Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Fervent by Priscilla Shirer






Not long ago I listened to this audio book that continues to linger in my thoughts and impact my prayer urgency and my perspective on familial relationships.

These clips had to be saved and shared.

When we see anger, disappointment, discouragement, or sadness creeping into our emotions . . . Or, when we see negative emotions or actions become more prevalent in family members . . . She challenges us to remember:


It bears all the marks of an outside enemy. He’s the one who wants your marriage to suffer. He’s the one who is most invested everyday in sending you out the door susceptible to temptation.
Is he the one on the receiving end of your frustration?
Is he the one you’re splattering with that juicy come back spoken with disgust against the inside glass of your windshield while you are driving down the road, rehearsing the script for your next altercation?

She doesn't stop there. These eye-opening descriptions of Satan's agenda have had me constantly repeating to myself recently that "Satan is the enemy. Not my family members" when I'm tempted to respond in anger instead of love. When my selfishness eclipses my patience.  

He wants you miserable and exhausted and joyless and undone.

He wants that picture of the gospel, the one you call your marriage and your family, he wants it tarnished, ripped up, smeared in the mud of failure, held up as fresh meat from the kill.

It is so easy, in the midst of frustration to think the family member staring me in the face is attacking me, belittling me, making my life hard, being selfish, ignoring me, or whatever it might appear in the moment. But, in reality, that is all Satan's plan. 

Your enemy loves and embodies division.

I can envision him, on the sidelines, our tempers flaring, and him in the cheering section egging us on. Munching his popcorn. Sipping his soda. Fully enjoying the latest splintering.

Priscilla Shirer points out what we really need at a time like this:

A steady dose of prayer.
A. Steady. Dose. Not just one and done. Not just Sunday morning. Not even just before meals. How often do I badger my kids because they take medicine once and think it should cure their illness. Or when recovering from an invasive procedure they moan when the pain returns simply because they did not continue to take their pain killers. So also, prayer needs regular dosage and treatment.

The only effective way to fight in marriage is to pray.

Then, in church this week our pastor mentioned spending extended time in prayer once a week.
I need that.
My marriage needs that.
My family needs that.
My friends need that.
My future needs that.
The missionaries we support need that.
Sometimes I feel I'm not doing enough for the kingdom. I can start right here.

Praying.

Finding that time, making that time for extended, serious, wrestling in prayer. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Homeschooling High School: - Try it, you'll like it


Intimidation mounts gradually as the grades tick by for homeschoolers. For some reason people don't question much that we can teach a child to read or master basic math. With middle school comes a new set of questions -- how do you know enough to teach your kids?

Are you really smarter than a 5th grader?

High school pounds this home with explosive intensity. Really? You really think you can teach Latin or Spanish, and Calculus, and Physics, and Government, and science labs, and research papers? You really think your child can go to college having never stepped foot in a traditional classroom? All with YOU as the primary teacher?

Well, yes, in fact, I think so. Maybe.

Although my passion for homeschooling doesn't waiver, my confidence in myself took a serious nose-dive as we stepped into the high school years.

After much prayer, we decided to press on. The benefits of enrolling in a traditional school were nearly non-existent in comparison to homeschooling, so we tried our hand at freshman year.

Honestly, that was a hard year. Really hard in some ways. This man-child inched past me in height, and in some academic subjects as well. We communicate differently, learn differently, and excel in different areas. I had to learn to capitalize on the weaknesses that hovered between us.

At the end of freshmen year I had almost had it. I felt like we were driving a hundred miles an hour -- in opposite directions. Then, something snapped. Or, clicked, not sure which.

It came right after I decided to just give up on really trying and just coast to graduation. My husband caught me in that one. A godly, loving parent could never push that ejector seat button and just bail out. 

So, I pulled back and prayed. and prayed. and prayed.

On a calmish day I sat down for a real heart-to-heart with my newly 15 year old. I dug in, searching for the deep waters that Proverbs says the heart holds. I found them. God met us there and everything changed directions.

I saw his respect for me visibly improve. I felt my love for him surge. We could carry on in a productive, God-honoring way. And I almost missed it.

I almost gave up, put him on the bus, sent him off somewhere, anywhere. But God. God spoke through my wise husband and pulled us all back together again.

Now, years later, I cannot tell you the gratitude that I have for that bottoming out during his freshmen year. It paved the way for his sophomore year when he started to ask for advice. We discussed college and courses of study. Such an exciting time! First job, college applications, placement exams, seeing the fruit of all these years, and even the pressing through those tough days and seasons.

Don't miss this time in your teen's life, or even another 6-8 hours a day of it. They'll already have work and volunteer opportunities likely pulling them away now and then, we don't need them gone for school on top of that. Now, don't guilt yourself out of transitioning your high schooler in school if that is where God has clearly led your family. But, if you are still on the fence, don't be intimidated or driven to traditional school out of fear. Pray through this decision like you have never prayed before.

Dream together. college, jobs, careers, relationships.

Discuss it all. I treasure the real life conversations that pepper the high school years (and beyond). No more imaginary, if I could fly or why is the sky blue talk. Now we talk about real things. The nightly news, deep biblical doctrines, international politics (or state politics . . .), church government issues, caring for orphans, and all kinds of other meaty topics that come up because we live life together.Yeah, there's still board games and laughing through Balderdash and family movie night, and so many other fun moments, too, but life is still full of teachable moments.

I had no idea I would enjoy this season as much as I do. And even now, I'm only about half way through. :)


Thursday, July 11, 2019

You can homeschool high school





(This was a series that I started right before I started working six years ago and never finished. I am republishing these first two posts and plan to finish the other 10 posts that I started, but never finished)

You can do it, even if you don't feel like it.

Many homeschoolers get scared away by topics like trigonometry, chemistry, and foreign language. I will readily admit that it all sounds a bit intimidating, but as we charge to the end of our first child's sophomore year, I'm living proof that it can be done.

This week we experienced an exciting affirmation. My son, almost 16, went to the community college to take the entrance exams so he can begin dual-enrollment classes there this summer.

He had to take two tests -- reading and math to secure his spot in the appropriate class. He is currently nearing the end of Saxon Advance Mathematics with me as his teacher. Yep, me. The one who always has to look up what sin means (at least outside of Bible class). The one who needs reminders about what a natural logarithm is, and even with a reminder I will admit I don't really understand it.

So, how'd he do?

Proud mama moment . . . He easily passed the college level reading proficiency required by many of the classes (history, science, etc.). And, he tested into the highest class they test for -- college level calculus.

I can assure you he did not accomplish this because he had some wise knowledgeable teacher guiding him through pre-caluclus. It was just me and Saxon's book, not even the DIVE CD's.

Success is not guaranteed, but it is possible, and there are some things I did right to get here. Despite my pretty pathetic track record with blogging lately, I am going to start a series of posts and homeschooling high school and some of what I am learning, even as I admit that I am still a rookie in this venture.

I did a lot of things wrong -- started serious record keeping late, didn't do enough writing over the years, let myself get intimidated by my weaknesses, let high school sneak up on me, and on and on. God gives grace and wisdom where I had none. You don't need to be the perfect parent or the perfect teacher, just a God- surrendered one willing to seek out the answers, and surround your home with the resources for each child to be all that God has created him or her to be. And, when you have an off week, or an off month, or even an off year, God can restore those seasons.

I walked through some seasons of the locust devouring everything around me and I thought we could never make up the last opportunities and time. God is so good, and we stand here jaw dropped at test scores that live that out.

Surprise, surprise, my kids' success isn't all about me. But, stay tuned and I will share some of what we did right along the way to get here.

UPDATE: Our son has now graduated college and landed his dream job in California. More on that in later posts, but we have now graduated our third child from high school and continue to learn with two in high school this upcoming school year. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The powerful depth of forgiveness


Bitterness and resentment fester for years in hearts and minds singed by criticism, both given and received. Even frequent, prayerful surrender of such struggles to God does not seem to completely remove the emotion that wells up in response to a reliving of experiences that cut us to the core of our beings. 

What do we do? 
How do we fix it? 
How do we press on in the face of such unfair opposition? 
How can we focus our energies on the task at hand when these constant attacks require significant portions of our mental and emotional stamina? 

In September, nearly a year ago now, God kept hammering away at the concept of forgiveness in my life – weekend sermons, snippets caught on the car radio, scheduled Bible studies, random You Version devotionals. Everyday, multiple times a day, God kept revealing more to my heart about the need to completely forgive, what that looked like, and the steps involved.  The funny thing is, I don’t really struggle with forgiveness. I’m not a grudge holder. Even after talking with my husband about this strange emphasis on forgiveness, I couldn’t really put a finger on why God was continuing this deep, prolonged scrutiny of the concept of forgiveness.

Regardless of the reason for this focused teaching, I felt the need to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and compile these thoughts rather than ignore them and chalk them up to personal growth points. 

Pervasive teaching throughout Scripture

In addition to the words of countless recent sermons, these verses brought up in other contexts have weighed heavily on me as I watch the body of Christ attack itself. I have to share the Words God kept bringing before me:


  •  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”– Romans 12:19 
  •  Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly. -- Deuteronomy 32:35
  •  For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. – Hebrews 10:30-31 (this whole passage, really)
  •   Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. – John 8:49-50
  •   And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. – Luke 23:34  (love this example of Jesus asking God to forgive them)
  •   For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died . . . All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. – 2 Corinthians 5:14, 18-20
  •  Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. – I Peter 3:13-17
  •  For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. – I Peter 2:19-23
  •  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:4-11
    
  •  Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? – Lamentations 3:37
  •   21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others. – Ecclesiastes 7:21-22
  •   Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. – Luke 6:26 (We should be more concerned if no one speaks against us)


Some other longer passages for further study if you are hungering for more:

  • Psalm 135
  • Nehemiah (to fight against attackers, he informed the people and armed them with a vision for the task at hand and a physical weapon as well)
  • The rest of I Peter 3
  • The rest of Matthew 5
  • Romans 8
  • Psalm 15
  •  Colossians 3:1-4, 12-17, 23-25

Jesus’s accusers chased away every single one of his followers in His moment of need. Every. Single. One. Yet, it was by God’s design and He did greater things through their scattering. He brought each of them to a defining moment in their personal faith. Even in the background to Jesus’s most significant act of saving mankind from sin, God cared for each individual’s eternity that had pledged allegiance to Jesus to the point of death. 

Yes, many in the Church (universal) have parted ways, and yet, how many have joined to the Church  as a result of these splinterings? How many have stormed off from a church fired up for something “better” and started churches, or joined others with a passion for the gospel and reaching others? I believe we have seen God use divisions to drive greater numbers to Him. He is used to having to work in and through our sinful human natures.

A just response

As God kept whittling this concept of forgiveness into a masterpiece, a debate stirred around me about the legitimacy of taking a believer to court in a lawsuit. While I can understand a difference of interpretation in some of these Scripture passages, I feel that the choice to bring a fellow Christian before a legal court is a risky step that opens the church (both local and universal) up to incredible hurt and outward criticism and goes counter to the overall teaching and natural interpretation of many passages of Scripture.

We all make hurtful choices at times and sometimes don’t realize until we cross that line what has happened. As my heart breaks for Christ’s Church in America today, I could not let this pass without pouring out the highlights of God’s teaching to me in this area.

Verse after verse after verse pounds out the message of forgiveness. Counter arguments seem largely based elsewhere. If the best arguments for any decision come from study notes, a Christian book, or someone's personal comment, that seems to raise a concern for the biblical validity of a decision. Make sure that every step, every move has clear grounding in Scripture.

Throughout Scripture I see no validation for legal offensive action. Response? Yes. Immediate defense when accusation arises? Yes. Defending oneself when dragged by others into a court of law? Yes. Filing a lawsuit, which is clearly discouraged elsewhere in Scripture? I do not see validation for this.

Seems that the best place to leave it is where it has always rested – in God’s hands


So many quotes from sermons come to mind (taken from my Bible’s margin):
·         “Mercy doesn’t mean you don’t care, it means it’s not your job.”
·         Sometimes we think that the hurt is too big - or that time will heal it. Unforgiveness is like a tumor in our soul. Forgiveness is the Christian-life survivor skill.
·         Grace is being vulnerable to further injury
·         Is it worth fighting over?

So much criticism, unforgiveness, and retaliation is tearing apart the Church today. Praying for unity over the insignificant things for greater victory for the gospel.  

Whether we attend the same or different churches, regardless of the side of the political aisle where we take our seat, no matter our home state or native country -- forgiveness is what we have received in abundance and what we should also pour out on others without keeping score. 

Not an easy lesson to learn or live out, but oh so needed to heal hurts in our own and others' hearts. 



Monday, June 10, 2019

Judgment

Judge not lest you be judged. Condemn not.Remove the log before offering to remove the speck.

God has been convicting me relentlessly over these verses.

I have caught thought after thought of senseless judgement:

the way they dress

the way they drive

the groceries in their cart

the extravagance clearly spent on their appearance

their fakeness


and on, and on. And, shamefully, most of that was at church (well, not the groceries).

Yes. When my focus should have been solely on worshiping the God of the universe, the God who has forgiven me my sins at the cost of His own son's life. Just then, I felt the need to nitpick over trivialities of those around me. Worse yet, I passed judgment on things I could not even see or know to be true! Awful.

Thankful for friends who know this about me and still love me.
Thankful for friends I can share this raw, ugly truth about my thoughts.
Thankful for friends that challenge me to keep after this sin in repentance, confession, and surrender.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Learning to Savor - even more deeply


With a house full of littles I learned, however imperfectly, to savor each moment. Not to rush it, not to wish it over.

But, in the midst of savoring I was not blind to the things I would not miss.

I would cherish the 2 AM feeding, but be grateful the 10, 12, 4, 6, 8 feedings wouldn't last forever.

Hold tight to the snuggles, but find peace that I would not have kids hanging on me forever.

Live in the simplicity of early childhood routine, while still thankful that I would not always need to remind them to change their clothes, brush their teeth, make their bed, do their chores.

Now, on the cusp of another child leaving home I savor the whole season.

Midnight conversations, wrestling through tough decisions and full schedules, managing who has what vehicle and where and until when, seeing faith personalized, hearing of relationships deepening, God on the move, child initiated daily devotion time.


But, at times I still think I won't miss the stuff left around the house as they hurry from one commitment to the next, the empty gas tanks, the full laundry baskets, the unpredictable meal count, or the irregular hours.

I'm really just fooling myself. I'll miss it all. Every bag, shoe, and article of clothing found in a random spot. Every "disruption" to routine.

I'll miss every bit of it. The same way my heart grows heavy yet full when I see a young mom with three or four littles in tow at the grocery store.

The same way my breath grows shaky when I realize I don't trip over toys in the family room any more.

The same way my eyes sting just a bit when I realize the morning snuggle time with my youngest has grown sporadic.

They grow and change, and become the people they are supposed to. I wouldn't want it any other way.

But, I have learned to savor both the good and the bad, because I will surely miss every little bit of it.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Neighborhood Bible Club - picking a curriculum





While meeting with various experts in the field, I took time to look at their curriculum and evaluate it in action as well as in theory. I liked what I saw, but also saw room for improvement.

So, I set out on a curriculum search. Not satisfied until I had found the best (in my opinion).

Child Evangelism Fellowship puts out a time tested curriculum that you can purchase from them for use out of your own home. It is a quality product. Large, colorful pictures. Song Lyric books readable from a good distance. Bible stories. Games. Songs that were fun to sing and simple to learn. And, the missionary story (I had forgotten how much I loved these!)

The nearby church produced their own curriculum which  included all of the above, except a missionary story, and also crafts and an object lesson, and it was also a strong product.

However, I saw areas lacking in both.

CEF had oversimplified their program to make it pretty much completely non-consumable. While this makes it easy to reuse and inexpensive to produce and replicate, it takes away some of the fun. You could carry the whole curriculum in a messenger bag and be set from start to finish. Easy, but kinda boring (again, my opinion).

I want stuff for the kids to touch and interact with. Game supplies, pictures, take home crafts, hands-on activities, etc.

As with most things, I kept what I loved and tossed the rest. But, I still needed a curriculum.

In googling, I came across Lifeway's Backyard Bible Club curriculum. Ordered a set and never looked back.

It is excellent -- Made for use on a residential lawn (low tech, not based on videos like most VBS curriculums for sale); full of truly fun game ideas and a variety to last throughout the week; program includes a version for school age as well as one for preschool.
 
My biggest criticism is that they seem to be moving to a digital format except for their most current year, and they do not seem to have as many back versions available (I assume they are not replacing as they sell out). This is fine as long as you plan to get the new one each year, but I was hoping to have the option to buy older products  as well.


I do truly love these kits. Let me open them up for you with some pics . . .

In each kit is a folder to distribute to other members of your team. These give step by step instructions to each point person on how to fill their role with excellence.

These folders answer a million and one questions and help everyone prepare for the expected and the unexpected.

Vivid, full color 11x17 posters are included to make story time memorable. 

And, cards for the Game leader help in organization and give lots of inspiration to last the whole week and for a variety of ages. 
 


 Craft samples are also included and can be purchased for an additional fee 
(in packs of 10 for $5 - $6 each). We ended up making our own with supplies we had on hand, but even these are an affordable add on.


And, last but not least, the music. Easy to pop in and enjoy with the group and a choreography DVD can help your song leader learn the motions ahead of time.

Really, what could be simpler? 

You can do this. Just about anyone can do this (with a couple friends). If you are an introvert, find at least one extrovert for your team. If you are an extrovert, find at least one introvert for your team. Just another observation that seems to be true of the best teams for these at home bible clubs. One person to spread the word and another to reign in the details.

We used this kit last year with a group of about twenty kids and the week just flew by. They had fun, came back excited each day, and learned more about Jesus's love for them and their friends.

Remember, less than two hours a day! You can still fit lots of your own summer into each day while having an impact for eternity.

Prayerfully consider hosting your own this summer. No excuses. If you live somewhere not conducive to this kind of outreach (too rural, too urban, townhouse, etc.) find someone with a house in a neighborhood full of kids that needs you to help them run it. I would love to see and hear about more people bringing the gospel right into their neighborhood in the years ahead.