Friday, March 29, 2013

Early to Rise Challenge: Share what you have been doing!

So this challenge is coming quickly to an end.  And many of us have been trying to see this challenge through to the end - really in the hopes of developing a lasting habit.

 I think we all see the benefits to getting up early.  I love to spend those first moments of the morning meditating on Scripture and praying. That way my focus is on Christ from the very beginning while I am alert.  Otherwise I have to fit that into another part of my day when I am either distracted or sleepy.

So I tried. . .

and tried. . .

and tried.

And it really didn't hit me until the beginning of the week.  My husband woke up and said "my throat is killing me." 
Seriously, it was at that point I thought, you know what, my throat has been hurting me for a while.

You see we are "busy" doing ministry stuff.  We have two little ones - a VERY busy preschooler and a baby.  Come on moms, you know how it is.

You are probably thinking, how did you not know you were sick.  Well, I did, I just kept pushing it to the back of my mind, since it wasn't too bad.

What I didn't realize was how much my energy has been drained.  Lightbulb.  Waking up early has been more than challenging.

And yes, we ALL went to the doctor this week.  And though I hate dislike taking medicine, the doctor told me I would be starting to feel better by Friday.

Guess what.  I woke up feeling a little better this morning.

So this challenge has sort of highlighted something I have been pondering this month - the importance of taking care of self.  I'm not talking about spending every waking moment absorbed with my needs/wants - that is selfishness.  BUT - how effective was I at taking care of my family while only running on half my normal energy levels.

So what has this challenge taught you?  What have you been doing with your early mornings?  I would LOVE to hear about it. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

From the pastor: Responding to Tragedy in a Small Town

I pastor a church in a small rural community, and we have experienced our fair share of tragedies over the past few months. A drug-related murder, a teen who crashes while texting and driving, and three teens killed in a two-truck collision in which both blew through a stop sign. Most of the members of the church that I pastor know these folks, some are related to them. 

What do you say? 

In a certain respect, addressing the shootings at Sandy Hook from the pulpit was a much easier task because the evil was so obvious and the line so clear between those who suffered innocently and those who perpetrated the crimes. What do I say when tragedies occur, some of which were avoidable? Do we rant against the stupidity of teen drivers? Do we smooth everything over by writing things off as an accident and saying that "we all did stupid things when we were young"? 

May I suggest some basic reflections on dealing with losses in the community that may have been preventable?

            *Focus on the sovereignty of God. God does not arbitrarily destroy life for the fun of it. He does, however, maintain control and oversight over everything that occurs in this world. There is a purpose, there is a plan, but there's a catch- we don't know it. And we need to come to a place (like Job), of being good with that.

            *Remember our cursed world. Read Romans 1-2 a few times, and you are reminded that things are NOT the way they are supposed to be. God created man for relationship, which mandated a level of freedom of choice, and guess what? We rebelled. We blew it, turned our backs on God, and did our best to put ourselves in the place of the Almighty. And now we must live with the consequences of that- at least until Christ returns. Because of our sin, bad things happen- tornadoes hit, and murderers kill. We don't always understand why some die and some are spared, but that falls back under the first point above.

            *Every decision we make has results. We all do dumb things. It is unavoidable. We are sinners who sin. We are constantly reminded that we are not perfect, and we have a great way to go in the sanctification process. But we must also understand that just because we will sin, doesn't mean we are excused from the consequences. This goes for the lost and the redeemed. If I fail to disciple my children and they rebel, I can repent, but the damage is done. If someone in a fit of anger strikes their spouse, they can ask forgiveness and be forgiven, but trust is broken (and the law). We must teach our people (especially our young people) this principle. Learn self-control. Learn self-discipline. Through the power of the Holy Spirit identify weaknesses in your armor and work to correct them. Don't live in fear that you will do something that has disastrous consequences, but use common sense. 

            In sum, in a cursed world bad things happen. We need to develop a reliance on Christ that allows us to minister to those who experience the devastating consequences of this world. We also must take seriously our own sanctification and the discipleship of others. Think before acting, walk with Christ, allow your thoughts to be His. Allow your actions to be Spirit-guided. Love the Lord passionately and serve Him faithfully. This will allow us to respond to these seasons of life in a way that shows the world a little glimpse of how things should be.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gardening: Winter sowing

I think spring has already officially begun, but I brushed the snow off our thermometer to show you - it is still quite cold.

No worries.

Last year, I found this website which explains how to do winter sowing.  The basic idea is to plant seeds inside milk jugs, which will then act as mini greenhouses.  You can put them outside even with snow on the ground.

We planted broccoli and some of our tomatoes this way last year with great success. 

I sort of laugh when I type that, because they looked TERRIBLE for a little while, to the point that I thought everything was dead.

Then we got some extra rain and all the little seedlings perked back up.  A couple weeks later I transplanted them to our garden with no problems.

So this year, I am trying more tomatoes, green peppers, jalapeno peppers (we love salsa), and brussel sprouts.  I will eventually plant some broccoli - I just forgot to pick up the seeds when we were out last.

This should be fun to see how these work out this year.  I am also using some leftover seeds from last year, but since I am starting so early, I figure there isn't much to lose if they don't sprout.  I can always replant a little later.

Have you tried this?  Has anyone else had success with winter sowing?  I would love to hear about it.  Leave your comments below and share what plants you have tried.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Messy Monday - ewwww, really?

If you are wondering what this is all about, check out this post.  I got a little bit of spring cleaning done this weekend and look what I found!?

That was under a small table in the hall.  Ewwwwwwww.

I hope you will forgive me. . .I didn't even wait for Monday to clean it.

But seriously, have you ever noticed how much more dust and dirt you see on your wood floors than on the carpeted ones.

Kinda makes you wonder how much is hiding in those little carpet fibers.

And on that note,
I am going to do some more spring cleaning.

Easy Easter Cross Craft

I was looking for something super easy to do with our preschooler to help teach him about the Easter story and specifically the cross of Christ.  The craft that we were trying to do didn't work out so well. (think little boy, jumping around, short attention span)

So this is what we ended up with. . .much more our speed.  This is super easy and it will probably be free to make because it only requires a few things that you may already have sitting around.

Materials and supplies needed:
an empty cereal box
tissue paper of various colors
ribbon or string for hanging
glue, scissors, hole punch

  1. Cut out 2 crosses from empty cereal box and glue them together (printed sides together).
  2. Hole punch top of cross.
  3. Let your little helper spread glue on cross.  (and here's where it gets fun)  Rip squares of tissue paper (roughly index card size to give you an idea) and scrunch up into balls.  Place them all over the cross.  Add more glue as needed.
  4. Add a ribbon and allow to dry before you hang your work of art!

Since this project is so easy, you can focus on sharing with your child the significance of Jesus' death on the cross.  Since our son is so young, we try to grab teaching moments whenever we can.  And the emphasis is definitely on moments, because he is zooming on to something else before we know it. 

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.  Leave me a message if you are able to use this with your children whether at home or church or wherever!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

You are My Sunshine!

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are gray.
You'll never know, dear, how much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Review: My Very First Easter Story Sticker Book

My Very First Easter Story Sticker Book written by Lois Rock and illustrated by Alex Ayliffe is a cute and fun book for young children.  This bright, interactive book has the Easter story with toddler type activities running along the bottom of each page.  Your toddler/preschooler is sure to have fun putting the stickers in place as you read the story and ask the questions.  I love how it makes the story a hands-on experience for your child.

HOWEVER, I have some serious problems with this book’s presentation of the Easter story.  There is no mention of sins and our need of a Savior – the whole point of the death and resurrection of Christ.  Now we remedied this by just filling in the details when we read the story to our son, but we were disappointed that the book just glossed over these important truths. 

We wanted to like this book, but we just can’t encourage others to spend their money on a book that misses the point.  Publishers will continue to produce this kind of stuff so long as people keep buying it.  So it is for that reason that I will be giving this such a poor review.

2 out of 5 stars

We received a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Preachers' Daughters: What are we Thinking?

 Here are some thoughts from my husband on this new "reality" show from Lifetime:

While enjoying one of our favorite TV programs- Duck Dynasty, we saw a preview for a new reality show coming to Lifetime called Preachers' Daughters. Now, I have not seen the show, and I know nothing about it outside of what I saw in the previews, but I think I saw enough. The basic concept seems to be Pastors and their daughters, who live lives inconsistent with the faith of their families and drive their pastor-fathers to distraction. Just this basic premise has caused me to stop in my tracks. When I think about what is wrong with the premise of this show, I find myself asking "where do I even start?" Well, I won't get anywhere with that, so here are a few basic thoughts in response. I'd love to interact with you about them!

            First, II Corinthians 5:17 tells us that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old is passed away, everything is new. This and other verses in the New Testament (see Luke 9:23 among many others) teach us that Christianity is not a religion. It is a transformational process whereby we are changed from children of darkness into creatures of light. We are children and servants of the Most High God. He is our Father and our King, our security and the object of our awe and worship. We need more of this in the modern church. We too often settle for "cultural Christianity" that doesn't touch our everyday life in the way that the New Testament seems to indicate it should. A show like Preachers' Daughters demonstrates everything that is wrong with many professing Christians today. Not that they are not perfect in every way, but that there is a complete lack of concern for piety and depth in their walk with Christ.

            Second, is there an occupation in our society today that has lost more respect in the last generation than that of the pastor? Because I am a pastor, I see this and it cuts me to the heart.  Scandals have rocked the church, and we have all too often allowed ourselves to be caricaturized. I look around and see "preachers" who yell and scream a lot but can't exegete a text, or emotionless academics who have no clue what it's like to sit with a family who has just lost a loved one. There is little accountability and even less respect for the pastoral office. Every morning that I go to work, without fail, I at some point have Hebrews 13:17 flash through my mind. I will stand one day and give an account for how I shepherded the flock of God. I live under that burden, which weighs heavier than any other. I would challenge those sitting in the pews to joyfully take up their burden as laid out in the rest of that text.

            Finally, if a man cannot shepherd his own family, how can he ever hope to shepherd the family of God? A TV show that portrays the children of pastors running wild is a blatant display for all to see of a pastor's lack of qualification for the office that he holds. I live each day realizing that I MUST invest in my wife. I MUST teach my children. I MUST not sacrifice them on the altar of ministry or I myself will be disqualified. Now, I fully understand that each one of my kids will make his own decision about following Christ, but that does not absolve me of responsibility in raising them. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Messy Monday - It's all in what you do about it

I have recently noticed that in our house, Mondays are the messiest.  We usually try to take extra time to relax as a family during the weekend (putting off housework) and on Sundays the mess continues to pile up as we have various responsibilities that keep us busy. I'm good with it.

 Anybody who knows me well, can tell you that I love to laugh.  Call it a coping mechanism, whatever.  But I enjoy laughing - even if it is at myself. So I thought it would be fun to post pics of the messes we find ourselves faced with on Mondays and then commit to tackling at least that one mess by the end of the day.

Why?  Am I just "lettin' it all hang out" and "keepin' it real"?  Eh, not really, that's not my style.  Sorry, I don't enjoy the thought of people coming into my home and being confronted by odd smells and scary looking piles of unwashed dishes. 

I want to do this for several reasons.

  • To encourage other busy moms to find their security in Christ and not in their perfect homes.  We need our security to be in Christ and our position in Him. We can't find our security in our sparkling clean home and perfect image - because those things can be ripped away from us in an instant.  God is the only One who will remain constant for us.  That is not an excuse to be lazy (far from it, in fact.)  As I am endeavoring to be more like Him, I will manage my time in a way that honors Him.  (That is so tough in our plugged-in age, something always seems to be begging for attention.)
  •  To encourage other busy moms that life happens. . .it is all in what we do about it.  Yeah, the house is a mess sometimes, but you can tackle it one room at a time.  Sometimes I look around and get discouraged and think "why bother"?  Start small and move on from there.  A trick that I started doing was starting with the living room.  It is the easiest place to straighten up and it is usually the only place anyone who is just "stopping by" may see.  (Now you know my secret - so don't tell.) We love to have people just drop in, but I could drive myself crazy if I felt that I had to have the entire house clean ALL the time. And in reality, nobody expects your house to be clean all the time - it is an unfair expectation we place on ourselves.  

 So here it is:

Here is our breezeway - the dump off spot for anything and everything.  I picked an easy one today because this will clean up in a snap.  I just needed a little nudge to get to it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Book Review: Whit's End Mealtime Devotions

If your family loves Adventures in Odyssey then you are sure to love the new Whit's End Mealtime Devotions by John Avery Whittaker ("with help from Crystal Bowman and Tricia Goyer").  It includes 90 devotions that will get your family talking about principles found in the Bible.  The format is a fun mealtime theme with an "appetizer," "main course," and "vitamins and minerals" which is verse from Scripture.

There are specific devotions for many different holidays as well as a whole section of themed devotions such as "pirate night," backward night," and "family discovery night."  These themed devotions include ideas for making this a special family time.  And who wouldn't love ideas to help with that. 

Our son is only in preschool so this won't work for us quite yet.  But families with children old enough to listen to the radio show (maybe 4-11 years old. . . or older) will enjoy this book.  The strength of this book is that it is a springboard.  If you are hoping to just read a page out of a book at dinnertime for family devotions - this is not for you.  This book will get your children asking questions and thinking and considering concepts from God's Word.  And that lends itself to a terrific teaching opportunity for parents.  That doesn't sound like boring family devotions to me - and I think many families will enjoy this book. 

Children naturally have questions and when it comes to spiritual things, we want our children to be able to freely ask those questions. I am glad that this book provides a fun opportunity for that to happen.

5 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I am not obligated to give a positive review.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Review: The Singing Grammarian: Songs and Visual Presentations for Learning New Testament Greek Grammar

I took 4 semesters of Koine Greek back in college, but my husband took quite a bit more (both in college and in seminary).  We WISH these videos had been around back then.  Remember all those charts in first semester Greek that you tried to cram, uh, hum, I mean memorize, for the test.  Danny Zacharias has made it way easier to remember them by making these videos.  I like that he has used common tunes (so you aren’t learning a new song typically), jazzed them up a bit, and displays the information in front of you in a powerpoint type format.  They are fun, and dare I say it, even funny at times.

These videos are perfect for either a first semester Greek student or someone (like my husband) who needs to refresh their memory (like for say maybe, graduate work, or doctoral entrance exams). Yep, I even pulled out the old 1st semester handbook and sure enough, the stuff in his videos comes straight from the book.  

 Keep in mind that you will still have to work to memorize the information. The words often are forced to fit the song, but hey, it beats just saying them over and over and over again to yourself.  By watching the videos, you will be seeing the information and hearing it.  And if it is any kind of testimonial, our preschooler loves watching them.  He just about has the alphabet down pat.

I hope Danny Zacharias continues to make these videos.  We will certainly be buying them. 

5 out of 5 stars

I received a free download of these videos from Kregel Academic in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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