Friday, July 29, 2011

Into a Life of Prayer; A Journey, Part 7

Links for earlier posts in this prayer series are here:   Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6

The Lord's Prayer, Our Model, Vol. 4
We're back to our study of the Lord's Prayer this week.

The first three petitions, remember, focus on God, using the word Thy. 1) Hallowed be Thy name;  2) Thy kingdom come;  3) Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

The last three petitions focus on Us:
~ Give us this day our daily bread
~ And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
~ And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One.

Today we focus on:  Give us this day our daily bread

After focusing our minds on God and his Kingdom, Jesus calls us to acknowledge our dependence on God the Father for our daily living needs, both physical and spiritual.

Spiritual Needs:  Matthew 4:4--But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

Physical Needs: Matthew 6:25-34 (Source here)
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

In praying for our daily bread, we remind ourselves that He is the Source of our sustenance

That means our physical sustenance needs are not met by:
farm fields
retirement funds
savings accounts

In the same way, our spiritual needs are not met by: 
material items

Our Father desires to provide everything we need to live our lives in obedience to him. Just as an earthly father would not withhold daily sustenance from his children, neither does Our Heavenly Father withhold it from us. All feelings of lack, therefore, result from our going elsewhere for our sustenance.

If we lose a job, yes, it is disconcerting. But if we view Our Heavenly Father as our Source, we know that when one income channel dries up, another will surface. Indeed, income channels will always dry up. Change is inevitable. A new channel may be in the form of a part-time job at first, but regardless of how attractive the channel, we must feel at our very core that Father will provide. This shouldn't be something we have to convince ourselves of, through sheer will. We must know it at our core

We must pray for our daily bread, as Jesus instructs us, so that it never enters our mind that something else might be the Source. Jesus knew our weakness. He knew we would try to rely on ourselves, or on another false god, to supply our needs. Thus, he teaches us to pray:  Give us this day our daily bread.

Notice the word daily. Remember that the Children of Israel were instructed to rely on daily manna, and told not to store it up for tomorrow?  It they tried to store it up for tomorrow, they had pestilence.  God made it spoil if they didn't obey.

This part of the prayer, this emphasis on daily, it to address greed. Jesus knew there would be greed, and indeed, so much of the world goes without daily bread because of greed. Our Heavenly Father provides for all, as promised, but we do not distribute it fairly. We take too much for ourselves, trying to store it up. We don't give enough to the third world, or to our needy neighbors in America, because we don't have faith. All greed is a lack of faith.

Jesus wants to prevent that lack of faith, so he teaches us to pray for our daily bread. 

Friends, we must do this....not only when we lose an income channel, but everyday. So that we will share. Just as God relies on us to plant sustenance crops and to tend them (we must work), he relies on us to share the food and other sustenance resources. We have a part in providing. 

Notice the words us and our. Give us this day our daily bread. We don't ever, in the Lord's prayer, ask anything for ourselves. We pray as a brotherhood. And we must live as a brotherhood.

In addition to food, Our Father provides other daily needs as well (shelter, clothing, for example). If we live in an area without public transportation, then He will provide a vehicle, if that vehicle is necessary to maintain employment.

If you drive a luxury car and lose your job, don't expect luxury wheels as a replacement. Luxury, at its core, is greed. If you lose your wardrobe in a natural disaster, don't expect new designer clothes as a replacement. They are greed also. Any extra we try to store up, beyond our actual need, is greed. Our desire to store up keeps starving people, starving. 

We are outside the will of God when we exercise greed....when we lack faith. 

Matthew 6:33
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

If we are greedy and faithless, we are not seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. The promise to be provided for, then, does not apply to us.

Does that sound harsh? Well, yes. But is it any harsher than all the bellies heard around the world, grumbling for food, because of our greed?

We must align ourselves with the will of God, and that starts by praying for our daily bread. That will build faith. Do that and then believe it.

What is needed daily? What is not needed at all? We question every purchase, in light of God's will that we share. Is a new carpet really needed, when billions live on dirt floors? If we have the means to buy a new carpet, could that money, instead, be used to buy small business resources for a Compassion-sponsored third world family, or a water well or filter?

Is our car unreliable, or just out of fashion or old looking? If we have the means to buy a new modest car, can we donate our old one to a needy family, rather than trading it in? For that is how God may provide for that needy family to maintain employment. Through our obedience.

Do we want a bigger, better house to impress others, or because we plan to house some of God's people? For our extra space may be how God plans to provide for a family who lost their house in the recession. Through our obedience.

The Lord's Prayer, when we look at it closely, aligns us with the will of God. Let us live by every word.

Edited on August 13: I need to retract my statement that all luxury consumption is greed. That doesn't make sense since the luxury industry employs a lot of people, and where would the little guy be without this industry?  So sorry about that ill-conceived notion.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Do You Know About Missions?

My friend Katherine has a strong background in missions.  She's written a wonderful, practical post to assist us in informing ourselves, our children, and our churches and faith communities about a topic that is sadly neglected in most churches, that of missions discipleship.

She included many educational website references in her post, including  What is the 10/40 window?  Here is a definition from the website itself:

What is the 10/40 Window?

The 10/40 Window is an area of the world that contains the largest population of non-Christians in the world. The area extends from 10 degrees to 40 degrees North of the equator, and stretches from North Africa across to China.

I learned so much just from this one website!  Katherine's post also includes lists of missionary biographies, including those suitable to read aloud to our children.  Please, please, bookmark this link if you have to and read her wonderful post!

Missions Discipleship: Some Practical Ideas (From her website, Restore the Ancient Paths)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Redefining Blessing

Philippians 1:21
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

The Apostle Paul's famous words challenge me this week. They're teaching me to redefine the term blessing. As we sit under crushing financial stress, I'm learning that my day to day comfort is unimportant. It's my spiritual state, not my physical one, that matters to God.

Whatever definition the world holds for the term blessing, we can be sure God's definition is opposite.

According to the world, you're blessed if you have....

...physical beauty.
...a vacation fund.
...a summer house.
...the latest fashions.
...a great personality. advanced education.
...a good job.
...retirement savings. education savings.
...good health.
...a big house with nice furniture.
...funds for adventures.
...a good support network.
...high confidence.

According to the Lord, you're blessed if you have...

...a heart for the poor.
...a heart of thankfulness.
...spirit joy
...spirit peace.
...a deep devotion to God.
...blind faith.
...a poor spirit (from the Beatitudes--"Blessed are the poor in spirit" means you understand your own iniquities, and your deep need for God).

The Beatitudes, from Matthew 5:3-10

"Blessed are the poor in spiritfor theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Blessed are they who mournfor they shall be comforted. 

Blessed are the meekfor they shall inherit the earth. 

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousnessfor they shall be satisfied. 

Blessed are the mercifulfor they shall obtain mercy. 

Blessed are the pure of heartfor they shall see God. 

Blessed are the peacemakersfor they shall be called children of God. 

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousnessfor theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

I'm learning this week that a blessing is that which sets my gaze on the Almighty.

I am blessed!

If one has all the worldly things from the first list, where is their gaze likely to be?  Squarely on themselves

Matthew 19:16-23

The Rich Young Man (source here)
16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
 17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
 18 “Which ones?” the man inquired.
Jesus replied, “ ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony,  19 honor your father and mother,’a and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’b
 20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
 21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

The unemployment rate is still nearly 10%, so I estimate at least seven of you are experiencing, or have experienced, unemployment or underemployment. The road back to financial stability can be long and arduous. Some, depending on their age and experiences, may never attain the financial footing they previously enjoyed. 

Your new lifestyle demands a lot of redefining

~ If you have plenty, that's only a blessing if you share it

~ If you have what you need, that's only a blessing if you're thankful.

Look at your circumstances as an opportunity. God has your undivided attention. Listen. Learn. Teach.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Did you know....

.....there's a raccoon in one of our trees?

.....we're sick here and enjoying extra cuddling, extra books, and extra Curious George and Thomas The Train movies?

.....the bunnies love it when husband doesn't have time to mow the grass clover?

.....that my husband now works days, so all four children go to the doctor's together? They are looking forward to watching brother Paul get his ear wax sucked out by the ENT. They really want a glimpse of his ears under the microscope. Paul's looking forward to hearing again. can buy absorbent vomit granules at medical supply stores? You only have to sprinkle them on the offensive piles and then vacuum them up a few hours later. (A trick I learned from my teaching years. The custodians always used them.) The smell goes away immediately. Trust me, you want these granules. Two of mine get one vomiting incident each when their post nasal drip gets too thick.

....that in the middle of the night last night, Miss Beth began to vomit in my hand, after violent coughing?  I yelled twice, as loud as I could, "Get me a throw-up bowl!"  No one woke up. We did make it to the bathroom in time to avert a major 3:00 AM disaster, though. children behave much better when only one parent is home? They want one boss at a time. At night, when Daddy arrives home at 7:15 PM, all is calm. And stays calm. For a long time, on his non-errand, non-school days, he was home until lunch. Conflict was a regular part of our mornings, as Peter especially, had difficulty with two bosses at the same time.

The new routine is a blessing! All the bossing around is done by the time Daddy arrives home. He helps with reading and devotions only. I love it! Women are very good at "guiding the house."

1 Timothy 5:14
I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.  

.....squirrels crawl with their bellies on the ground, like at army boot camp, when they see something interesting edible?

....spending your days cuddling with sick kids is very rewarding (minus the sick part)?

I'm loving it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Hundred Dresses

We finished the short story The Hundred Dresses, a Eleanor Estes Newberry Honor book, in a one-hour sitting. It's leveled at 5.0, (starting fifth grade), but most kids in grades 3-4 could easily read it, with help on a few advanced vocabulary words.

Although, in leveling books, maturity of themes is to be considered as much as vocabulary and readability. I think fifth grade is the best year to delve seriously into the themes Estes presents in The Hundred Dresses.

Estes's themes--racial, academic, and economic prejudice--challenge children to adhere to their convictions despite fears of losing friends, losing popularity, or of being ridiculed themselves.

The main character, Maddie, best friend to the antagonist in the story, largely ignores the Holy Spirit's warnings about letting her friend tease Wanda, a poor polish girl in their class who wears the same blue dress every day, and lives on the wrong side of town.

This isn't a Christian book, per se, but the inner warnings Maddie receives can only be described as Holy Spirit pricks of conscience.  And the conviction her tormented soul eventually arrives at--that she will never again stand by and allow anyone to be teased, despite any cost to herself (even losing her best friend), is clearly faith driven.

I highly recommend this book as part of your devotional time. It's a wonderful illustration of the cost involved in being set apart for God. Our children need to assured that God is with them always, that he will never abandon them, and because of this, they are free to be Holy. There is nothing to fear.

Leviticus 20:26 
You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.
1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Hebrews 13:5
I will never leave you nor forsake you.
See this post for more on the literary works of Eleanor Estes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

VBS blessings...and whines

Warning:  Whining first, blessings second.  Stick with me?

We started Vacation Bible School when our oldest was four years old. That makes six years of this high-octane activity. Only once did I find a daytime program. All the other years, it's been a grueling five consecutive nights of over-stimulation, leading to insomnia for my whole clan.

To get them through, I push naps every other day. That helps the VBS workers enormously, but it makes my nights worse. I never know if the insomnia is because of the nap, or because they can't settle their over-stimulated minds and bodies down.

Nap or no nap, they rarely fall asleep before 10:30 PM ( or 11 for Paul) on VBS nights....and the fussiness (x 4 this year) on the drive home and during bedtime prep, and the next a sure thing. I've tried different things to calm them down before bed, to no avail.

It's just this beast I have to grit my teeth and endure--counting the hours until Friday night. They would call it the highlight of their year, with the county fair coming in second. Christmas is pretty wonderful too, of course.

They love it as much as I love I get it. I support it with fake smiles all week.

Would I want someone exiling me to a chocolate-free island?

In less than twenty-four hours, it's over for another year. I'm sure we'll survive, despite the heat advisories all week and the broken church air conditioning.  Sauna, anyone?

My husband reminds me that air conditioning is a recent invention. Considering this, I've berated myself all week. Surely I can be more long-suffering? How would I survive on the mission field, helping native women carry heavy jugs of water, uphill, back from the contaminated river?

The air conditioning went out in the van early last summer. The central AC in the house will break eventually, and we'll likely have no money to fix it. So, yes, the Lord will teach me that virtue yet....long-sufferingness.

There are many good things, and to remind my frazzled self of those, I list them here:

~ The unbridled passion my children exude as they sing (okay, shout) praise songs to Jesus, complete with sophisticated hand and body motions.

~ The friends they wave at and greet so enthusiastically in the parking lot....a practice always mimicked by my toddler.

~ The number of times they ask me each day....."How many more hours until VBS starts?"

~ The sanctuary and classrooms, decorated to eye-popping perfection, every year.

~ The delightful gadgets they come home with, like glow-in-the-dark trinkets. (Such things distract them from bedtime prep, so I confiscate them until morning.  They always remember to ask me for the confiscated loot, first thing in the morning, though.)

~ The enthusiasm with which they jump out of our vehicle upon arrival, smiling from ear to ear, eyes dancing.

~ The handmade T-shirts we've collected over the years, each one displaying a different VBS theme...a different Bible verse.

~ The loving, spirited teachers who never look tired...even on Friday night.  I'm sure they fall into bed every night, but the Lord sure holds them up during the festivities.

~ The youngest one here (Mary, this year) reciting the week's Bible verse at dinner, melting my heart.

~ For the inventive snacks and crafts, so lovingly provided.

~ The grace my children extend to me, the party pooper, every year.  Somehow, they get it makes my days longer, harder, when they're overtired and fussy.

~ And this year, a very special thank you......for baby Matthew, seven months old this weekend, whom I've had the pleasure of holding in the nursery all week. He's amazing. His mother does sound for this church. Two-year-old Beth has taken my devotion to him in stride. She's still gotten more of my attention than usual.  (It been just the three of us in there.)

~ I shall always remember baby Matthew's humming along to my songs, as I walked him to sleep. He's a few months advanced in everything...and his singing? Incredible.

Do my children gain spiritual knowledge from VBS? Not always.

But the point, for me, is this:

They gain childhood memories of worshiping Jesus with every ounce of energy they've the company of saints. They experience the joy of the Lord.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Author's Corner, Eleanor Estes

This afternoon before Vacation Bible School (it that adventure exhausting or what?) we finished Ginger Pye, by Eleanor Estes (6th grade reading level).

Oh, my goodness.

I cried for most of the last chapter, giving myself a wallop of a headache. It was a happy cry though. Do endings get any happier than this? The only sadness for my boys was that it came to an end at all. The main characters, 10- and 9-year-old brother and sister Jerry and Rachel, felt like friends to my boys.  How Paul and Peter would have loved to hang out in this 1951 neighborhood!

As I closed the book and headed for the tissue box, Paul begin perusing our shelves immediately, wondering what we would read next. He wanted to know if there was a sequel to Ginger Pye.

Yes, there is! Pinky Pye  (grade level 5.9) is the sequel to Ginger Pye.

Eleanor Estes, once a librarian, began her writing career with The Moffats, in 1941. She started this heartwarming story while in bed, recovering from tuberculosis. Here is her Amazon Page, listing all her books. Here is a biography.

Her Moffats books are a series, two of which are Newberry-honored books. The novel The Hundred Dresses (grade level 5.0) was also chosen as a Newberry Honor. Ginger Pye is her only Newberry Medal book.

What success! I can't think of another author we've read with more Newberry awards.

Most notable books:

The Moffats, 1941
The Middle Moffat, 1942 (Newberry Honor)
Rufus M, 1943 (Newberry Honor)
The Hundred Dresses, 1944 (Newberry Honor)
Ginger Pye, 1951 (Newberry Medal)
Pinkey Pye, 1958

The Moffats   -     
        By: Eleanor Estes
        File:The Hundred Dresses.jpg

Newberry honored books show a bronze circle award on the front cover, while the medaled books show a gold circle award.

6 Endearing Things About Ginger Pye:

~ Can a brother and sister be better friends than these two?  I don't think so. The book is about their relationship, really, though the plot line has to do with Ginger Pye, their dog, being kidnapped early in the book. With all its meanderings into a child's mind, this story warmed my heart from page 1.

~ This story will make you say YES!, the next time your kids ask for a dog. You'll suddenly feel that every kid needs a dog. (If we had the money to feed a dog, I'd go to the pound immediately.)

~ Everything is wholesome and safe in this neighborhood. Kids could wander, explore, and stay out 'till dark. The author draws you into an earlier time, delighting your heart every step of the way--making you long for the past.

~ Eleanor Estes started with pages of notes about her own childhood, and from there, she wrote her delightful books. It's amazing how she's captured the very essence of childhood--as though she'd lived it just yesterday.

~ There's a wonderful teenager in this book, Sam Doody, who makes your heart cheer. He's perfect for young kids to look up to.

~ Chapter Two, Dusting the Pews, is hilariously funny. I was laughing so hard at one point, I could barely read on.

What can I say?  Eleanor Estes is my new favorite author, next to my long-time favorite, Louisa May Alcott.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

about those blog click stats

Just wanted to add something about blog statistics. I mentioned that only two people clicked on Kristin's Kenya story. I should add, for your comfort, that I don't know who clicks on what (and I wouldn't want to)--nor does any other blog author, unless they have some sophisticated equipment needed for crime solving, or whatever. I know little to nothing about technology.

Google blog stats show number of clicks, I assume, so blog authors will know what interests readers. Most stats seem to be designed for business blogs, or those containing advertisements or products. As such most of them are of little use to me. Interesting sometimes, but not very useful. And I write a knee-jerk, emotional kind of blog, so what people want to read doesn't usually figure in.

 I rarely have time to click on links, myself. When I sit down to read something during the day (or stand, as is often the case), I've usually got five minutes to spare. After the kids go to bed, I know that clicking on links means I probably won't get my dishes done, or my last laundry load shuffled. Dangerous.

So I know, first hand, why few moms click on links.

Another Random Topic

If I ever write a book before I die, I'm in trouble.  Publishers require you to push your own book nowadays, using blogs, Facebook and Twitter.  I'm so not a business woman.  I would abhor having to do this. Writing for magazines seems so much more appealing.

It'd be interesting to know whether self-promotion really works.  Ann Voskamp works very hard to push her book, while The Pioneer Woman, who has three books out, says very little on her blog about them, especially after publication release.  And yet both women are on the New York Times Bestseller lists for their genres.

Both women give generously to charity, so any self-promotion they do benefits the less fortunate. I find no fault in it.

Nevertheless, I hope publishers do away with the self-promotion requirement.  Not every author is also a savvy business person. Why not just ask them to picture the book on their blog, and provide a link for buying?

On a whim one day, I looked into submitting guest posts to (in)courage (a wonderful site, by the way). I found that you have to list your Twitter account, probably so they can see how many followers you have.

Is that what our society's been reduced to?  How many followers we have?

Insert eye roll here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

6 Ways to Love Your Husband Better

My heart broke a little this morning.

Two-year-old Beth got into something my husband left out, wasting it (and money). He was extremely frustrated. His ADHD makes it very difficult to attend to his personal items. Simple organizational tasks the rest of us take for granted, are huge for inattentive-type ADHD sufferers (Peter, my son, doesn't have this type).

I kept quiet, letting his frustration vent. I heard him say:  "She can't grow up soon enough for me! And I won't be adopting any little ones from a third world country, either."

Heartbroken, I just dropped my head, attending to Beth's diaper.

Mind you, my husband isn't a jerk, though this comment makes him seem like one. Yes, it was one of his worst moments, but we all have such moments. He exerts himself plenty to love us all sacrificially.

And even if my husband's heart was open to adoption, we would never qualify, due to poverty-level income and our ages. Besides, I hadn't even asked him about adoption. Perhaps the Lord's been at work in some way?  I don't know.

Husband has suffered incredible stress in the past two years, so very little of what he does or says right now, is his true self. That's never far from my mind.

Still, the hardness of his comments broke me.

He left for work after this, and I started a conversation with my heavenly Father. I have a list to share, which the Holy Spirit helped me compile.

6 Ways to Love Your Husband Better

~ When he disappoints you, go to your Father. Most things don't require a response. Pray something like: "Our Father, help me to magnify the good things about my husband, and apply grace to the bad things. Prevent me from stewing, from responding in anger, from holding a grudge. Remind me of my own need of grace."

~ Your husband wants respect more than love.  He's just wired that way.  Never complain about the living he provides--your everyday living circumstances--even if it's just to say you have nothing to wear. His burden to provide is huge. Be grateful and sensitive, thanking him for his hard work.

~ Serve him as much as you can, in love.  This is hard when little children keep you running, but simple things like bringing him a cold drink without being asked, blesses him. Any sign of respect blesses him!

~ Go to him with your personal difficulties, when other matters aren't stressing him. Let him lead you. This is so hard for women! We often think we can do it better. Practice getting out of the way, and see how his leadership skills develop. You'll feel blessed. He'll feel respected.

~ Leave him alone as he plays and interacts with the children. Let him be himself. If we want our men to be good fathers, we have to stop interfering. Pray much, say little.

~ Be willing to live out the Gospel in your home, because you are no better.

Remember, marriage doesn't complete us. God does. Once we realize this, we can love our spouses sacrificially. Marriage, like parenthood, is just another avenue by which we're sanctified.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Guest Post: Amy's Prayer Warrior Journey, Vol.5

Friends, I asked Amy to share five posts with us, so today is the last installment of Amy's Prayer Warrior Journey. Please show your appreciation in the comments section! Thank you.

And would you prayerfully consider sharing with us yourself?  It doesn't have to be weekly. You can share whenever the Holy Spirit puts something on your mind. He will guide you. Consider that sharing with us will give you some accountability as you get started on a daily prayer journey.  If you are interested, please e-mail me at christine4431(at)ymail(dot)com  

Amy's Prayer Warrior Journey, Vol. 5

Christine's call to begin praying every day has been such a blessing to me. The Holy Spirit spoke through her writing to call me back to a structured prayer time. As I've mentioned before, for whatever reasons, I had let my prayer/devotion time slip away. I remember telling my husband I didn't even know what to say when I did pray. 

At the time, I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and full of complaints. I felt as if I was drowning in my life. I knew I needed to spend time with God, but just didn't know how to begin. Christine reminded me of the ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) acronym to use as a guideline. That was so helpful as I committed to begin praying each night at Christine's encouragement. 
At the beginning, I adhered strictly to the ACTS outline.  It helped me stay focused and prevented me from just going before the Lord with my needs/concerns.  That time of adoration was so beneficial and I realized I had been leaving that out.  

During the first few weeks, God taught me so much just through my prayer time.  I was able to remember his goodness, faithfulness, awesomeness, and truly see all the blessings in my life.  As the weeks went on it was so good to spend time quiet before the Lord, praising Him, sharing with Him, and having anxiety relieved.  

Now, as I pray, I don't have to be so strict in the way I pray.  As Christine has noted in her posts, the Holy Spirit begins to reveal things to me that I need to pray for.  Because I am praying consistently, I am able to pray for more people and repent of sins quicker than before.  

I would encourage everyone to set aside time, even a short amount of time, to pray daily.  It is such a blessing! 

Here are links for Vol. 1, and Vol. 2, and Vol. 3, and Vol. 4

Sunday, July 17, 2011

12 Reasons to Love Your Daughters

I love to write. It's soothing. It's cathartic. It's a window to the heart. After words flow free, and the last line is punctuated, I feel lighter.

But it's also complicated and messy, requiring hours, months, years, before true beauty emerges. Some say it's a craft, some say an art.

Blogging archives make it easy to look back at old work......and cringe.  Yes, all writers, professional or amateur, cringe at their old work. The 10,000 hour principal is at work here. The more you practice, the better you write.  So old stuff stinks, and new stuff rocks. And finally, after ten thousand hours, you're an expert. (Or so it's said.)

Last night I wrote something that made me cringe the next morning. Yet I didn't want to delete it. It contained something my heart felt, and something my mind knew. I wanted to share it. When the kids went with Daddy to the park, I spent some time trying to fix it. It was too long, too unclear, didn't use examples or anecdotes, contained too many ideas, and the title didn't fit.  I can spot good writing, but I can't always produce it in the time available to me.

After revisions, which I posted, I still hated it.

So, to ward off further frustration, I will post lists for a few days. It's hard to mess up lists. Every writer knows that and uses lists when other words and ideas won't flow.

Top 12 Reasons I Love My Girls

~ They cuddle with me a lot.

~ Their pretty hair smells divine.

~ The look in the mirror at their behinds, mimicking Mommy.

~ They have beautiful smiles.

~ They love to bake with me.

~ They love to boss their brothers, repeating whatever Mommy says.  "You're fooling around in there! Be done with your shower in three minutes!" (Okay, right now it's just the two year old doing this, in her less-than-perfect enunciation of the English language.)

~ They are so sensitive, you have to speak sweetly to get the best results.

~ They always want to do it themselves. The boys are happy to be served.

~ Some day, Lord willing, I'll be able to hold their babies for hours, while they catch up on the house. Sometimes I think I was born to hold babies.

~ They are as gentle as they are stubborn.

~ When they put on a dress, they feel special.

~ They love their Daddy.  So do I.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

(Updated)The Prayer Warrior Life: Be Vigilant

When you start a spiritual practice and get through that initial fight with Satan, it's all good. Even amazing. Whether it's newly disciplined Bible reading, or disciplined prayer, or disciplined giving, or regular hospitality....whatever, you feel triumphant. You've established a habit.

Let's face it, forming a habit that doesn't include chocolate or other obvious delight, like a lazy Sunday nap or a sunset beach walk, is hard. It can be so hard it hurts.

Are you praying daily? Congratulations!

Realize something now, though. You can never relax in your spiritual habit.

Oh, I know what you'll say. But the habit feels entrenched. This will last forever.

No. You're still on a slippery slope. Never let your guard down.

You can't say:

Well.....the thirty minutes of prayer will still happen tonight--it's part of who I am now--but right now, I really need to......

Before you know it, something else interferes (especially if you're a mom).  Satan still whispers that you need this or that instead--maybe not as loud as when you first began your habit quest, but rest assured, he's still there, making ugly.

Why must you be so vigilant? It has to do with that beautiful, tragic gift called free will.

I've written before that I'm a Calvinist, basically believing that God chooses us. We don't have the capacity to choose him, as spiritually dead beings.(Feel free to disagree, as always.)

But what about after salvation is secure? Once we're chosen--saved and written in the Book of Life--do we have the capacity to choose God over ourselves?

Let's explore that.

Our salvation awakens our spirit and allows us to hear God.  The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and he whispers guidance.  He nudges us in the right direction.  Our part? Yes, I'll go there.  I'll do that.  I'll say that.  We still must apply ourselves....we still must exert our free will and say....Yes, I'll obey.

Obedience and free will don't act as a team. No surprise there, right? One is always vying for first place.

And yet, nothing good happens in our spiritual lives without the daily practice of dying to self. Obedience knows she must die to self. But free will? She's always looking for a party.

The Holy Spirit reigns in free will. If we let him, he'll channel free will to glorify God.

The problem is that, over time, with complacency, we grow less receptive to the Holy Spirit's nudges, making it harder for Him to affect heart change....making it harder for him to reign in free will.

Without the Holy Spirit we can do nothing. We are nothing. That's why we must keep our ears and our hearts tuned in. That's why it's so crucial that we develop, and keep vigilant about, a prayer and Bible reading habit.  

So the answer to the question: Do we have the capacity to choose God over ourselves once we're saved?

Is yes.....if we're praying and reading the Bible habitually.

Pray for your yes. Pray about your spiritual habits...that the Holy Spirit will reign in your free will. Start your day with words such as these:

Our Father, help me to die to myself today. Help me to choose you all day. Help me to read and pray today, as planned. Increase my sensitivity to your Spirit. 

Notice the as planned part of that prayer. Be intentional. Have a plan, even if it requires (at first) sticky notes in several rooms. For example, in the bathroom, pray for husband...reminded by a sticky note on the mirror. In the kitchen, pray for the kids.....reminded by a sticky note over the sink or the stove. This may sound crazy to those with two kids. But to moms of many (or moms of littles), it isn't crazy.

Crazy is the number of times they've fluffed their husband's work shirts, due to all the interruptions.

The number of kids you have, the number of years or months between them, and the age of the youngest, will determine how innovative you must be. Caring for a baby and a two year old at the same time is probably the most challenging. I've done it twice. My prayers are with you on that.

But don't wait on this. Sit down with your husband and brainstorm ways you can make prayer and Bible reading habitual. I could give you more specifics, but each family situation is too unique. I think your husband would be better at helping you come up with strategies. Plus, you'll need his help with the kids, probably, to make your spiritual practices habitual. Bring him into the equation now, because after all, he's your spiritual leader, not some mommy-blogger wannabe.

Your ability to choose Him hear obey Him, depends on it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tears of Hope

I just couldn't carve out any writing time last night.  That always discourages me.  Writing ministers to me, somehow.

The answers to the literary questions are posted in yesterday's comments. I'll have time to write an Author's Corner post soon--not that it matters so much, I know.

This morning, as one side of the french toast grilled, I read this.  It's the latest of Kristen Welsh's African updates.  Yes, her kidneys healed, and she just concluded her amazing time in Africa.  The last day brought buckets of tears.

Now I know why I had no writing time last night.  It was because God wanted her post to spread like wildfire, changing hearts everywhere.

Please read it.  It is so powerful (and not long at all--many pictures, fewer words).  I hesitate to copy and paste it here, as it contains pictures of her visit with one of her sponsored children.  Seems inappropriate to repost it here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Name That Novel

At the writing of my last Author's Corner, we were just starting Miss Hickory, by Caroline Sherwin Bailey--a 1946 novel that won a 1947 Newberry Medal. It's very imaginative, entertaining, delightful......until the end.  When I read the very last page, and turned the page to find no more story, I was shocked.

What....that's the end?  Who ends a book like that?   For kids?  Who. does. that?  (I said none of this in audible tones--it was dismay all in my head.)

My son Paul looked at me, started crying, and said, "That's all there is!?"  I tried to stay calm and cool, not really saying what I thought.  I'm a happy ending kinda gal, but I don't want to project that propensity onto my children. Plus, Peter hadn't reacted yet.  I didn't want to influence him one way or the other.

Turns out, Peter just accepted the ending.  No problem.  Meanwhile, Paul, who must be a happy ending kinda guy, got real mad at the author....stomping to the bathroom to brush his teeth for bed, crying in frustration.

The fact that Paul was so affected hints at how much he loved Miss Hickory, the main character.  He did love her.  She was spunky, bossy, full of reprimands.....yet caring too.  Her antics and her commentary entertained, as did the details of her hard winter, passed in a borrowed robin's nest.

I hesitate to say too much about these books, lest I ruin the story for someone.  You'll like Miss Hickory, sure enough--especially if you like nature--but if you prefer happy endings.....well, don't bother with this one then.  The ending is more bizarre than sad, but it leaves you with the same emptiness.

Just ask Paul.

The next day I searched our bookshelves for another Newberry winner.  My goal is to read all of them aloud before the kids grow up...or at least, all of the morally acceptable ones. We had some with content too mature for their ages (like Jacob Have I Loved), which I need to read first before approving (Did anyone read that one?  I read mixed reviews on Amazon), and then some with a grade level too low, technically speaking, to be a read aloud.

One library in the area places all the Newberry and Caldecott winners in one bookshelf.  I love that!  So easy.  But I couldn't get there in time for the night's storytime, so I settled on a short fourth grade book we had at home.

I'll give you some hints and a passage.  See if you can guess the novel.

On a night when the moon gazed down like an evil eye, the young prince appeared in Jemmy's chamber.
"Boy!  I need a manservant."
Jemmy saw that the prince was wearing a black cloak and carrying a wicker basket the size of a sea chest.  "What you up to now?  Walkin' in your royal sleep, are you?"
"I'm running away."

Hints:  adventure, comedy, humor, fables, folktales and myths, won a Newberry Medal in the 1980's, 4th grade equivalent, three words in the title

Can you name that novel?

Following that short book, we started another Newberry winner, which we're nearly done with.  Here is an excerpt:

Rachel and Jerry were in the habit of having discussions as to what was the most important of anything--the most important, or the prettiest, or the best, or the funniest.  For instance, in the dictionary, almost their only picture book except for Mr. Pye's books of birds, they had excited discussions over which was the prettiest fish on the shiny colored page of fish, or the prettiest bird, or butterfly.  One favorite discussion of theirs was the one they had whenever they played train, calling out like conductors, "New York to Boston!"  Which was more important, they asked one another, New York or Boston?
"New York," Jerry would say.  "Because it has the Museum of Natural History in it."
"Boston," said Rachel.  "Because it sounds more important."
"It just does."
Rachel couldn't explain the reason she thought Boston sounded more important than New York, but it probably had something to do with the roundness of the letters, the B and the o's.  For the same reason she thought London sounded more important than Paris, though Paris sounded prettier.  Sometimes, since Jerry was one year older than she, she wondered if she, too, should not say, "New York."  Still, to her, Boston sounded rounder, bigger, more solid--more important.

Hints:  Won a Newberry medal in the 1950's, mostly because it so beautifully, so accurately, captures the essence of childhood.  No, it doesn't move at an exciting pace, and the sentences are long, even sometimes awkward.  But it deserves to be a classic, nonetheless.  The story never leaves the head of a nine- or ten-year-old.  Brilliant!  Set in a typical, 1950's middle-class neighborhood.  Contains an endearing, hilariously funny, church pew dusting scene.

Can you name that novel?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rejoicing, Thanking

Colossians 2:7
Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

My Gratitude List

~ Lying down to nurse the two year old at noon everyday
~ Usborne Art books 
~ Paul's insatiable desire to create art

~ Reading about how the Groves family is enjoying the littlest Groves

~ My husband has that new job, after one more formality (hiring committee getting final approval from board)

~ Hard hallelujah for how poverty messes with your mind (one step forward, two steps sideways, one step back, never really getting anywhere)  Please pray for an issue with the van?  Thank you.

~ Understanding firsthand the hopelessness of poverty, and the message it conveys

~ Knowing my hope is in Christ, in heaven, and not here....that I'm a pilgrim here

~ Kids playing ice hockey on the table with their newest ice ball

~ Husband running out of gas on the freeway and Mary having a good attitude about us leaving our just-served dinner to take him a can of gasoline (twenty-five minutes away).  I was irritated (knowing this was an ADHD thing, like the keys), but Mary was excited about "rescuing" him. "We're heroes...coming to the rescue!" By the time we got there, we were all happy to be his heroes.  He got tears in his eyes at the wild grace of a four year old. And I got tears because of his tears, and because of Mary's contagious sunshine. (She still whines plenty, but that contrasts with her other, joyful self.)

~ Having disabilities in the house calls for wild grace.  We are all learning, slowly.....but it is good.

~ A tie with Paul in checkers....three kings to three kings.  His strategy?  Keep moving around, going nowhere but staying safe, until the opponent gets so board (pardon the pun) with the game that she lets him jump all her kings......just to get it over with.  Phew!  That boy is very competitive!  I am not, and I hate board games really.  I have to force myself not to let him win early (he's pretty skilled).  He would figure me out and be disappointed.  Nothing makes Paul feel more loved than having a board-game companion.  It's true, isn't it, that most kids feel more loved by our companionship, than by our housekeeping?  That's hard when chores are piled up, but we have to keep reminding ourselves of it.

~ The new job means no more night work....leaving house at 7:15 AM, returning 6:40 PM, Mon.- Fri., along with five hours on Saturday morning.  A day and a half off!  An answer to prayer!

~ Next week is VBS and I work the nursery.....holding a six-month-old baby for five evenings!  Yeah!

~ Prior to today, Mary (age 4.5) made people with large heads--arms and legs coming out of the head.  Her brothers chuckled at these creatures, calling them "head bags".  A few days ago I gave Mary a triangle block to trace under her circle heads, so her people could have bodies (I called them dresses).  With that, she learned to put the appendages in the right places.  Today she made her first person, correctly, without any shapes to trace.  Her brothers were very happy for her, congratulating her and telling her, "Hey, that's a real person!  Not a headbag!" She was so proud!

~ Another mother of four young'uns decided to make Tuesday her library day.  I "chase" my two year old around the children's section (her youngest is in a stroller), so we couldn't visit much.....but I look forward to getting to know her better.

~ Three years ago I probably would have told you I wanted to get out of poverty so we could do more, have more--provide more opportunities for our kids.  Now, I can say without hesitation:  I want to get out of poverty so we can give more!  That's what the Holy Spirit does to the human heart! Don't lament too much when trials come......for they produce fruit.

Trust. Wait on Him.  Keep your eyes heavenward, while giving thanks for the blessings before you.

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.