Category Archives: Dwight’s Family

Easter Graces in Atlanta

Today was a busy, grace-filled day. Tonight, as darkness settles onto our neighborhood, I feel tired but satisfied. This was truly the Lord’s Day.

This past week was not all easy. We had some difficult conversations with our dear church teammates. Yes, it is possible to hurt people you deeply love. I have done so; have you? I am thankful that, as recipients of God’s grace, we can each give the grace that we each so desperately need. Then yesterday was a difficult day for me. Emotionally drained, I found my mind did not want to focus on the writing assignments before me. Let’s just say it was not my most productive day (though I did enjoy some good times at the piano).

But today.

Today was a day that was better than I deserve. (Aren’t all?) Tomorrow will be another battle. I will need fresh grace. But today was a day where the grace was heaped onto our plates, impossible to miss, sweet to the taste. Let me recount a few of the sweetest morsels.

Today was our turn to host church. The spring Georgia weather has been amazing lately, so we swept the freshly-fallen tree blossoms off the concrete pad just over the stream, and gathered for church in our backyard.

I would love to share a picture of the group that gathered with us today. But it is important to me to honor people’s privacy. So you’ll have to look at me and trust me that this was not just a solo piano session.

The gathering spot was delightful, with birds and stream blending with our voices and sunlight dappling the sanctuary. The blend of friends who gathered was also delightful—if a little raucous at times. Our family of five was there. So was the Smucker family of five. Then about another dozen joined us. Our international student friend was here. So were several adults from a house just down our street—some for the worship time and some for the meal. And so were a whole passel of children from two different houses on our street. (That was the raucous part. The fact that our “sanctuary” was just next to the “gymnasium”—a trampoline—didn’t help. The day’s bouncing started about an hour before our stated “start time,” which didn’t ease setup. But I reminded my wife that Rich Mullins would have been delighted.) At one point during our morning worship Zonya looked around and counted 10 white, 11 black, and one Asian present. Not exactly representative of ratios in our neighborhood, but so much better than if we had each gone our separate ways today.

We sang with piano, we prayed “popcorn praises” (great for children), we read from the Gospels the stories of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we sang a cappella (revealing a lovely singing voice brought by a first-time visiting neighbor), Steve shocked the children by making the “body” of one of his sons “disappear” from a card-table “tomb,” we sang some more, and we marveled over the 1 Corinthians 15 promise of our own resurrection. One person present expressed how glad he was to be celebrating his first Easter. Others learned to answer “Jesus rose from the dead” rather than “we look for Easter eggs” when asked “What is Easter all about?” Some had their hearts strengthened as they identified all too well with Peter while singing “He’s Alive!” (with guitar this time) and then sharing in the Lord’s Table.

Okay, here’s one more, since the only face you can see is Steve’s. Why can’t you see anyone else’s face? Because they are looking for Jesus’ body. They can’t see that, either. That’s because “Jesus” slipped out from under the table and is hiding inside the fireplace. (Note the gymnasium in the upper left corner.)

Lunch was delicious (lovely ham, Dearest!), if a bit of a zoo, what with refilling several hundred cups of tea and lemonade and water—“No, I want tea and lemonade together, with ice”—for about a thousand demanding children who were fighting for turns on the trampoline (or ignoring turns completely) and riding bikes up and down the drive and along the street. But how lovely to include several neighbors whose children have often enjoyed our backyard, but who had not yet been inside our house!

Shortly after lunch several unfamiliar young men appeared out on the street (we were still in the backyard), calling something out to us and apparently looking for, or expecting, trouble. First they ran away, but the second time this happened several of us men wandered out front in their direction. We managed to calm some mutual fears, shake hands, exchange names, and send the hungry visitors off peacefully with plates of leftover lunch. More on this later.

As outdoor cleanup ended and various guests left, my international student friend and I stole off to the piano studio for a little, where we practiced our duet (Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No. 8) that we are preparing for my upcoming piano recital. He also shared pictures and videos of a “piano club” concert that happened in his home country yesterday—a special event that he helped plan months ago, but then ended up missing thanks to now being in school on the other side of the globe. I find it fascinating and delightful how an English literature major and a math major born poles apart can find such common ground in their shared enjoyment of music. I am already starting to dread the day when our friend will leave Atlanta for the next destination in his educational journey.

Then the house was quiet. Just our family. I settled onto the sofa to relax, and my two youngest girls settled with me—one on top and the other beside, reading us “a scary story—but not too scary” about Horton hearing a Who. (Because “a person’s a person, no matter how small,” including the little ones we help parent in our backyard while trying to share in the Lord’s Table, right?)

But we had not even finished the story when our oldest bounded in with news of an Easter egg hunt that the neighbor children were about to head off to. Well… Easter isn’t really about egg hunts, but we had already shared the real meaning of Easter with these children, so… And they had come to our house, and now if they seemed to be inviting us to join them in their fun…? So I took the girls to go see what was happening. Turns out our van was needed to help carry all the children (10 total) who wanted to go to a nearby park for the hunt. Time there brought more friendship-building conversation with adult neighbors while our children, like a bunch of Energizer Easter bunnies, expended yet more energy.

I’ll skip over the bit about helping my wife accomplish her project of building a birthday gift for one of our daughters to say that part way through that activity yet another neighbor called across the yards to invite our daughters to join her son with his bubble machine. Our oldest drove her bike through the bubbles a few times then headed in the opposite direction to spend more time with the older church-and-Easter-egg-hunt friends from earlier in the day. Our two youngest enjoyed the comparative quiet of chasing bubbles with only one young friend.

Meanwhile, Zonya and I headed a couple houses further down our street to visit yet another house. There was a big family party there, and one of the children from this morning’s church gathering had invited us to drop in there, since it was his house.

That was a strange moment for Zonya and me. It was only one year ago that Zonya and the girls first joined me in our new house. We had not even officially moved in yet, and we knew almost no neighbors. Now, one year later, we were leaving two of our daughters at one neighbor’s house, the other daughter was hanging out with other neighbor friends at another house, and we were walking childless to follow up on an invitation to a third house, all on our block.

Two parts of that little visit stand out. Two, our hostess neighbor insisted on loading our hands with delicious food from their party—chicken and ribs done on her backyard grill, baked beans, macaroni salad, and cake. Mmm. And one, several men mentioned that they had seen our interaction with the young “trouble-makers” on the street earlier that afternoon. It turns out the same young men had been called out to their party, too, prior to meeting us. I was roundly praised (“Are you a pastor?”) for not doing what one of them said he would have done if he hadn’t been wearing a cast, and for defusing the situation by sending them off with food. More on this later.

We returned to the bubble-bursting daughters and invited this neighbor and her son to accomplish the oft-mentioned goal of letting her son jump on our trampoline. This brought more neighbor conversation opportunities for my wife and a chance for me to do a little more trampoline-side Jesus-shaped child training and encouraging. Chances like this aren’t hard to find these days, for some reason.

As Zonya walked this neighbor home, they bumped into a neighbor who lives between us. (She grew up there and is truly a gracious person to have next door.) Turns out this neighbor, too, had witnessed the food giveaway that happened on the street in front of her house. Wow. And to think that it never once crossed my mind that anyone might be watching. What might have happened if I had blown it? God, help us to be faithful in the little opportunities to live like Jesus! (More on this later?)

By this time day was dying in the west, so we retreated into the house that God bought and enjoyed the supper provided by the grandma of one of our regular backyard bikers and jumpers.

If I’m counting correctly, we visited in the yards and/or houses of four households on our block today. People from two of those households showed up at our own place as we hosted church. Plus, we exchanged friendly greetings as we passed a couple more houses on our block. And gave food to several passers-by. Oh, and I forgot the lady biking past this morning who stopped in just as church was about to begin to see if I could fill her bike tire. Yet another opportunity to share names and invite a new friend to join us for church sometime.

If you’ve read this far, you may feel as tired as I do.

I thank God for all the dear people with whom we shared this day. We feel both welcome and useful among our neighbors. I thank God for placing us here in Atlanta, here in West Lake, and right here on this block. I thank God for a day full of opportunities to offer our voices and hands for Jesus. And I thank him for a day when his grace is as sweet as the strawberry shortcake my wife served us last week.

Please pray for us. Tomorrow will be another battle. I have battled discouragement from time to time and expect to face this giant again. My wife needs God’s grace in her heart and on her lips. Our whole church team needs your prayers. But Christ dealt Satan his deathblow on that first Easter weekend, right? Satan is a wounded lion, roaring in anger as he goes down. Christ has the upper hand. May his hand be strong in West Lake! And may every day be the Lord’s Day this week, in your heart and mine.

May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Thank you for listening. If you are a neighbor, or if you are a friend far away, feel free to leave a message in the comments below. We thank God for you.


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Churchfunding: 2016 Year-End Report

I thought it would be fitting to give a brief year-end report on our house loan repayments. “Fitting” not because this is the sort of thing that is usually published publicly, but because our churchfunding activities were also unusually public. What an adventure this has been! We want to honor God again for providing for all our needs through the kindness of so many people!

(Here is the post that officially launched this churchfunding adventure.)

Renovating a room and adding a new entrance for a piano studio was one of the big house projects we tackled this summer.

Since I am an English literature major and not an accountant, I will give my report in prose instead of a spreadsheet. But rest assured, we do indeed have spreadsheets to keep track of the data. 🙂

We purchased our house on March 25, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families. About 70 of those were loans.

At the time we purchased the house, we owed a total of $66,162.50. As of the end of 2016, we now owe $61,162.50. Here is the story of the $5000 difference.

We began repaying loans in April, at the rate of $500 per month. We created a pool of our older lenders to repay first, as planned. Prayer and a random number generator in Google Docs selected a person to repay each month. In some months the person selected was owned less than $500, so a second lender was chosen so we could repay the full $500 for that month.

In three months (April, June, September), when we contacted our lender to initiate repayment, they declined repayment, turning the amount due that month into a gift. In addition, another lender, without being selected, contacted us to turn a $500 loan into a gift. In all, $1,475 worth of loans was forgiven in 2016!

The total we actually repaid in 2016 was $3,525. Add that to the $1,475 forgiven, and our total loans due have been reduced by $5000 in 2016—$500 more than expected.

When can the remaining lenders expect repayment?

We still have $4875 due to our pool of older lenders. At $500 per month, that is nearly 10 months. So, unless you are reasonably senior :-), the end of 2017 is the soonest you might expect a repayment.

God willing, however, all lenders should be repaid within 10 years and 3 months—by March of 2027. (That’s $61,162.50 repaid at $500 per month.) And we have not forgotten our plans to ensure we repay a few of you well before that time.

I’ll add a brief cash flow report, too.

Our income is still less than our expenses, so our bank account is declining. But we expected this as we transition to Atlanta income. I am gradually gathering more piano students. (I just signed up another this week, making a total of eight, representing $584 of piano income most months. I hope to eventually have about thirty students.) Choice Books has provided a steady part-time income as expected, and I am continuing Open Hands writing work as I find the time. The decline in our bank account is slowing, and I am hopeful the tide will reverse sometime in the new year. Meanwhile, we do have a little short-term savings that could cover normal needs for a couple months even if income stopped entirely.

House repairs have come a long way! There are still several big projects left that will make life more pleasant, but I think most of the repairs that were urgent for the structural health of the house (sewer leak, termite treatment, pest protection, heat pump, etc.) are now done.

We had some unexpected expenses this summer due to a ministry opportunity. But this opportunity also stirred a few people to share unexpected gifts with us. I am reminded of Paul’s words:

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work… He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Cor. 9:8, 10-11 ESV)

May God make each of us channels of blessing in 2017!

Gratefully,
Dwight & Zonya Gingrich


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A Library Online–Or At Least Onshelves

A pastor friend just sent me email with a wonderful problem:

I’m currently near the beginning of a 6 month Sabbatical, enjoying it and looking forward to more.  My church is graciously offering to help pay for some pastor education, and I may use some of this to buy commentaries.  Not sure yet what the commentary budget is, but maybe 1,000-1,400… So, do you have any input for me?

How wonderful it would be if more pastors had this problem!

For guidance, I pointed this pastor both to my own recommended commentary lists and to the more current advice from Denver Seminary (OT list and NT list), which is updated each January. (Which means new lists are near!)

This pastor’s email also reminded me how grateful I am to finally have my own commentaries out of boxes and onto shelves. Now with only a little climbing I can find all my favorite books!

Okay, reportedly that’s actually the Cincinnati Library at about 1899. My own library is perhaps a little more modest:

But now that I have the shelves loaded with books, I’m a happy little scholar. On the left is mostly Bible commentaries and theological works, with a special focus on the topic of the church:

On the right is a mixture, including Christian living, apologetics, missions, literature, history, Bibles, and reference books:

My library plans are still not quite done. I’d like to add a mirror on the back wall. I’d also like to cut out the top panel of the door, replacing it with a decorative screen that lets light and air through. But it’s come a long way since the early hours of demolition and construction:

More important than the shelves are the books resting on them. Here are some of my favorite shelves, with some of my favorite books.

OT (1): Introduction, theology, and commentaries. A favorite: Gordon Wenham on Leviticus.

OT (2): Commentaries. A favorite: Robert Chisholm on 1 & 2 Samuel is ideal for Sunday School teachers (and his Judges/Ruth volume looks ideal for preachers).

OT (3): Commentaries. Favorites: Bruce Waltke and James Houston on the Psalms are superb (but don’t address every psalm) and I’ve used Tremper Longman on Proverbs a lot.

OT (4): Commentaries. Favorites: Andrew Steinmann on Daniel and G. K Beale and D.A. Carson’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.

NT (1): Commentaries. Favorites: R.T. France on Matthew and Robert Stein on Mark.

NT (2): Commentaries. A favorite: David Garland on 1 Corinthians.

NT (3): Commentaries. A favorite: Douglas Moo on Galatians.

NT (4): Commentaries. Favorites: William Mounce on the Pastoral Epistles, and Gareth L. Cockerill and Peter T. O’Brien on Hebrews.

NT theology, Jesus, parables, Paul. Favorites: I have found both I. Howard Marshall’s and George Eldon Ladd’s NT theologies helpful.

NT theology, NT use of OT, biblical interpretation. Favorites: Grant Osborne’s Hermeneutical Spiral and R.T. France’s Jesus and the Old Testament were both influential for me.

Biblical interpretation, early church historical nd. A favorite: O.M. Bakke’s When Children Became People: The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity.

Church history, history of Bible, systematic theology. Favorites: The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzàlez and The Story Behind the Versions by Rodney Yoder.

Theology random (covenant, salvation, missions, etc), ecclesiology. A favorite: The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission by John Dickson.

Ecclesiology, baptism, membership, discipline, eldership. Favorites: John S. Hammett (baptism and Lord’s supper), Everett Ferguson (history of baptism), and Alexander Strauch (eldership) are all worth consulting.

Gender roles, divorce/remarriage, sexual purity, eschatology, money. Favorites: Kingdom Come by Sam Storms and Neither Poverty Nor Riches by Craig Blomberg.

Hearing God, decision making, spiritual disciplines, pain. A favorite: The Power of the Powerless by Christopher de Vinck is a beautifully-written story that touched me deeply.

And my shelf of Chesterton, Lewis, and Muggeridge–most of which I read to good benefit during my years in college. My wife and oldest daughter have helped batter a few of these books since, which makes me even happier.

Some of you have much more impressive libraries. That’s wonderful! We need people who have read far more than I do, and more widely.

Others of you likely wonder how I’ve read so many books. Well, I haven’t. Most of the books in these photos I’ve never read. Quite a few I’ve just opened as needed, for reference. Some I’ve never really opened. Many I dream of reading through—some for personal enjoyment and some because I think I really need to in order to be equipped to serve in the church as well as I should. I think the Lewis shelf is the only shelf pictured that I’ve read fully. Oops, I haven’t read The Quoteable Lewis through, so that’s that.

This past year has been especially bad for reading, what with moving and all. My main serious reading has been Cockerill’s Hebrews commentary, which I’ve been reading with a Bible open beside, devotionally and for sermon prep. Only about a dozen pages to go! It’s been a good companion.

May God guide all our reading in the coming year, for his glory and for the growth of his people.

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. (2 Timothy 4:13 ESV)

Do you have a library? What books (or parchments) do you especially value? Do you have reading goals for the coming year? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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