Christmas Letter 2014

Merry Christmas                 2014                   from Joe & Elaine Vandegriff  

Oh how we want to brag on our 6 wonderful grandkids. 2 in Texas. 4 in Maryland.

But first, it’s Christmas. And that’s what matters the most. Christmas is when we focus on others instead of ourselves; when we long for peace on earth with the goodness of God blanketing the earth and covering all people; when we sing about love and joy; when we think of Jesus and the hope that comes from living the Way he shows us, the Way of grace and love even for enemies, the Way of humble and courageous leadership that doesn’t follow the crowd, the Way of goodness and justice to all people including the poor, the forgotten, the outcasts and even sinners and enemies.

Merry Christmas. And may God bless us, every one.

OK. Now, the grandkids.

Ellie: 18, 3rd generation freshman at Taylor University studying film and media. Wants to make movies and be The Director.

Johan: 16, home school sophomore, excellent computer and robot geek, working on Eagle Scout and driving license.

Dessie: 14, 9th grader in the 8th best high school in the USA, tennis team, learning guitar and piano, very artistic.

Celeste: 13, home school 7th grade, reads everything, creative in sewing and cooking, big heart, wants to be a nurse.

Cora: 12 (almost 13), 7th grade, national junior honor society officer, volleyball A team, Miss Popularity at her school.

Lincoln: 10, 5th grade home school, geek in the making, new boy scout, swim team, learning piano, very happy guy.

And, oh  yes, they have parents.

Jon & Sharon in Maryland –  both heavily involved in doing a fine job of home schooling their kids. Jon works on software that handles scientific satellite data at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and coaches a robot competition team including Johan. Sharon is a very busy stay-at-home mom running the schooling.

Hubert & Joan in Austin – two working parents who also provide Dad & Mom’s Taxi Service for their daughters and friends. Hubert works on network equipment planning and deployment for Verizon and is our patient smart-phone consultant. Joan works in corporate communication for GM in Austin and gets to drive a new car every 6 months.

As for us Old Folks, road trip warriors we are. Went on 6 extended road trips for over 25,000 miles, mostly visiting family around the country: California, Wyoming, Colorado, Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Maryland, vacation in Maine and in Arizona (4 corners area).

If we haven’t see you this year, please fill out the Old Folks Visit Request Form to be put in our 2015 itinerary, but beware–we just might come by. Joe always travels with his electrical tool box. So have your chore list ready.

Besides seeing Cora’s volleyball games (district champs!) and Dessie’s tennis matches in Texas, we attended performances of the Home School Theater in Maryland which involved all of Jon & Sharon’s family and watched Johan’s winning robotic team compete.  Obviously, we are proud of our family and enjoy sharing in all these activities.

We have been SO BLESSED by God that now our daily prayer is to BE A BLESSING to others.        Merry Christmas


Vandegriff and Tien Family Photos

The Gospel in the Magnificat, Luke 1

Mary’s beautiful song of praise in Luke 1:46-56 has been called The Magnificat and has been the subject of much art and music coming out of the church through the ages.  “Mary said, ‘My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.’”

If Mary’s song could be taken as a preview of the mission of Jesus, that mission would be defined along the lines of the humble being rescued from the proud and the hungry finding relief while the rich are turned away empty.  This is actually in line with Jesus’ own definition of his mission in Luke 4:16-19 as he quotes from Isaiah where he talks about coming for the poor, the prisoners, the blind and oppressed.

The modern Christianity that I know of has reinterpreted Jesus’ mission quite differently than this. Jesus being the savior has come to be mainly a rescue mission to save people from hell.  Perhaps the “logic” of this shift is that the transient nature of our earthly existence is considered as nothing compared to eternity. So when Mary rejoices in God as her savior, the “saving” has come to mean saving from hell. While this may make sense based on what seems to be sound logic, it is not, in fact, faithful to what the Bible is actually saying.  The current meaning given to the mission of Jesus, the savior, leads to what Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, calls “the hole in our gospel” in his book of that title. This is a different “gospel” where the poor are forgotten because it is deemed more important to be saving sinners from eternal hell.  It is assumed that living in abject poverty is not so bad compared to burning in hell for eternity.  Instead of rescuing the poor and needy, modern Christianity has become aimed at rescuing sinners from hell. The “sinners”, of course, resist these efforts as it seems more of a condemnation than a rescue since it puts the Christians in a position of moral superiority over sinners and all who are declared headed to hell. This is quite a contrast to the call of Jesus for his followers to be servants, not moral judges.

Sadly, forgetting the poor is nothing new to my generation. Religion has been used through the ages by the rulers, the wealthy, powerful and privileged to bolster their position rather than reach out to lift up the poor and oppressed.  And since the people in charge of things claim authority to define the Bible, questioning this different “gospel” that neglects the poor is readily dismissed as heresy.

Dad’s Note-able Sayings

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

“If the cure don’t kill you, you’ll live.”

“He who gambles will surely lose.”

“Don’t do as I do, do as I say.”

“Do not calculate on the juvenile poultry before the proper process of incubation is fully materialized.”

“Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”

“Don’t go near the water until you learn how to swim.”

“He who laughs last laughs loudest (best)”

 “It ain’t WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.”

“Hair and brains don’t mix”

“You can’t out shit an old shitter”