recently purchased kitchen timer for 15 minutes. They did fabulously! I was so proud. My only regret was that I didn't set the timer for longer. I really think they could sit for 30 minutes or more. While I made dinner, they sat and sang. When their voices got too loud, I told them to quiet down. I'm very happy that we've started this type of training now because it is quite a daunting task to care for four young children, all four and under without implementing some means of keeping them from getting out of control!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Kids can understand a LOT!

It's often been said that one should never underestimate what children understand and learn.

My four-year-old boy Matthew is great at proving that axiom. Here's a couple of examples from the past two days:
  • Yesterday the family came to the office to attend a baby shower thoughtfully put together by my co-workers to celebrate our new baby girl (and my return to the office). As we were preparing to board the elevator, Matthew ran over to the opening door. Inside there were already people going down. Instead of simply waiting outside or running inside, he instead stood right by the opening and extended just his arm to block the door. He knew that doing so would hold the door open by by triggering safety sensors. He then hollered, "Hurry up, Dad!" As I got in, one of the people in the elevator marveled that so small a child would understand how to do that! She said, "When he first put his arm, I thought he was playing! But he actually knew to keep the door open that way. I don't think I'd ever have known how to do that at his age!"

  • This afternoon, when Lois was cutting up a pastry for him to eat, she reports that he told her, "Mommy, don't cut yourself. The knife is sharp and you need to be careful." As she put it later, he talks just like us!
All the more reason to be extra watchful about the behavior that we exemplify for our children. That he is so quick a study also reminds me of how easily he can also learn ugly habits like anger, envy and discontent. May they instead learn not only "clever tricks" and smart safety tips, but also a love for the gospel every single day!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Happy (One Month) Birthday Calissa!

Our youngest little child, Calissa, turned one month old today! To be honest, I've been so focused on caring for the three older kids that I've barely spent much time cuddling up with her. So ironically, when Lois had an appointment this morning that left me with all four, I finally made some time to focus on Calissa. First giving her a bath, then dressing her up in a cute little outfit. She really is a cutie. What a blessing God has put into our family.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

CD Review: Worship God Live

I spent the last month or so listening to Sovereign Grace Music's latest release, Worship God Live. This album was recorded, as the title suggests, during a live worship and song session at Covenant Life Church in Maryland. Bob Kauflin, who serves as Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries, provided the CD for review without cost via an offer on his thoughtful Worship Matters blog.

As I've come to expect from worship music coming from Sovereign Grace, I was impressed by the substance and gospel-centeredness of the songs on the album. All of the songs were written by members of Sovereign Grace churches. The gospel-richness of the songs was typified by the chorus of Jesus, Thank You:
Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank You
How often do songs speak of the satisfaction of the wrath of the Father in the cross? Such clear and faithful declarations of the truths of the gospel were embodied in the songs of the album. Listening to these songs left me with little question that bringing these into a corporate worship context would help guide the congregation into reflecting on the glory of God in Christ.

One thing I'm always looking for as a song leader is songs that will help a congregation sing as one, rather than as merely a number of individuals in the same room. While there's certainly a place for hymns speaking of "I" and "me;" it's equally important that God is saving for Himself a people, and the church is the Body of Christ made up of interconnected members. When we come together as the church, it's a unique time and context for singing as the people of God and not just a bunch of persons. Therefore, I always look for songs for the church to sing together that acknowledge our oneness in Christ. The songs in particular that I liked along these lines were God Moves (an update of William Cowper's hymn with an added chorus of "... God, we trust in You..."), Receive The Glory, the upbeat How Majestic, and, of course, the updated version of O God, Our Help in Ages Past.

I also felt that nearly all of the arrangements were fitting to the lyrics. That is, too often, it seems folks think one can take any lyrics and drop some fast rock beat on without any effect on the ability to appreciate the lyrics. That kind of thinking is equivalent to thinking one could simply take the original lyrics of And Can It Be and put them to rap without taking away from the hymn's "usability" in congregational worship. I think not. In general, the album did a good job pairing meaningful lyrics with appropriate musical arrangements. In particular, I liked the album's redux of O God, Our Help in Ages Past. (Sovereign Grace, in general, has done some very tasteful and high-quality "updates" of very good hymns. The Upward album showcases some excellent examples of this.)

One area I felt the album fell short was the very prominent presence of percussion and other instruments in the production. The band/instruments were audible to the point of taking away from the ability to discern and appreciate the lyrics. I actually had to turn down the treble on my stereo in order to reduce the "noise." I tried to capture this in a short audio clip, which first features a "flat" EQ version followed by toning down the high-end treble. This is just a personal preference, but it seems altogether too common in churches these days that the worship band/instruments are very audible and the congregation's "voice" seems lost amidst the performance. I think the recording would've been better with less emphasis on the high-end percussion sound (snares/hi-hat) and electric guitar(s). Oddly enough, I didn't really perceive this as a problem listening to some of my older Sovereign Grace live recordings from the now discontinued "Come and Worship" series such as Depth of Mercy. In that album, the voices were very prominent and the instruments were in the background as I think they should be in congregational worship. To grant benefit of doubt, recordings can only capture a snippet of the actual experience. And this complaint is relatively minor, since it's something I can correct with some equalizer tweaking.

Perhaps a more serious complaint is that the style of worship leading seems much more performance-oriented than to accompanying an average congregation. Namely, when listening to a studio-recorded session of "worship songs," I fully expect a number of creative insertions, solo variations, etc. But the more I listened to this album and tried to "worship along," the more I was distracted by a number of musical interludes and segues between verses in which the worship team members were singing their own solos. If you've listened to any common live "rock" worship albums, of course, you probably know what I mean. If not, here's a sample audio clip from one of my otherwise better-liked songs on the album, Jesus, Thank You. The question I asked myself was, "What would I do while these worship bands were singing their little solos? Would I watch and wait 'til they sync'ed up? Would I sing my own solo amidst a congregation? Or would I just watch and listen to them?" Since the last seemed most likely, it seemed to violate for me a core principle of worship/song leading: don't be the center of attention. Of course, I recognize that the congregation at Covenant Life is likely accustomed to this style — and that overrides my personal concerns. Perhaps it's due to their continuationist preferences. But in general, this style seems indicative of an unhealthy trend of performance-oriented "worship leading" that's more common than not, especially among churches trying to emulate "successful" mega-churches.

All in all, the pluses outweighed the minuses of the album. I wouldn't try to emulate the worship leading style of the band(s) in the album. But the songs themselves commend themselves to be introduced to congregational worship for any church interested in new songs that are full of the gospel, of Christ, and of a passion and zeal for the glory of God. Amidst so many options for so-called worship music that is far more self-centered than God-centered, this album is a great choice. That Sovereign Grace makes all the sheet music and chord sheets available on their website for free download speaks volumes of their desire to make sure song leaders can use these great songs within their own congregations. I'd encourage any song leaders to purchase the album and pick up song sheets for songs that they think would work for their congregation.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Baby Care Web Page Updated

I updated our Baby Care page and made the following changes:
  • New diaper cover information
  • Updated diaper washing instructions
  • Yogurt making

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Book Review Preview: Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands

I've recently begun reading
Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change
by Paul David Tripp. I hope to put a book review together upon completion. So far I've found it to be a very well-written and compelling book. The thesis of the book, in essence, is that too often Christians assume that "counseling" in the church is the domain of professionals. This assumption is too often fed by an unbiblical view of the pastoral ministry as *the* "ministry" -- when in fact, the saints themselves are the ministers and pastors are called simply to equip them to do it.

Having read the first 1/4 of the book, I've been impressed especially by Tripp's emphasis that preceding counseling -- informal and formal -- there must be proper understanding of what causes behavior, namely, the *heart*. He uses a number of helpful autobiographical examples to drive home this point.

One thing he points out a number of times which rang especially true is that too few Christian marriage, family and relationship books spend any time talking about the core causes underlying conflict and problems, i.e., the desires of our hearts. Much energy in these books and counseling is spent on improving communication, etc. But as he points out wisely, the problem is often not merely failing to communicate effectively with another person, but our own fallen hearts. As I've thought on a number of occasions, it's not other people who make me angry -- it's my own sinful heart. After all, Jesus in his perfect manhood would still never have sinned even under the duress of my life. It seems vain to even hint at it, given his holy response to the suffering of the cross. The point is, my sinful heart at the core of my problems -- not the external stimuli that reveal my heart.

In any case, Lord willing, I'll finish this book within the millenium and be able to offer a review.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Calissa being adored by her brothers

Well, at least, I think it's being "adored." Either that, or they're driven by immense curiosity.

And here's proof she firmly belongs in the Ding family: on day three she's a thumbsucker just like the rest!!!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A couple more photos of Calissa

And Then There Were Four!

We gratefully announce the arrival of our fourth child, a little girl named Calissa Jane Ding. Her name is derived from the Greek word "kalos" which means "beautiful" or "good."

She was born on May 19, 2006 at 11:54 pm. Her initial stats: 7 lbs 8 oz and 18 inches long.

Oddly enough, this was Lois' longest labor yet. Her contractions began at 6:30am and continued into the evening with little progress. By then we'd checked into the hospital because Lois' water broke in the noon hour. We made a difficult decision at 9:30pm -- after 15 hours of inconsistent contractions -- to have a light drip of pitosin administered to accelerate her seemingly stalled and ineffectual labor. That did the trick (yikes!) and within 2+ hours, we had our baby girl. Through it all, as with her other two deliveries, she did it without any anesthesia.

What makes this day particularly notable is that it's also our fifth wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary, babe. Though arguably the toughest one! We'll have to do a make-up date soon...

Thank you Lord. Bless this little girl! And God bless her momma for an amazing job enduring a long and at times discouraging labor.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Some resources on feminine modesty

In a previous post I mentioned a couple of good resources on gospel-motivated feminine modesty. If you haven't read that post, I'd encourage you to first visit and download an excellent message from C.J. Mahaney titled "The Soul of Modesty."

Here are a few more recent blog-links that discuss this topic helpfully:

From the Mahaney girltalk blog
From the PyroTeam blog

Brothers and sisters, I encourage you all to take some time to consider this subject.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Two adorable and handsome boys...

... though I might be slightly biased.

And in case you missed it, a couple of months ago our Emmaline had photos taken as well!

Win a microscope from Spunky!

Spunky is giving away a Benz Microscope and Apologia Biology Set this week. Click Here to get the details.