Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas from the Cryders!

Christian & Marilyn Cryder & Co.1
December 25, 2004
Dear Friends & Family!

It’s Christmas time once again, and since we’re still here instead of there2 we thought we’d drop you a line to say ‘Hi’ and let you know we’re still alive – and hey, this year you even get a picture!

As you can see from the photo, Marilyn still looks stunning, Christian is still thinning, and as for those kids, we have no idea who they belong to. Probably local hooligans who wander the streets scavenging for food – ouch! – oh, that’s right, how could I forget…those are our wonderful children! At just a half inch shy of six feet, Malachi (7th grade) has obviously been eating something; Micah (6th) and Rebekah (4th) are not far behind. While Christian can still beat all of them in chess at least 60% of the time, he must now rely on cunning psychological strategies3 to maintain his advantage.

So what have we been up to this past year? Here’s a brief list of highlights…
  • January – Christian discovered that it is not fun to mix a mission critical product rollout at work with Winter Hebrew.4 But hey, after its all over you get three whole days off before you start…Spring Hebrew!
  • February – Rebekah was attacked by fierce dog and had to get 8 stitches in her lip.5 She was very brave (and still likes dogs to boot!).
  • March – both boys were on the same baseball team for the first time ever. We discovered that while Malachi can pitch very, very fast, he also has very little control (quite unnerving for opposing batters). Micah shows signs of making a good little second baseman.
  • April – Marilyn played first horn in Old York Road Symphony for a number of concerts. Reviews were unequivocal: “She has great lips!”
  • May – Hebrew is over! So we trekked back across the country to spend the summer in Billings, where Christian worked full time and did a part time internship at our home church.
  • June – Malachi deftly embedded a #14 soft hackle brassie6 in the back of Micah’s head, instead of his fishing vest. The rest of us discovered Micah has a very low tolerance for pain.
  • July – the kids’ friend Lover came from Philadelphia to spend five weeks in Montana, where he quickly adapted to the redneck lifestyle (Lover likes shooting prairie dogs and fishing).
  • August – Christian took the kids and Jack on a three day camping trip to catch lots of fish! Loads of fun was had by all (except, perhaps, the fish).7
All told, it was a very busy summer, and hey! – after it was all over we got three whole days off while we drove 34 hours back across the country to…a flea infestation in our house in Philly! Ah the joys of seminary life…

Speaking of seminary, here’s what’s happening on that front. We are currently in our third of four years at Westminster Theological Seminary and God has been doing some very exciting things in our lives. In short, we continue to sense his leading in the direction of church planting – hopefully in Missoula, MT.

Christian’s internship this past summer provided valuable opportunities to develop pastoral and preaching skills, and we have also been fortunate to connect with seasoned church planters who are willing to mentor us. Just as significantly, God is fostering deep relationships with several fellow Montanans here at Westminster who may join us in planting a church. Perhaps most importantly, we are enjoying friendships with a number of non-Christians, whose candor and openness has been refreshing – they help us understand what they are looking for in life, what they are hearing from us, and they remind us that we are sinners just like them.

People often ask: “So what are you learning at seminary?” There’s a great article available here which summarizes it well.

In a nutshell, we have been learning to see the work of Christ anew: the “good news” is not just for unbelievers – if anything, I need it more than they do because I am a greater sinner than they are. So I realize that I desperately NEED Jesus (because I am a spiritual shipwreck), but that I actually HAVE everything I need (simply by putting my faith in Christ). I don’t clean myself up by trying harder in my own effort. What will change me (and what is changing me!) is my ongoing faith in Christ – preaching the gospel to myself daily.

In this Christmas season, we’d like to encourage all of you to join us in taking a fresh look at Jesus, realizing that he comes to seek and to save – not those that are “healthy” – but those of us who are spiritually poor, needy, sinners. And that’s me. And that’s you. That’s our human condition. The good news of Christmas is that Emmanuel (“God with us”) cares for us as sinners, so much so Christ has entered this world to save sinners just like us.

May God richly bless you in this coming year, as we all learn to see Christ more clearly!

Christian, Marilyn, Malachi, Micah, and Rebekah!

(footnotes follow)
1. ‘Co.’ still consists of Malachi (age 12.9), Micah (11.5), and Rebekah (9.3). No more, no less. And Jack, our yellow Lab, whose love for sourdough hotcakes (flapjacks) rages unabated.

2. ‘There’ being wherever you are (presumably not synonymous with ‘here,’ which is still Philadelphia). Hmmm…I just realized that I am footnoting a Christmas letter, for Pete sake! Any guesses what I’ve been doing all semester?

3. Aka. ‘intimidation’ or ‘bribery.’

4. Winter Hebrew is the Presbyterian version of Purgatory – you take an entire semester of Hebrew and compress it into three weeks while praying furiously that your wife and kids don’t disown you. Remember, there are good reasons NOT to teach your wife how to use a shotgun or pistol.

5. Praise God that everything has healed well with very little scarring. Reliable sources confirm that Rebekah handled the whole affair much better than her Dad (it is very scary to watch an oral surgeon with a shaky hand).

6. For those of you non-Montanans, that’s a fishing fly (a hook with feathers on it) which you use to catch fish. When you put one of these in your head it hurts and you have to go to the hospital to get it out. If you come visit us during the summer, Micah would be happy to demonstrate how it works…

7. Note that it never, ever rains in August UNLESS you only have a 2-3 man tent, in which case it will pour nonstop while you try to figure out where to put the 3 kids and all the gear and the very wet Lab that just crawled into your sleeping bag. Also note that there are reasons why the MSR manual tells you not to light your camp stove in the tent.