Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dreaming of a White Christmas

One of my favorite things in the whole world.

Free of all the things I can't stand in the world
like heat
or sand
or noise.

Memories from childhood of sledding
and snowballs
and opening my bedroom dormer window and climbing out on the roof with my dad to watch as it fell.
So quiet, it makes its own music.
So beautiful, it is its own art.

No, there is nothing like snow.

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. 
Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow. (Isaiah 1:18)

That is what the Incarnation set it motion.
It gave us hope that the stain of our sin would be cleansed.
It rescued us from the flames of Hell that were licking at our feet and beckoning us to our own destruction.
It silenced the noise of our flesh that tries to interfere with the noise of our Father.

There is just something about snow.
It is clean and cold and quiet whether it lies in the peaceful valley or on the rugged mountaintop. The constancy of the properties of snow just stuns me into awe at my Creator and makes me fall to my knees in worship of my Redeemer.

We still do battle with the heat and the sand and the noise.

But it's temporary.
What the Incarnation set in motion,
and what the Resurrection permanently secured,
will one day, once and for all,
make a permanent reality.

Until then, I remember the clean, cold, quiet snow of my childhood,
and I dream of the clean, cold, quiet snow to come.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

May all your Christmases be white.

Monday, December 1, 2014

How Not To Be Insufferable

Like a song of ego that clings to me,
How the thought of you does things to me.
Never before has someone been more...
Insufferable. (Nat King Cole--sorta)

"Everyone under 30 is an idiot." (Pastor Bill Wilson--verbatim)

I remember distinctly where I was when crusty Brooklyn evangelist Bill Wilson said that. I was 29, married for almost 9 years, and the mother of four children. Well, alrighty then.

Now that I've got three adult children in their twenties, with a fourth almost there, I've been observing a lot about this demographic. I'm now interacting with twentysomethings more than I have since I was a twentysomething all those years ago.  For the most part, this is a delightful portion of the population. They are zealous, idealistic, and enthusiastic. They have the world before them and almost nothing in their way. I love them; I love hanging out with them; I love our chats; I love hearing them think out loud or grapple with life's issues. Of every four twentysomethings I personally know, three of them are a delight because those are the kind of people my adult children choose for friends.

But there's often an undercurrent of omniscience, insufferable omniscience.

Insufferability. It sets in about the senior year of high school and crescendoes during the college/early career years. (Think 18 to 25. But Wilson isn't far off.) Then, with any luck and a whole lot of God's intervention, it tapers off--much to the relief of our family and friends.

And don't bluster at me. Your mother agrees with me. She told me so. :)
Nobody loves me but my mother, but she could be jivin', too. (BB King)
No. She loves you; she's your mother. But unconditional love and blind adoration are not the same thing. At least, they shouldn't be.

Is it because they're fresh out of the logic stage? Is it because so many of  them debated in high school?  Is it because they've argued with their peers so long that they think everyone is their peer? Is it because they've learned so much stuff that they confuse a 'vast-knowledge-of-stuff' with 'wisdom?'

I've also noticed that marriage changes things.
Probably because there's nothing like a spouse and children to get your eyes off your own fascinating navel. You think your parents are bad? or your sibling roommate? Your spouse is all of that rolled into one, plus more. Methinks it's no accident that marriage often begins right in this season.

Now don't get your underoos in a wad. It took me more than twenty-nine years to reach the age of 30. I know of what I speak. I wouldn't go back and re-live my twenties for anything. I shudder at the person I was. And to be fair, the battle between your ego and God's glory is a battle you will fight your whole life. It just seems to be less sanctified at this stage of life. At least, that's my own story.

Theologian/pastor/author Dr. RC Sproul wrote, "As I reach my twilight years, perhaps the last three holes of the back nine, I have lost the omniscience I briefly enjoyed as a college sophomore."

I love that quote.
I love it so much it's my favorite quote of all time. And I hooted aloud when I first read it in Dr. Sproul's book, The Consequence of Ideas, because I remember the omniscience of my own sophomore year.
It's true.
And it's accurate.
Deathly, scathingly accurate.

I love it so much that I'm going to say it again.
As I reach my twilight years, perhaps the last three holes of the back nine, I have lost the omniscience I briefly enjoyed as a college sophomore.

Youth is awesome. But it's still youth.
Young adults are awesome. But they're still young adults.

Timothy, who pastored the church of Ephesus, was young. And it is in Paul's letter to Timothy where we find the oft-quoted (by youth) "Let  no one despise you for your youth..." passage (I Timothy 4:12). So let's back up and see what God had to say to young Timothy. I think the secret to not being insufferable might be found in this letter.

Pretend you're on Google Earth. Take one step out. The whole verse, which we are wont to abridge, says, "Let no one despise you for your youth, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe." Translation: there's a whole boatload of valid reasons to disdain youth. But you, you, don't supply any good reason for that disdain from your own life. You be an example that contradicts the well-earned, bad reputation of youth. You be an example in your speech, your conduct, your love, your faith, your purity.

GoogleEarth, another step out. Let's look at the whole letter, I Timothy, which I shall herein subtitle, Listen Up, Young'n. What did the Apostle Paul feel was important enough to write this young man? Let's see...

Once upon a time, in the faraway city of Ephesus, there was a young pastor named Timothy...

(This is your cue to go get your bible. I'll wait.)*

Chapter one...
Grace, mercy, and peace.
Dear Timothy, don't forget God's grace--getting what you don't deserve, God's mercy--not getting what you do deserve, and God's peace--which comes from being thankful for aforementioned grace and mercy.
Pure heart, good conscience, sincere faith.
Dear Timothy, remember this is the aim. By all means, drink deeply of pure doctrine, but it's not so you can win arguments. It's so your heart will be pure, you conscience will be good, your faith will be sincere.
How not to be insufferable according to chapter one.

Chapter two...
Pray for all men.
Dear Timothy, prayer will remind you that, while you can't change people, God can. Prayer for all men will remind you that other people have worth.
How not to be insufferable according to chapter two.

Chapter three...
How to conduct oneself in the household of God.
Dear Timothy, just in case you thought your vast wealth of knowledge qualifies you for leadership...
Let me remind you that it is the humble success of a well-ordered home and a disciplined life that makes you truly qualified.
How not to be insufferable according to chapter three.

Chapter four...
Public reading of scripture, exhortation, teaching. Devote yourself to these. Practice, immerse, persist. 
Dear Timothy, public scripture reading, public exhortation, public teaching, these will grow you and the ones around you. There's nothing like scripture, and the exhortation and teaching of it, to remind you of who you were without Christ, who you are and will be because of Christ.
How not to be insufferable according to chapter four.

Chapter five...
Widow, elders, rebuking someone older than you.
Now I'm all for being on a first name basis with young adults, say high school graduates. I think it's important that they be included in the adult circle of fellowship, in iron sharpening iron. On the one hand, they become peers; on the other hand, there will always be different levels of wisdom, purely because one has walked this earth longer than another. Like Moses said, Rise in the presence of the aged, young'n.
How not to be insufferable according to chapter five.

Chapter six...
Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called 'knowledge.'
Timothy, don't be a dufflepud, dear one. If someone declares persuasively that watermelons are of the devil, take a deep breath because your peers will be saying, "Watermelons are of the devil? Hear him, hear him! Watermelons are of the devil! Watermelons are of the devil!" Sometimes, ideas masquerade as knowledge, and fools masquerade as sages. Don't be their town crier.  And don't follow them over the edge of the cliff. Stop. Think. Refer back to chapter four.
How not to be insufferable according to chapter six.

And Timothy lived wisely ever after.

I don't mean to imply that I Timothy is just for young adults. All of us get the benefit of  the Holy Spirit's wisdom, through Paul, to Timothy. In fact, of all the lessons above, the one God is most deeply impressing upon my own conscience this past fall is rising in the presence of the aged. I see how far off I am, how far I have to go. But I am thankful for the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the power to change through Him.

Google Earth, final step back. Timothy is the New Testament's example of young adulthood...
Because a man of Paul's spiritual calibre had vetted him--and approved him.
Because a man like Paul installed him as a pastor, wrote to him, walked alongside him.
We don't know he was living a commendable life because of his stack of medals or his popularity on campus or his whizbang intellect.  We know he was living a commendable life because an older, wiser man in the faith was investing in him.

I suggest that a man who has walked with God for decades has more to offer than a young seminarian.
I suggest that a woman who has finished parenting has more valuable advice to offer than an early-childhood education major.
I suggest that a finely aged pastor with one brain tied behind his back will trump a therapist on her best day.
I suggest that a small-business owner who has lived through business cycles, bear and bull markets both, will have more valuable economic wisdom than the Armani-suited Wharton graduate.

I suggest you imitate Reheboam less, seeking wisdom from your peers. It didn't work well for him; it won't work well for you.
I suggest that you imitate Timothy more.
Find your Paul, and drink him dry.

So flee youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. II Timothy 2:22 

*This is not an exegetical reading of  I Timothy. :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Sweet Ride

"Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. 
Let my soul come not into their council; 
O my glory, be not joined to their company. 
For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness, they hamstrung oxen. 
Cursed be their anger, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel." 
Genesis 49:5-7

In response to the rape of their young sister, Dinah, Simeon and Levi plot and exact revenge on the men of Shechem. There is a part of me, to be quite honest, that cheers their fierceness in defending their sister. But Jacob was dismayed at their violence.  It would have been one thing to demand justice from the perpetrator. It was another thing to exceed the eye-for-eye bounds of justice in pouring out their fury on an entire city. Jacob, from his deathbed, has not forgotten their behavior. And he offers his blessing. But his blessing sounds more like a curse.

But Simeon and Levi are sheep of God's flock. And He is the Good Shepherd. Turns out theirs is a story of hope amid the consequences.

Consider Simeon. He is destined to be scattered because of his violent anger. Yet we find Simeon nestled right inside the territory of Judah. Simeon's storyline will find him alternately defending the tribe of the Messiah and being protected deep within its bounds.

Our stories find us there, too. Our lives are laid before before Him with Whom we have to do. He will bring judgment; He will remove middle ground. We are, in essence, cornered by God. But we are carried by God, too. When we stray out of bounds, the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to come get us. He lifts us to His shoulders and brings us back. And sometimes, sometimes, He buries us deep within the Messiah's boundary.

Can't get out...
Can't breathe...
But when I calm down enough to think,..
Surrounded by strong arms.
Not pinning me down...
Wrapping themselves around me...

Maybe being hemmed in by this Messiah isn't such a bad deal...

Consider Levi. Scattered indeed. Of all the tribes, Levi is the only one who doesn't get any territory. Their inheritance is the Lord.
Yeah, yeah, God's my passion.
Not really. Though they did have an occasional good day, like the time they rallied to Moses against the golden calf, Levi's commitment is, shall we say, rather spotty.
Levi, who made such a show of strength in Genesis 34, will be beholden to the rest of the tribes for sustenance and shelter.
Levi will be the ransom for the firstborn.

Levi, who intentionally spilled the blood of Shechem, will administer the cities of refuge.
Cities of refuge, which offer shelter to the unintentional spiller of blood, but turn over the cold-blooded killer for justice...
Daily reminders of what should have been for Levi,
Of the mercy of God...
Of not getting what was so justly deserved...
Oh, and Shechem, the very site of Levi's vicious carnage?
That would be one of the refuges.

More importantly, Levi will deal in bloodshed in a whole new way.
Every day.
Rams, bulls, goats, sheep, pigeons, turtledoves...
Blood running down the altar, down their garments...
Everywhere the sights, sounds, smell of death...
I will show you what you must suffer for My name...
And every day they would be the ones to make intercession for the people.
How ironic.

God did not give Levi the boot after Shechem. But he did have a plan for them.
He carried that sheep back into the flock.
And up there, on His shoulders, from that perspective, Levi saw the cost of sin.
Levi did the work of atonement...
Levi did the work of inspection...
It was Levi who went into the Holy of Holies...
To face a holy, holy, holy God once a year.

Life up on His shoulders. Sometimes we do time up there.
Some of us more than others.
So next time you blow it, and He hoists you up, yeah, you might lose some independence.
Yeah, you might be getting a ride that the other sheep all see.
But He's not casting you out.
He's holding you close.

And maybe you'll get a glimpse, just a small glimpse, of life from God's perspective.
That's a sweet ride.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, 
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 
He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever. 
He does not deal with us according to our sins, 
nor repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:8-10

(Many thanks to my elders, Brett and Craig, for helping me connect some of these dots.)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Let's Walk Together

It started as the Summer of Theology. A couple guys, united by their disillusionment with church and wanting to do something a little better, decided to meet and see if they could be like-minded enough to proceed with a new church.

What they did not want was some kind of 'wherever believers are gathered, there is a church'  twaddle. True, the Church is the people. But church is not you and your friends sharing dinner and a nice bottle of Merlot and talking about kingdom things. No. It's not. Church is only functioning as the Bible tells us it should function where there is preaching of the Word, the sacraments of baptism and communion, corporate worship, and discipline. The dinner and the Merlot can happen as a part of that. But simply calling our gathering church does not make it so.

We also didn't want to segregate ourselves into age sectors.
That's the stuff of government education, not the fellowship of the saints. There's one very, very large church in our town with multiple spin-offs where the ushers literally meet you at the door and tell you where to take your kids.

As in, no, your children are not welcome to worship with you in the Big Sanctuary.
Just like Heaven.
Oh wait.

So much for suffer the little children...

Back to that summer...No one really had time to do this thing. After all, each of these men was employed somewhere else. No one was looking to take on more responsibility. one wanted to shirk their responsibility to their families, either.

That was ten years ago. My husband was one of those men.
And, oh boy, has my appreciation of church grown over this past decade.

Careful preaching.
The preaching is expository. Starting with scripture and finding God's truth, rather than starting with a topic and attempting to prove it with scripture, has been a meaty experience for me. Jesus and His gospel are everywhere! I am thankful for expository preaching.

Careful positions.
Just because the Bible condemns lust does not mean Christians should not keep women in our homes. But churches take 'official church positions' like this all the time. The problem is that we often turn the crank farther than God does. We put burdens on people because our own consciences are weak--I caught myself doing this very thing last spring--and we call it the High Road. Before you know it, anyone who holds any position in the church has to sign something, vow something, abstain from something, yadda yadda yadda.  It's good to put some distance between us and the Pharisees, nu? I'm thankful for a church that is careful to distinguish probable implications of scripture from merely possible implications.

Careful worship.
What we sing to God should be as theologically robust as what we hear from the pulpit. I am thankful for elders and a worship team who carefully select our songs. (We've tossed songs by famous people because the theology was not sound.) And they regularly review our sets to make sure that the words we sing to God in the congregation of God's people are Truth. I am thankful for worshipping in Truth.

Careful relationships.
We have covenanted together. We are family. We feast. We fellowship. We do retreats. And before communion is offered, we have time to get things straight with each other because we sin against each other, too. Brett tells me that it is powerful to stand up front on Communion Sundays and watch people quietly working things out with each other before we come to the Lord's Table. I am thankful for a church that encourages relating rightly to one another.

Romans 14.
We are a varied bunch. We have different backgrounds, different testamonies, different convictions. Calvinist. Arminian. Undecided. Covenantal. Dispensational. Paedobaptist. Credopbaptist. Undecided. Television. Alcohol. Halloween. Christmas. Undecided. Firm convictions; no convictions. Weak consciences; strong consciences. We are a local Body learning what hard work it is to not trample each other's consciences and likewise to not trample each other's freedom. I'm thankful for a church willing to be gracious.

In essentails, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity. (Rupertus Meldenius)
To which Henri Blocher adds:
In matters secondary or subtle, a gracious attention combined with exactness.

I'd say that describes us pretty well.

We celebrated our first ten years with a feast last Friday. One of my sweet friends told me, "Wow. Ten years ago, I wasn't even saved." This is the same woman who just finished reading Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology!

This is the local Body God has been quietly building since that Summer of Theology ten years ago.
They are robust. They are hungry. They are godly.
And this is the Body I am so privileged to be a part of.
They are longsuffering with my flaws.
They laugh with me on my good days and cry with me on my bad days.
They pray for me, confide in me, model goodness for me.

That's my church.
Let's walk together.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Coach Bags, Ayn Rand, and Classical Liberalism

Two days ago, the eleven year old made herself a pot of soup. While she set it on the table to go get a drink, the five year old slunk up and helped himself to a spoonful. She was incensed. And I don't blame her. So the five year old and I sat in the Situation Room and chatted about personal property.

"You cannot--can.not--take your sister's soup without permission. She made it. It's hers. If you would like some, you may ask, but she just might say no. And that will have to be okay with you."

Personal property. The American public had better get a clue. And every American household had better start having conversations just like this.

A few of my kids have worked in grocery stores during their high school and college years. The number of people on food stamps who come through their lines is astounding. And my kids are offended. You know why? Because these women are carrying Coach bags and paying for groceries with my children's money. (If you want your kids to learn about socialism, just explain their pay stub to them.) One of my sons, who no longer works there, said, "Yeah, a Coach bag is the new hashtag for welfare." Nice. What kind of upside-down world do we live in when a woman thinks nothing of dropping $400 on a purse but steals from her neighbor to feed her family???

My daughter worked for her soup. She thought of the idea (intellectual capital); she did the work (physical capital); she expected to reap the rewards of her investment. Then my five year old came in, without so much as a by-your-leave, and claimed it for himself.

Nuh-uh. Not in my house, you don't.

My husband and I have just finished watching the Atlas Shrugged trilogy. Author Ayn Rand does a good job at addressing part of the problem. (Granted, hers in an atheist world, devoid of God and covenants. She doesn't even acknowledge the realms of family- and church-governments.)  But she does have some wonderfully logical things to say about self- and civil governments. It's not so much that she's brilliant as much as she's one of the few who taken the time to think statism and socialism through to its logical end. It reminds me of Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson--which should be required reading for anyone who ever hopes to hold public office.

And what is that lesson?
Before a government passes any economic legislation, that government must consider how it will affect ALL groups, not just the special group it's trying to 'help.'
Why is that so hard to understand?

Atlas Shrugged has become the rallying cry of libertarians everywhere. And I can see why. Gifted people pour themselves into a business or a venture or an invention. They expect their intellectual, financial, or sweat equity to be a reward for themselves and their families. Then they are excoriated by the public for not sharing. Then the thugs in Washington help themselves to the profits. Do that enough times and the intellectual, financial, and physical capital will quit.
Not, as so many silly, stupid progressives claim, because they are heartless.
But because they are hopeless.

Who is John Galt? You might want to take some time and find out.

The fact is: our civil government has overstepped its jurisdiction. On that point, Rand got it right.
No government should compel charity.
The fact that there are poor citizens does not in any way, not in any way, mean that it falls to the civil government's jurisdiction to feed, clothe, or educate them.
No government should steal.
The fact that some are successful and some are not is not in any way the concern of the civil government. If the government would like to see more private success, then it needs to get out of the regulation business and let people experiment, create, and invest.

Free-market capitalism is not about compassion; it is about compensation.

Back to Rand. I think she offers part of the answer. When we talk about individuals in terms of civil government, unless he is hurting another citizen, the individual should be left alone. But there is more to the equation than just individuals and civil government.

I admit that I wanted to like Atlas Shrugged Part III more than I actually did,
Because a world without God and without covenants leaves me cold.
And here's where I want to distance myself from the libertarian label.
Libertarians, as a group, tend toward anarchy. For many libertarians, the only legitimate form of government is self-government.

But government was God's idea. It does do some good. It does have a job. Romans 13 tells us that the job of government is to bear the sword against evil-doers. So the government's job is to protect citizens from each other (enemies within) and our borders from enemy nations (enemies without).

Unlike most libertarians, I am not an anarchist. But I am a minarchist. I am for limited civil government...
...which brings me to classical liberalism.

Our Founding Fathers were classically liberal. They architected, debated, and passed a Constitution with the understanding that "a combination of political decentralization, economic liberty, free trade, and self-government creates, day by day, the most prosperous, diverse, peaceful, and just society the world has ever known." (Lew Rockwell, An American Classical Liberal) They didn't believe in the absence of civil government. But they did believe in the limiting of its power.

Apparently, I think, so did the Apostle Paul.
Romans 13.

Classical liberalism in not anarchist. But it does leave the individual alone.
Listen to me. Do you know what that means?
It means that a legitimate government protects life, liberty, and property.
It means that civil government is not an arm of church government.
It does not come into your bedroom. Fail there at your own peril.
It does not come into your garden. Plant, eat, drink, smoke, chew, and sniff at your own peril.
It does not tell you how you can barter--or what with.
It does not tell you how to raise your children.
It does not tell you where you cannot have your bank account.
It does not tell you where or how you may travel.
It does not tell you what you may do on your personal property.
It does not spy on you in the name of 'national security.'
It does not build a wall to keep people out...because the same wall keeps people in.

You sow; you reap.
At your own peril.
And the civil government washes its hand of your failures and your successes.

It does not give special privileges to the disabled, the veteran, the poor, the unemployed, the disenfranchised...whatever that means.

"In the 18th and 19th centuries, the term liberalism generally meant a philosophy of public life that affirmed the following principle: societies and their component parts need no central management and control because societies generally manage themselves through the voluntary action of its members to their mutual benefit. Today we cannot call this philosophy liberalism because the term has been appropriated by the democratic totalitarians. In an attempt to recover this philosophy for our own time, we give it a new name, classical liberalism." (Rockwell)

I submit to you that America's two  main parties have lost their way. Democrats? Well, obviously. But Republicans, too. Because Republicans don't trust the Individual any more than the Democrats do.

You do know that the Defense of Marriage Act is not going to save marriage, right? You do know that to save marriage, we need to stay married. We need to have a biblical view of marriage. We need to be complementarian. We need God to be the third strand.
You do know that, right?

You do know that the civil government has no business even discussing covenantal relationships, right?

You do know that banning marijuana will not keep people off of marijuana, right? But it will give the government a 'right' to come onto your personal property and inspect your house, your garden, your pantry, your car.
You do know that, right?

You do know that writing new laws, even in an attempt to overcome old ones, merely expands the domain of the federal government, right? that the fact that Dems blocked the passage of over three hundred Republican laws simply points to the fact that the Republicans are as eager to expand the civil government as the Dems are?
You do know that, right?

I wash my hands of both parties.
But if you know a true Classical Liberal who is running for office,
you'll let me know, right?


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Enthusiasm and Grace

We've logged another home school year for the books, and now it's time to begin our eighteenth year--if I don't count the five years before my first son began kindergarten. This past year, our eleventh baby was born, our firstborn graduated from college, and my fourth child graduated from high school.

This summer's focus was on marrying off our third child. But I at least toted one book around, keeping it alternately in my pool bag, on my nightstand, or in the car: A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. Despite the break-neck pace of the last twelve months, I was able to get a vision for this year. And I'm excited.

Classical, as an educational approach, exudes all the warmth of a hospital corridor. But the draw, of course, is that it's thorough. And no homeschooling mama wants gaps. Unit studies. Oh, I miss unit studies. I want to cry when I think of all the good stuff we learned with Konos and how my younger kids are missing out. But unit studies don't really cover high school level academics. Unschooling, well, unschooling is just weird. No, I'm not going to teach my kid math by building a deck. I'm just not. Not when there are these convenient little things called workbooks.

Every year, I resolve to get back to cozy. We sit around the couch sipping tea or hot chocolate. The baby plays on the floor. The children are working at some kind of handicraft. And I am reading a classic out loud while dinner simmers in the crock pot.

Then I wake up.

The baby has something in his mouth. He always has something in his mouth. So the five year old is squawking. The two girls are arguing over who got the crochet hook first. (Really? Do we not have enough crochet hooks to go around?) The nine year old is mad because he thinks he's too old for read-aloud. And I'm sorely tempted to call it a day and call Bob Jones.

Every year, I am my own worst enemy. And my inner, pitch-forked Type A overtakes my inner angelic Charlotte Mason. Narration? We don't have time today, kids. Move along. A living book? I don't have time. Here. Do this multiple choice.

Bottom line: Charlotte Mason is not efficient.
But then education is not efficient, either.
I've just got to stop barreling through my school year like it's a to-do list.

Back to Charlotte Mason. This has always been a resource book for me, but this summer was the first time I actually read it cover to cover. It challenged me and moved me. And I determined to stick with it this year.

I put away all of my formal history curricula this year. We're learning about the ancients by reading about pharaohs or hearing an archeologist's own story. And we do a lot of talking. The high schoolers are writing their own study questions, which they answer for our weekly discussion. We're writing fables this semester, but we've doubled down on narration and dictation. We do have some textbooks on hand for math and science. But even science includes narration and discussion. In Bible, we're going covenant, not just being granular by talking about each incident, but taking a step back and looking at God's covenant with His people.

I think if we're not teaching our children that God is the Bible's main character, history's Hero, we might be doing it all wrong.

As I write this, Brett is at a conference where the keynote reminded the audience, "The purpose of education is worship."
I want the kids to worship when they see God's hand in history, His wisdom in science and math, His covenant in the Bible. I want them to worship when they tell it all back to me.
Perhaps cozy is not really what I'm after; worship is.

Maybe that explains why this concept just jumped off the page at me: I want the kids to be enthusiastic. Andreola writes that enthusiasm is from the Latin entheos: to be full of God. (That explains why I can't make them enthusiastic; to be full of God is a work for God to do Himself.)  Enthusiasts are "heroes and heroines, the poets, the prophets, the warriors, the high-tempered spirits, the giants of human nature who, through force of mind, courage, and perseverance, have won the day for nations and also for individuals, when all other hearts but their own were faint, and who against all hope, believed in hope when others desponded. The enthusiast manifests a glowing splendor and gladness that leads him on to victory." (Andreola, 281)

Enthusiasts are the ones who will stand alone if they have to. And they do it with gladness. I want to be an enthusiast; I want to raise enthusiasts.

And, finally, this has been a year in which our family is learning all about grace. I still have a long, long way to go. I am still lapping this mountain. And I don't know if I'll ever have this licked.

"We mustn't think that because these old Greeks were heathen, therefore God did not care for them and taught them nothing. The Bible tells us that this was not so, that God's mercy was over all His works, and that He understands the hearts of all people, and fashions all their works." (Andreola, 210)

I want a theme of common grace to thread its way through our school year. So, while Egyptian history is full of pagan idolatry--and I make that clear to the kids--I want to shift the emphasis ever so slightly. This time around, I want the kids to know that God made every Egyptian in His image, that He gifted them and knew them and worked through them. I want them to see God's grace at work even in the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. These men gifted the world with architecture, engineering, mathematics, government, and art. We are, in part, a modern civilization that stands on the shoulders of the ancients and the dominion they took.

I want to work harder at finding the true, the good, and the beautiful even in the ancient literature that we read because we ought to--but spend more time criticizing than acclaiming. Will we be able to find it? I don't know; stay tuned.

God rained on the ancient pagan and His people alike. Never in my eighteen years of home schooling have I taught that to my children. But I will this year. I want the children to see God's gift of common grace to all people.

And then we will worship.

That's my theme this year.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The MOG Files

My son just got married. It's our first wedding and my first performance as Mother of the Groom.
This is my story.

On wardrobe:
So, like any female, the first thing I think of when I think wedding is 'clothes.'
MOG dress.
Shopping for the MOG dress is a nightmare.
Try googling it, and you see that exactly two options await you.
In one corner are the models who weigh approximately three pounds wearing dresses with hemlines just below their armpits. Checking search parameters...did I type 'ill-repute' by accident?
Where are the fertile, birthing hips? Where is the droopy bustline? What about this woman says she ever gave birth? or wears an overtheshoulderboulderholder?I just think if you're going to model Mother of the Groom dresses, you should at least be...a mother.
In the other corner are the moo-moos. To qualify, you must weigh at least four thousand pounds.

But I'm not Twiggy, and I'm not Moo-moo. I'm the MOG with a son at the altar and a son on my hip. Accesorize means 'burp cloth'. I need a cute clutch to carry a lipstick binky and an extra diaper.

And then there's the hair. I've been making peace with my hair for decades now. My angst over my 'curly' hair elicits little compassion from my straight-haired friends.
"Wish I had curly hair. Let it work for you."

Just all kinds of no.

Do you say to someone with a curved spine, Just let your scoliosis work for you?
And the grey hair.
Like having pipe cleaners permanently sewn to your scalp.

My daughters gave me endless grief over shoes.
I wanted something comfortable, something I could dance in. But they just shook their heads and sighed. What about me says I can walk down an aisle balancing on a three inch head of a pin?
In the end, I found everything on clearance. And I felt like a dignified forty-something. Which was all I wanted, anyway.

On crowds:
I've never been a the more, the merrier kind of person.
The more, the harrier is my maxim.
The thought of spending days on end with LOTS of people I don't know, well, I was just a wee bit agitated.

I'd rather kick a rock down the road.

But God was SO good to us. We made new friends of our new family even in the midst of weddings, to-do lists, cars and kids zipping in and out of the driveway, curling irons and tuxedos everywhere, sleepless nights with baby, relatives flying in...
Lots of crowds? Yes. But lots of laughter, memories, and hugs, too.
And helium. Lots of helium.

On Plastic Bubbles:
Rehearsal day finally arrived. As MOG, this is my day.
The day I have to decorate something.
And feed lots of people. Lots of food.
Neither of which I particularly excel at.
This is the day my 14 yr old and I drove all over town looking for disposable tablecloths that didn't come in play doh colors--the same day my bank blocked my card because I was in another state.
This is the day that I climbed through mounds of black-eyed susans with scissors to make centerpieces.
Me. Centerpieces. Bwahahaha.

This was also the day that the wedding was becoming a reality.  As the kids stood at the altar, and all the family was gathered to hear their parts, the pastor said, "We're going to pretend there is a plastic bubble around these kids. That's to protect them from you. (smile) Today, theirs is the only opinion that matters."

What fantastic insight. This is a new season for them. And a plastic bubble is not a bad idea from here on out. They are going to make friends, find a church, raise a family, pursue a calling. And what they do not need is our unwanted input.

I'm a big fan of voluntary accountability.
But unsolicited advice always feels like interference.
Plastic bubbles remind me that requests for advice should come from within, not without;
That our job will be to pray for them and cheer them on;
But it's their job to learn on their own, to seek our advice when they want it, not when we think they need it. It's their job now to walk the walk and live the life.
Discovery learning, we call it in our home school. The kind when experience and mistakes are the most powerful teachers.
Plastic bubble.
An idea whose time has come.

On legacy:
Wedding day!
Pomp and tears and siblings letting go. Kisses and covenants and witnesses approving with their presence.
The legacy is passing to a new generation.

At the reception, after traditional toasts, each set of grandparents said something to the kids. Dani's grandfather quoted Jimmy Stewart's Shenandoah speech and urged Luke and Dani to spend time cultivating their relationship. Brett's dad reminded them that long-lasting marriages are hard work. My mom quoted Psalm 61. "You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name."

Inheritance, indeed.
This new couple has three sets of grandparents who have been married a total of 153 years and two sets of parents who have been married a total of 51 years.
204 years of marriage covenant.
And we've got their back.

What are you, some kind of love expert?
Why, yes, we are.

The wedding clothes are put away now.
There's a new household, a new apartment, a new daughter-in-law.
This week I turn my attention to my other children.
My brief evening stint as MOG is over. And now I'm just MOM.

But as I reflect on this next generation of covenant, of the heritage behind me and God's faithfulness in front of me, I'm a very blessed, very happy woman.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Praying Friday

(Part 5 of 5)

And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. (Exodus 23:15, Deuteronomy 16:16)

It's tempting when we've got a lot of important things to pray for to get right to business, so to speak, roll up our sleeves and start working through our lists.
Our Father who is in Heaven
We must never forget what an awesome privilege it is to appear before the Throne of Grace. And that's why I start every prayer time with worship. Sometimes I sing a hymn; sometimes I just praise God for some attribute of His. But I really, really try not to appear before Him empty-handed. He is the giver of all good things, including the privilege to even have this relationship with Him. He is our Father who is in Heaven. Do we even get how amazing that fact is?

Marriage. Like it or not, the relationship with have with our children's other parent will be a lasting legacy to our descendants. Let me say that again. The way I behave towards the father of my children will become part of their permanent history. That sobers me. Anyone who has been married knows that good marriages are hard work. They are also God's goodness to us. So good marriages are worth praying for. From the time our babies are born, I am praying for their life's partner because it's that important. So Friday, much of my time is devoted to praying for marriage.

For the kids.
For Brett and me, too.

First, I'm praying for godly partners from godly homes for my children. It's my hope that their spouses will come from homes that have modeled good marriage. On the other hand, that's not to say that there aren't good mates from difficult backgrounds. It's just a different kind of work creating a first-generation good marriage. But nothing is impossible for God.

I pray a few specific things regarding marriage.
May my sons, and the men my daughters marry, be men who love their wives and lay down their lives for them. May they live with their wives in an understanding way.
May they be the four P's: Priest, Prophet, Protector, Provider.
May they be the priest of their homes, praying over them, seeking God on their behalf.
May they be the prophet of their homes, talking to them on God's behalf, teaching them God's Word.
May they be the protector of their homes, gatekeeping, vigilantly watching over what/who comes into the home.
May they be the provider of their homes, doing whatever it takes to put food on the table, humble enough to work at anything, chivalrous enough to not place that burden on their wives.

May my daughters, and the women my sons marry, be women who joyfully submit to their husbands' leadership.
May they complete their husbands, meeting their needs and making their homes a refuge.
May they embrace motherhood and the raising of godly children.
May they be partners to their husbands in whatever adventures God brings them.
May they make their husband's task easier and not more difficult.

I pray the same things over Brett and myself. I also pray that we will nurture our relationship, even during seasons of intense parenting or business issues or other stresses. I pray that we will be prudent in other relationships and run, not walk, away from things that would threaten our marriage.

And it may seem like marriage for the little ones is a long way off. But we are now entering that season; and it was only a blink ago when we were counting their little toes. Pray for their mates. Pray now.

Praying Friday:
Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Who will we see today? Where will we go? May we represent You well.

Your kingdom come. the lost. Here's what I know about salvation. We are dead in our sins. Dead. Like a corpse. Unable to respond to any stimulus. Therefore, for us to feel any horror over our own sin and our standing with God, we must be alive. So the order of salvation must start with regeneration, coming alive, before justification. We must revive, see that we are buried under our sin, (picture the horror of coming alive and realizing you are buried in a coffin) and feel the full horror of that before we can grasp our need for God. Then, and only then, can we cry to God, "Lord, save me!" When I pray for the lost people we know, I pray that God will make them alive so that they can see their sin, see a Holy, offended God, feel the horror of that, and cry to Him for salvation. That's how I pray for the lost. And that's what it means when Jesus says, "No one comes to the Father, except those to whom He reveals Himself." Only God can raise a dead man to life; only God can begin and end the journey of salvation. If He doesn't initiate it, it doesn't happen.

Your will be done.
Our marriage.
The kids' future mates and marriages (see above).

Give us this day our daily bread.
Specific needs that arise.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Examine myself, confess, repent. Forgive others.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Protect us and defend us from Satan and his schemes.

And this ends my series on prayer. This is certainly not the only way to pray. This is just the way I pray. The bottom line, for me, when I pray is best summed up in John Piper's famous quote, "Don't waster your life."

That's what I hope is the end of all this praying.
Don't waste your life.
Don't waste your tribulation.
Don't waste your persecution.
Don't waste your role as child.
Don't waste your role as parent.
Don't waste your health.
Don't waste your pain.
Don't waster your poverty.
Don't waste your plenty.
Don't waste your marriage.
Don't waste your life.

Hast thou not seen how thy desires e'er have been granted in what He ordaineth?

Whatever comes our way, whether God answers prayers my way or chooses a better way, may we learn to glorify God in everything He brings our way.

For Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Praying Thursday

(Part 4 of 5)

One of the best sermons I ever heard was by a pastor of a church we attended as young marrieds. Geoff preached a sermon entitled "Not Moving the Ancient Boundary Stone Your Forefathers Have Set." I've never forgotten that sermon, even though it's been well over twenty years. And it has informed what I pray over my family every Thursday.

It's actually a story of prudence...
Of finding the cliff of sin...
And drawing the line a mile back.

When God tells us to not do something, He is pointing to the line of sin and saying, If you cross this line, that is sin. And since the wages of sin is death, we would do well to see that that line is right at the cliff's edge. Cross it to your peril. The fool will go right up to the line and frequently over it; the wise man will play it safe and stay a mile back. A mile back. That's what prudence is.

We can choose prudence in a plethora of life's circumstances. But I've chosen four overarching areas, or ancient boundary stones that God has set, to focus on as I pray for prudence in my family:
1. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father, except by Me. This is the line we do not get to cross. We do not get to God by any way or any name other than Jesus. My prayer is that my family will be prudent about this, that we wouldn't toy with false gods or false gospels. May my family draw the line a mile back from these deceptions.
2. Bad company corrupts good morals.  This is when I pray for good friends for each of the kids, friends who will walk alongside them in this life, who will spur them on to love and good deeds, who would bring refreshing fellowship. Friends are an incredibly potent influence in our lives. The other side of that is that time  with unbelievers should be viewed as times to shine our light, to be the fragrance of life, not times to have fellowship. For what fellowship has light with darkness? My prayer is that each of us will know where to draw the line out there; when we are being effective at shining our light and when we are being pulled and tempted; and that we would be discerning enough to know the difference.
3. Keep the marriage bed holy. Sex is a gift of God to be handled with the utmost care. And it is polluted in all kinds of ways: ungodly relationships; books; tv and movies; music; imprudent 'friends.' God set this boundary stone at the place of the marriage covenant between one man and one woman. Key words here: 'marriage','one', 'man-and-woman.' Anything else is walking right off the cliff of sin. So I pray that my family would draw the line a mile back; that we would run from people who tempt us, that we would protect our eyes from books, tv, and movies that tempt us, that we would protect our ears from music that tempts us. Draw the line a mile back. Run, don't walk, from sexual temptation in all of its forms.
4. Remove the High Places. The high places were where the pagan peoples of ancient times worshiped their false gods. They were places of idolatry. And it was a never-ending battle among the people of God to remove those high places. That battle continues today. So I pray over the high places in my family. Idolatry can look like many things. It can be money, possessions, or fashion. It can be exercise, food, and health. It can be self-image. It can be drugs or other addictive behaviors. It can be education and intellectualism. It can be hobbies. It's pretty much anything that vies for God's place in our lives. And it's different for each one of us. So I pray for discernment for each of us, that we would each know where our battle and our temptation lies; that we would be vigilant; that we would run and draw the line a mile back from the things that lure us into idolatry.

Prudence. It takes longer to pray on Thursdays. But it's really important.

Praying Thursday:
Our Father who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Who are we with, where are we going today? May we represent You well today.

Your kingdom come... our local church. I must sheepishly admit that praying for my pastors was never on my list until my husband became one. On Thursdays, I pray for the elders, because living life on this side of eldering is a whole different ballgame. I pray a number of things for the two elders. First, relationally, that they would protect their own walk with the Lord, their marriages, their jobs as fathers; I pray that they would have a good relationship with each other, iron sharpening iron, humble and confrontable, keeping short accounts with each other, no vain imaginations. Second, I pray for them as preachers, that they would preach the Truth, fearing God more than man, and protecting the integrity of the Scripture. Third, I pray for them as pastors, that they would know the condition of the flock, that they would shepherd lovingly and wisely.

Your will be done.
I pray for prudence in my family. See above.

Give us this day our daily bread.
On Thursdays, I pray for provision for our adult kids. They have worked hard to get through school. And now one is getting married. I pray for the provision the single ones' need for cars, bills, etc, for careers. I pray for provision for the new household that is forming.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Examine myself, confess, repent. Forgive others.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Render the devil powerless in our lives today.
For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory.

Next, praying Friday...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Praying Wednesday

(Part 3 of 5)

It's probably a good idea, midway through this series, to pause and think about God's providence. I'm a five-point TULIP, after all [only because I think that Scripture teaches that God is ;) ]. God's sovereignty will prevail. But our prayers usually reflect the ideal. We pray for safety and sound health. We pray for salvation of loved ones. We pray for provision. We pray for ourselves, our spouses, and our children to always choose the right thing.

Yet often, God answers 'no.'
We get sick or hurt.
We see loved ones die in their sins.
We can't seem to make the paycheck stretch the length of the month.
We fail; our spouses fail; our children fail.

So why bother? God already has a Plan, and we must admit we are largely ignorant of It.I was thinking about this and all the time I spend in prayer and the times that God has said, "No." It's tempting to just throw in the towel sometimes. But then, as if on cue, I read a quote by John Calvin on this very topic two days ago.

It may appear that there is a disconnect between the requests we present to God with thanksgiving and the way He answers those requests. Calvin sheds light on this dichotomy:
If, for example, a person desire to see the Church in a calm and flourishing condition, if he wish that the children of God were delivered from afflictions, that all superstitions were removed out of the world, and that the rage of wicked men were so restrained as to do no injury. These things, being in themselves right, may properly be desired by believers, though it may please God to order a different state of matters: for He chooses that His Son should reign among enemies, that His people should be trained under the Cross, and that the triumph of faith and of the Gospel should be rendered more illustrious by the opposing machinations of Satan. 

He continues:
We see how these prayers are holy, which seem to be contrary to the will of God; for God does not desire us to be always exact or scrupulous in inquiring what He has appointed but allows us to ask what is desirable according to the capacity of our senses. (From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, Gibson, p.105) 

Why do we pray to a Sovereign God? In short, because He told us to.
And because there are many  times when He graciously says, "Yes."

Praying Wednesday:
Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name
Where are we today? Who are we with? Reminded that, in this digital age, we can interact with the world via facebook, twitter, linkedin, google plus, and the blogosphere. Anywhere we go, can they tell you value Jesus by the way we rep His name? 

Your Kingdom come
After the last election, I blogged what I pray for our government. Every Wednesday, I pray for our president, Congress, and the Supreme Court. I remember that if God can turn the hearts of kings, he can turn the hearts of politicians, too. Here is my list of Wednesday prayers for all three branches of government.

Your Will be done.
On Wednesdays, I pray for physical health for Brett, the kids, and myself. I ask the Lord for healthy bones, blood, muscles, skin, organs.
On Wednesdays, I pray for the blessing of the breast and the womb. That may sound odd, but it is the way Jacob blessed Joseph in Genesis 49. Years ago, an older lady who was teaching a Sunday school class exhorted us younger women to crave that blessing. And I have prayed it ever since, not only over my own household but also over the future households of my children. I pray that my children will be blessed with children, fertility, strong pregnancies, safe deliveries, and healthy babies.
And I pray for general safety in their comings and goings.

(I also want to pause here to give some thoughts on healing and how I've changed over the years. When I was a newer parent, we'd pray over every little bump and scratch the kids got that God would heal them. Now, I pray thanksgiving with them that fevers are attacking the sickness, that blood does clot, that scabs are God's bandaids, that bumps and bruises are the body rushing to defend the sight of a wound, that throwing up and diarrhea are the body's enemies exiting the body. I think that makes God big to our kids. I think it gives Him glory when we point out that some of the things we perceive as maladies are actually the fearful and wonderful way God made the body to heal itself. Let's pray with thanksgiving for all the ways we are fearfully and wonderfully made, in addition to praying for what's genuinely broken.)

Give us this day our daily bread:
On Wednesdays, I pray for specific needs we have. Currently, for instance, we need to replace some furniture that looks like it's been rode hard and put away wet. Know what I mean? These needs can change from week to week. But it's a reminder to me that God is our provider. And He will meet every need, even if it's not in my timeframe.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Examine myself over the past day, confess, repent. Forgive.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Go down the list of kids and Brett and me. Protect us out there in that big, bad world.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory.

Next up, praying Thursday...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Praying Tuesday

(Part 2 of 5)

As I write this, the Rocket War, as some have dubbed it, has commenced in Israel. Hamas is lobbing rockets, with intent to destroy, into Israel, and Israel is firing back.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Psalm 22:6
Okay. I'll walk through this minefield.

The popular stance in the evangelical church is to view Israel as God's chosen people. But chosen means...chosen. As in, destined for Heaven. True, God's original selection happened within the family of Abraham, descending from his physical seed. But--and this is a big but--the true Israel was a nation within a nation. The true Israel in the Old Testament was the group of people who walked in covenant with God. And that was a mere subset, a remnant, of the people who shared DNA with Abraham.

Chosen means chosen. ALL of the people God chooses go to Heaven. ALL of them. And going to Heaven requires us to be bought by the blood of Jesus. And most Jews reject Jesus as Lord. That means they are worshiping a false god. That means no Heaven for them. With me so far?

I grew up playing favorites. Now that I think about that, though, I think favoritism is God's privilege alone. Like jealousy or wrath, some things belong to God alone.

So who are God's favorite, the apple of His eye? Who are God's chosen people? They are the people of the covenant. They are the Church. I have a hard time saying that the Israel we know today has God's "most favored nation" status. I have a hard time saying a Jew is more favorite or more almost-Christian than an Arab. I don't think that makes much sense in light of Scripture. Unsaved is unsaved. Close only counts in horseshoes.

Back to Psalm 122. Bringing this across the hermeneutical bridge, on this side of the Cross, when God is at work gathering His people from every nation, tribe, and tongue, can we honestly say that our focus should be praying for one geopolitical nation? I seriously doubt it. The whole context of this psalm is going up to the place of worship with other people of God (people who WILL go to Heaven). But if you're not worshiping the Triune God, you're not worshiping the True God. I'll just leave that there.

To be Biblically accurate, praying this prayer means praying for the peace of...I think, maybe...the Church.

There. I said it. When I pray for the peace of Jerusalem--and I do every Tuesday--I pray that God would send workers into that harvest, that He would take the blinder off the citizens of the physical Israel...but mostly, I am praying for the Church.

So as the rockets lob back and forth, I don't assume that Israel is the hero, the victim, or the favorite. The formation of the current nation of Israel left the residents at that time in very bad condition. No wonder they're angry. Jews-as-hero and Palestinians-as-villain does not take into account the fact that there are two sides to this story. Neither does it take into account Imago Dei. The situation there is very complex with thousands of years of history.  Let's pray for everyone there. Everyone. Let's pray for the Gospel to permeate that region of the world and for a rich harvest of saved souls!

Praying Tuesday:
Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. 
Think of the places we'll go and the people we'll see and that God will be represented well by us today. 

Your kingdom come.
I pray for the Church on Tuesday.
(I love the Church. But there's a lot of stinkin' thinkin' about the Church--like wherever there are believers, that's a church. Yeah, no. Yuk. Someone needs to lay the smack down:

Some don't get it so they hate. They say she's on a paper chase. They say she's really fake.So they go and start a ministry so they can do the work. But they don't understand how Jesus feel about His church.And, yeah, they make disciples; they got plenty of conversions.They take care of the widow and the orphan they be workin; but none of them are churchin'. No church structure; no elders and no discipline; they don't have a conductor; and so they don't submit.But quite a few of them baptize; People, how I pray that you'd look at this from God's eyes.Take responsibility inside the whole counsel, not just the area where you might have a mouthful.Who should people submit to? Who will conduct the discipline? If excommunicated, what body will be missing then?Look at Ephesians where Paul gets practical, 1 Timothy and Titus if you think I'm irrational. (The Bride, Lecrae.)

Couldn't have said it better myself.)

I pray that God will strengthen the Church, shaking out the false teachers and false gospels. I also spend time on Tuesdays praying for our ambassadors in chains, the persecuted Church. I pray for specific people we know about, like Saeed Abedini, and for the people we don't know who are being persecuted, imprisoned, tortured for their faith in Jesus Christ. I pray that God will comfort them and give them His Word to stand on. I pray that they will bless those who curse them and love those who hate them, that their light would shine in the darkness. And I pray that God would be merciful and bring them home quickly.

Your will be done.
I also pray that God's will for my family will be done in terms of parent-child relationships. I pray over every child that they will honor their father and mother, that they will listen to their father's instruction and not forget their mother's teaching, that it will go well with them. I pray that Brett and I will be honorable: that we will be wise; that we will affirm the strengths we see in each one and parent the weaknesses. I pray that with our adult children, we would all learn how to relate as adults.

Give us this day our daily bread.
On Tuesday, I pray for Brett's business, that God would prosper him along the way; that Brett would use the skills he has and acquire the ones he needs; that God would bring him new clients, both buyers and sellers; that God would strengthen his sales team, both in terms of relationship and in business.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. 
Forgiveness, self-examination, repentance.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. 
Protection from evil and from Satan's schemes. 
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. 

Speaking of the Church, I love my local church. When I'm done praying for my family each day, I also work through the prayer requests that come from the church. It's a way for me to love this body of believers.

Up next, praying Wednesday...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Praying Monday

(Part One of Five)

Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.

I'm an intercessor, and I come from a long line of intercessors. I remember my dad and my mom both up early in the morning praying. And I remember spending the night with my grandparents and my grandfather kneeling at his bedside in fervent prayer. My mom remembers his dad, my great-grandfather, doing the same thing when she was a girl. All that to say, my family modeled a seriousness about prayer. Today, I have great faith that God designed prayer and hears our prayer.

S/he's a person, not a prayer request.
I've had that quoted at me on more than one occasion and by more than one person. And even though it's been spoken out of a burdened mother's heart, it always feels like a slap. I hear your heart if you are saying this to me, but allow me to make an appeal. To an intercessor, all of the people who are important to me are prayer requests. If I say that I am praying for you or yours, I am. And I view prayer as a labor of love, not obligation. So please hear my heart, too.

The flip side is that I'm very careful not to commit to praying for everything that comes across my plate. For every request out there, there is an inner, intimate circle and an outer, more distant circle. So I'll be honest; I triage requests. I don't mean that to sound flippant or crass, but I only have so much mental and spiritual space. And you have an inner circle that may be more acquainted with the person or situation than I am.

I'm also rather type-A. Combine 'Type-A' with 'intercessor' and 'wife/momtoeleven' you end up having a pretty good schedule for what to pray when. I mean, there's so much and so many to pray for that I really need a neat little slot to fit it all in.

...Which brings me to the point of this series. A while back, Brett asked me to write down all the things I pray so that the kids could have a written record of it. So, without further ado...

Praying Monday:

Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. 
I used to think this was a statement of fact, much like a confession, but recently I heard someone say it was a request, as in, Let your name be hallowed by me today. So I always start with this prayer, asking that each of us can remember that the God we serve is holy and that, wherever the day takes us, we will revere His holy name.

Your kingdom come. 
On Mondays, I pray for tribulation and persecution. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 24 that very hard times would come for believers. I admit that what that meant to the original audience and what I'm supposed to do with it can be a bit confusing. But I'm not confused on this point: the Christian will experience tribulation and will experience persecution. Not a few (ostensibly) faithful people have been shipwrecked on those rocks. I don't want my family to be numbered among them.  To that end, I pray that when tribulation (hard times) and persecution (hard people) come our way, my family will be able to withstand it; that we will rest in the sovereignty and goodness of God; that we will take our eyes off the waves and focus them on God, that we will respond in the Spirit, rather than react in the flesh.

Your will be done. 
I pray that God's will would be done in us in a couple ways:
1. That the kids would be regenerated at a young age, that they would see that they are sinners in need of a Savior, that they would understand the work of the Cross.
2. That we would work out our salvation in fear and trembling, not treating God's grace like a cheap doormat to wipe our feet.
3. That we would have the Word written on our hearts, that it would be our plumb line, that when we add to or take away from God's Word, we would be quick to repent.
4. That we would bear good fruit in keeping with repentance, that we would grieve over our sin.
5. That we would love what God loves and hate what God hates.

Give us this day our daily bread.
I think thankfulness is a really important part of prayer, and I don't want to be like the nine lepers whom Jesus healed but who forgot to thank Him. So on Mondays, I spend a fair amount of time giving thanks. I give thanks chiefly for our salvation and the peace that comes from that. But I'm also thankful for Brett and each of my children, our parents, health, provision, material blessing. It's the day when I review the past week and the blessings that came our way and take time to deliberately give thanks.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. 
How important to my spiritual health to take time every day to examine myself and to ask forgiveness for things over the last day when I thought, spoke, or acted sinfully. And as I get right with God, it also makes it that much easier to forgive people who have offended me.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
This is important. Our enemy is real. He prowls like a lion seeking to devour us. We should pray for protection over our family members like we really believe that. So I do. Every day.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory. 
It's good to end by giving God praise. And it serves to remind me that He is able to do all we ask or imagine.

Mondays is also my allotted time to pray for missions. We have two families who do missions in connection with our church, so I pray over those ministries every Monday. I pray for their own families, as well, marriages, kids, direction, and effectiveness. And I pray for the nations. When one of our local missionaries gives us a nation report once a month in church, I pray for that nation, that the Church there would be strengthened with good pastors, teachers, elders, marriages, and families, that the Church there would grow as the gospel permeates that society.

Tomorrow...praying Tuesday.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

O love that will not let me go.
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow may fuller, richer be.*

Two years ago, Alex astutely pointed out that one thing our home lacked was grace.
A year ago, as the abortion battle raged in the Texas capitol, I mused to Brett that babies are not ever classified as a consequence of sin in the Bible, that the Church better get her grammar straight on this.
A few months after that, I wondered if, should my child ever confess to me serious sin, I would respond Biblically or just react.

Random as these events seem, God was stringing each of them together. Little did we know that we would soon be put to the test. Could each of these pearls be joined to make a garland of grace?
We're not perfect parents, but I think we've been attentive parents, deliberate parents. We certainly parent on purpose and with purpose. Still, consecration is not the same as sanctification. And no amount of sprinkled holy water will ever do the work of the Holy Spirit.

Setting apart.
That is the job of parents. We discipline and we disciple, train and teach.
We sprinkle them with the Gospel.
We sprinkle them with the Word.
We sprinkle them with prayer.
We sprinkle them with worldview.
We sprinkle them by homeschooling, taking them to church, talking about life.
We monitor who they're hanging out with. We try to know the condition of our little flock AND the friends of our flock.

(On the other hand, we fall, too. We fail often. We bobble between being too strict...or not strict enough. Sometimes we're authoritarian; sometimes we're permissive; sometimes we're selfish. We do a lot of repenting.)

The point is, we consecrate our kids. We set them apart from the world. We acknowledge that they are image-bearers--albeit fallen image-bearers--and we strive to be good stewards of these good gifts. But we are realizing something lately.

I am not the Christ. 

Kevin DeYoung, in his book Crazy Busy, says that his friend once reminded him of these words of John the Baptist. And you know what? Someone needs to remind us parents of that, too. We should wake up every morning and recite it to ourselves.

I am not the Christ.
I am not the Christ.
I am not the Christ.

And no matter how deliberately and attentively we parent, we cannot do the job of Christ. We cannot save our children; neither can we sanctify them.

The problem is that we got consecration mixed up with sanctification. And we sent a consecrated kid off to the big, bad world, when only a sanctified kid can survive it. Guess what? Consecrated kids can't stand out there.

This year was a tough year for our consecrated college sophomore. Let me say right here that I am not opposed to sending your kid off to college. There is some speculation that Christian kids are losing their faith in college. But that can't be, as that would be flawed soteriology in light of God's Word.  If we could lose our salvation, we would. What's really happening, I think, is that college has a way of separating the truly sanctified from the merely consecrated.

So here we are. And this is our story:
We sensed that he was having a bad year. He was not communicating with us very often. And when he was, it wasn't hopeful. We were alarmed and looking forward to getting him back home for summer. That was when the other shoe dropped. I'll keep it short and to the point.
There's a young lady. And there's a baby on the way.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee.
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine's blaze its day may brighter, fairer be.*

Grief and grace. As far as I can tell, these are the only ways to respond to a repentant believer.
Grief over sin because sin grieves the Father's heart.
And grace for the sinner.
Unmerited favor. Emphasize unmerited. And then emphasize favor.
Suddenly, I was glad Alex had confronted us two years ago about grace. That was a God thing. And we had been working since then to be a gracious household. I dare not think how I would have responded outside the context of grace. What if this had happened two years ago? But God is faithful. He had been grooming us for this moment. More precious, even, He had groomed the kids.

There have been individual conversations with the siblings.
The 23 yr old dripped grace.
The 21 yr old dripped grace.
The 18 yr old dripped grace.
The 14 yr old dripped grace.
I did not expect these responses. I expected shock, disdain, rules. I am undone by their grace. I am blown away by their understanding of sin and salvation and forgiveness and the Cross. Brett looked at me through misty eyes and said, "If we had thought we were raising pharisees...we're not." And I will treasure these things up in my heart.

O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee.
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be.*

We walked through the Gospel. We've done serious peacemaking. And we are confident that this son of ours who walked away is home again.
In more ways than one.

So there's a precious young lady.
And there's a precious baby on the way.
And, again, I can see that God prepared us ahead of time. For now we can see this child is not a 'consequence.' S/he is a ray of light, a redemption of something evil, a way of taking back what Satan meant for harm. And I trace this rainbow through the rain.

In August, we will add a daughter-in-law to our family.
In January, we will add a grandchild.
We hope, friends, that your response to our story is grief, grief over what grieves the Father. But we hope your concurrent response can be grace for this repentant sinner. We hope that you can find it in your heart to come alongside us and rejoice.
Rejoice in a Love that does not--will not--let us go.
Rejoice that God, rather than Satan, is writing this story.
Rejoice over new life.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

What's done is done.
Who has sinned is forgiven.
Weeping shall endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee.
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red life that shall endless be.*

*O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go, George Matheson, 1882

Friday, June 6, 2014

Fear Not Part Two

This is an addendum to my last post.

There are a lot of good reasons to walk around in fear. We live in a fallen world, after all, and the brokenness of our world hurts.

Our mind is threatened by vain philosophies and distorted gospels.
Our spirits are hurt by broken relationships and sin.
Our bodies are hurt by disease and crime and accidents and forces of nature.

Danger lurks in the bedroom via an unbiblical view of sexuality and marriage.
Danger lurks in the kitchen via microwaves and Monsanto.
Danger lurks in the office via cell phones, social media, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

We can't even go for a good, old-fashioned walk without  fearing critters, pesticides, and too much sun.

But...if we parent out of our fears, we are not going to raise safer kids. We're going to raise neurotic ones. I think we may be doing a disservice to our kids if the focus of our homes is 'safety'.

If we junk the television
or buy  car seats with 17 point harnesses
or slather them in sunscreen
or forbid social media
or hide the candy
or don't own a microwave
or clean everything with vinegar
or make them wear bike helmets
or load them down with herbs
or teach them to distrust the government
or hide from the neighbors
or put a water filter on the hose
or move to Timbuktu
or have a curfew
or helicopter parent...

...we are not guilty of sin.
I'm not saying that.

But I am saying that may be there is a trust issue.

Maybe we don't trust that God put us and our families right here, smack in the middle of the twenty-first century, with twenty-first century challenges. And trying to make our homes little replicas of Eden is not going to keep our families safe. Believe it or not, some of our fears might actually materialize. We might suffer for living in this broken world. That's what it all means.

And there are lots of legitimate reasons to fear for our children,
Unless you are a believer,
In which case there are ZERO legitimate reasons to fear
Because God is sovereign and good.
He does everything for His glory and our good.

And if He let 'it' happen to you, no matter what your 'it' is, it is for His glory and your good.
So I'll say it again.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28. 

Ain't skeered.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fear Not

I fear God.

I don't fear failure.
I don't fear cancer.
I don't fear cholesterol.
I don't fear tyranny.
I don't fear Islam.
I don't fear tap water.
I don't fear terrorists.
I don't fear car accidents.
I don't fear heresies.
I don't fear the Internet.
I don't fear losing my children physically.
I don't fear microwaves.
I don't fear sugar.
I don't fear intellectualism.
I don't fear vaccinations.
I don't fear being alone.
I don't fear birth defects.
I don't fear drinking out of plastic cups.
I don't fear flying.
I don't fear aging.
I don't fear cell phones.
I don't fear television.
I don't fear false gospels.
I don't fear losing my children spiritually.
I don't fear gossip.
I don't fear atheism.
I don't fear technology.
I don't fear poverty.
I don't fear real bread and real wine.
I don't fear homelessness.
I don't fear sunburn.
I don't fear crime.
I don't fear criminals.
I don't fear pesticides.
I don't fear tornadoes.
I don't fear unemployment.
I don't fear bad company.
I don't fear Apollyon.
I don't fear death.
I don't fear hell.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Ain't skeered.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Holy Week

Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know; nothing but the blood of Jesus.

We sang that in church on Palm Sunday. And I was struck by how much the blood of Jesus accomplished for us. And I wanted to cultivate a new gratitude for that. So I set out to hunker down for Holy Week, disconnect from social media. Cut down on distraction. Read Piper's The Passion of Jesus Christ. And focus. Focus on the blood of Jesus.

Even so, the skeptic in me wondered what terrible things were going to come along and steal away this warm, fuzzy plan by the end of the week. It was practically prophetic.

On Monday, my mom called. Kim had just passed away. Not quite friends, we were good acquaintances who reconnected after years, thanks to social media. Kim's parents and my parents are good, very good friends, even now. We've known each other since high school, attended the same church for a time. I think we even got married the same year; I remember her wedding. She had seven children; I had eleven. Only Kim got breast cancer.

Death stinks. Yes, for the Christian, death is gain. But death still stinks. Death is still the enemy.

And on the ensuing days...
I got my toes stepped on. Not just a nudge, either. A full-weighted, hobnail boot stomp. And I was hot.
I got into a discussion with a friend about doubters and atheists. She and I are both banging our heads on the proverbial wall and asking how those type of people could possibly come from gospel-saturated homes.
I got bogged down by a pending confrontation with a slipping soul. My heels are dug in, and I'm preparing for war...and Brett had to remind me not to make God small.

By Saturday, I was in a full-blown Bad Mood. I was still offended from Wednesday. I was frustrated with otherwise smart people who are capable of such dumb decisions about friends, life, and Truth. I'm an unwitting player in a war I only recently saw coming. And doggone it all, this is Holy Week, and this was supposed to be a time to meditate on the blood of Jesus. That was the plan.

I sat there, too grouchy to forgive, too grouchy to honestly care, definitely too grouchy to celebrate Easter. I simultaneously stewed over other people and wondered at all the blackness stirring in my own soul. And that's when I thought it:
Why did You bother dying for me anyway? What a waste.

Holy Week. I fell for it.
Like an idiotic Thomas Aquinas fangirl, I fell for it.
What a dolt.
As if.
As if there's a distinction between the sacred and the secular.
As if there's a Holy Week and fifty one other mundane ones.
As if the Resurrection was small enough to contain on one Sunday.
As if the victory of the Cross is inconsequential enough to confine to a feast day.

It's not that there is no Holy Week; it's that there is no week that's not holy. Every week is a holy week. Every hour of every day is to be lived to the glory of God. Every facet of man, his body, his spirit, his intellect, was broken in Eden and redeemed at Calvary.

Why did You die for me? I asked.
And just as fast, the answer came:
That's what the blood of Jesus is for.
It is a comfort to a grieving husband and his seven children.
It is a ransom for the doubter and the atheist.
It's for when you're unforgiving about being offended.
It's for when you're disdainful of the foolishness in others.
It's for when your soul is black and sludgy,
And this week or this day has been far from holy.

The blood of Jesus takes away the sting of death and the stain of sin.
And it deserves my gratitude every day and every week.
If I treat it like it deserves special attention on one day, then I dilute it on all the rest.

The blood of Jesus is the only thing that can get me through the Now and the Not Yet.

Oh precious is the flow that makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Heaven and Hell and Teaching Your Children Well

One minute they were there. The next they were gone.

There we were at the zoo watching the hippos. It was a crowded room, and the four youngest asked if they could scoot closer to get a better view. Just stay together was my only instruction, and off they went. Alex and I stayed in the back with the baby in the stroller.

The hippos enthralled all of us, and when I did a headcount, I noticed that the 11 yr old and the 9 yr old had backed up through the crowd to be closer to us. But where were the 7 yr old and the 4 yr old? I craned my neck over heads; I squinted through legs and bags and shoes, looking for those two familiar faces. No luck.  Alarmed, I turned to Alex. "They're gone. Stay with the baby." And I took off around the corner, hoping that I could get to the front of the crowd and spot them from that vantage point. Again, no luck. I ran back to Alex. "Keep everyone together. They are not in the building. Stay here."

I flew out of the building. Looked to the right; nope, not there. I looked left. And there, far down the path, I could see that bashful 4 yr. old grin. Two teens were talking to him. But...where was the 7 yr old? I took off running, and as I got closer, I saw that she was standing there with him, her protective arm around his shoulders. My heart laughed and cried at the same time. The four year old was oblivious to the danger he had been in; the seven year old was in tears.  Even as I recall this, my adrenaline is rushing.

I fell to my knees and grabbed them and hugged them. The seven year old let her tears really go at that point, and the four year old just kept smiling bashfully. He knew something was wrong; he just wasn't sure what.

We went over rules that day. I asked the seven year old what those teens had been asking them. They asked for her phone number, she said, but she told them she wasn't allowed to give it to strangers. Good. She knew that. And my eyes still get misty when I remember her arm around her little brother. She knew it was her job to protect him. But she didn't know to stay put.

That day was a stark reminder to me that we have to have repeated discussions about what's wrong with the world, about potentially dangerous situations. As distasteful as those conversations are, we do it because we love our kids.

A few weeks earlier...

I was tucking the four year old, who'd been having, shall we say, a bit of a behavioral slump, into bed. And I started telling him about the wonders of heaven. We were both getting excited and laughing and dreaming of that amazing eternity which awaits us. I came downstairs and told Brett, "I've been telling J all about heaven!

"Huh. I've been telling him all about hell."

Usually I'm the fire-breathing parent, and Brett is the nice guy.

Freaky Friday. 

But you know what? We have to tell the kids about both. They need a solid doctrine of heaven and a solid doctrine of hell. Just like they need to know about Stranger Danger in case we get separated, they need to know what awaits the disobedient, the perverse, the wicked for all eternity. They have to know this stuff because we won't always get to be with them. They need to know that there is a real bliss awaiting God's people. And there is a real torment awaiting the rest.

They also need to know a little bit about Stranger Danger in the Church.

Take self-styled Millennial spokeswoman, Rachel Held Evans, for example. (Though my own Millennials laugh out loud at her attempting to speak for them...) Ostensibly, she's waging war on evangelicalism. In truth, she's waging war on Truth. (But never--no, never--has God ever instructed us to stand down when it comes to Truth. Never.)
And I called her a in, not a sheep.
Upon further reflection, I'd like to recant.
It's far worse than that.
She's an Angel of Light. No, of course she's not THE Angel of Light. Think types and shadows here.
Second Class perhaps. Not quite got her wings. Yet.

You lead them into wrong; you make it look so right.
You lead them into darkness and make them think you lead them into light.

What's an Angel of Light?
First, they claim identity with Christ. They claim an excellent way.
Second, they take the Truth of Scripture and twist.
Third, they are offended by the True Gospel and are aggressive enemies of it.
They tame God; they civilize the Gospel; they make it palatable to the reprobate.

But the Gospel is offensive to the flesh. Regeneration is required to make it potent.
No amount of redrawing the lines or rewriting the rules will bring in converts, not real ones anyway. Redrawing and rewriting does not make Evans and her ilk Christians; it makes them rebels.

But I know where you're going, too bad you're not alone.
If it wasn't for the real Light, I might have never known. 

It is imperative that we raise our children to spot snakes in the Church lawn. Imperative. And I don't know of any other way than to continually tell them the Truth. It is imperative that we show little Johnny the filth they are spewing and sit down and walk through why that is wrong.

Or little Johnny will have no idea that it is wrong.
Because it's slick.
But horse puckey that is spit shined is still horse puckey.

And Little Johnny will be in serious danger of growing up to become a parent who tells his own children that sponsoring a child is more important than standing for the Truth. Wrong. Or that the Gospel is about social justice. Wrong. Or that Jesus died to redeem Creation rather than sinners. Wrong again. Or /cough/ that Jesus is not the God of the Old Testament. HA! Wrong.

You've got the clergy workin' overtime to widen the narrow way. 

It is imperative that our kids learn Stranger Danger in terms of false teachers. And the false teachers of our children's generation are masterful scripture twisters.

"God doesn't hate sin."
"The crucifixion is cosmic child abuse."
"Everyone goes to heaven."
"There's no such thing as hell."

And so goes the Millennial war on Truth.
Bible anyone?

Develop an appetite in yourself for Heaven.
Tell your kids what the Bible says about Heaven and who gets to go there.
Develop an affinity only for teachers who love the God of Heaven.

Develop an aversion for hell.
Develop an aversion for Scripture twisters who are on the Wide Path to hell.
Tell your children what the Bible says about hell and who must go there.

Raise your kids to be so shrewd about and so steeped in Truth, that they can spot someone who lies about Heaven
about hell
about love
about judgment
about the Gospel,
For their spiritual safety.

Angel of Light, you're telling me wrong is right, but I won't let your evil take control.*

It was absolutely frightening to lose my precious little ones in the crowd that day. It was terrifying to realize that they didn't know to stay put. But that would be nothing, nothing, to losing them to hell.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. 2 Timothy 4:3

*Angel of Light, Robert M. Hartman, 1981