Thursday, April 28, 2011

Poor in Spirit

The Beatitudes have always been fascinating to me. These eight powerful statements that kicked off Jesus’ famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’ are short, sweet and to the point.

Take the first one, for example: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ What a surprising statement that must have been to Jesus’ original audience. And it continues to surprise even now in our current context.

The world that tells us that we’ll never achieve our greatness; we’ll never be successful; we’ll never realize greatness until we fight or claw or steal or take everything we can. If we don’t see ourselves as number one… then no one else will see us that way. But here’s Jesus saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit…’ It goes against everything that we experience in everyday life.

Jesus is letting us in on an important truth... and we need to remember the type of environment he was saying this in: this is in a religious environment where people had been taught that the outcast, the broken, the poor, the hurting, the sinful… those sorts of people have no place in God’s kingdom. And all of the arrogant religious leaders with their robes and rings… they were so convinced that they had the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And Jesus is saying… you’ve got this all wrong.

And Jesus is letting them know: It’s not yours because you are so wealthy, or so gifted, or so famous, or so bright. And, in fact, if that’s what you think will qualify you for my kingdom… it’s going to be a very bad day for you. Because those things just aren’t all that impressive when you are looking from God’s perspective.

But here’s the beautiful thing: Jesus is essentially saying that no one will be left out of the kingdom because they are too broken. Or too sinful. Or too empty. Because what is required is a poverty of spirit. It’s when someone comes to the table to do business with God with the understanding that they can bring nothing of value to the relationship… and that God brings everything of value to it.

I think Paul illustrates this well when he wrote in Galatians 2, verse 20: ‘I have been crucified with Christ.’ Essentially, he is saying: I have come to the end of me. I have come to the death of me. He goes on to write: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’

It’s a bit of a paradox. I have died to myself… but now I am fully alive. I come to the table with a poverty of spirit… recognizing that I have nothing to bring to the table. I have come in desperation, brokenness, I come destitute, ashamed… and God has seen it fit to give to me all that He is… when I give Him all that I am. So I give Him all of my ‘nothing’ and He gives me all of His ‘everything.’ It’s the great exchange that hopefully we will not miss.

It doesn’t matter who you are. Doesn’t matter what you do for a living. Doesn’t matter what kind of religious background you have. Doesn’t matter what kind of family history you have. It just doesn’t matter. All of us will have to enter into this one experience: We will have to approach God with a poverty of spirit… a spirit that says: God, I need you. More specifically… Jesus, I need you. I need you. It’s only then that God will allow you to belong to the kingdom of heaven… and for the kingdom of heaven to belong to you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

To Not Homeschool : A Follow-Up Post

Wow.  I am amazed at the comments that were posted in response to my opinions on not homeschooling.  When asked to provide my viewpoint, I knew I would not be the most popular person in the world.  What I didn't expect was how equally passionate those who didn't share my opinion would be.

While reading the comments written, I have come to realize that perhaps for the purposes of The Intentional Journey, my opinions my have been out of place.  Based on what I have read previously on this blog,
I was of the impression that the purpose of this blog is to be an encouragement to others.  Therefore, this forum may not have been the best to discuss my particular opinion on the topic requested, as it did not serve to be an encouragement to those who follow the blog.  For this I am sorry.  My intent was not to create a schism among the readers and other contributors, but to provide an opposite opinion as requested.

I am not apologizing for my opinions on any topic, as I would not expect anyone else to do the same.  God has given us the ability to think critically, and we should use that ability - in the right context.  I am not sure that this forum was the time or place for my thoughts on the topic.

Please forgive me for being divisive, and don't stop reading this blog on account of me.

~Kristin

Playing Politics or Being A Neighbor

Editorial Comments:
About two weeks ago, a friend sent me a text asking if it was okay to send me an email.  In it contained a rant on some of the current local politics.  I read through it and then encouraged the person to try again, but that it would be a great post for The Intentional Journey.  There was nothing said about it until yesterday when an article was posted in our local paper about the topic.  I went to the person and once again asked if they'd be interested in presenting this post.  This morning, I received another email.  I was very impressed.  I was excited until I was sent a text letting me know that it would need to be anonymous.  The concern was for the welfare of the family.  

As I read this, tears formed in my eyes.  Our country is in pain and is hurting in a big way.  It is actions like this from the "opposite" side that are helping to tear it apart further.  And then thinking of my kids and what they may go through in the future if we don't get our acts together made my heart break.  Well enough of me.  I await your comments.

 ____________________________________________________________________


I don't get too involved in politics. Which is to say that when it comes time to vote, I usually vote for people I know or people that my husband trusts for a job. You will not hear me talking about any upcoming elections and I tend to get irritated if the president dares to come on during one of my favorite shows. I spend most of my time with those closest to me and reading. I think about my family and those who will come after me. I wonder what will be left for them when I'm gone. I think about the changes just since I first started having children. The amount of gadgets and gizmos has at least tripled in that time.

When I was a student we took shorthand and typing classes on typewriters. Cell phones were futuristic and not something you thought about. We had pay phones and for a quarter you could make a call. We listened to music on cassette tapes and I remember when cd's first came out and not knowing how to open the case. Now we have iPods and MP3 players that hold 1000's of songs in the palm of your hand and you no longer need to go to the record store to buy music as you can download it instantly to your home computer. My first computer was a Commodore Vic20 and the only thing you could really do on it was play Pong. We didn't have DVD players or Blue Ray Disc, we had a VCR and forget about Netflix streaming the movies straight to your television via internet. Satellites were huge discs in the yard that only a select few had. I didn't even have cable growing up. We had three channels 6, 8, and 13 and if you were really lucky the antennae would pick up channel 4. MTV was something rich city kids watched after school and the first music video I saw was at my uncle's house. I saw Thriller by Michael Jackson and it scared me to death. I went back home to my record player and my sometimes four channels where things made sense and was thankful.

I got my first cell phone right before I got married. It was as large as my current cordless home phone. I got it free for buying a new muffler from Midas. The carrier for the phone was Verizon before they were Verizon. We refer to that phone as the “Zach Morris” phone. If you are familiar with the show Saved by the Bell then you will know exactly what my phone looked like as Zach was the only one I ever knew that had a cell phone at that time. I now have a cell phone that has a touch screen and an iPod and CD cases do not challenge me when it comes to opening them. I love Netflix and while I have a Blue Ray player I'm too cheap to buy the Blue Ray discs so I just play my DVD on it. I find that I do like all the changes in technology now that I'm older (at least when they work). My favorite being my nook book and my wireless printer. I love being able to print from the next room.

The thing about technology is this, it is ALWAYS changing and advancing. My son is looking forward to the day that we have flying cars. While I doubt I'll live to see that day, perhaps it's not completely unheard of. After all at one point it would have seemed ridiculous to me if you would have told me that I would be able to hold my entire music collection in the palm of my hand and still have room to buy more. Yet here we are with iPods and other brands of MP3's that do just that.

New is exciting, new is sometimes better, sometimes not. But there is no denying that the way the world is moving technology will continue to advance and we had better in some respects keep up. My children learn to type on computers. A great number of students have their own phones and texting is the new shorthand. The times they are a changing.

In my community the “hot topic” is whether we should build a new school and combine the three existing elementary schools. I say it's a hot topic because there are people who feel VERY strongly one way or the other. This topic has put neighbor against neighbor and in the history of my recollection, I cannot remember things getting so out of hand in this quiet little corner of the world I call home. Oh sure when they reconfigured the schools some got upset, but they either moved or they stuck it out to see how it would work out. Even when they changed the busing some got concerned but it all worked out in the end, and the kids transitioned quite well. Only now when their taxes will go up do they get excited to the point of the following. Placing signs in their yards encouraging everyone to VOTE NO. And not just one sign, but many signs in the SAME yard. To me that is getting a little carried away. If I see six signs in someone's yard I'm more inclined to think they need medication than to consider voting their way. But then I don't like signs. Signs in a yard unless your house is for sale seems silly to me. But signs are harmless. If your want to cover your yard in signs I say more power to you. Go to the voting hall and place your ballet and hope for the best. You are well within your rights to do both of those things.

What you are NOT within your rights to do is to place a “for sale” sign in someone's yard that doesn't agree with you. You are NOT within your rights to send hate mail to those who do not agree with you. You are NOT within your rights to threaten harm to those people or their property who do not agree with you. You are NOT within your rights to drive your tractor through someone's property and destroy it because they do not agree with you. You see you are, because we live in America, entitled to your opinion and your vote. But once you move beyond that you've broken the law and those that you have harmed are within their rights to press charges.

You see some need to get their facts straight. If once you get all of the actual facts, not somebody's brother's cousin's uncle said _________, but actual facts, and you still don't like it? VOTE NO! That's it. Then you are done. You will then have spoken your peace and then you move on. If the vote doesn't go your way then move. I don't know what else to tell you. But the aforementioned above are actual events that have taken place and they need to stop. Weren't we all friends and neighbors once?
Do our children and grandchildren not go to school together? Are we to pit the children against each other next? Perhaps we could have a duel at 50 paces? Perhaps we could have a lunch room brawl and put the no's against the yes' and see who comes out the victor, then that will decide what will happen.

Does that sound outlandish to you? A little farfetched? How does it sound any worse than what I mentioned that has happened among adults. Adults should set an example and if those are the actions that adults are choosing to take then what is to stop the the other things from happening among our children? Think about it.

I do not get into politics. Those are the reasons why. In fact I considered not voting at all. Now I think we will each vote separately so we will cancel each other out. I like to think that even if people don't agree then they can find ways to get along. Why I am now friends with people that went to rival schools. Imagine! In fact I am even friends with it pains me to say it but ...I am friends with IU fans! You know what? We get along fine. You would think that a group of adults working toward the same goal, what is best for our children, could do the same. I pray that everyone does just that. After all they are our future. While I don't understand wrestling or any other kind of fighting, I think having a duel at 50 paces would be going backwards. Don't you?

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Presidential Run

Hello Friends!

  Good morning!  I pray that the Almighty's blessings are abundant in your life and you recognize those blessings fully!  A few things before I start in on the exciting "next chapter" of my life (a 2012 Presidential run?)  Twice this week, friends have approached me and told me they are praying for me.  One is going through a bit of a difficult time with one of her children.  He's got a bit of an illness going on and they're trying to get it figured out. (So, please keep her in your prayers - if we can multiply prayer, it makes it all the more powerful!!!) So, we chatted and basically, her point was that she's dealing with this thing with one of her children and she was praying for me because I have to go through this daily.  My Jonah has to endure this constantly.  I have to say that this is our way of life, at this point, doctors, meds, etc... it is just what we do and I rarely give it a second thought... sometimes it is more than I can bear, but most of the time, it just is.  Another friend, and she's done this before, called me an amazing Warrior Princess. WOW.  That left me in tears.  Among friends, we know we are princesses - daughters of the King Most High... we own it - it is a marvelous thing!  But the addition of "Warrior" to Princess - just WOW!  I don't know that I've earned the title, but it made me realize how fully and completely blessed I am.  I have friends who are lifting me up in prayer all the time.  I have a life that I can hand over to God and try my best, in my mere humanity, to glorify Him in my actions, words and thoughts.  Today, take a few minutes to Glorify God - let HIM know that you know your blessings are too many to count.  Be a Warrior in your life.  Take the bad and do your best to make those circumstances Christ-honoring.  WE are the only ones who can control our actions.  Blaming "circumstances" is counter-productive - we make our own circumstances.  Acknowledge that we are accountable for our own actions and stand up and control those actions.  God IS in control.  But God gave us free will to control ourselves.  Owning this is our key to contentment in Christ.  Ignoring this will most certainly be our downfall.

  OK... So, on to the fun stuff!  So, next week, I may or may not be having a certain birthday that frees me up to run for the BIG TIME in the political arena.  Now, I will tell you that I AM having this birthday but am requesting that no one say "the number" out loud.  (Please?)  So, I was thinking... what is my platform?  What am I running on?  Why am I running?  This is going to be so much fun!  So, here goes... I'm officially putting my name in the hat for the nomination for the Presidency.  This, my friends, is what I will work toward.

 1) Stop taking money from China (and all other countries).  Our debt is entirely too high and we need to stop borrowing money that we can't pay back. Period.

2) We need to return this country to greatness. Imports - across the board - are allowed to come in - WITH a 33.3% tax.  Make it MORE DIFFICULT for countries looking to the U.S. to take in all their crap and support their economy.  We need to start making products and giving incentives to U.S. companies to produce the things we need - RIGHT HERE in the U.S.  You want to move your company offshore to save money?  Fine - but don't expect to continue to sell your product here without aforementioned 33.3% tax.  We need to keep jobs here - too many people need and want jobs right now.  Make tax structures fair and easy for small businesses who are employing people right here where jobs are needed.

3)Stop. Killing. Babies.  A country that doesn't protect it's most vulnerable is not a country I want to support.  Make adoption proceedings more affordable and a quicker process for families who are DESPERATE to add to their families but can't afford the process.

4) Strong Military - fine and dandy.  I support our military members with my whole heart.  I'm sad that their Commander - in - Chief is a jackass.  Just because we have a strong military and that is a good thing - national defense is too important to not have a strong military - but not involving our military in nonsensical wars and conflicts is the mark of a strong nation... not endangering our soldiers unnecessarily is a sign of strength.  Moving in when and only when it is necessary is a sign of intelligence and compassion.

5) Government needs to butt out of people's lives.  There is most definitely a segment of the population who will not be happy with this - but here goes - Welfare - you're not entitled to it.  I don't mind helping you out to feed your family if you're having a hard time. It is NOT my job to buy your food ad infinitum because you don't feel like getting your butt out of bed and working. Period.  Third generation welfare recipients - there is a problem here.  Change the problem.  Folks have been paying into social security their whole lives and you're gonna take their money and not give it back?  How about you give everyone back their money (Oh wait... what? You spent it?) and privatize social security.  Americans are smart enough to fund their own retirement.  Let them do so instead of taking money away from them - money most of us are likely to never see.  Other government programs - Medicaid - yes - on a sliding fee basis.  If you don't have a job - you are assigned a job watching kids so parents can go to work, you'll receive a fair wage (because parents who go to work will be paying for your services - this is not a government sponsored program - it is called being innovative - use the brain that God Almighty gave you and you'll be amazed at the wonderful things that could happen!) So, medicaid - yes - to CITIZENS who are paying into the program - medical care is too important to not subsidize. We need to stop paying for people who are not citizens to have babies and get free medical care.  That is just stupid.  The medical fee structure also needs to be revamped.  The charges are astronomical and out of line.  I'm not anti-capitalist, I'm just a realist.  I don't get to charge $10 for a dozen eggs - no one would buy them.  Medical care is doing exactly that... they are over-charging for services that are crucial to life, there are people going without because they can't afford care.  Get prices in line.  Including health insurance premiums.  Tort reform.  I know there are cases that are just blatantly the fault of Dr. X... and in those cases, Dr. X should pay for his mistakes.  But smaller, more common med mal cases need to be capped.  One way of managing healthcare costs - med mal insurance rates go down, they don't have to charge as much for services.  So, to recap - services to citizens who contribute.  Take care of the elderly and disabled - again - a country that does not care for it's most vulnerable is not a good place to be. 

6) Balance the budget.  Stop the pork projects.  $ goes to medical research - our scientists should not have to stress about where their funding is coming from.  There are too many people in this country who are living with diseases and conditions that are treatable.  We need to enable in the right way - enable our best and brightest to figure out the problems that we are living with.  $, indeed, makes the world go 'round... but belt straps must be tightened, big boy and girl undies must be put on... there might be some cuts that have to be made that some are not going to like.  I'm not one to lean toward Machiavellian philosophy, and words like "The Greater Good" are rarely spoken... but there will be some who are unhappy with some cuts, unhappy that their pet project isn't funded...That's life. Move on.  Things need to be fixed - they've been broken far too long.

7) Drill, Baby, Drill.  Stop our dependence on foreign oil. Tax credits for those implementing "green" energy sources - solar generators for folks in AZ, wind energy for those in the Plains states...et cetera. Gas is so expensive for political reasons - not because we don't have the ability to do something about it.

8) Two Words: FLAT TAX.  Eliminate the IRS. Do you have any idea how many BILLIONS of dollars I just saved us?

9) Encourage people to prepare for a rainy day.  Dependence on the government is a bad thing. 

10) Educational programs for lower income folks who are trying to get out of poverty. Nutrition classes for parents.  Breastfeeding education. Natural childbirth education (to avoid unnecessary c-sections, saving tons of $$ in medical costs, avoiding complications).  Empowering people and families to rise above their circumstances.

11) Lessen dependence on modern medicine by educating folks about natural hygiene, gardening, natural preventive medicine, healthful diet, getting back to an agrarian lifestyle - even for those who live in an urban setting.  Our separation of many degrees from our food is the basis of many problems in our society.  Reconnecting to our food is a good step in solving many issues (obesity, type 2 diabetes, medical issues caused by food additives and preservatives, behavior issues caused by artificial food additives, etc.)

12) Legalize backyard chickens for everyone.

13) Get rid of the involvement of high-powered lobbyists that end up costing the average American money (big pharma) and our health (dairy lobby).

14) My secret weapon?  Two Words: Jack. Bauer.

I'll let you know when I need help gathering signatures and fundraising... I'm sure it will be a snap with such a good base of friends!  :)

Have a great day, Friends.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Can Do All Things Through Christ (Phil. 4:13)

“I can do all things through [Christ] who gives me strength.” Phi. 4:13, NIV.

I'm exhausted. The kind of tired that seems to seep into your bones, eats at your soul and makes everything seem impossible. The kind of tired that we all get at one time or another. I stare at my computer cursor blinking indifferently at me. This article just won't write itself. I'm supposed to be writing about my favorite verse for a blog posting. There could really be someone searching, looking, needing a spiritual revelation or encouragement that day, but the words just won't form on the screen. Forgive me Father, but I am really not up to the task.

One of my favorite verses of the Bible is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through [Christ] who gives me strength.” I feel that one of Satan's greatest lies is that success/happiness in our lives is dependent either on good circumstances or reliance upon personal strength or attitude to get through life's challenges, not the condition of our hearts in Christ. Ironic, that while writing an article on Philippians 4:13, I'm sitting at the computer trying to muster up my own strength to put something down on paper, wishing the last few days hadn't been so hectic, willing my brain to focus. I guess in myself proving how deeply Satan's lie permeates. So many of us (me included!) spend our lives thinking, if only I had more hours in a day, if only my husband got a raise, if only my kids weren't so messy, if only I could will myself to be more patient, if only...then I could really get somewhere in life!

When Paul wrote this verse, he was most likely being held in a Roman jail(i).  Paul often found himself in less than ideal circumstances. He was no stranger to persecution after a ministry of being beaten, imprisoned and eventually beheaded, all for walking a path in Christ(ii).  When Paul writes to the Church at Philippi, he expresses the idea that he has “learned to be content in whatever circumstances” whether good or bad, while relying on the strength that Christ provides. Phil. 4:11, 4:13. Paul says: “I have learned to be content in whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Phil 4:11-14.

Satan's lie is so cruel. In this world most of us encounter less than ideal circumstances on a daily basis: being cut off on the freeway, an impossibly fast approaching deadline, dealing with a difficult co-worker and frequently we encounter much more serious problems like illnesses, death, addiction, abuse and depression in our lives. So relying on good circumstances is tenuous at best. Then when these situations present, we're told to “just tough it out,” “develop some discipline and self-control,” “will yourself into getting through,” “rely on your own strength, think positive!” How are we supposed to live a faithful life when we have to go through all of THAT? Living and keeping faith in this fallen world isn't easy and trying to rely only on ourselves is impossible. Often we begin dwelling on “what if's” or become stubborn, angry or jaded before we even realize it.

I used to be really intrigued by a show on television that chronicled the lives of a person facing an addiction, usually to either drugs or alcohol. The show documented the struggle of the addict's friends and family members trying to get the addict into a rehabilitation facility. The show's main premise, most episodes, was that in order to beat their addiction, the addict had to enter rehab, be deprived of their addicted substance, endure months of in-depth counseling and learn the tools to be disciplined enough to tough out a life free of addiction. The highlight of the show is when the addict agrees to enter rehab and his or her family rejoices that the addict's life has been saved. Sadly, after the family's celebration, almost every episode quietly ends with a brief note that after months of rehab, the addict fell off the wagon: he or she simply didn't have enough will power to resist the addiction any longer. I always found myself grieving for these poor people who were asked to rely on their own will power to fight terribly powerful addictions.

This Easter season we once again focus on the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made by dying for every one of our sins. One of the most painful verses in the Bible, for me, is when Jesus, bearing our sins on the cross, is momentarily separated from God by the full brunt of our sin, and he cries in agony: “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' (which means 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?')” Matt. 27:46. We suffer the same way when trying to deal with life's difficulties and challenges on our own. Early in his letter to the Church at Phillipi, Paul speaks about not only the strength, but peace Christ can provide: “Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7. Just think, Paul is writing all of this while in prison!

Jesus does not require that we have perfect circumstances or be super human to have success, peace and happiness in our lives. In fact, the opposite is true: It's when we face difficulties in our life and humbly ask God for help that He brings us all of the strength and peace we could ever need. It is when we say “I can't,” that we truly can do all things through Christ.

i. Copeland, Mark A. “The Epistle to the Philippians.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d. Web. 21 April 2011.
ii. Paul the Apostle. Wikipedia. N.D. Web. 21 April 2011.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Quirky Not Crazy

I have a confession to make. It’s a little embarrassing really but it’s been brought to my attention that I may have a problem so… here we go. I am, well… I am quirky. There I said it. I have these things about me that are just a little different than a lot of people. Actually they are relatively new developments as I get older. Perhaps it would be best if we make a list.

1. I absolutely refuse to go to Walmart alone after dark. I just won’t do it. There is nothing I need that badly that won’t wait until morning. Out of milk? Guess I’ll have to go to the corner mart and pay double in the morning for breakfast, but I am not going to Walmart after dark alone. I think in my mind I believe that, that is when all the crazy people are out. If someone wants to mug you it will be at night. Also even though I did learn from The Big Comfy Couch when the kids were little, that the night is the same as the light you just can’t see through it. I prefer to be in my house after dark. No, no midnight strolls through a park, no walking the walkway after the sun goes down. The sun is set, I’m in for the night. Unless I’m already out and of course there are others with me.

2. I will not drive in the snow or during a thunderstorm. There is nowhere I need to be that badly that I need to go out. Unless one of the children is somewhere and I need to get to them, it’s not happening. If I was meant to drive in the snow, God would have had the snow fall everywhere but the road. Plus I don’t have four wheel drive. Probably a lame excuse but it’s all I have.

3. Interstates. Why do I need six lanes? And you know no one is going the speed limit but me. Those people are flying down that road at unnatural speeds. Seriously, it’s just scary. Why are they in such a hurry to get where they are going? I’m pretty sure wherever they are going will still be there when they get there, if they go at a rational pace. I hate these roads. I never know which lane I’m supposed to be in and forget about switching lanes if you get into the wrong one. Those speed demons are not going to let you switch lanes so forget about. I avoid these if at all possible. I bribe people with food if I have to so I won’t have to drive on them. I offer to buy lunch if they will do the driving. Or I have them meet me somewhere that eliminates the need to go on such a crazy stretch of road.

4. It gives me chills to think about making a meatloaf. I have attempted meatloaf before, it never turns out. Also it makes me gag to put my hands in meaty goo. I’m not certain that is how meat was meant to be prepared. I know it’s a popular entrĂ©e and people tell me I’m crazy because they love meatloaf so I should too. I do like it if other people prepare it. But it is by no means a favorite. If a friend or family member made it for me I would eat it. I wouldn’t dream of ordering it at a restaurant.

5. When I go to a restaurant and order an ice water or an ice tea I will always order it with lemon. Not because I want to squeeze it into my drink but because it looks pretty on the glass.

6. I can’t smell. Don’t ask me why, I think it’s a side effect from having kids. Pregnant I smelled everything. Pre-pregnancy I could smell. Have the kids and boom I can’t smell. Unless it’s terribly strong and my nose is in it. I go to Bath and Body and I have to take a friend. I cannot tell the difference. I buy scented soaps and I buy scented room fresheners. I cannot smell them but I buy them. My friend thinks it’s funny that I do this. She says that she understands that I want to make sure things smell good, but how would I know if it didn’t. She has a point really. I’m really probably your best pick for changing diapers because chances are I’m not going to smell it. However, I can still see so it’s not like I won’t be repulsed by what I find.

7. I make friends with salespeople if I think I’m going to see them more than once. My friend pointed this one out to me also. I never really thought about it. I suppose it’s true. I’m friends with my Schwan’s man. I’m not sure if that counts though as I’ve known the kid since he was knee high to a grasshopper. Also my favorite store used to be Maurice’s. I knew all the salespeople by name and they knew me when I walked in the door. Not necessarily because I spent so much in there, a fair amount really considering I bought for myself and my teenage daughters, but mostly because I would go in there and talk to them. Even if I wasn’t going to buy anything if I was in the area I would stop in and visit. I thought of them as my friends. None of them work there anymore and now my new favorite store is Kohl’s because they have better sales and I’m old I’ve crossed over the age limit for Maurice’s for myself. At least in my mind I have. I might add here that I am not currently friends with anyone who works at a Kohl’s that I frequent. I don’t think it’s possible in that store.


I think all of these things about me are pretty reasonable. But then I suppose they are my quirks they are part of what makes me well… me. I’m friendly and I don’t take dangerous risks. I can’t smell but I understand other people can. I like pretty things and I don’t like gooey things. I think that makes me a girl. All I know is this. God made me and He is crazy about me. He loves me and if I need to make changes in my life He will let me know. So far, at least when it comes to the aforementioned items above, I think we’re good. I guess it’s interesting to have things pointed out to you about yourself. Things that you never really thought about. I guess it just shows that we are all different, no two of us are exactly alike. How boring would it be if we were all the same? I wouldn’t want to spend all of my time with someone just like me. I couldn’t learn anything from that. I love how different we all are. I purposely surround myself with people I can learn from. Maybe that’s another quirk, but I wouldn’t change it a bit!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

No Homeschooling For Me, Thanks!

One of the most important decisions a parent has to make concerns the education of their child.  This is not a decision to take lightly as a child's education is the foundation for the remainder of the child's life.  This foundation is not only necessary for learning the three "R's" but also for learning social and spiritual lessons.  This is why it is my contention that, with a few exceptions, children should not be home schooled. I do not deny that public school systems - and even some private schools - have changed drastically in the 15+ years since I graduated high school.  I do think that these changes have coincided with the mass exodus of Christian families from said districts.  The only way to turn the tide is by keeping kids in public schools.

I'll start with exceptions.  Homeschooling is the most logical option in the following cases: 1) instances where the child has a legitimate reason why traditional school would truly be a detriment to the child, such as a chronic illness, and 2) instances where the child's parents are in a profession that does not allow for access to a school district such as missionaries and other full time traveling ministries.

And now for the reasons why homeschooling is not as beneficial as public school:

1) Homeschooling is often done by unqualified parents.
  Young children often believe that adults know everything, when really they do not.  While a parent may be able to (and should, in my opinion) teach the child the alphabet, how to write, and even some simple math, there will come a time when where it will be impossible to teach a topic due to lack of knowledge on the parent's part.  The solution for this tends to be a video series that will teach the child, which stands very little chance of keeping the child's attention.  Additionally, for a child's home school graduation to result in a valid diploma, the parent has to stay on top of ever changing state laws surrounding graduation requirements.  If something is missed, the child could face difficulties when s/he attempts to go to college.

2) Homeschooling does not provide the child opportunities to hear varying opinions on topics.
   Critical thinking skills are necessary to develop prior to entering the workforce.  Unfortunately, only being taught by one person does no result in any opinion by the parents' being voiced.  Certain hot button topics exist in the world - the most volatile of which is creation vs. evolution and whether one, none or both viewpoints should be taught in the public school system.  Parents shouldn't shield their children from concepts about which the parents don't believe, rather the child should be given the option to hear both sides and be encouraged to make a decision after thinking through it.  Instead of saying "This is how it is," parents should explain what they believe and why, then step back and watch the child's brain process all the information.  I think too many parents are worried that despite their best efforts, the child may decide to believe something that is not their parents' beliefs.  One day an employer is going to want the child to be able to assess two options and be able to support the option chosen.  If a child isn't taught this within his/her schooling (or even provided the opportunity to do so) then keeping employment may be difficult.

3) The Bible calls us to be "in the world but not of it."
   When a family's life only centers around going from home to church and back, with short little jaunts to co-op or little league, the family does not have the opportunity to be a light - or at least not an effective one.  It is at that point that the house becomes the bushel under which the light (the family) is hidden.  The public school system is a prime mission field that is being ignored and from which parents are fleeing.  Where parents should be seizing the opportunity to show the love of Christ to teachers and fellow parents, they are instead running away to avoid getting dirty. Subsequently, in later years of the child's life there is not an opportunity for the child to have their faith tested or questioned, or ever need to defend what they believe.  This creates a generation of Christians who, once out on their own, are likely to drift from their faith due to not actually having any roots.  In effect, they are the seed planted in the rocky soil that grows, but withers when the sun beats down on it.

Therefore, it is my family's decision that should we be blessed with the responsibility of parenting, our children will be taught by public school teachers where ever it is we are living at that time.  I strongly encourage all parents to think of the eternal impact their family can have by forging a strong relationship with their public school system

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What Are You Expecting?

Has someone ever told you about a really good restaurant?  They go on and on about how awesome the food is, how great the service is, and about the wonderful atmosphere?  They tell you how you can go there and relax and enjoy the evening.  You decide to buy into the hype and you finally go.

What were you expecting when you went?  Was it more or less than you expected?  Service, was it good or bad?  Was your dining experience better than you hoped?  Or as my friend says, was it "nothing to write home about?"

In John 12:12-18, we read about the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem.  Have you ever wondered what the Jews were expecting?  Or perhaps the Romans?  And how about the disciples?  Let me see here.  The Jews...were they expecting political liberation?  The Romans, I bet, were afraid of an uprising and the disciples, well, they did not know what to expect (verse 16).

There are many people out there, that "try" this God thing.  They follow Jesus for a bit, but the moment that He does not improve their situation, they give up and throw in the towel.  People come to Christ expecting God to give them a bigger house or more money.  They expect God to give them a new car or perhaps even a new job.  When something "magical" doesn't happen instantly they say God did not meet my expectations.  They tell others it was "nothing to write home about."  I believe those people are coming to Christ for the wrong reasons.

Christ did not come to set people free politically.  He came to set them free spiritually.  Our needs are not better cars, bigger houses, and magical experiences.  Our need is for a Savior.  If you are expecting an easy life as a Christian, I am sorry to disappoint you.  Jesus says in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Life in many ways will not be easier but we can look forward to the reward.

What are your expectations?  My challenge to you; This week take the time to examine your life and let God chisel away and make you into His image.  Remember our need is for a Savior  His name is Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Homeschooling Unapologetics

“Faith in the prayer-hearing God is an unproved and outmoded faith. There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there are no needs for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, the immutable truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or moral absolutes.” ...John Dewey, socialist and founder of the modern American system of education.

If a religious sect or social club were founded by a man who firmly believed the statement above, the modern Christian wouldn't go anywhere near it; yet, each and every week day in America, children are herded into the halls of our public schools in a system that was designed by Dewey and other socialist catalysts who wanted our children to believe this very idea. 100 years ago, before John Dewey’s influence was so strongly felt in America, home education was the norm. Why are we all willingly expected to accept an educational system that was created by a known socialist and his followers??? 

Most Americans don’t even question our system or why it is the way it is. We choose to question the system in our family. We have experienced this system from the inside out. We were teachers. We know what the classrooms, hallways and playgrounds of our modern American schools are like. We know that very little true learning takes place there, and, because of this, we have chosen what we believe is a better way. It’s a calling for us. Homeschooling our children has become one of our greatest family blessings.

With almost five years of homeschooling under our belts, we are at the point that we can see all the fruits of our labor. Any insecurities we had when we began have diminished in the light of what this lifestyle of learning has done for our kids and our family. We believe that homeschooling actually trains students to function better when it comes to higher education or a professional career. They are being taught to become self-starters and independent learners, which means that it doesn't matter how a professor teaches because, if they don't relate to the professor's teaching style, they know how to learn the necessary material on their own.

The one thing about which non-homeschoolers seem to worry the most surrounds the dreaded unbiblical concept of "socialization". Since John Dewey was indeed a socialist who designed the system to meet a socialist agenda, I'm not surprised that so many parents are so concerned about conforming to what the government tells them is right for them and their children, but it still makes me cringe to think that so many Americans just accept it so willingly.  They were trained to do so, and they do it without question. 

The bottom line on this topic is that children go to school to be educated, not to socialize. They sit in desks most of the day and have very little time to interact and form positive relationships with other students. Much of the very little social interaction kids get in a school does nothing but hinder their education anyway, so why is that even an issue? Plus, they're in a classroom with children who are all the same age as them. There is no other place in all of their lives when they will experience such an odd grouping of peers. Most of us spend time with people of all ages. My children are so blessed to be used to playing with children of various ages and to be around adults of all ages on a regular basis. This will surely prepare them better for the real world that so many non-homeschoolers are so concerned about.

I am proud to say that my children are receiving a top-notch education. They are learning to love education and to become independent learners. It's not just a task that they have to accomplish on their race toward adulthood. We don't have to be satisfied with the mediocrity that is offered in America's educational system because we are willing and able to give them something better. They aren't spending more time with strangers than they are with Eric and me, the people with whom the Lord intended them to spend most of their time during these formative years. They will be better suited for whatever career the Lord has set before them; from mothering to doctoring, they'll be prepared to do it because they are getting the greatest educational foundation that I can possibly give to them within a godly, loving atmosphere.

I believe that homeschoolers are recognizing what so many others are not. Homeschooled students score significantly higher on standardized tests and college entrance exams, and their parents aren't even teaching to the test the way so many school districts do. Studies show that the average scores of homeschooled students on standardized tests are 30-35% higher than the national average. This is simply because they know how to learn.

Of course, the statistics that are most important to me don't really have anything to do with standardized test scores or career success. The most important stats concern the church and the relationship Christians desire for their children to have with the Lord. Stats show that 85-88% of young adults leave the church permanently!!!!! That is an unreal statistic!!! So many parents are tied up thinking "it won't happen to my kid." YES, it will likely be your kid that turns away from the Lord! There is very little hope in that kind of statistic.

In contrast, within the homeschooling community, that statistic is drastically different. I found an article recently that said stats show that a mere 4% of homeschooled children leave the church as adults. 4% vs 85???? What is wrong with that picture???? Yet our choices are the ones being consistently scrutinized? I believe we have figured something out here. Other Christians would be well-advised to stand up and take notice.

This post was challenging to write because I am so passionate about this topic for so many reasons and would love to share them all with you in one post. If I did that, I would be writing a book, not a blog post, so I’ll leave you with a few closing thoughts about why we do this homeschooling thing.

In the long run, John Dewey and all these statistics and benefits don't matter as much as what this lifestyle gives to our kids and to our family. We start our day snuggled on the couch with a Bible. We giggle our way through amazing adventures about far away or magical places. We move to the dining room table and create masterpieces and write spectacular stories. We experience science in the back yard and the kitchen or while looking through a telescope at the moon. We don't merely read about American history. We go to the actual places where these things took place and see how canal boats were pulled, learn how real castles were built and how river boats traveled down the Ohio. When the children express interest in something like snowflakes or outer space, we explore it as our science study and don’t wait until we’re “supposed” to study it. We study nature and create sketches. We cook together. Our school day is efficient and doesn't require endless hours in the evening to do extra and unnecessary busy work. When our kids know something, they're done with it, and, when they don't, we do it again and differently until they do. While I won't say that we never have bumps in the road, most of our days are gloriously woven together.

I am so blessed to be a homeschooling parent. My children are blessed. My husband is blessed. This is a lifestyle that we never dreamed the Lord had for us, but it is also one that we will never regret.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What's Important Anyway?

When it comes to beliefs, doctrines and rules, especially in the church, what's really important? I mean what are the bottom-line essentials. Everybody has their own list of what they think is absolutely necessary to believe in order to be called a Christian. I've got a list too, but mine's pretty short.

Like a few weeks ago, I was listening to Rob Bell on Good Morning America. There's a big controversy about Rob because he has a new book. I haven't read it yet although I intend to. Some people who have read it say Rob Bell doesn't believe in hell anymore. I don't really know whether he does or not. I've been to Rob's church and heard him preach. He didn't say anything about hell one way or the other. He did say an awful lot of good things about Jesus though. I think most days I rather hear about Jesus than hell, but that's just me.

Then there's John Piper. A lot of people don't like him because he's a Calvinist. I'm not a Calvinist either, well maybe a one-pointer, but I still like John. I think he's a good man who's wrong about the first four points of five-point Calvinism, but I'm pretty sure he loves Jesus. I'm pretty sure he'll be in heaven too, probably with Rob Bell, if Rob believes in heaven.

But then I was talking to a woman today who I've been sharing my faith with for a couple of years. She told me that at this point in her spiritual journey she's decided to become something like a Druid. She said there's just one god and that he or she reveals himself to people differently. She said that this kind of religion makes sense to her. She said all religions are good and really all the same. This I'm pretty sure is wrong. Somewhere between Rob Bell, John Piper and this woman a line was crossed. It's the one I think IS essential. It's the line represented by Jesus.

I've thought a lot about this kind of stuff. I'm sold on Jesus...not so much on Buddha and Druids. I guess everyone has a dividing line. For some people it's about being Baptist or Methodist. For some folks it's about being American or not. For some it's probably even about being black or white or red or blue (smurfs). For me the essential is Jesus, how He came, what He did, and how I let Him live in me now. Everything else...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Entertaining Angels (Hebrews 13:2)

  When I start thinking about my life's purpose, I quickly get bogged down with detail.  WHY am I here?  WHAT am I supposed to be doing?  HOW does a "normal" life walking in God's path look?  Am I DOING what I'm supposed to be doing?  Are my actions PLEASING to God?

  I think that my "life verse", a verse I've always identified with and practiced, but never really internalized until the past few years, lays it out for me.  Hebrews 13:2 reads:  Do not forget to entertain strangers for by doing so, many have entertained angels unaware. 

  For a long time, I struggled with finding my spiritual gift.  I enjoy a lot of things but can't call these things "gifts"; I'm a pretty good singer, but will only sing in a choir because I'm shy (none of you who know me should laugh at this... it is true!  :)  ).  I enjoy working with children, but really don't feel I have the extreme patience I feel I would need for continuous work with little ones.  I am a good speaker, but terrified of speaking in front of even medium-sized groups.  A friend, just a couple years ago, in a discussion about spiritual gifts, scoffed when I said "I don't know where my gift lies."  She stood there, mouth open in disbelief.  She said "JEN!  It is obvious to others, but you don't know this?"  I had to admit that I most definitely did not know.  She said "Entertaining"  While it is true that I love entertaining, having friends and family to our home, cooking, preparing for guests... I never once looked at this as a spiritual gift.  This conversation (There was much more to it than this, obviously) really taught me that our gifts are all different and, as with everything in life, we may be using our gifts for reasons other than glorifying God.  The decision to use our gifts to honor His Kingdom is the "turning point" for being comfortable with ourselves and where we fit into God's Kingdom.  This is why, as best I can guess, I am uncomfortable in large groups of people, singing or talking... I am capable of doing those things, but my discomfort is present because that is not what I am supposed to be focused on.

   It came to me that I spend relatively little time "entertaining"... actually having people over at our home, but it was, indeed, the area where I felt most equipped to Honor God.   In prayer and thinking, I realized that the act of entertaining is not the act of hosting people in our home, but it is entirely the process by which we nourish souls.  I realized that one of the things I tell my children all the time is the way I've chosen to live my life.  With one of my boys, this comes up all the time.  He has many medical needs and sometimes gets frustrated at the whole situation - too many meds to take, too many doctor appointments, just too much for a little guy to handle and be joyful about it.  The words first came out of my mouth when he was in the hospital, angry that he was missing an activity that he was looking forward to.  He was snapping at his nurse, his doctor, the lady who brought him in his lunch, at me.... I prayed for the words to say to him and opened my mouth, unsure of what I was going to say.  The utterance "You are allowed to be angry.  You are not allowed to be mean."  is what came out of my mouth.  Pretty simple.  Pretty basic.  Fairly profound in the effect it has had in my life.

   I am an emotional kind of a gal.  I cry when I'm happy, when I'm sad, when I'm angry, when I hear any Mark Schultz song on the radio... I cry, I get over it, I move on.  For me, acknowledging my emotions is a huge part of my life.  God gave us emotion, it is a beautiful thing.  But, allowing our emotions to take over and control our actions can most certainly be a downfall that I could easily fall into.  Acknowledging how I'm feeling, processing those feelings without hurting myself or others and then acting accordingly has been one of the most important life lessons I've learned.

   Hebrews 13:2 has always meant to me that we need to be kind to everyone.  Even if we're angry with someone, even if they hurt us... in all things, Love.  Being kind to people is only one way of showing God's love.  I've been given a clear purpose in my life from this verse.  Entertaining strangers is the only way that we as mere mortals have to ensure that we spread the Good News to others.  Our circle of influence is relatively small.  Our friends know where we stand in our faith. Most of the time, co-workers know where we stand.  That's it - even if you have a lot of friends and are "loud and proud" in your faith at work - that is your circle of influence.  It is a good thing to live your faith in front of family, friends and co-workers.  I think that we are all called, to some degree, to "live louder"... extending our circle of influence to those we don't know.  Not everyone is comfortable outwardly evangelizing, but we are all comfortable living our lives.  So this is what I do... I'm unafraid to share a parable with my children if we're in a store and something happens.  I don't care who hears me, I'm unafraid.  I'm quick to lend a hand if someone needs help, regardless of their "stranger" status.  Hebrews 13:2 tells us that many have "entertained angels unaware" by helping, speaking to, relating to, sharing with, feeding and loving strangers.  You truly never know who you are helping when you extend a hand to someone who is in need of something.  Even if someone is unkind to us, we need to show our children and others that we are unafraid to help.  They might be an angel, they might not be.  At the very least, you are helping a fellow Child of God.  Showing kindness might just stir up more kindness.  I think this world needs a whole lot more love and kindness and I've chosen to be a conduit for the Love of God.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Lesson in 'Me'

Yes, this is a late night post.  I'm not sure how many will actually see it, but I felt like it needed to happen.  I just got done watching one of the stupidest movies ever, "Click."  This is a show with Adam Sandler.  You have to get through the first 70-80 minutes before you get to what I think is the great lesson about 'Me.'

Life brings us many circumstances.  God brings us moments.  It's learning the process of slowing down to take in those moments and disregard the circumstances that is just maybe the most important lesson ever.  And through that it's learning to shut down the "What's in it for ME?" response that's even harder.

Let's face it.  We live in a selfish society.  And before you go patting yourself on the back because you are a Christian and you don't have to deal with it like "some" people?  Take a second look in the mirror.  How often do you go to church and are not satisfied with the preacher, the class, the people, the carpet, the music, the pews vs chairs, etc etc etc etc.  Why, we Christians, are probably the most arrogant and self centered bunch out there.

And it's this movie (the ending at least) that has brought me twice to realize that I need to stop thinking about ME and start thinking about others.  What's that verse in Philippians?  It's found in chapter 2: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Phil. 2:3-4)

It goes on to remind us that we have THE greatest example of all time in Christ Jesus.

About 4.5 years ago, I watched this movie for the first time.  As soon as it was over (like now), I sat down and wrote on my blog the following poem:

ME

I look up from my reading to a little man
He's coming toward me with a huge smile
"Daddy, look at me!" he says.
But I am too busy, too focused on...
ME

I step out of the car to see an awkward teen
He's coming toward me with a huge smile
"Dad, I did it!" he says.
But I don't care, I only think of...
ME

The door opens and there he is a handsome man
He's coming toward me with a huge smile
"Dad, you're a Grandpa now!" he says.
But I soon forget, I got to take care of...
ME

I walk into the hospital and see my sick son
There is no smile to greet me this time
"Son, I'm sorry. I love you. Please forgive me.' I say
But there are only beeps, I spent too much time on...
ME



You know, the movie is still dumb.  But I'm thankful how God can take dumb and teach me a lesson that is hard to forget.  Now my prayer is that I continue to learn how to apply it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Big Comma

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

You have probably heard that verse.  If you have been in church since you were a kid, you have probably heard it more times that you can count.  I think that Jeremiah 29:11 is quoted at almost EVERY children and youth event.  I have even used this verse as a “life verse” a few times in my life.
But I never felt that it was real until just recently.  Let me give you a little bit of back story.
In January, I published my first book, “Watch and See.”  The book is about the story of Christ’s birth, from the star’s perspective.  I had hoped to get it out before Christmas, but that wasn’t able to occur, so early January it came out.  There was not much advertising that I could do with it, since most people don’t want to be thinking about Christmas yet, so I sold my copies to my family and friends and just held off on the bookstores and things. 
In the meantime, I sent in another poem that I had written when I was pregnant with my son, Josiah.  It was called “I Am Your Mother” and spoke about the life changes that occur throughout childhood and into adulthood and the mothers roll in it all. They accepted the manuscript and we started working on the ideas for illustrations and such. 
Then, one afternoon, while sitting at work, I started having chest pains.  I had kids to pick up (my husband was out of town at work) and things to do, so I tried to ignore them.  By the next morning, when they hadn’t died down…I got worried.  I dropped my kids all off at their schools, and headed to the ER. 
My pastor’s wife (and friend) came to stay with me as I had an EKG, nitro pills, some liquid that made my mouth numb…anything they could do to try to stop the pains, but nothing helped.  Then they took me for a CT scan with contrast and after about 30 minutes and a new IV, I was done and headed back to the ER.
About an hour later, the doctor came in to tell me that nothing was wrong with my heart or lungs, so they thought that I must be having acid reflux problems that was causing the chest pains.  But then he said, “We WAS able to see a mass on your thyroid.  The CT scan never catches the thyroid gland, but today they started it too early and we found the mass.”  He tells me that I need to get it checked by my family doctor and HE had called my family doctor himself and they were expecting my call to set up an appointment for the next day.  I don’t know about you, but I have NEVER had an ER doctor call my family doctor before.  I decided that this must be pretty serious.
After my family doctor, a biopsy, and ENT specialist and many tests ran, they decided that the best option would be to remove the mass, and possibly my thyroid, because it was possibly cancer.  So, they scheduled the surgery for about a month later, at the end of March. 
So, here I sat, with a month of waiting before this POSSIBLY cancerous mass would be removed from my body.  Now, everyone I talked to about it told me how this was the BEST kind of cancer (if there is such a thing) to have because it spreads slowly, but in that moment all I could think was THERE COULD BE CANCER CELLS IN MY BODY!
But here is what was amazing…6 months before this, the idea that I might have cancer would have stopped my life.  I have always looked at my life like a book, with chapters, paragraphs and periods…and possible cancer would have been a horrible, ugly period in my book.  Yet now, I had a hope…I had a future…
I had a book that was coming out soon and God wouldn’t have brought me all of this way (this dream started about 10 years ago) just to let me get sick now.  I knew that God was calling me into bigger and better things in my life…and suddenly, what would have been a period…started looking like a great big Comma in my life. 
I was just waiting for the surgery, which was just a small pause in the sentence of my life, so that I could move on and finish this chapter.  I am not sure where it is going to lead, but I know, for possibly the FIRST time, that God has given me a hope, a future…and that He will not be finished with me until the work he started has been completed. 
So, if you are coming up to something in life that looks like a great big period, ask God to show you a glimpse of His future for you so that you can turn it into a comma in the sentence of your life.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Life's Forward Story

God's been doing a lot of what I like to call "mysterious communication" with me lately.

I know He's speaking; I've learned to recognize that.

But I have absolutely no idea what (exactly) He's saying. But even in the mystery, I'm learning. And today I thought I'd share with you one of the things I learned this week.

One of the blogs I like to read is called Ministry so Fabulous. The writer is a single girl in her late 20's, and for the last year, she's been unofficially taking care of five little girls she knows. She wasn't their foster mom...she just ended up taking care of them more often than not. She called them "the fabulous five" and blogged about her adventures with them.

In the last few weeks, through a variety of circumstances, those girls have stopped staying with her, and she's become an official foster parent. I love reading the peace that seems to have settled over life as she's entered this new phase - even though it's definitely a challenge for her. One day last week, she ended her blog with "I miss the fabulous five. I don't like how life changes. I want to love people that are going to stay in my life. I want stability and continuity and my own story. I want life how it used to be."

I hear you, Amy Beth.

There are days when I so very much want life to be the way it used to be. This weekend was another series of days that marked a year since....well, this time it was a year since I took a weekend road trip to see the man who said he was going to marry me. It was also the weekend my flat iron caught on fire in a hotel. I'm not really wishing back that particular episode of Bekahland. But it amazed (and annoyed) me how I could so vividly remember that weekend - without even wanting to. I could look at the clock at any given moment and remember what I was doing....then.

And it was hard to not wish that life back. The life of dates and being picked and carpet picnics and movies and God-talks and drives in the countryside.

Life is never what it used to be.

Life is rarely what it's supposed to be.

But life is everything it's meant to be when lived in surrender mode.

I was chatting with my friend Ronda this week and she shared with me what she'd been learning about Abraham, and it was a great reminder to me that when he forced his own agenda on his life, he ended up in a mess. When he stopped forcing his own agenda and let God do the directing, he got the promise.

Life is never what it used to be. Before he left. Before you got sick. Before the house blew away. Before the accident. Before the baby. When the job existed. I can think of people I know who fit in all those sentences.

And I can also think of how God has worked through each person's surrender to Him. They've been willing to say okay to whatever forward story He's written. And it's beautiful to watch.

And now it's my turn. My turn to say okay to the forward story. It's hard. I have no idea what it is. But I am ready to see.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hold the Salt?

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid...Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." -- Matthew 5: 13-16

The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes, telling us who is blessed in the kingdom of God. It goes on to tell us then of the responsibility of the blessed -- All who are blessed are called to a responsibility. We have a responsibility in the world, not simply in the church or with other Christians. It is important for us to remember that we are not to set ourselves apart, to remove ourselves from the world, to develop an Us vs. Them mentality.

In the first place, we are called to be the salt of the earth. This phrase has become synonymous with stressing a person's worth because salt was of great value in the ancient world. Salt performs two functions: it is a preservative, and it gives taste and flavor to food.  I believe that Christians need to be the salt of society, preserving, reconciling, giving meaning where there is no meaning, giving hope where there is no hope. I love this image and I think about it often. The thought that has been rolling over and over in my mind lately, however, is salt's relationship to taste.

When used correctly, salt is the wonder ingredient in the cooking world. It is a strengthener and an enhancer. Its mere presence in a cake batter will perk up the depth and complexity of the other ingredients present. It will meld ingredients together, creating a wonderful mix. Salt provides a balance of sweet tastes in batters and develops the complexity of flavors in savory dishes. Salt can also be a strengthener when mixed with egg whites, providing stability to the mixture. And though salt is not considered to be a leavening agent, it can contribute slightly to the volume of some recipes. Salt is a wonder ingredient, a valuable tool.

But there is nothing that can ruin a recipe faster than salt that is used incorrectly, in too large amounts. What was once a favorite dish can dry up in the the mouth and be spit out due to over-saltiness. I keep forming a mental picture of the old salt-shaker prank. Someone unscrews the cap of the salt shaker so that the next unsuspecting user will get a pile of salt on their food. When this happens, does that person say, "Awesome! Thanks!" and dig in? No. The food is ruined. It's pushed away and the diner is left unsatisfied if not offended. If we are not careful without how we present the food of Christ, we will leave a bad taste in others' mouths. We will turn the taste buds of those trying it out, accidentally pushing them away to something "other" that they can savor and enjoy.

So here's my question for you today: How do you present the food of Christ to others? Do you come across as an enhancer and a strengthener, or do you salt with a too-heavy hand, unintentionally ruining an otherwise delectable dish?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Our Home Schooling Family

Our decision to become a homeschooling family was a natural fit for us.  Our twins went to kindergarten at the local public school and then, after that year, we decided to home school.  Our decision came promptly when the school administrator decided that she was going to separate them the following year, for first grade.  It should be said that we've always known that we would be a homeschooling family, eventually... but this came at a time when I had an almost 2 year old at home and wasn't sure if I was up to the task.  The one sided decision making (by the school) pushed me into making a decision I should have made before the boys ever stepped foot in kindergarten. 

It should be said that I have many friends who are teachers, and I think the good teachers out there do outnumber the bad ones, so my issue with government schools is not with the  teachers.  I see these teachers working their hind-ends off even when the climate is getting worse and worse...governments not coming up with money that states are supposed to have for funding, piling more and more students into a classroom with one teacher... I think, for the most part, teachers are making the best of a really awful situation.  I know that decisions have to be made, tough decisions... and that is part of the reason why I was so unhappy with a decision being made to separate my children.  They were not distracted by each other.  They were not a discipline problem.  They were well behaved and not causing any trouble.  Basically, as with so many things in my life... my rule of  "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." applies quite nicely.  So, we took a deep breath and headed into the great abyss... I mean... the next step in our journey.

We've been homeschooling for 5 years now and are not looking back.  We're committed to the lifestyle that homeschooling affords and enjoy every aspect of it.  We're free to do things we want to do because we are not tied down to someone else's schedule. Travel to places we want to visit and lessons we want our children to know are possible - visiting museums, zoos, other cities and states during times when crowds are minimal allows us to integrate this travel and field trip opportunities into our experience, enriching the boys' education.

One thing that makes our lifestyle relatively simple (simple, not easy!) is that we have grown accustomed to living "out loud" and being completely unapologetic for our choices.  I am not questioning any one's choice to send their child(ren) to a government - run school, so I don't tolerate anyone questioning my choice to home school my children - it just isn't up for discussion.  Much as the other "questionable" things we have decided upon (not vaccinating, our methods of homeschooling, homesteading, etc) are just not open for discussion.  I'm not criticizing anyone for their choices, I expect the same in return.  I'm always happy to talk about how we do things in the context of a discussion, but don't expect to change my mind.  We do the things we do for a reason, until and unless those reasons change, we'll continue to do the things we do.

One of the things, in this lifestyle, that bothers me most, is when people qualify their comments.  By this, I mean when someone says something like "I don't agree with ___________ (fill in the blank, homeschooling, not vaccinating...whatever other thing they disagree with), BUT, I understand that you do this because your children have special medical needs (or whatever other excuse they are thinking)."    Let me make one thing very clear:  For the most part, families that have been homeschooling (or making other anti-mainstream choices) for any length of time are extremely comfortable with their decisions.  We don't need any one's approval or direction and we're not really going to listen to the criticism.  One of the reasons we home school is that my children have special medical needs, needs that I don't feel can be properly addressed in a school setting.  That, however (despite the seriousness of the medical issues) is a SMALL part of our decision, and we would be homeschooling even without those extra needs.  We're not looking for approval or acceptance in our actions... we're just living our lives... just like everyone else.

Home schooling, to be certain, is not an option, for everyone.  I can't count the number of times people have told me "I could/would NEVER home school."  My response is always along the lines of  "then you definitely should NOT home school."  Whatever the reason is for not wanting to home school, the result should always be to not make the decision to do so.  For us, homeschooling has afforded a lifestyle that we are very content in living.  Yes, it does make us "THAT" family, complete with the denim jumpers, powder blue polo shirts and khakis, the farm animals, the homemade bread in the oven, the off-the-wall science projects, the massive undertaking of a garden, the large van... all of the stereotypical "homeschooler stuff", but it also makes us "THAT" family who is always together, spending time helping others in the community, laughing a little too loudly, loving with reckless abandon and serving our God wholeheartedly.  I can't think of another way to live our lives to the fullest.  I think it looks different for every family and every family needs to figure out how to make things work.  And, figure it out, we have.  This is the best way for our family and we make no apologies and no excuses for our choices.  Nothing is ever perfect and there are always kinks to work out, but when we set our minds to something and prayerfully consider options, the solution is always presented and we move on in the next phase of the journey.  It is just the way "THAT" family does it.  And it works for us.

Monday, April 11, 2011

In Defense of Credibility

A couple of days ago I received an email.  It gently questioned the validity of some of the posts that we've had here on The Intentional Journey.  The person was concerned about how some or all of our readers would take the posts that appeared to have no credibility based on the author's life experiences or lack thereof.  Below you will find my responses to this email correspondence.

I decided to post this because it made me wonder if there were indeed others that might have the same legitimate thoughts.  And because I felt the need to defend what is the "family" here at The Intentional Journey.  I welcome comments and emails as do any of our authors.  This post today is of no exception.  Thanks for your time.

________________________________________________________________________

Dear ________

The whole idea behind The Intentional Journey was to bring several people together to write in collaboration. To intermingle.

Facebook was just getting me annoyed because I only saw bits and pieces of people's thoughts and sometimes I misconstrued them to something bigger than they actually were. So the first time I deactivated the acct, the Lord impressed upon me to start this up. That's when I started to contact authors. And before I knew it within only a few days, I had several respond. I had several women that may have similarities here and there, but still were quite different. I have since added guys to try and get their perspectives.

The idea I believe God has for this blog is not whether the authors are credible or not. Not in the academic sense.  I don't say that to slam anything in your face but just as a simple statement. You see, I tend to be the first one to throw a fight in words and thoughts (as you may well know), but what I fail to do in the process is stop to think and really try to figure out where that person is in their life. Where they are walking with God, family, work....what environment did they grow up in...what makes them who they are and you know the thing I discovered? That not ONE person out there is like me! I was appalled at the thought let me tell you. I couldn't believe this!

And that's when I realized Facebook was a problem for me. And that's when I realized I needed something else and in that process God gave to me The Intentional Journey.

He's still paving out the way. Giving me a little piece at a time, but overall? It's all about the title. An Intentional Journey. Every person forms opinions, thoughts, beliefs at many different places in their lives. Sometimes we hold on to them with all our might and we won't give in for nothing. And sometimes....we change them. It may be due to our circumstances or God's direction or who knows, but they can change.  So we may not meet everyone where they are.  They may start to read a post and feel that author has no idea what they are talking about.  But there will come someone who meets each of us exactly where we are.  And the ultimate lie of Satan will be snuffed out.  That we are not alone.

So that's where I stand with this blog/site. God leads me and tells me who to ask and what to write about when I have an idea for a topic. I've never had to ask twice (well almost never) when finding what someone is passionate about and letting them have this avenue. And I try hard not to edit for content, but only for form.

Thanks a lot for your concern and suggestion. I appreciate your heart and I respect your viewpoint as I hope you will mine.

God bless you.

____________________________________________________________________________
One more thing to add. Every author on this site IS credible. The measure that I use is simple. They are all considered a child of God. And they are striving to be the best Christ followers they can be with the personality they've been given. When I read these before they get posted, I learn a little more about the author. And although some of them can be harder to read because perhaps I don't identify as quickly, my heart warms when I put it into the perspective that they are willing to expose where they are right now. Even if that means that it is a perspective or position for which I wouldn't agree.

Thanks again for being willing to approach me. I'm thankful that you felt I could be approached.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lamentations 3:22-23

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness."



My grandma, like I'm sure so many others, is famous for telling me "This too shall pass."  Almost always she was right, it would pass.  Let's face it though.  No matter how many times one is told this it doesn't always help whether or not it DOES pass.

There have been many circumstances or moments in my life where I was totally overwhelmed.  At times, it felt like I couldn't breathe.  I was drowning in self-pity and sorrow and couldn't see the way out.

I admit I have struggled in those moments so much that I began to believe what Satan had whispered into my ear.  "You are NOT worthy.  You are NOT loved.  You should die.  You should die."  And I also want to admit to you that there are times throughout my life where I made the decision to act out on this lie.  But...God would win.  Always.

Over the past few weeks, I have been involved in a battle where spiritual war was waging.  I fell down several times to my knees and wondered if this would be the last, only to reach out for that Mighty Hand which always helped me back up.  But it was when I had fallen down the hardest.  And the pain seemed unbearable that God lead me into His Word.  He spoke this scripture to my heart not once, but twice.  Once through my quiet time with Him and then again from a dear friend in Christ.

And I am reminded of the movie "Braveheart" where William Wallace shouts out "FREEEEEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM!"

And I shout out now!  Wherever you are in your life.  Whatever circumstances or moments that have entered into your path.  If you have chosen a life in Christ.  If you have fellowship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, God Almighty!  Then guess what?  The Bible promises that....

WE WILL NOT BE COOOOOOONNNSSSSUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMEEEEDDDD!!!!!!!

HALLELUJAH!!!!!!!!




Dear Heavenly Father - I am thankful to you that no matter where I am at in life you continue to give us promises in Your Word.  I pray right now, Lord Jesus that you will deny the influence of Satan on our lives.  That you will give us the power to resist him and to shout at him that we will not be consumed because of the great love of God.  But what is more?  That even if we feel we are being consumed that there is a TOMORROW!  And with that tomorrow will come again and again to us the great mercies and compassions that DO NOT FAIL!  Lord, thank you for providing to us always.  Thank you for being faithful always.  Break the strongholds of doubt in our lives.  Destroy the walls that we've built to keep others and You out.  Open our eyes and help us see.  Open our ears so that we may hear.  Thank You Lord for the ultimate peace and freedom!  May we take hold of it by the truth found in Your Word.  Praise be to Your Name.  Amen.