30 March 2013

2013 brackets: Sweet Sixteen update

Oh, this round ruined my bracket! I knew I shouldn't have gloated so much. :o) At least I'm still beating Chris overall, which is my ultimate goal. Here are the latest rankings (in order of ESPN points standing):

3-5 in Sweet Sixteen
37-19 overall

Jon (Grandpa Hromada)
3-5 in Sweet Sixteen
36-20 overall

Connie (Mommaw Clark)
3-5 in Sweet Sixteen
35-21 overall

4-4 in Sweet Sixteen
34-22 overall

3-5 in Sweet Sixteen
34-22 overall

Shirley (Grandma Hromada)
3-5 in Sweet Sixteen
32-24 overall

3-5 in Sweet Sixteen
26-30 overall

26 March 2013

BSF 2012-2013: Genesis 34-36

When Jacob and Esau parted ways last week, Jacob led his family to Canaan. But he failed to bring them to the place God had called them. This disobedience led to more sin in Jacob’s family.

At the time of Genesis 34, Jacob’s oldest sons probably are in their early- to mid-20s, and his daughter Dinah is 13 to 15 years old. Dinah heads out to a pagan festival among the ungodly Shechemites. A few lessons here: Dinah should not have been alone in this situation. Her family did not train her about avoiding potentially troubling situations and did not help her by accompanying her to this ungodly place. We parents must train our children to be aware of the evil, worldly influences on their lives and encourage them to make Christians their closest and most trusted friends. Shouldn’t we do all we can do to safeguard our children and help them choose to follow God?

Shechem sees Dinah, takes her and rapes her. Then he tries to justify his actions by saying that he loves her. He shows no remorse for his actions or concern for Dinah’s feelings. Shechem asks his father, Hamor, to secure Dinah as Shechem’s wife.

Hamor suggests that his family intermarry with Jacob’s family and become “one people” (34:16, 22). This was the opposite of God’s will and plan for His people. He wanted His people to be different, to be set apart from those around them.

This still applies to Christians today. We must remain pure and set apart from the world. There must be a distinction between God’s people and unbelievers. Do I blend in with the world, or do I stand out as a Christian?

Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi respond to the situation by seeking revenge. They should have turned to God and trusted Him to judge Shechem. In deceit and with the intention of disabling the men in order to murder them, Simeon and Levi agree to intermarry with Shechem’s family if the men of his family agree to be circumcised. The townsmen agree. Three days later, Simeon and Levi attack the town. They kill every man, loot the city, take the women and children as plunder and take Dinah from Shechem’s house.

Circumcision was a sign of God’s promises to the Israelites. It set His people apart from the world. But Simeon and Levi used circumcision as a weapon. This showed that they didn’t value God and His promises for them.

Jacob is upset and fearful of the consequences of his sons’ sin. (Later God will instruct Jacob to curse these sons because of their actions.) Simeon and Levi justify their sins because Shechem treated Dinah like “a prostitute.” Vengeance belongs to God (Romans 12:19). We should trust God in the midst of our tragedies instead of taking action ourselves.

Simeon and Levi blame their sin on Shechem. We shouldn’t justify our own sins by placing the blame on someone else when it’s our fault. Sin is a choice each of us makes. Which sins do I soften or justify? Which excuses do I use for my sins? How does God want me to correct my sins?

Did Jacob do all he could do to lead his family to God? There’s no guarantee that by being a better spiritual influence, Jacob could have changed Simeon and Levi’s actions. But Jacob should have been a spiritual leader for his family. His leadership would have helped his family walk through this tragedy.

After this series of tragedies, Jacob determines to return to Bethel. But he realizes that he needs to cleanse his family first. Jacob sees that the only way he can get his family back to a right relationship with God is through confessing their sins and committing to change their behavior.

He instructs them to get rid of foreign idols, and he buries them to symbolize getting rid of these pagan practices. Jacob also tells his family to purify themselves (confess their sins) and change their clothes (a symbol of repentance, turning 180 degrees and going away from sin and toward God).

God’s terror falls upon the surrounding towns because He is protecting His children. They return to Bethel, build an altar and worship God.

God appears to Jacob for a fourth time, passing along His promises from Abraham to Jacob. He also confirms that Jacob’s new name is Israel. Then He directs Jacob to move on to Hebron.

This week’s lesson can be summed up with this principle from last night’s lecture: As Christians, we are called to be in the world but clearly live distinguished from it. To be distinct from the world, we Christians must choose to be imitators of Christ not imitators of the world. Otherwise, people won’t know if we are Christians or unbelievers. It should be obvious that we follow Christ.

What causes me to blend in with the world? Where have I pitched my tent near the world (Shechem) instead of God (Bethel)? What repentance is God calling from me? How will I take a stand and clearly live differently than the world?

Avery’s memory verse was:

My heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
Psalm 28:7 NIV

25 March 2013

2013 brackets: Third Round update

Boo-ya! I'm leading the pack! Here are the latest rankings (in order of ESPN points standing):

11-5 in Third Round
34-14 overall
I was perfect in the East but only had one right in the West.

Jon (Grandpa Hromada)
11-5 in Third Round
33-15 overall
Dad and I have the same 16 teams in the Sweet 16, although only 11 of them actually made it to this point in the tournament. I learned from the best! Since Avery was the only one in our group to choose the big upsets (LaSalle over Kansas State, Wichita State over Gonzaga and both Florida Gulf Coast wins), Grandpa says he will consult her next year on his picks. I'm not sure that's such a good idea!

Connie (Mommaw Clark)
10-6 in Third Round
32-16 overall

10-6 in Third Round
31-17 overall
Karen made a great jump in the rankings, overtaking Chris! That's plenty to brag about, Sis!

7-9 in Third Round
30-18 overall
Chris is not doing as well as he usually does. I'm going to gloat about my lead over him for as long as it lasts!

Shirley (Grandma Hromada)
7-9 in Third Round
29-19 overall

5-11 in Third Round
23-25 overall

Chris just sent this article to me, for all of us Butler fans who are upset at the way they lost their game on Saturday.

Good luck to everyone in the Sweet Sixteen later this week!

24 March 2013

Mission complete

This morning, Daddy, Poppaw Clark and Grandpa Hromada took advantage of the slightly warmer weather to finish up Avery's playset.

Avery helped Daddy correctly size the monkey bars and the swings.

Underneath the "clubhouse" is a little play area, complete with a picnic table. Avery loves to play restaurant anyway, so she's already declared this area her outdoor restaurant.

The slide works!

The guys wanted Avery to put the finishing touch on the set by installing the final piece. She screwed a plaque into one of the wood beams.

It takes a lot of concentration to operate that electric drill.

She was very proud of her work.

Now we'll see how the playset holds up to the six to eight inches of snow we're supposed to get over the next day or so! Avery will have to wait awhile before playing on the playset any more. (I can't believe that I forgot to take a picture of the completed project! That will have to come at a later date.)

We can't say thank you enough to Poppaw and Grandpa. You helped make a little girl's dreams come true. Daddy couldn't have done it without you!

23 March 2013

2013 brackets: Second Round update

Was your bracket busted? So many big name schools lost unexpectedly over the past two days! Here's how our brackets look right now (in order of ESPN points standing):

I originally had New Mexico in the Final Four. Boy am I glad that I changed that!

He was perfect in the East and still has all of his Final Four teams remaining.

Connie (Mommaw Clark)
Connie was a last-minute addition to the competition. We're glad you decided to join the fun this year!

Jon (Grandpa Hromada)
Unlike me, my dad did have New Mexico in the Final Four!

Shirley (Grandma Hromada)
My mom had Georgetown winning the whole thing. Uh oh! But I don't think she's too sad about the fact that a 15-seed beat a 2-seed.

I know she's proud of her Butler Bulldogs' performance. And Chris is proud of her for selecting IU as the tournament champion!

Poor Avery. She picked the long-shot Akron to win the tournament. And they lost badly to VCU. But she did guess correctly that Florida Gulf Coast would beat Georgetown!

We're ready to start the next round later today!

21 March 2013

2013 brackets: Avery's picks

Happy 15th Annual Chris Clark National Basketball Holiday! We're amped up for what promises to be an exciting tournament. We just hope we'll be celebrating a sixth championship with the IU Nation when all is said and done.

This year, Avery was very patient as Daddy helped her complete her bracket. But  he was very disappointed that she had IU losing in the third round. I assured Chris that one day she'll take her bracket very seriously! Here are her picks:

Second round

Third round

Sweet Sixteen

Elite Eight, Final Four and Championship

Click on the picture to see Chris' bracket. You can't be surprised that Chris has IU winning the whole thing!

Teresa's bracket. Yes, I put all of my eggs in the Big Ten basket. Let's hope they don't disappoint me like they usually do.

Avery's bracket. Aunt Ann and Uncle Ron will be happy that Avery put Boise State through to the Sweet Sixteen.

We're glad that Aunt Karen joined the bracket fun again this year. And Grandma and Grandpa Hromada decided to share their bracket-making talents with us, too. Grandma said her goal is to beat Avery...I don't think that will be a problem! After each round, we'll give an update on our progress.

Good luck to everyone!

20 March 2013

19 March 2013

BSF 2012-2013: Genesis 32-33

At the end of last week’s lesson, we saw Jacob leaving his Uncle Laban’s family in Haran and heading to Canaan. On the way, God’s angels meet Jacob. The angels are God’s physical assurance of His protection on Jacob’s family.

Jacob plans a meeting with his estranged brother Esau. Jacob sends messengers ahead of him, seeking Esau’s favor. He is fearful of Esau’s response, so Jacob divides his family into two groups. After he makes these plans, then Jacob prays. In his prayer, Jacob doesn’t immediately jump into his request. Instead, he focuses on God, His character, His promises, even Jacob’s own unworthiness. His request was only a small portion of his prayer.

That’s so much like me! It's so easy to run ahead of God’s plans and then backtrack to Him when I get fearful! So, how quickly do I take things to God in prayer? Prayer should be my first option not my last one.

After Jacob prays, he moves from panic to peace. Then he makes a new plan. Did Jacob let God have a part of this new plan? Or did God tell him to do this?

Jacob decides to give a large amount of his animals (at least 550) to Esau as a gift. Jacob also asks his messengers to tell Esau that he is coming. Jacob sends his family across the river and is alone for the night. Suddenly, he feels a hand grab him from the darkness. He may have thought it was Esau coming to attack him. But it is the beginning of an extremely unique wrestling match.

Jacob wrestles the man all night. Jacob cannot overpower the man and will not give up the fight. The man touches Jacob’s hip and puts it out of joint. This might be where Jacob realizes that the man is the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. Jacob begs for a blessing from the man. The man asks Jacob to speak his name (“deceiver”). This represents Jacob confessing his past sins. Then the man blesses Jacob and renames him Israel, which means “he struggles with God.”

I also struggle with God when I want to lead my own life instead of obeying Him, when I doubt Him, when I ignore God and when I wrestle with Him in prayer because my will doesn’t match His. But God always wins. He expects me to surrender to Him. Over what am I wrestling with God right now?

This wrestling match wasn’t for God’s benefit. It was for Jacob’s. He had to see his weaknesses, face his sins and fully surrender to God and His plan for Jacob’s life. Where do I need to fully surrender to God and let Him have control in my life?

The morning after the wrestling match, Jacob sees Esau approaching with 400 men. Jacob leads his family to Esau. He bows to Esau, a sign of respect and submission. Then Jacob and Esau embrace each other and weep. Jacob’s actions and gifts show that he is asking for Esau’s forgiveness.

Jacob and Esau part ways, but it appears that their relationship has been restored. Jacob stops about 20 miles short of where God asked him to go (Genesis 31:3, 13; 35:1). Jacob has led his family to Canaan, but they stay in the wrong place and buy land, implying a permanence to their living in this area. Next week, we’ll see how Jacob’s disobedience affects his family. I'm sure you can tell that it won’t be a happy story!

Yesterday was a busy day, so Avery and I forgot to record her memory verse. Hopefully we’ll remember next week!

In all your ways acknowledge him.
Proverbs 3:6 NIV

16 March 2013

It's play time...almost

Since you're such a faithful blog reader, I'm sure you remember that we bought Avery a playset for her birthday. Daddy was able to rope Poppaw Clark and Grandpa Hromada into helping assemble the set. Today was the big day...the boys began setting up everything. We were expecting a sunny and warm day, but instead it was a little chilly. At least it looked cold from the comfort of the warm house where I was watching them work. After eight hours of work, the fellas were ready to call it a day. They barely stopped to eat lunch!

All of these boxes were delivered by freight truck about a week before Avery's birthday.

Daddy, Poppaw and Grandpa had to sketch out their game plan.

Avery had to get in on the action, too. She desperately wanted to help them all day. It was too cold for her to be outside too long, and she would get in their way after awhile. So we made a few trips outside throughout the day.


After her nap, the teamwork had progressed to this. Avery couldn't resist trying out the ladder and rock climbing wall.

By the end of the day, all of the hard work led to this. Chris thinks there's about three or four hours of work still left (times three people).

We are so blessed to have family who love Avery (and Chris!) so much that they're willing to provide manual labor to make her happy. It's just too bad they can't enjoy the fruits of their labor. This playset is for kids only!

13 March 2013

2013 brackets: Join the fun!

It's almost Bracket Time!
Because it's a family tradition, this year the three of us will create our own brackets for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. And we'll share the highs and lows of our tournament experience here on the blog.
Would you like to battle us for bragging rights? Find our group, "C2 Family Group," in the ESPN Tournament Challenge. Ask us for the super-secret password and join us in the fun!

12 March 2013

BSF 2012-2013: Genesis 29-31

Do you realize that you need correction? God needs to correct our actions and attitudes. God's purpose for this discipline is "...for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10). God did just that with Jacob. And because Jacob wanted to follow God, he responded positively to the discipline.

Jacob escapes the hardships at home with Esau and travels to his Uncle Laban's house, hoping to find a wife among Laban's family. Jacob meets Laban's daughter Rachel at the same well where Jacob's mother, Rebekah, met Abraham's servant who was seeking a wife for Isaac. What a fantastic story Jacob had to share at family reunions!

Jacob quickly falls in love with Rachel. He asks Laban to marry her. Laban must have appreciated Jacob's work ethic because Laban convinces Jacob to work seven years for Rachel's hand in marriage. This was twice the amount of the usual dowry. Thus begins Laban's many deceptions of Jacob.

Jacob faithfully works for Laban for seven years. But look at Genesis 29:20: "So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her." How sweet!

After seven years, Laban deceives Jacob again and gives Leah to Jacob at the marriage ceremony. Leah was Rachel's older, less beautiful sister. Jacob doesn't notice this until the next morning. He must have realized that this was a consequence of his earlier deception of his father, Isaac.

When Jacob confronts Laban, he proposes a new deal: spend the wedding week with Leah, marry Rachel then work for seven more years. Jacob loves Rachel so much that he willingly goes along with this plot. Polygamy is a sin, but in His sovereignty God allowed all of this to happen. And He blesses Jacob with many, many children, beginning the tribes of Israel.

God has mercy on Leah, who was not favored by Jacob. God gives Leah the privilege of being the mother of Jacob's first four sons. She also receives a place of honor in all of history because she is the mother of Judah and Levi. Messiah Jesus Christ came through the line of Judah, and the priests came through the line of Levi. We also see Leah's spiritual growth in the names she gave to her first four sons. She goes from seeking Jacob's love and affection to fully relying on God.

While Leah is jealous of Rachel's love with Jacob, Rachel is jealous of Leah's children. So Rachel seeks to have children through her servant. Sounds all too familiar, huh? Rachel's servant gives birth to two sons. The baby wars continue when Leah gives her servant to Jacob. She gives birth to two sons. All this time, Jacob willingly plays this jealousy game with his two wives and their servants! Then Leah conspires and "buys" a night with Jacob and later gives birth to another son and finally a sixth. Rachel finally submits to God's will, and He gives her Joseph. We will spend a lot of time studying Joseph and his amazing story in the coming weeks.

After this, Jacob wants to leave Laban and head back home to Canaan. So he asks Laban for permission to leave. Again, Laban convinces him to stay. Jacob agrees to take care of Laban's flocks, with the spotted and striped ones becoming Jacob's wages. But Laban steals the spotted and striped goats, trying to gain an advantage over Jacob.

God blesses Jacob by causing his herd to prosper. God blesses Jacob with a large family and much wealth. God used Laban to train Jacob. Jacob was forced to wait on God's timing. But he is patient, he trusts God, he grows spiritually, he is blessed, he doesn't complain and he gives God the glory.

Finally God tells Jacob to leave. And Jacob obeys. God warns Laban not to attack Jacob. Then Jacob and Laban make a covenant of peace between them.

But God isn't done with Jacob yet. He still has more training and discipline to come. This shows us that God's training is a lifelong process!

From this week's lesson, we can see three steps to God's discipline:

1. He reveals the sin and traits He wants to change in my life.
2. He refines me through the people and circumstances in my life.
3. He continues this process over and over throughout my earthly life.

How do I respond to discipline and correction? What sin is God revealing to me? Am I giving God the glory when He uses people and circumstances to smooth out my rough edges? Do I look for God's blessings in the midst of my discipline?

And...here is Avery's memory verse. She wasn't into the video camera yesterday:

"I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go."
Genesis 28:15 NIV

05 March 2013

BSF 2012-2013: Genesis 27-28

This week we look at a situation where Isaac, Rebekah, Esau and Jacob all sinned against God. Each person dealt with the consequences of their sins for the rest of their lives. God showed that His plan would unfold as He wanted it to.

But this story also shows us several of God's characteristics: He offers mercy to repentant sinners, He is faithful in His forgiveness and mercy, and He doesn't give up on us.

Isaac plots to bless Esau behind Rebekah and Jacob's backs but blatantly in God's presence. This blessing normally took place in a great public ceremony. But Isaac knows he is sinning against God, so he plans to bless Esau in secret.

Rebekah overhears Isaac talking to Esau. Consequently, she counterplots and asks Jacob to help her. Jacob seems hesitant to be caught, but Rebekah assures him that she will take the blame.

Rebekah disguises Jacob to feel and smell like Esau. When Jacob enters the tent to receive Isaac's blessing, Isaac is suspicious. But he has poor eyesight and can't confirm that Jacob is Esau. Isaac is blinded by his spiritually-dulled senses. He allows his worldly senses to guide him. Isaac blesses Jacob, thinking he is blessing Esau.

As soon as Jacob leaves, Esau enters the tent. Isaac feels his guilt and realizes what had happened. He knows that he has sinned against God, but he doesn't take responsibility for his sin.

In the same vein, Esau doesn't take responsibility for his sin. He blames Jacob and weeps to receive Isaac's blessing. Esau wanted his earthly father's blessing and approval, but he didn't want any spiritual blessings from his heavenly Father. Isaac finally gives Esau a blessing, but it is a negative prophecy for Esau and his family.

Isaac's entire family didn't trust God’s plan and timing. They should have allowed God to do what He was going to do, in His own way. Manipulating God's plan is prideful; it shows that we lack trust in God's promises and character.

After this incident, there is great tension between Esau and Jacob. Instead of repenting to Isaac and God, Rebekah presents a plan to Jacob. She continues to manipulate Isaac and go behind his back. Isaac and Rebekah send Jacob to Rebekah's family to find a wife. Isaac blesses Jacob before he leaves. At this point, Isaac finally submits to God's plan for Jacob's life.

Esau still is unrepentant and lives in unbelief. He finds another ungodly wife (this time from Uncle Ishmael's family), perhaps seeking his father's approval. Esau clearly doesn't understand God's prophecies for him and Jacob.

God wants Christians to be godly people. That means that we strive to be like Him, such as displaying the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). No one in Isaac's family did this. But if they had repented and changed their behaviors, God would have forgiven them and helped them be more like Him.

Jacob obeys his parents, and leaves for Haran. When he stops to rest for the night, God gives him a vision. In a dream, God shows Jacob a stairway to Heaven with angels ascending and descending on the stairway. The stairway connects God in Heaven to Jacob on Earth. Then God's promises to Abraham and Isaac are given to Jacob. Later Jesus deciphers this picture. In the New Testament, Jesus tells Nathanael that He is the stairway (John 1:51). He is the only way for sinful man to connect with God.

Jacob wakes up from the dream and recognizes God's presence. He builds an altar and worships God. This was a turning point in Jacob's life – he personally commits to worshiping and following God. He begins his personal faith journey at this time.

From this story, who am I most like?

  • Isaac – Do I let the pleasures of the world distract me from the eternal? Do I suffer from spiritual laziness?
  • Rebekah – Do I believe God can't do anything without me? Do I step in to "fix" God's plan?
  • Esau – Do I despise spiritual things? Do I reject God and refuse to surrender control of my life to Him?
  • Jacob – Do I tell God that I want Him and His spiritual blessings yet deny God the power to lead my life?

I want God to help me keep my eyes on Him and the eternal. I want to take my hands off any control I want to have over my life. Instead, I want to be more like God Himself.

Finally! I remembered to record Avery's memory verse, and she was willing to participate!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
Proverbs 3:5 NIV

I don't know who told her to add the "joy" part. I think I need to talk to her about not adding to Scripture!