Thursday, August 17, 2017

Adventures With Doctors and Hospitals

20170807_143239 (960x1280)If you have been following my blog or Facebook you know that we had a bit of a setback in our fight against T-Cell lymphoma last week We headed down to Stanford for what I hoped would be a “clear confirmation.” It turned out the other way as the PET scan showed the lymphoma lesions were back in my pelvic area. I had suspected something was up before the scan because I’d had a lot of pain in my lower left back area. I thought it might be my kidneys, but yesterday’s ultrasound (right) confirmed that my kidneys are OK. Today I will go see the oncologist to talk about our plan for the next round of chemo. I know the Stanford doctors would like me to begin ASAP. 20170815_110619 (960x1280)I agree because I’d like to see the swollen lymph nodes shrink and stop pushing on organs and causing pain. I have been taking pain pills for almost a week now, which I hate to do, and am hoping I can get off them soon. Some of the symptoms are very similar to what I had before (constipation yuk) but others have made this a new experience. So I am looking forward to getting treatments started again. This round of chemo is supposed to have less side effects, but it acts differently on everyone. As always, prayers for Joyce and I, and for doctors and medical staff are much appreciated. I included the picture on the right, not to show off my bare midriff, but to show how much the edema has come back there in the last week. The weird thing is that the edema has moved. We will see how that goes.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Reading “A More Christlike God, by Bradley Jersak #4

JersakThis post completes our look at Part 2 of A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak. Part 2 of the book describes The Cruciform God. Jersak’s point again is that God does not run the world through coercion, but through consent and participation. God wants real relationship with His creation. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Kindle version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In Chapter 8, The Cross as Divine Participation, Jersak shows how Jesus' consent leads to God's participation in the world. God does not overcome the "necessities" of the world He created by negating them, but by participating in them with us and overcoming them. He then invites us, all by grace, to participate with him in doing this. He not only provides the power for us to do this through His self-revealing love, but even gives us the ability to consent. God actively participates in this creation through his upholding and sustaining of it, through his willing human partners, the incarnation of Jesus (the ultimate participation), through the church, His "kingdom priests," and through humble, self-emptying prayer.

By grace God assumes, undergoes and overcomes necessity. He partners with us in and through Jesus, so that he can also save and heal us through Jesus. Christ takes all the afflictions of necessity on and up onto the Cross and, by grafting himself to us, exchanges our curse for his blessing, our death for his life. 142

The love of God and world of humanity meet and unite in the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth. Again, our participation is mutual but not equal. He is the Gift-giver and we are the recipients. He is the Savior and we are the saved. He is the Lover—we, the beloved. 154 

Just as Christ unites (participates) with both God and humanity in order to be a living bridge for the love of God, so his kingdom of priests unite with Jesus (by faith) and with those in need (by compassion) to become channels of the gospel of grace. This ministry of mediation is entirely kenotic and cruciform in that it involves emptying ourselves of ego and willfulness, consenting to be filled with Christ’s own love. And then we emulate the cruciform God by pouring out that divine love into the world for the sake of others. 156

Chapter 9 is entitled God is Good & Sh** Happens An Anti-Theodicy of the Cross. Jersak calls this chapter an anti-theodicy (basically a theodicy explains how an all powerful and loving God allows suffering and calamity in the world) because he believes that all theodicies are overly rationalistic and end up reducing the God of the Bible to less than He is. We end up like Job's friends reasoning about what we do not understand. The biblical answer to this issue is the cross. God approaches this world in a cruciform way. He has voluntarily given up coercion and, in a fully relational way, participates with us as Creator in the "necessities" (disasters) of a world in which He can be fully relational and, in the crucifixion, receives all the evil and its effects that the sinful world can heap upon Him. This kind of "powerlessness" is really all-powerful because it takes evil, redeems it and makes it accomplish His purpose of producing image-bearers.  

On the Cross, we see that God is neither the triumphant intervener nor the passive non-mover. He has always suffered the sowing and reaping of our sin and violence, but nowhere more so than on the Cross...only a cruciform God can account for the human predicament and only he can resolve it. 165

Jesus is here with you now. He co-suffers with you here, even in your experience of his absence! His co-suffering love does not mean he’s in the same helpless state of suffering or despair that you are in. Co-suffering means he wants to graft your pain to the resources of his divine love. We can welcome his self-giving love to transform your pain and bring redemption, even in the dark night of absence and affliction. Let’s meet him at the Cross. 174-175

God neither controls the situation nor is he found sulking in the corner, passive and idle. Behold: he’s there on the Cross. And he takes up all the evil and suffering and sin and sorrow into himself. All the despair and selfishness that leads to suicide; all of the perversion and obsession that leads to sexual assault; all of the powerless and desperation that leads to terrorism; all the pride and power that leads to domination and slavery. Christ takes it all up into himself on the Cross. 177

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Chronicles #4 (2 Chron. 1-9)

ChroniclesThis week we move into the second book of Chronicles accompanied by, 1 & 2 Chronicles, The College Press NIV Commentary, Old Testament Series, by John Mark Hicks. In this section of Chronicles the chronicler looks at Solomon as an example of what the nation could be if God (temple, worship, covenant) was the center of national life. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

2 Chronicles begins the story of the reign of Solomon focused on his building of the temple. Solomon is presented as both a new Moses and new Joshua. He brings the ark and tabernacle back together in the temple and brings the nation into an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity. Before he begins his work God appears to him and offers him an unbounded granting of his wishes. Solomon passes this test by asking for God to keep His promise to David and to give him the ability to govern and lead the people well. Because Solomon's goals were right, God gives him the resources he needs to represent Him well. This is the same offer Jesus makes to His followers ("whatever you ask in prayer") and we must respond to His offer the same way.  

Typology is the Chronicler’s hermeneutical method for homiletical applications... Redemptive history, then, “is a series of decisive interventions, with each new intervention marked by features comparable with earlier revelations.” Consequently, the postexilic community anticipates renewal and NT writers proclaim its arrival. Christians anticipate a fuller experience of the presence of God in the new Jerusalem (Rev 21). Typology recognizes recurring patterns in redemptive history. 2 Chronicles 1, 257

Solomon’s request is granted because his heart is properly oriented toward God’s goals. Solomon’s interests are communal rather than individualistic. He seeks the welfare of his people rather than his own glory. The result is that God’s blessings overflow beyond the bounds of mere wisdom and knowledge to include wealth, riches and honor. 2 Chronicles 1.7-13, 263–264

Chapters 2-4 record the building of the temple with its elaborate furnishings and materials. The temple is God's palace and is built to reflect the wonder and greatness of God and as a testimony to His provision. It does not contain God, but it is the place where God meets His people, provides for their entrance into His presence and fellowships with them. It is the place where Israel was to draw the Gentile world into contact with God, as Solomon does with Hiram of Tyre. This role was fulfilled in Jesus and is now played out by the followers of Jesus as we live our lives, in the power of the Spirit, as the body of Christ.

This text does not encourage churches to build elaborate buildings. This misreads the typology, and it ignores the NT’s application of this principle. Christians do not seek bodily adornment or material extravagance. Rather, since we are the temple of God, we seek a holiness that reflects God’s glory. We honor God with our bodies and our lives. The Solomonic temple is not paradigmatic for building church buildings, but for building holy lives. 2 Chronicles 2, 268

Theologically, the postexilic community seeks God’s grace on Mount Moriah. There the reality of God’s presence is experienced. The sacrifice of Isaac, the sacrifices of David (1 Chr 21), and the temple sacrifices typologically anticipate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who died in the vicinity of that mount. 2 Chronicles 3, 273

The temple is a copy of the heavenly sanctuary and thus the temple is filled with symbolism as it proclaims God’s presence. The majesty, glory, and strength of the Lord are taught by the greatness and luxury of the building. In Christ we are a building of God, a holy temple in which God dwells by his Spirit (Eph 2:19–22). The majesty, glory, and strength of God are manifested through us as the Spirit transforms us into the image of God. 2 Chronicles 4, 279

Chapters 5-7 describe the great covenant ceremony as Solomon brings up the ark to the newly built temple. This is a critical moment in Israel's history as God shows his commitment to the Davidic promises by coming to the temple in a "glory cloud" as He did with the tabernacle of Moses in the wilderness after the exodus. Solomon calls the people to covenant commitment and prays asking God to be faithful to the covenant. God answers (7.11-22) with a resounding "yes" displaying His openness and willingness to forgive. Chronicles reminds us that God desires real relationship with us and is willing to receive sinners, forgive sin and bring blessing.

The dedication of the temple and the divine response are the theological heart of the narrative. God comes to rest in his temple through atoning sacrifices, the people celebrate and worship, and God responds graciously. The temple is not about a building but about the gracious and redemptive presence of God who sanctifies a people for himself in order to dwell among them. 2 Chronicles 5, 279

Second Chronicles 6:24 locates God’s presence in the temple. The ark is his footstool though he fills the whole earth with his presence. His presence in the temple is a “gracious condescension” which, indeed, is the incarnational character of God himself that culminates in the Incarnate One, Jesus Christ. 2 Chronicles 6, 288

God knows his people need atonement, so he provides a place. God’s intent is openness. His disposition is inviting—my eyes will be open and my ears attentive. The sacrifices and prayers of God’s people are means of mercy, and the temple epitomizes God’s graciousness. God provides forgiveness and healing. God dwells in the temple as a testimony of his intent. 2 Chronicles 7, 295

Chapters 8 and 9 conclude the story of Solomon by recounting his wealth and his influence throughout the ancient near east. The chronicler did not include Solomon's sins in his story because he wants to emphasize the temple and use Solomon's rule as a paradigm for what God wants to do among the nations. The Queen of Sheba serves as an example of how wise living before God can influence the nations. Solomon rules for God and God blesses the nations through Solomon. This is how it was meant to be. Sadly, Solomon's actual reign did not measure up to the ideal.

Theologically, Solomon extends Yahweh’s influence beyond the borders of Israel and blesses the nations surrounding him. Indeed, all wealth and wisdom flow to Jerusalem, and then it flows out again to bless the nations. 2 Chronicles 8, 302–303

Theologically, this wealth praises God, not Solomon. This is God’s kingdom, not Solomon’s. All that Solomon possesses is by grace. Since Solomon sits on God’s throne, his reign must reflect God’s glory. Solomon’s wealth, then, is a testimony to God’s splendor and majesty. Consequently, this is no mere accumulation of luxury, but rather the testimony of heaven on earth. The streets are paved with gold in the new Jerusalem because God lives there (not for our reward). 2 Chronicles 9, 307

The main topic of 2 Chronicles 1–9 is not Solomon but the God of Israel. Chronicles omits the sins of Solomon because the “reign of Solomon” is not the topic. The subject of the narrative is God, not Solomon. Chronicles tells the story of Solomon to bear witness to the glory and grace of Yahweh, the King of Israel. Solomon is his representative. 2 Chronicles 9, 309–310

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Not-So-Good Medical Update

Joyce and I got the medical report from my PET scan results a few days early. I had been at my brother’s place visiting for the last few days and was having a lot of pain in my back. So Joyce called the doctor at Stanford to see if it was possible that there was something they had seen on the PET Scan that would explain the pain in my back. The doctor called us back and said the results of the PET Scan would explain that. He said he hated to deliver bad news on the phone, but the urgent nature of my situation demanded it. The bottom line is that the lymphoma lesions are back, especially on the left side of my abdomen. This was not the news we wanted to hear, but we knew that this was a distinct possibility from the beginning. So, what this means is that I will be doing another round of chemotherapy very soon, only this time it will be antibody therapy (antibodies deliver the chemo straight to the lymphoma cells). The doctor said that the side effects of this type are not quite as bad as what we did before. The purpose of it would be to quickly clear out the lymphoma again so that stem cells could be harvested for a longer-term solution. The longer-term solution would be a transplant of my own stem cells back into my body. This solution has a good likelihood of success, but it does mean that our treatment is going to go on for quite a bit longer.The other related piece of bad news is that this also puts my kidneys in danger again. This time it could be both kidneys. We will go in to see the urologist on Tuesday and he will determine whether I may need a stint in one or both of my kidneys, or perhaps another nephrostomy bag will have to be attached. None of this is what we wanted or exactly what we prayed for, but we know that God is working in the midst of all this. He hasn't gone anywhere. He still loves us and He is good.

Please pray for us as we go through this weekend with some uncertainties. Pray that we'll be able to get the new chemotherapy set up as soon as possible. Pray that it will be successful and will be able to harvest good stem cells in the near future. Please also pray for my appointment with the urologist that they will make the right decisions and things will go well in whatever surgery I will need to protect my kidneys. We value your prayers, especially in times like this. Thank you for praying for us. God is good all the time.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Reading “A More Christlike God, by Bradley Jersak #3

JersakIn this post we begin looking at Part 2 of A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak. Part 2 of the book describes The Cruciform God. In this section Jersak shows that Christ crucified is the ultimate revelation of the nature of the Trinity and how God works in the world. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Kindle version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In Chapter 6, Of Lions, Lambs and Donkeys Kenosis—Cruciform Power, Jersak's main point is that Jesus’ incarnation, kenosis (self-emptying) and crucifixion are a revelation of God's glory and nature and how he brings about His plan to judge, reconcile and remake the world. Instead of coming as a conquering king on a war-horse Jesus comes humbly on a donkey. Even in Revelation 5, when Jesus as a ruling lion is announced, John sees a pierced lamb and announces a victory won by the blood, not of the enemies, but the blood of the lamb. It is the nature of God to win and rule through self-giving love and this is how the church should advance His kingdom as well.

Wherever God, wherever Christ, wherever we risk emptying ourselves of self-will and self-rule to make space for the other, that is where the supernatural kingdom-love of God rules and reigns. Thus, kenosis, which is to say love (!), is the heart of who God is. Not lording over, but always coming under; not triumphing through conquest, but through the Cross. 101

Jesus is a Lion because he is the king who has already overcome; he is a Lamb because that victory came, not someday through violence and conquest, but already, through kenosis— through sacrificial love. And this Lion-Lamb is worthy to rule, why?...Jesus’ global, universal and eternal kingship was established at the Cross and confirmed by his resurrection. His dominion over every people group will not be won through a someday-sword, but has already purchased by his blood. 106-107

The fact is, in John, Jesus virtually treats the Cross as the Final Judgment! The world is judged, Satan is defeated and Jesus is glorified. He is given all authority and reigns in a kingdom that advances in the same way it came: through the kenotic power of love...the crucified and glorified Christ—the apex of God’s kenotic power and ‘cruciform’ love—is our clearest image of God’s very nature from beginning to end! The Cross is the all-encompassing revelation of the Christlike God.  115-116

Chapter 7 is titled The Cross as Divine Consent. The main idea here is that God does not act in the universe, or interact with people, through coercion and control, but through consent and participation. God has created the universe in such a way that its forces (gravity etc) are permitted to operate freely. Human beings are created with personal freedom of choice. God desires a universe in which human beings are in relationship with him based on free response to his love. This creates the possibility of evil and disaster, for which God is not directly responsible, but is a "necessity" of a relational creation. But, God also actively limits Himself to participate in this universe, ultimately allowing human choice to nail him to a cross. He thus accomplishes what He has planned for the universe to be. Jersak says that God is "in charge," but has relinquished "control." Human beings must respond in the same way, relinquish power and submit to God, to become the image of God they were created to be.

The fullness (in Greek, the pleroma*) of God’s saving comes as God participates fully in the human condition—from birth to death—and consents to enduring temptations, trials and even the extreme humiliation of crucifixion. The fullness of our salvation comes as we participate in Christ’s death and as we fully consent—cooperate and surrender—to his grace. 121

So we say, in God’s good order, human agency and natural law (the secondary causes) are necessary conditions. Necessity is established by a good God for our good—thank God we are free to fall in love and able to stand upright on the ground—but necessity can also cause human affliction, from broken hearts to broken bones, from horrific to mundane. In short, God creates and then consents to necessity, for better or for worse, even while we invoke “deliverance from all danger and necessity.” 132

Satan offered a shortcut to power, bypassing kenosis and consent and a cross. But Christ saw through it, passed the test and truly fulfilled what humanity was destined for—the perfection of the divine image—by laying down power, yielding to the Father and mediating God’s redeeming love to the whole world. 138

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Family Pictures

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When you have this many family members together you have to pose for family pictures. We started with Joyce and I with my parents and 9 of their great-grandchildren of which 8 are our grandkids

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Our grandkids with Jayna replacing Mika for this picture. My parents with great-grands

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Four generations of Owen’s with Matt (left) and Mike’s (right) families

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Jessie and Joanie with grandma and grandpa, Joyce with her babies and one more cute grandkid picture

Last Day at the Cabin

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Our four days at the cabin ended much too quickly. It was such a blessing for us to have all our kids and grandkids together for almost a week. We were also blessed to have my mom and dad join us, along with Jesse, Joanie and Jayna on the last day there.

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We ate well and played hard

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And had some great family time

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And one more trip to the pool

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Brief Owen Update

DJcabinIt has been a while since I updated our situation and my medical status. Joyce and I (along with Missy and Leila) are now staying with our friends, Mike and Becky Cote. Mike has been helping me with some physical therapy in the swimming pool so I can regain some of my lost muscle tone. I’m a little sore but it has been nice to get back into some physical exercise (little by little). We will be house sitting for the Cote’s in September. I feel better and some people have even said that I am looking better: imagine that! Our next major event is coming up on Monday when I get my follow-up PET scan at Stanford, followed by a doctor visit on August 14th. I am hoping they will confirm the good report from my bone marrow scan of “no cancer found.” We will then work with the doctors to make a plan for future care. We will also consult with our oncologist and urologist in subsequent weeks. This could include stem cell harvesting and possibly another surgical procedure for my kidney issues. It is looking like, one way or another, the process is going to continue for several more months.

I have been asking you to pray for my edema situation. It is getting slightly better, I was able to go to church for the first time last Sunday, but It still is very uncomfortable and definitely affects my daily life quite negatively. I have been taking medicine for it and was hoping improvement would be faster. I prayed for patience….yea you know what I mean. During and between my appointments at Stanford I will be staying with my brother, Doug, in the Bay Area. It will be a good time of reconnecting with him and his family. Joyce and I have also been talking with the leadership at Liebenzell Mission USA about ministry we can do while we are in treatment (I should be well enough to do a lot more this coming Fall) here. After we get the doctor verdict by late August to early September I hope to have something more definite on that. We would appreciate your prayers for the upcoming medical tests and doctor visits and that God would direct us as we look toward the future. Thank you for your prayers and support for us.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Reading “A More Christlike God, by Bradley Jersak #2

Jersak_thumb_thumbI am continuing reading through, for my New Testament devotions, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak. This post ends section one of the book in which Jersak makes the case that we must filter  our understanding of all the biblical revelation of who God is through its ultimate revelation, the crucified Christ. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 3, Freedom or Love? Competing Values in Western Culture, compares "the two principal competing images of God throughout the history of religion: the God of pure will (or freedom) and the God of pure love (or goodness)." Which of these two is the higher moral value? Even though these two seem to compete, even in the Bible, a Christlike view of God must place love in the supreme position. Placing freedom as the primary value skews freedom and changes justice into satisfying human desire and personal whims. God, the only being absolutely free from external control, in Jesus, does not serve Himself but gives Himself over to die. Jesus calls us, in the same way, to pick up our cross and follow Him. The idea that service leads to freedom is counter-intuitive, but it is the Christlike way.

Christ commands us to love our enemies and to overcome evil with good. He calls us to make love our first allegiance—and his love frees us to do so. Freedom in Christ, ironically, is freedom from the tyranny of our own paranoia-producing self-will and fear-driven self-preservation, which we’ve tragically mislabeled ‘freedom.’ 51

When freedom is primary, the will becomes self-centered, then dominates others, and finally becomes captive to its own demands. But there is another way. 55

Christ’s love is the true freedom—freedom to love, empowered by our risen Love! Love-sponsored freedom sacrificially serves one’s siblings-in-Christ, extends mercy to the needy, and lays down its life in the cause of justice. 58

In chapter 4, God of Will or God of Love? The Willful God in Biblical Religion, Jersak defends love as the essence of God rather than divine freedom or will. This is critical because what we believe about God determines our ethical mindset. Jersak sees theologies that emphasize God's freedom over His love as being behind excesses such as the Crusades and the bloody revolution of Oliver Cromwell, and continuing to affect the church through "New Calvinist" theology which emphasizes scriptures that seem to say that God commands and wills evil. Jersak is pushing against interpreting these Biblical passages through this lens and instead insists we read and understand them through the revelation of God as a gracious, merciful restorer as in Exodus 34.6 and especially through Jesus' willing sacrifice of Himself on the cross.

The Old Testament can depict God as vengeful, but also reveals him as gracious—it may describe him as violent, but also shows him to be merciful. He’s not to be reduced to a retributive warrior—Yahweh is first and foremost all about restoration. It depends what lenses you’re wearing as you read the Hebrew records. 74

The real problem is the portrait of a God whose un-Christlike naked will eclipses love and trumps grace—a coercive force incongruent with Christ’s cruciform revelation of his Father’s love. 76

When religion represents God’s will as absolute—the primary attribute of his nature—an idolatrous and un-Christlike portrait of God emerges. Competing and contradictory images inevitably pop up everywhere. Our theology and even our Bible begins to unravel. 79 

Jersak ends the first section, What is God?, in chapter 5 with a section on the incarnation of Jesus, Word Made Flesh The Christlike God. The big point of this chapter is that God has always (eternally) had exactly the character that Jesus perfectly displayed in human form. Jesus reveals God's sovereignty, not through domination and force, but through humble service and self-giving love which finds its greatest expression in the cross. We cannot split apart the character and actions of the Father from the Son. In the cross we see the love of the Father and His desire to "reconcile the world" (2 Cor. 5.19) to Himself. God must ultimately be understood through what Jesus did, and allowed to be done to Him, on the cross.

So, in the flesh and blood person of Jesus, we have the only life ever lived that perfectly reveals the true nature of God, as far as it can be revealed in a human being. New Testament writers...insist he was and is the exact image of God’s essence, the precise imprint of God’s being (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:13). 83

Yes, Jesus Christ reveals the power, sovereignty and victory of the God’s kingdom. But in so doing, he undermines our default notions of power, sovereignty and victory. In fact, Jesus forever redefines our vision of God-as-king! Christ indeed is our king, but the Cross reveals that he is a lowly king...Christ’s humility reflects his own character, and also reveals the eternal nature of God. 89-90

The Good News is that he is looking to rescue and lift up the lowly (the humiliated) and, at the same time, wants to reproduce his lowliness (humility) in us...Christ’s lowliness of humility is a revelation of the Father’s humility. Humility is an eternal attribute of God that we see in the Incarnation and especially in the Passion. 90

Hiking, Creeks and Lakes

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Wednesday was a good day for hiking and exploring the beauty of God’s creation. I skipped the hike to the creek but enjoyed spending the afternoon with everyone at the lake. It was a busy day and everyone was tired by the end of it.

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The day started with a hike to a creek near our cabin

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The lake provided plenty of opportunity for some family pictures

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And for fishing and swimming

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And having a tower building contest