Sunday, July 29, 2012

Multitude Monday, July 30

Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.
O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalms 118:28-29

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.” — Denis Waitley

Dear Lord, thank you for these gifts:

~ two excited sisters on the last day of VBS--an outdoor carnival

~ a hernia repaired

~ Beth singing songs to Daddy before they took him in for surgery (Twinkle, Twinkle, and Baby Bumblee, and Jesus Loves Me)

~ finally, a speech evaluation appointment for Beth tomorrow

~ four children behaving better (more used to Daddy's convalescence)

~ Beth singing her new favorite song over and over

I'm bringing home a baby bumblebee.
Won't my Momma be so proud of me?
I'm bringing home a baby bumblebee.
Ouch, it stung me! (shaking hand with a pained face)

I'm squishing up a baby bumblebee. (rub hands together)
Won't my Momma be so proud of me?
I'm squishing up a baby bumblebee.
Ew, I'm sticky! (looking at hands)

(Look around to see if anyone is looking)

I'm licking up a baby bumblebee. (pretend to lick hands)
Won't my Momma be so proud of me?
I'm licking up a baby bumblebee.
Oh, my stomach hurts! (rub tummy)

I'm never going to do that again!

~ Beth playing dress up

~ Paul baking a chocolate cake on his own

~ 6 in1 solar kit toy Peter got for his birthday finally working

~ laundry caught up

~ Beth night trained (no more diapers in my life; she night-trained earlier than the rest)

~ my preschoolers learning all their nursery rhymes and laughing with Momma at Mary Had a Little Jam And Other Silly Rhymes -- highly recommend this gem! It features many nursery rhymes rewritten with giggles in mind.

Mary Had a Little Jam, and Other Silly Rhymes

~ We love Madeline stories and also enjoyed a thrift-store bargain, Madeline, the movie. I laughed out loud a few times and found this surprisingly similar to the books, except that Miss Clavel has more heart in the movie--she loves the girls very much. There's a more spiritual feel to the movie.

~ teaching my children how to play foursquare with a playground ball

~ Our Compassion child, Nelson from El Salvador, getting a mattress, clothes, and food supplies

~ Peter turning in excellent photos for the library photo contest

~ making this fudge recipe with non-fat condensed milk (super easy, healthier, and no detectable difference)

~ Paul and Daddy playing Chinese Checkers and Chess during Daddy's convalescence

~ the Book of Jonah really speaking to our hearts

~ Peter and Mary catching crickets and butterflies together and looking for praying mantises

Linking with Ann for Multitude Monday

Saturday, July 28, 2012

How He Parents Me

"Do you understand?", he pleads for maybe the tenth time in thirteen years. "The most loving thing you can do for me, besides making love when I'm well, is to wear a mini-skirt around the house at night so I can look at you. It makes me so happy to look at you."

This desire, expressed on his birthday, the day after surgery.

After a day with four children who fussed, complained, argued, fought each other. To the very. last. minute. before they fell asleep. With the loss of routine, they fell apart, the impulsive one leading the pack.

What am I doing wrong with these kids? This inquiry filled my head and my prayers all day.

Even had I not fallen asleep with exhaustion while nursing Beth, easing the pain of varicose veins that ached all day and begged to be rested......him? He fell asleep after reading Narnia stories to the boys.

When will it get easier with the kids, he wonders.

And I don't know the answer. I don't know how to stretch myself or chop myself to care for all these people...their needs often conflicting with each other.

How can I ever be enough? When one wins, another loses.

Beth wakes three times in the night from dreams--her sister once, complaining that bumble bees invaded her bed. When do children dream, roll over, and just go back to sleep? With the boys I don't remember so many dream-related wake ups.

This marriage? It's strong, lived with grace, and he will survive, like every other man whose wife is caring for small children. God gives these intense years and they are gifts.

Still, he needs me to listen and plan and act.

Black bear sightings increase here, I read this week. Just last week, a sighting in the next township over. They search for bird feeders and pet food bowls and exposed trash May through mid-July.

Most interesting, I read that the parents, they kick the cubs out at one year old, who then must find their own territories.

And human children? We love, teach, nurture for twenty years, and then some. And God knows his own design. He knows a mother's challenges.

I sit in the dark living room...insomnia at 2 AM.

I talk with my Lord and he comforts me, agreeing that yes, I am not enough.

But I am, He reminds. Pray your way through...for me, the great I AM?

I do not parent like a bear. I will never leave you nor forsake you.

John 15:4
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Isaiah 42:16
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Something About Jonah, Part 3

Read part 1 here, part 2 here

Jonah Chapter 3; Jonah Goes to Nineveh Scripture in red, my commentary in blue.
1Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

3Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days. 4On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

Preaching a message of doom. Wow. Is that an easy assignment for any of us? Would we want to go out into our neighborhood with a bullhorn, preaching repentance? What are some of the consequences, potentially? 
We would be ridiculed. Our house would be toilet-papered, rocks thrown in our windows, or worse. No one would speak to us, henceforth, but they would watch us closely, looking for any reason to call us hypocrites. Our children would be ostracized.
We are called to share our faith, to make disciples of all nations...or neighborhoods. This isn't an assignment we can ignore, any more than Jonah could ignore the command to preach repentance to an evil nation. 
Just last week I felt an incredible pull to go down the street and give a dinner invitation to a neighbor and her seven-year-old grandson (the one who lost his mother as a one-year-old baby. This grandma has custody of him). Previously I had gone down to properly introduce myself and let her know we were here, should she ever need anything. She was appreciative and friendly and not in a hurry for me to leave, and asked about the church that meets in the elementary school down the street, which we've attended about a year.
Then after receiving my dinner invitation, she never responded at all, even to say she wasn't interested. I put two potential Sunday evenings on the invitation, asking what would work for her. The first Sunday has already passed and we've heard nothing. She is two houses down and was out talking to her neighbor on Sunday, and though we were out as well, she didn't come down or wave, though Landon, the seven-year-old, did wave.
I thought she was a Christian because she sends her grandchildren to VBS and AWANA every year. The invitation explained that we wanted to be the Body of Christ to her and fellowship with her and be here for her, should the need ever arise. Inviting her didn't feel risky; I thought she was a Christian. Maybe she is, but from our last conversation I surmised she doesn't currently go to church, nor did she ever attend the church she sends her grandchildren to for programs. Her sister is the connection to that church. I didn't invite her to church, but I did gave the start times after she inquired. I wanted to concentrate on making a real connection and I felt a casual summer dinner would be the best way. 
Remember that I'm shy. All this started after my study of the Body of Christ. I felt a pull, not from within, to go down the street and see this woman. It was God, for sure, which makes me all the more confused.
I wouldn't have taken these steps had I not thought she was a Christian...and that bothers me. I don't share the gospel except with young children (like ten-year-old Lexi, our neighborhood friend), and on the Internet through my writing...because it's safe that way. 
How many of us want to feel safe, more than we want to work for God? I have to admit my neighbor's lack of response makes me feel stupid--as though I'm not even worth a walk over to say she's too busy. Unbelievers can do that to us...make us feel less than. We mustn't let it stop us though, for who defines us? Who gives us our worth? The world, or our loving Heavenly Father? 
5The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

6When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

10When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

Wow! Can you imagine a more miraculous response? How blessed we are that the Lord desires to correct us in love, not take revenge. 

Judah and Israel had been dealt with by prophets before, but they never repented; their hearts remained hard. Jesus said in Matthew 12:39-41 that at the time of judgement, the Ninevites would stand and condemn Israel for not repenting.

Matthew 12:39-41 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now onee greater than Jonah is here.

I have to admit to a lack of mercy in my own heart. When I saw my neighbor out the other day, talking with another neighbor, my heart grew hard. I didn't want to look at her. I felt humiliated at her lack of response and I didn't feel she deserved any kindnesses. My own perspective, my own feelings, prevailed, just as we'll see happened to Jonah in chapter 4. Peter, my son, had more heart than I did. He waved at Landon and tried to wave at the grandmother as well (she was preoccupied with her conversation). Peter, too, feels bad about her lack of response. He's shy as well, but more social than me; he looked forward to having dinner with a neighbor, but his disappointment didn't stop him from extending kind gestures.

Trust me, you'll be disgusted at Jonah's response in Chapter 4. It'll leave you shaking your head. But don't shake it too much. If you look deep enough, you may find similar hardness in your own heart. 

The Book of Jonah has so much to teach us! One of the most important lessons is humility before God--having an awe at His divine mercy toward all people, no matter their sins. No sin is too great for his mercy, if we will only humble ourselves and repent. We must be mindful of our lowly position before God. We are worthy now, as a redeemed people, thanks to His mercy and grace...but exalting ourselves above others in our own minds? Always a grievous sin!

I never meant for this to get so long.  I fully intended on getting to Chapter 4 today, the conclusion of the Book of Jonah. Maybe tomorrow? My husband is having hernia surgery at 11:00 am this morning (Wednesday). If he doesn't need me much in the coming days, I'll get to Jonah 4 hopefully on Thursday or Friday. Please pray for a perfect surgical outcome? Thank you!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Something About Jonah, Part 2

 If you missed it or have forgotten it, see Something About Jonah, Part 1

We left Jonah being swallowed by a big fish after being thrown overboard by merciful pagan sailors who tried but failed to deliver him to dry land. Jonah had run away from God in an attempt to avoid preaching repentance to the Ninevites, who were guilty of atrocities against the Israelites. 

In his heart Jonah was afraid the Ninevites would repent after being preached to and that God would spare them--something the hate in Jonah's heart couldn't allow. In running away he had given up his ministry, his family...everything. The mercy shown to Jonah by the pagan sailors stands out in sharp contrast to the lack of mercy in Jonah's heart.

Now, in chapter 2, we have Jonah's prayer. Scripture in red, my commentary words in blue.
1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 2 He said:
“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.
Notice this is not a prayer for deliverance. Instead, Jonah gives thanks to the Lord for His mercy, for Jonah has not drowned! He understands the magnitude of his sin and that death is a fair punishment. He's overwhelmed by the Lord's mercy. 

No matter what's going on in our own lives, we can have this same magnitude of feeling about our own deliverance from death. The Lord's mercy is overwhelming! Take a moment and contemplate that today. Escaping hell and eternal suffering is mercy. Getting heaven instead of hell? That is wild, radical grace

A spirit of thanksgiving should permeate our lives, setting the tone for all our interactions and reactions. We've already been given so much! 
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me,[b]
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.

7 “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

Let this sentence in verse 7 not be us. We must not "remember the Lord" only when life overwhelms--when it's ebbing away--but every day. A solid, on-going relationship with the Lord grounds us in righteousness and allows peace to flood our hearts. We can choose God or choose Satan, for Satan always wins when God doesn't--life is a spiritual battle. A new or immature Christian doesn't always understand this sober reality, but the longer we walk faithfully with the Lord, the more we comprehend the battle that makes up our daily lives.
Remember that the full fix doesn't come until heaven. Until then, we must daily choose God over Satan as the ruler of our hearts. Our salvation means we will triumph in the end, but we can be used by God and have greater peace today, if we will engage in the battle, putting on the full armor of God. (see Ephesians below)

When we lack peace, let us ask ourselves why. Who is winning in the battle for our attention and devotion?
Ephesians 6:10-18 The Armor of God 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Matthew 12:30 "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters."
Back to Jonah's prayer, in chapter 2 verse 8:
8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.

When we choose idols instead of God--too much time spent on hobbies, electronics, a career, acquiring riches, whatever it is that steals our time away from God--we give up so much that is precious and sustaining and renewing. When we fail to choose God, we give up his mercy.

9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

Jonah repents and promises to obey God--to make good on his ministerial vow. How easily do we obey God? Is a yes always ready on our lips? Do we wake up in the morning asking, "What do you want to do today, God?"
10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

In chapter 3 we learn that although Jonah repented and did as God commanded--he preached repentance to the Ninevites--his heart still burned with hate.

Prayer TimeDear Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and grace toward us. May we live our lives clothed in thankfulness, never forgetting or minimizing your sacrifice. May we say yes to you and put on the full armor of God, so we can daily do battle with the enemy, to bring you your due glory. Let us live to bring you glory, in all we do. Open our hearts to what you have to say about mercy in the next chapter of Jonah, especially as our country mourns a tragedy in Colorado. Your desire is that all shall repent and receive mercy--even the villains ( the Ninevites of our world). May our hearts be filled with mercy for the perpetrator and his family, even as we mourn the loss of innocent life. May the country look to you for peace, for truth.

In your Son's name I pray, Amen

Monday, July 23, 2012

How to Really Love Your Children

What flavor parent are you?

Are you a conscientious parent, always serving fruit and the right amount of dairy servings? Religiously combing everyone's hair and checking their faces before outings? Do you check their clothes for stains and hang everything from the dryer so their clothes are neat, not disheveled? Do you read stories to them faithfully every night? Reading the Bible too and listening to them pray?

Or, are you a fun parent, always laughing with them, tickling and joking? Do you play hide-and-seek outside on summer evenings instead of worrying about the dishes? Do you catch fireflies with them and chase after butterflies? Do you entertain them in the bath, eliciting giggles and squeals? Are there always practical jokes going on in your home?

Maybe you're a highly organized parent, with hooks for every backpack and hat and a tidy place for important papers? Are your dinners all planned for the next week with accompanying groceries already purchased? Do you have your back-to-school supplies already bundled up, ready to go? Are the kids' afterschool activities arranged and on the calendar?

We can be many things to our kids, excelling in this area or that, depending on what our gifts are. If we could be a fly on the wall in ten separate homes, we'd find parents of all stripes, really good at one or two things and mediocre at others.

But as my friend Emily Wierenga reminded yesterdaythe most important thing for us to be good at, is loveIf we can get this one thing right, a multitude of wrongs pass away.

1 Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Some children need to hear "I love you" many times a day, or "I love how you put such bright colors in that painting". They need our affirming words.

Others need to be cradled in our arms several times a day, held tightly, or nestled against us on the easy chair for a story or song. They need our physical touch.

Still others need us to sit and play that favorite board game with them, or talk to them long about everything and nothing. They need our undivided attention--some quality time.

Some need little token gifts given here and there, like a note on the pillow or a Hershey's kiss in the lunch box.

And lastly, some need acts of service performed regularly, like their bed made or their room tidied as a little surprise.

Oh, I know. The more children you have the more complicated these five love languages become. The best thing moms of many can do is to pick out one or two children a day--preferably pairing the ones with the same primary love language--and concentrate on giving them what they need on that particular day, especially.

The 5 Love Languages of Children

Gary Chapman's updated The 5 Love Languages of Children published on January, 2012. It sells for $10.19 on Amazon. Or for $9.99 on

Here is an excerpt from Amazon reviewer Dylan Coe's featured write up:

As a mom, I found that The 5 Love Languages of Children was one of the best books I could have read. Even though my children are just preschoolers, they still require their love languages being spoken. Gary Champan and Ross Campbell use biblical principles, personal illustrations, and personal application to really open up your eyes to your child's needs. I highly recommend this book to any parent - new or old. It might just be the charge your family needs to go from average to exemplary. If every child had their love languages met just think of what a better place we would live in.

The love languages are the same for children as they are for adults. This book just concentrates on loving your children, rather than on nurturing your relationship with your spouse. Here is a table explaining the five languages, taken from

  • Words of Affirmation
    Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
  • Quality Time
    In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
  • Receiving Gifts
    Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
  • Acts of Service
    Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
  • Physical Touch
    This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

Now that we know what we're doing, ready, set... Go Love! 

Because if love isn't a verb...what is it?

Victorian photo credit 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Baked Oatmeal For Breakfast

It was our turn to bring a breakfast food to Sunday morning fellowship. Our church fellowships from 9:30 to 10:00, right before church. I found this healthy, lowfat baked oatmeal recipe. Moist and delicious, it was enjoyed by all. Baking this the night before really cuts down on breakfast prep time. Just pop a piece in the microwave.

 Baked Oatmeal print recipe here

  • 2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats (or use regular whole oats and add 10 minutes baking time)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup raisins (or cranberries, or blueberries, or mashed bananas)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts (I left this out.)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup applesauce  (or use 1/2 canned pure pumpkin and add some cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • large egg, beaten
  • Cooking spray
  1. Procedure
  2. Preheat oven to 375°.
  3. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine the milk, applesauce, butter, and egg. Add milk mixture to oat mixture; stir well. Pour oat mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Serve warm.
It is supposed to be very moist, but mine turned out soupy with just 20 minutes baking time. I added 4 minutes baking time and it was still very moist, but not soupy. Some people pour milk and fruit over it.

Nutrition information (If less than 30% of the calories come from fat, the dish is considered a lowfat food. We should try to keep our total fat intake each day at less 30% of our total caloric intake. I always figure about 3 grams of fat per 100 calories. Protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, and fat has 9 calories per gram)

Calories: 281
Calories from fat: 24%
Fat: 7.6g
Saturated fat: 2.8g
Monounsaturated fat: 1.5g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.9g
Protein: 7g
Carbohydrate: 48.8g
Fiber: 3.4g
Cholesterol: 47mg
Iron: 0.8mg
Sodium: 171mg
Calcium: 148mg

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pray For Your Children

Favorite quote of the week...from Ann Voskamp's Friday post:

Prayer isn’t merely talking to God — it is being transformed by God.Prayer is this moving towards God, heat of a holy fire, and feeling the dross burn away, burning away that word that comes too quickly, “I.”Because “I,” it isn’t my name, but His — He alone is the Great I AM.Life, it’s not about meIt’s not about what I want. It’s about being whollyI AM‘s.And in the praying — it becomes not about what I want — but what He willsThe nearer you draw to a holy, loving God, all the “I”s, they burn away into this willing Yes.

Have you prayed for your children this week? The one who doesn't share well? Or the one who struggles with jealousy? Or the one with the independence so deep, you wonder if God will be number one in her life?

We can lecture, sure. We can set good examples, yes. But nothing is as powerful--in their lives or in our hearts--as a mother's prayers. 

Do you have a pray card for each child? (And for your husband?) Make copies and put one in your purse and one with your Bible. Some suggestions for each pray card:

Pray For:

~ salvation

~ purity

~ discernment concerning friends

~ specific heart issues (jealousy, lack of humility, trouble forgiving, anger, disobedience/defiance, poor work ethic)

~ specific health issues (poor eating habits, diseases, weight gain or loss, eczema, allergies, sleep habits)

~ a servant's heart

~ that you and your husband will disciple them effectively and consistently

~ that the Lord will help both parents to parent sacrificially

~ healing of their fears and anxieties

~ consistent spiritual habits (i.e. Bible reading, personal prayer, confession of sins)

~ mercy and grace to develop and flourish in their hearts

~ that they will advocate for and care for orphans, widows and the poor, and use their resources in godly ways

~ their future spouse and marriage

~ that their children (your grandchildren) will be believers

~ strong sibling relationships

~ obedience towards parents and God

~ a strong work ethic

~ good study habits

~ a strong Christian support system

~ discernment concerning media usage

~ freedom from any type of addiction (money, electronic devices, food, drugs, dangerous experiences)

photo credit

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Body of Christ, Part 3

Just as we all have gifts designed to build up the Body of Christ, we all have weaknesses too. Just as the Body of Christ needs us, we need the Body of Christ, which is why we must regularly be in fellowship with other believers, both in our home church and at work and in our neighborhoods--wherever we can find fellow believers.

But why? Can't we just religiously read our Bibles, pray much, and get sanctified right in our own homes? Other people only complicate our walks, don't they?

A resounding No! We need the Body of Christ to help us see ourselves as we really are. Sinners. Broken, Messy.

I have an idea of myself that doesn't match reality. And you do too. We tend to think of ourselves the way we want to be. The person we aspire to be. The problem with this is that while we're too judgmental of other people, we're too easy on ourselves. We don't see the plank in our own eyes because we're blinded by a false image of who we are.

When we can pull off a good "Christian front", we go to church, acting like all is well. But when our lives get so messy we can't hide it, we avoid fellowship.

As I researched for this piece I read article after article, never finding anything on the reality I knew to be true. That Christians don't want to be vulnerable and share burdens. It's too scary and we're too weak.

So the beautiful Body of Christ concept that we work as one body to build up the Church, never becomes reality.

Finally, I found this article. It exudes candidness and power and truth. Here is an excerpt:
Multiply this by the hundreds of millions of broken Christians. They are merely human, but their church says they must be more than human to be good Christians. They cannot speak of or even acknowledge their troubled lives. Their marriages are wounded. Their children are hurting. They are filled with fear and the sins of the flesh. They are depressed and addicted, yet they can only approach the church with the lie that all is well, and if it becomes apparent that all is not well, they avoid the church.

I do not blame the church for this situation. It is always human nature to avoid the mirror and prefer the self-portrait. I blame all of us who know better. We know this is not the message of the Gospels, the Bible or of Jesus. But we-- every one of us--is afraid to live otherwise. What if someone knew we were not a good Christian? Ah...what if...what if....

I close with something I have said many times before. The Prodigal son, there on his knees, his father's touch upon him, was not a "good" or "victorious" Christian. He was broken. A failure. He wasn't even good at being honest. He wanted religion more than grace. His father baptized him in mercy, and resurrected him in grace. His brokenness was wrapped up in the robe and the embrace of God.
Why do we want to be better than that boy? Why do we make the older brother the goal of Christian experience? Why do we want to add our own addition to the parable, where the prodigal straightens out and becomes a successful youth speaker, writing books and doing youth revivals?

This? It's sad truth. We're afraid to admit that despite getting saved, we're still a mess. We don't get too close to the Body of Christ for fear they will find us out. If we could see ourselves the way the person in the next pew sees us, we would really begin to grow. We would come face to face with our daily need for Grace.

We don't need Jesus just the one time--the moment of our salvation. We need him to cover our brokenness every day. We'll be broken and needy until we take our last breath on this earth. Let's not paint too rosy a picture and so deceive ourselves and others. The full fix doesn't come until heaven.

As we fellowship and persevere in the experience, we learn this. That we're all the same...a mess. No one escapes brokenness, no matter how much their facade says otherwise.

Yes, fellowship gets messy and people annoy us. We annoy them right back. The solution to messy fellowship is to love our neighbors unconditionally, continuing to forgive time and again. We accomplish this on-going act of grace by learning to see them with Jesus' eyes. With grace eyes.

There's no humbling of spirits when we sit at home, safe from interaction. We remain haughty and harsh, pointing our fingers at everyone else's flaws. In contrast, as a persevering member of the Body, we become as humble and whole as we'll ever be, here on earth. We fill in each other's weaknesses and cover one another, the way Jesus covers us. We become a living picture of the Cross.

So fellow Christians, take a vow. Don't pretend anymore. Be real, fellowship freely, ask for help, accept help, give help. By becoming a persevering member of the Body of Christ, you'll essentially give up your life to save it. You'll become a living sacrifice. So get down and dirty and learn to really love.

Ephesians 5:25-27
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

VBS Highlights And The Mother-Daughter Thing

Vacation Bible School Highlights

The first night I held and played with two toddlers in the nursery from 5:45 PM - 8:20 PM, ages 15 months and 2 years. Oh, the sweetness and the energy! Around 7:30 PM they slowed down and since their cribs were back at home, they leaned against me awhile before getting their second wind. You know that hyperactive wave of energy that comes when a child is overtired? I pitied the parents because I knew it would be a rough night and a rough day the next day.

On night two the 2-year-old boy was visiting his father, and the 15-month-old girl was home with a teenage brother, catching up on sleep. I helped in the craft room instead, making stenciled, painted T-shirts with all three groups. My favorite pink cotton shirt that matches two of my dressy skirts and all of my jean skirts, did not get ruined. Not a spot of paint...even while helping preschoolers paint! God knows my needs. :)

Before the program starts the pastor has everyone go outside for a quick silly game. Last night he showed us three nylon socks--the kind old ladies wear under their polyester pants. He proposed that a child from each group put the nylon over their head and face like a bandit mask, and then try to suck pudding out of a commercial pudding cup, in a race to see who could consume the most pudding. Can you imagine this activity in the middle of a heat advisory?

I am trying to give thanks for this frugal Christian Missionary Alliance church that doesn't use air conditioning in most of the building. It saves them a ton of money I'm sure, to send over to missionaries and for benevolence funds at home. They are doing the right thing and my priorities are all wrong. I wish I had the chops to turn my air off at home.

We have become a massively air-conditioned country, whereas previously it was only used in hospitals and a few other public buildings. In the past, people slowed down more in the summer and workers didn't have to wear suits this time of year. Neighbors visited more as they spent summer evenings outside.

I am working on getting back to our country's frugal roots. Just as soon as these heat advisories go away....

Anyway, back to those nylon socks and that pudding.

Guess who volunteered for the K-2 group? Yes, my Mary! She is brave and funny and so independent. My husband, Peter and Mary can stand the heat pretty well, but Paul, Beth and Mommy are heat wimps. You couldn't pay me enough to put a nylon over my head on a nice day, much less a heat-advisory day.

I am proud of her independent spirit, except when she insists on wearing a pretty bathing suit one size too big, just because it's pretty and she wants to show everyone how pretty it is. We have one that fits her, but in her opinion it's too plain. So I sent my five-year-old daughter to VBS for water balloon fights in a too-large bathing suit that sagged at the bottom and at the chest.

Oh, I was embarrassed all right, but at this church there are a couple of little girls who wear whatever they pick out themselves, even if it's the wrong season for the outfit. Often, one part of the outfit is for summer and one part for winter. Sometimes the outfits are too large and sometimes they're too small. These mothers pick their battles and clothing isn't one of them. So I thought Mary could get away with her streak of bathing suit independence on just this one night. 

Usually I give her three acceptable choices as to outfits, but we only have two bathing suits so I shot myself in the foot for not looking harder.

So we're driving home and I ask her how it went with the bathing suit (I was in the craft room the whole time). She said that one of the mom helpers tried to fix her bathing suit so that it fit better. But Mary told her, "Oh, it's no use. It's just too big."

Mommy:  Did you tell her that you're the one who insisted on wearing it? That you wouldn't listen to your Mommy's opinion? 

Mary:  "No, I didn't say anything like that."

Oh...mothering girls. They're so sweet at times, aren't they?

Something tells me it won't get any easier from here on out. Five just might be the age for the mother-daughter thing to start in earnest.

God help me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Where Your Heart Is

My heart broke with Ann's as she recapped her feelings following a week in Haiti.

Anger, shame, disbelief.

When you see, smell, and hug abject poverty first hand, all these emotions spill.

God wants you changed and he drags you through the worst slums so you can come closer to choosing Him over your own comfort.

That is the choice, really.

Sure, you can start out with $38 a month--an amount to sponsor one child. An amount you barely notice.

But then, if you so dare, God will change you at the core. He will mold your heart so your very beats match His...for nothing gives the God of the Universe more pleasure. This is happening to our dear Ann.

Do you want the same heart? Or is it too scary?

Luke 12:48
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Ann is angry that she still has a desire to pin the latest pretty thing on Pinterest, after all she's seen. Angry that she still loves comforts.

And yet she sees her choice clearly and there's no turning back. More and more, she and her family are choosing God over comfort. Giving over receiving. Being the blessing, instead of spending the blessing.

The first step in saying yes to God's heart is to allow yourself to drink in abject poverty. Absorb it with your eyes, your intellect. Don't avoid that story, that image...anything that jerks you awake. Let yourself wake up to God and His will.

God didn't allow rich and poor so that some go hungry and others grow fat. He allows the disparity to give us a chance. A chance to love radically, like He did on the tree.

That is His desire for every believer's life. That we would love radically. Love is our destiny.

And yet, He doesn't want us to share out of guilt, but with a cheerful heart. A heart that pumps gratitude, along with blood. A daily thanks-living for the gift of Grace.

As much as Ann's post broke me, my heart loved getting this photo in the mail from Raphael, our correspondent child from Burkina Faso. It pictures his mother, his baby brother, and food supplies they bought, along with details about roofs for their room and some clothes. We had some money given to us in February and now, Raphael has a roof that doesn't leak!  (He also has another sibling and his father in his home, but they must have been unavailable for the photo). 

It takes so little to change so much. Won't you be a part of the change? Won't you free yourself from comfort, so that God becomes really, really enough?

Luke 12:34
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Monday, July 16, 2012

An Open Letter to Unhappy Christian Wives

Dear Unhappy,

I want to express my sorrow about your marriage grief. Grappling with complicated relationship issues can be so overwhelming. Please enlist people to earnestly pray for you.

I believe in the Body of Christ concept that we are all One Body. When one person in the Body suffers, the whole Body suffers. Because of this fellow believers need to rally around hurting members and lead them to the Healer, who has all the answers. I pray these words will reveal what God wants for you and for your family.

I understand that in response to your sorrow, the D word has entered your life. The question of divorce is heart wrenching but surprisingly uncomplicated, from a Christian perspective. This is due to the very narrow allowances in scripture for divorce. God tells us for our own good, and for the good of the Body of Believers, that we mustn't get divorced except in cases of adultery, or when an unbelieving spouse abandons a believing spouse. See for the relevant scriptural references and for questions regarding remarriage.

If neither of these--adultery or abandonment--apply to your marriage, you cannot get divorced without disobeying God, though if you are being abused and are unsafe in your home, leave the premises as soon as possible. Physical distance from the abuser is extremely important.

If you choose to disobey God and pursue a non-biblical divorce, you must weigh the consequences for you, your children, and your husband. God will surely forgive you if you sincerely seek his forgiveness at some future time, but you must be truly sorry for having left your marriage union, and as part of heartfelt repentance, you must seek reconciliation with your spouse, if he has not yet remarried. At the very least, you must seek your former spouse's forgiveness.

Also, scripture does not allow for you to remarry. If you try to seek a relationship with a sincere, growing Christian man, he will want to know the circumstances surrounding your divorce. If it wasn't biblical, only a marginal Christian man would be interested in pursuing the relationship. A mature Christian man would not seek to defy God.

Secondly, you will complicate the developing faith of your children (and your husband's faith, if he has any), as they watch you defy God and try to make your own way in the world. When we disobey God we are stepping outside of His protection--essentially saying we know more than the God of the Universe does. We can handle our problems better than He can. 

That all sounds overwhelming, doesn't it? No one increases their personal peace through non-biblical divorce. Many people will be spiritually hurt by the divorce and possibly for generations, it will spiritually stain your family. Children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves, and second marriages are far less successful than first marriages (80% divorce rate, compared with 50% for first marriages), especially in the cases of non-biblical divorces from the first spouse.

What would be better than divorce? Making Jesus your Lord. This means he runs all aspects of your life, and you live for him and serve him, out of an overwhelming gratitude and love for Him and what he has done for you. If you have lost touch with that radical love for Jesus Christ, pray that God will renew the fire in your heart. 

When you live with a non-believer or with a person who doesn't pursue a relationship with God, it can easily drag you down spiritually. You need to be very diligent to keep the fire in your heart alive, by reading your Bible and praying regularly. Every time we open our Bible or pray to God, it renews a relationship. It nurtures and protects a beautiful bond. When we neglect that time with God, Satan gains a foothold in our lives.

Divorce is Satan's most successful tactic. Over time, it can destroy a society. Satan breeds discontent in the hearts of believers and the discontent leads to sin. If the believer doesn't put a halt to the discontent and embrace thankfulness instead, Satan wins. 

When you accepted Jesus as your Savior, you became his. He paid the ransom for us--he brought us--and if we never receive another blessing at all, we have enough. God is enough. Eternity is enough. When we deceive ourselves into thinking otherwise, great pain is in store for us. 

Every wife has a laundry list of things she doesn't like about her husband. Every husband has the same. Many of the items can be heartrendingly difficult to endure, without Jesus as Lord. But as in all hardship, we must remember that the Christian life has never been about us or about our happiness. It is about serving Him and bringing Him glory. By enduring hardship in a god-honoring way, we bring glory to Him. In fact, how we endure hardship defines us as Christians. 

When we set our minds on the things of the Spirit (keep our eyes fixated on God), whether we are happy or not on a daily basis becomes irrelevant, as it did for the Apostle Paul when he was in prison.

Romans 8:5-8 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 

For more on what the bible says about hardship and sacrifices, see this

I urge you to start a thankfulness list for your life in general, not just for your marriage. Satan hates thankfulness but God loves it. We are told many places in scripture to live with a thankful heart...even when circumstances are less than ideal.

1 Thessolonians 5:18  give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

You will find that a heart of thankfulness will increase your marriage happiness many fold. You will concentrate not on what's wrong with your spouse, but on all that's right. Eventually, if you commit to having a grateful heart, all the reasons you wanted to seek a divorce will pass away in importance. 

Rest assured that if you make Jesus your Lord and develop a grateful heart, He will diligently work behind the scenes, creating beauty from ashes. Your own heart, devoted to the Lord, will win your husband over. Nagging makes most people dig their heals in deeper rather than change, because as human beings, we seek unconditional love. It's only when we feel unconditionally loved that we give our best to others. 

Give your husband the gift of unconditional love, for it is the same gift your Father gave you. Jesus loved us sacrificially and this is the same love he requires from us, for our fellow man. 

The Bible tells men to love their wives, but it tells women to respect their husbands. Men need to feel respected, more than loved. I think it's accurate to say that respect is love, from their perspective. It is part of the way God created them. When we nag or complain, we are not showing respect and it hurts a man at his core. 

So, giving a man a list and asking him to change is the worst thing we can do. Also, it is arrogant, since we are all sinners and we all need to change. We will never be all that a spouse wants. We can't be. And no spouse can meet all of our needs, which is why we need personal relationships with God, the ultimate and perfect Lover of our souls. Our marriage relationship can't define us. Our relationship with God defines us. 

Change starts in our own hearts and with our own humility, especially in the context of marriage. If we set our gaze on God and on His purposes, the overwhelming peace emanating from us will be contagious, and all in our midst, including our spouse, will want what we have. The Bible tells us we win over a wayward husband by the reverence of our lives. And what is complaining and putting conditions on our love and devotion? Is it reverent?

I'm not saying you shouldn't lovingly pursue conversations about marriage issues, but they should never be associated with the D word (divorce). Throwing the D word around is akin to bullying one's spouse. To be fully engaged and committed, each spouse needs assurance that the other spouse is in the marriage for life. This level of commitment is essential for the health of any marriage. 

All issues should be committed to prayer before being discussed with the spouse. The prayer will reveal, over time, how to approach the spouse about the issue, and it will prepare the spouse's heart to receive feedback about the issue. Let prayer guide your marriage entirely. For prayer is your communication with the Holy Spirit (and to a lesser extent, your time reading the Bible is too). Reading the Bible reveals God's heart to you, and praying helps make God's heart personal to you and your needs. You will know God's perfect and pleasing will, through your prayer time and your reading time.

Again, I express my sorrow about what you are going through. I pray these words will point you to the Healer. To your first Love. May God richly bless you, your family, and your legacy.

My Own Thankfulness List:

- a beautiful time with Christian friends
- a marriage molded by grace
- a dinner invitation given to a neighbor
- the radical nature of Christ's love 
- that change always starts with us
- a hernia surgery scheduled for next week and no money required up front
- a son practicing piano
- dancing daughters
- the Chronicles of Narnia series
- dinner time with my family
- the meat, milk, eggs, bread prices at Aldi's
- the power of the Word 
- 4 days of caring for babies at VBS this week
- my children's contagious excitement about VBS
- Miss Beth's first time at VBS 

To read about the outcome of this letter for the person I wrote it to, click: Unhappy Christian Wives, Part 2

Another helpful post: 3 Christian Marriage Essentials

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Body of Christ, Part 2

Today I present Part 2 of my Body of Christ series. Before I get into a practical discussion of our function within the Body, I want to lay some Biblical goundwork for the Body of Christ concept. This will be the heavier reading but please plow through for me, until we get to Part 3?

The Church, referred to in the Bible as the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ, is made up of all people who've been born again through faith in Jesus' blood. You may live near and work with people from different denominations, but if you're all born again, you are part of the Body of Christ. 

1 Corinthians 12:12-14
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Last year I did a study on the Lord's Prayer and we learned that the beginning words "our father" were used for a purpose; we're not individuals, but members of One Body, and we're to pray and act as such. 
From a previous post: The Lord's Prayer, Vol. 1 Both the words Father and Our point to a familial relationship. When we become a Christian we are grafted into the Body of Christ (the Body of Believers).  We are brethren to one another and God is our Father.  It's important to regard our membership in the Body seriously, for it carries a responsibility. We must always be looking and working toward the good of the Body, our Brethren.

Philippians 2:4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Mark 12:31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
For example, when we sin, it not only harms us, but the whole body.  We are not to be individual operators, but rather, operate as a cooperative body--spending time in fellowship with one another, praying for and with one another, helping one another in need, building each other up, admonishing in love when necessary.
What does Christ want his Bride (The Church) to be like? Ephesians 5:25-27 describes us as "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Revelation 19:7-9 tells us we will be "clothed in fine linen, bright and pure--for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints."

How is the Body of Christ to operate and care for itself? Scripture points to a number of ways, but mainly we must 1) meet together 2) serve, love, and pray for each other 3) hold one another accountable 4) dedicate ourselves, as One Body, to Christ.

1) We must meet together:  We know from Hebrews 10:24-25 that we are to "spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together."

Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

2) We must serve, love, and pray for one another. Each member has gifts to contribute to build up the Body:

Mark 12:31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Ephesians 4:11-12  “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” 

Ephesians 4:16 
From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Here you can take a spiritual gifts inventory to find out what your spiritual gifts are, taken from this widely accepted list:

Administration:  The ability to organize resources and persons for effective ministry.

Community Builder (Apostleship): The ability to help create koinonia, that unique type of inclusive fellowship which characterized the early Christian church.

Discernment: The ability to recognize and to affirm the skills, talents, and spiritual gifts of other people, especially other Christians.

Evangelism: The capacity to discern when and how the Gospel message should be communicated to persons outside the Christian community.

Exhortation: The capacity to inspire, to motivate, and to encourage others in their spiritual formation and personal ministry.

Faith: It is the special gift whereby the Spirit provides Christians with extraordinary confidence in God's promises, power, and presence so that they can take heroic stands for their future of God's work in the church.

Giving: The capacity to manage one's own resources (income, time, energy, skills, and gifts) in such a way that there is more than enough to share with other people.

Hospitality: The ability to meet the basic social needs of and to extend care to persons (strangers) beyond one's immediate circle of friends.

Knowledge: The capacity to cognitively comprehend the complexities of God's Truth and to explain these complexities to others.

Leadership: The ability to understand one's own principles and vision, to communicate those principles and vision to others, and to challenge others to move into the future, all in a non-reactive way.

Mercy: The ability to identify with and to feel the pains and hurts of another person and the capacity to help that person move beyond those pains and hurts.

Prophecy: The capacity to receive, to reveal, or to interpret God's Truth, publicly, no matter what the consequences or risks.

Shepherding/ Mentoring:  The ability to affirm, to equip, and to support other Christians in spiritual formation and Christian ministry.

Helps/Service: The ability and overwhelming desire to aid persons in need. The ability to perform the most basic acts of kindness as a means to glorify God and to embody the Gospel.

Teaching: The capacity to create an environment in which obedience to God's Truth can be practiced.

Wisdom: The capacity to convincingly illustrate the mystery of God's Truth in very concrete, practical, and specific ways.

3) We must be accountable to one another.

We mustn't associate accountability with confrontation, for accountability is essential to us in our infirmities. The verses I've listed below admonish us to:  help our friends when they fall; defend each other; teach and admonish each other; submit to one another; be truthful with one another; confess our sins to each other; and pray for each other.

Ecclesiastes 4:10 
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Ecclesiastes 4:12

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. 

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 

Ephesians 5:21
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Colossians 3:9-10
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

4) We must dedicate ourselves, as one Body, to Christ: 

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices (to give up your pursuits as an individual, and live as One), holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.