4.12.2015

Book Review: Easter Stories--Classic Tales for the Holy Season



A week out from Easter Sunday, and my heart still is rejoicing in a risen Savior. As I shared before, I feel the weight of the sacrifice the Lord made for us so many years ago.
I always look for ways to share the true meaning of Easter with my children: Jesus, love, sacrifice, pain, sin, forgiveness, death, the cross, humility, more love, life, regeneration, newness. . .

I thought that Easter Stories would be another way to cultivate my children's understanding of those sacred events that transpired around the Savior's death, burial, and resurrection. 

These stories were written by well-known authors, such as C.S. Lewis, Leo Tolstoy, and Oscar Wilde. What I like about this book is that the stories cause you to think, pause and reflect on how it is that this short story relays the Easter story. But, all the while, there is a single thread that knits the two: hope! The spiritual meaning behind theses stories is a great way to enhance daily devotions. The great writers also make this compilation; an excellent family read-aloud, which really can be enjoyed any time of the year.

For more information about this book, please visit
http://www.plough.com/en/ebooks/e/easter-stories

4.03.2015

Good Friday School, With a Heavy Heart

Today, we approached school by totally not schooling. It's Good Friday, and as is the tradition in our home, we do not do academic subjects. Instead, we turn our focus on the sacrifice Jesus made for us: death on a cross.

For Bible study, we've been making our way through the Gospel according to Matthew. This morning, we read through the account in Chapters 26 and 27: Jesus being seized in the garden of Gethsemane, Him being beaten and spat upon at Caiaphas' house, Peter denying Him three times, Jesus being led to Pilate, Judas committing suicide, Jesus being accused and scourged, Simon of Cyrene being compelled to carry His cross, Roman soldiers making a mockery of Him, and Him hanging there on a cross because of my sin. . .

Oh, how He loves me! What a mighty God we serve!

As my children took in this Gospel message, my heart felt as though it would burst. I get heavy this time of year, every year. The deeper I dig, the more I align my heart with His, the higher He takes me, the more the Spirit tweaks at my understanding of the burden Jesus bore on the cross for me.

I am overwhelmed, the tears flow, and the kids wonder. . .

I tell them that they'll have to excuse Mommy. The gravity of Jesus selfless act is not lost on me. Oh, how I pray and yearn for their little hearts to make those connections. I know it comes in time, it comes with hearing the Word, it comes by living and testing and trials, it comes by maturing in faith.

With tears choked back, I move forward in our day. We listened to this song and this one, and watched this video, while the kids created something to remember Good Friday.

"Lots of Crosses"
-3 year old 
"A King on a Cross"
"A Crown of Thorns"
"Darkness Covered the Land and The Three Crosses"

By this time, Husband came home early from work and the kids were babbling with excitement to him about what we did this morning. This gave me a moment to I slip away to my "secret closet" (translated: laundry room or garage) and let the tears flow. I stand it awe of a selfless Savior who died for me. I could never repay the debt I owe.

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" . . .
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split. . .
So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that happened, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God!"
-Matthew 27:45-46, 50-51, 54

3.29.2015

Like A Tree


Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners, 
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
Psalm 1:1-3



This picture was taken about 5 years ago. Husband is standing next to a tree he planted in our front yard. He and the kids named it Ziggy. I thank God for him--a man of Faith and love-- who has his roots planted in the Word. May God water my husband well and bring about good fruit in his life.

Scripture and Snapshot

3.26.2015

A Word on Judging



We hear it everywhere, sometimes lightly, other times more seriously: Don't judge me! We're not supposed to judge, you know? I can do what I want, don't judge! *SIGH*

If I may, let me air my frustrations. . .
I'm so tired of this concept of "not judging" to be used as an excuse to go on sinning. I'm so tired of crooked politicians, self-proclaimed non-Christians, and any other "Joe Shmoe" of the culture all of a sudden becoming the authorities on Christian living.

My Pastor spoke on this a few weeks ago, from Matthew 7:1-5:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

Society has twisted this Scripture so much that even believers walk away scratching their heads, wondering if "judging" is wrong, hoping they won't be labeled a "judger" because they voiced their disagreement over an issue. Here are a few things to think through. . .

Calling sin what is is, which is sin, is not judging.
Wanting to not be involved in sin, in any way, is not judging.
Pointing out that there is forgiveness for sin through Jesus Christ, is not judging.
Sharing that salvation and righteousness are available, which is the opposite of sin, is not judging.

We are called, as God's people, to judge things, situations, people and the "spirit" that may be at work in them, otherwise we would have no use of discernment through the Holy Spirit. As believers, we are to discern what is the truth from a lie, right from wrong, what is holy from what is sinful. Consider these passages. . .

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." -1 John 4:1-6

"Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name.
"They shall be Mine," says the Lord of hosts,
"On the day that I make them My jewels.
And I will spare them
As a man spares his own son who serves him."
Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him."
-Malachi 3:16-18

So, what about Matthew 7?
First, it does not mean we NEVER judge, but that we should NOT have an attitude that delights in looking for fault in others, as though we aren't sinners saved by His grace. Secondly, whatever judgements we do make will be the same standards used for our own actions (vs. 1-2).

Next, if there is a sin we are currently struggling with or immersed in, we can't see clearly on how to help another out of the same sin...so judging and condemning another for the same thing we're doing wrong makes no sense--we both need help in that area (vs. 3-4). Finally, we are to effectively deal with the sin in our own lives, in order to see clearly, so we can help someone else with the sin they are dealing with (v. 5). This, my friends, is judging.

We also must remember to see Matthew 7:1-5 as one part of a whole. In other words, studying and reading other Scriptures will shed light on the one. For example, if we only look at the character of Jesus based only on His interaction with the money-changers in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13), we might mistake His love, His compassion, or His forgiveness. Thus, we must study His character in its totality, as given to us in His Word. Same thing goes for judging, folks.


3.18.2015

Battles



I haven't been in my writing space lately. For me, that usually means a couple things: either I'm pregnant or I've been really busy.
Well, there's no baby news to report, so that's not it.
I could say it's a busy season, but truthfully, life with 6 children and a husband IS busy. Some times overwhelmingly so, other times it's just the day to day. No complaints because I'm called to be busy at home, rejecting the bread of idleness....

But this wasn't just busy, this was a battle.
I realize that I've often mislabeled battle times as busyness. Battling over what? Consider these verses...

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ . . ."-2 Corinthians 10:3-5

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."-Ephesians 6:11-14


I have been engaged in battle. There are times when the Lord has gone before me and fought for me and has given victory into my hands. Then there are other times when I have to suit up and fight, and run this race.

The truth is when we commit to being godly women, commit to honoring and loving our husbands, commit to raising up our children for the Lord, we become super targets, because the evil one doesn't want any of that to work out. Period.

The awesome thing though is that the fight is fixed, satan is already defeated, and I am victorious because I have the Lord of Hosts on my side.

"We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." -2 Corinthians 4:8-10 

"Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Romans 8:37-39

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

So, I've been thirsting, seeking, searching, chasing after my Savior in this fight. Instead of me sitting at His feet, it's been more like clinging to His ankles with a death grip. . .on my knees in prayer--battling, literally crying out loud in the midnight hour, literally--battling, tears streaming down my face--battling, asking for wisdom and discernment--battling. . . Lord, may Your will be done.

My walk with Christ, my marriage, raising our kids, this home life, decisions for the future--they all need to be sheltered, kept safe from opposition, naysayers, things that seek to destroy, influences that threaten to tear down. They are worth fighting for. They are worth every single battle.

Ladies, be encouraged if you find yourselves in the midst of a battle in your family life. They are sure to come; we will have them. My husband says it is when we're striving to do what is right that satan tries to hit us the hardest. The blessing in the battle is that God always wins! Don't be discouraged, don't give up! Hold fast to God.


But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you." -Isaiah 43:1-3

2.14.2015

The Truth About Valentine's in My House {Valentine Marriage Challenge--Week 4}



How does Valentine's week unfold in your household? Are your expectations high, hoping your husband will amaze you with precious jewels and gorgeous flowers? You know, just like the commercials? I can hear them in my mind, "Every kiss begins with K!" Well, I will share with you what Valentine's Day is like in my home.



But first, let's start with what the challenge is for this week: reclaim the "passion" that is meant specifically for a husband and his wife. As I mentioned last week, it is a sweet gift from our Heavenly Father, meant to be enjoyed under the covering of marriage, by husband and wife.

At any time, any of us can get stuck in the daily norms and routines of life . . . and the passion begins to fade. Let's make some sparks fly, on purpose! Light a little love fire in your marriage! Plan to be available to your husband this week. Make him feel special, regardless of what he may or may not do for you, especially on Valentine's Day.

Now, here we go. . .confession time!!

Early on in my marriage, for several years, I was always disappointed on Valentine's Day. I expected flowers or jewelry or balloons and candy or sweet smelling perfume, coupled with a nice dinner out (yes, all of these things). These were the automatic, ingrained expectations I brought to our marriage. Any time my husband didn't deliver to the extent I felt he should, you know--something worthy of bragging about to my friends--I would pout and be unappreciative. What a slap in the face to a good man, a very good man!

Fast forward some years of being a wife and learning my husband, I realized my error. What I learned about my husband is that he'd rather not sum up our love for each other on one day out of the year, which just has to be represented by things, certain things. Instead, his perspective was that we should love each other deeply and intentionally and be appreciative all year long. Talk about a lesson learned!

Understanding his point of view has helped me keep my expectations realistic. That doesn't mean that my husband is a cold, loveless, or thoughtless man. He's quite the opposite. But I understand how falling victim to the commercialism that surrounds this holiday (and many others) can prompt me to make him feel unappreciated. So, I started to intentionally look for the little things he does to declare his love for me on a daily basis, rather than waiting for a few days out of the year. And guess what my friends? He declares it often and sincerely.

No, I don't receive flowers every day and I don't have a jewelry box full of diamonds. What I do have is a husband, a man of God, who loves me deeply and is never ashamed of that.

So, what about Valentine's Day? Well, it's more like a regular day for us, with just a few extras. We do something small for each other: a card that says EXACTLY what we mean, not just a card in order to "check the box"; a surprise of something that's our absolute favorite: strawberries, a favorite meal, a sweet love song. I've come to treasure these moments so much! Now, if he ever wanted to throw in a night out on the town or some pretty jewelry, I'm sure I would accept. However, I'm no longer holding him to an expectation that is not realistic for my marriage. Instead I am embracing the gift I already have. . . the gift that is my husband.

Happy Valentine's Day!

{{Repost from 2/12/13, Valentine's Challenge}} 

 Also linked with:

http://timewarpwife.com/?p=2078



1.27.2015

Count Your Blessings Day




I'm quite late in getting this post up--real life is happening around here! However, I think it's still worth sharing.

At the close of every year, and the beginning of a new one, my family tends to struggle with getting back into our regular routine. With the excitement and joy Christmas brings, and my husband taking extended time off work, it is just a really special time for our family. Well, this time around was no different. We wished it could last forever. . .

During the Christmas break, we continued 2 subjects and a read-aloud, but that was nothing compared to our regular homeschool routine. The day we started back, I could see it in my kids' eyes: longing for "easy-breezy" days. And, I could feel the ache in my own heart. At this point, I thought, "How can we lighten the mood around here?" Well...

Remembering God's blessings from the past can bless us in the here and now. It warms our hearts to recount God's faithfulness, His generosity, an His kindness. It causes us to be thankful all over again. I wanted to teach my kids that even though it was time to move on to the next thing, it doesn't erase all the fun we had and the blessings God gave. So, I told them it was Count Your Blessings Day.





I had the kids take out their Art journals and I told them to write, draw, color, cut and paste the things about the Christmas break they were grateful for. Then the next thing you know, the project expanded and they began to list things that they were just thankful for in general. And while they worked, I sang: "Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done. Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done!"

Sounds cheesy? Perhaps. A bit corny? Yep. Was it effective? Absolutely! It helped us to shake off the grumps and regain a right perspective. Anytime we find ourselves in a slump, or if there's a tinge of ungratefulness in the air, I'll announce another "Count Your Blessings Day" to help get us back on track.
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