Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

As the New Year arrives, I look back and recognize another year of just trying to keep up, just trying to survive, just barely scraping by. With Landon being my fourth child, I've come to allow myself a little leeway in "the year after" characterized by no motivation, a messy house, disorganization, projects gone by the wayside, lack of any menu planning, and bypassing other nice "comforts" all for the hopes of trading it in for the basic essentials of sleeping, eating, nurturing (others that is) and the most important, sanity. But now that my baby's no longer an infant (can you believe it?), and a new year starts tomorrow, I am filled with new resolutions.

A friend and I have been trading emails recently on the subject of intentionality. We've mostly focused on discipline, but in parenting, and I would add all of life, intentionality is key. It's hard to be intentional in many things, never mind everything. It requires a steadfast awareness of your life and all that you're putting your hands to and all that your mind thinks. On a day-to-day or even minute-to-minute basis, it's near impossible to have that kind of focus all the time. I fear though that we (and most especially me in this past year) have lost all focus and have given up intentionality in our lives.

in-ten-tion, -noun:
1. an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result
2. the end or object intended; purpose
3. intentions,
a. purpose or attitude toward the effect of one's actions or conduct

b. purpose or attitude with respect to marriage (from which the above definition is taken from) has eight different definitions for the word intention including meaning or significance and an interesting last one: the person or thing meant to benefit from a prayer or religious offering. All that to say, living with intentionality means living with purpose. No more living reactively, but actively living. I'm sure some of you have heard about Erin's resolution to blog each day for the next 40 days. She is blogging on the verses she reads each day and what they mean to her in her life in the here and now. This creates a keener sense of awareness, not only in feeding on the Word of God but in seeing how it applies to her life right now. I invite you to check it out.

Living with intention means consciously knowing your thoughts and understanding your actions. It's seeing where your energy is directed and how your money is spent. Living intentionally has the potential to eliminate bad habits, wasted time, lazy parenting and poor stewardship. It's about living a disciplined life.

The disciplined life is certainly something everybody should strive for, but when you're knee-deep in laundry, toys and dirty diapers and your to-do list is longer than Santa's Naughty or Nice list, it's hard to see where discipline comes in except for the occasional time-out or other behavioral management tactics. But discipline comes after deciding to be intentional and is the action of being intentional. We all know the saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." It takes more than intentions to live a life with purpose; discipline is what follows intention.

So how will discipline help me in this new year? Back to my resolution... Becoming more intentional in my living. This will require a new diet for my soul. Though I look at myself in the mirror and see the need for a physical diet, I want to go deeper and change my daily nourishment in more significant ways.
First, my media consumption needs to be stemmed. For me, this means less internet - it is my foremost addiction and time-waster. I am a voracious researcher, and the internet is my personal library, and thanks to email and facebook, it is also a big part of my social network. This is not altogether a bad thing, but if I don't have discipline over this area of my life, more important things fall by the wayside all in the name of research or faux socialization. Second, my quiet time will become more consistent; my nightly choice of reading will begin with the Bible as opposed to my historical novels or "brain candy." Plugging into the omnipotent, omniscient Power (no, I'm not talking about the world wide web) is the best and only thing I can do in becoming more intentional. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..."* Third, becoming intentional in my life includes my duties as a homemaker, parent, teacher and wife. More consistent meal planning, home organization and in-depth homeschooling are goals of mine in the coming year. This includes much more focused time with the children, concentrating on bonding opportunities. I also look forward to more date nights out with my hubby! Fourth, my prayer life needs a boost desperately, and I am determined that my day will have set times where I take the time to sit and pray. I was inspired by this blog posting and am hoping to have the kind of discipline/reminders this blogger refers to in structuring her routine around her prayer times. The first thing that comes to my mind when I read her "reckless experiment with prayer" is, "That is sooo not me!" I'm not Catholic, I'm not Orthodox, I'm not Muslim and I'm not Jewish - and I'm jealous. Each of these religions have built-in times of prayer throughout the day - calls to prayer which help remind the masses or body of Christ to stop what they're doing and worship God. I'm not sure how I'll do it - I don't have a big church bell reminding me to pray, and our town doesn't have a loudspeaker for all to hear the call to prayer. I'm not meaning to get legalistic about it - I do believe and experience the prompting of the Holy Spirit to communicate with God, but like everything else in my life, I'm craving some sort of structure. And if it starts out or becomes rote, then so be it. At least, I will have talked to God more in each one of my days than my usual week.

Now I know I will not remain intentional through every precious second of this coming year. I will have my lazy days, my sick days, my tired days, and my "I-just-don't-want-to" days - there will be plenty of those! I will fail as a mother, wife and friend in the new year. I will not be the kind of Christian I want to be, and God will not always be proud of me. But a resolution is just that: a decision meant to spur us to action; to transform in little or big ways so our lives become changed, hopefully for the better.

*Hebrews 12:2a

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Morning

Thump. Thump. Thump. Soft padding of little feet coming downstairs.

The chatter of little voices. Crying. I hear crying.

I slowly become aware of being conscious and head!

Getting out of bed.

Uh, nope! NOT getting out of bed.

Can't open my eyes, can't breathe out my nose, and is that a gosh darn headache? I must've gotten Jayce's cold. I sense my husband has, like me, chosen to stay under the covers.

"Honey, can you go get the baby?"

"...and change his diaper?"

"...and feed him breakfast?"

"...and stay home and take care of me too?"

Wait, I have Kajijis this morning. It's our holiday party. I have some things to bring...and food. Oh, the food's soooo yummy! It's nice to have, at least, one morning off from making breakfast. Wasn't Erin going to make that Spicy Corn Casserole today? Yummm-O!

Gotta get up. Where are the tissues?? Ugh...what is it about colds that make your eyes tear up and leak almost as bad as your nose? I just know this cold is going to morph into a bad cough from the sounds of Jayce. There's nothing worse than coughing yourself awake ten times a night.

Shower. A shower will help.

I can't believe I feel like *crumb*, and yet I'm getting dressed up. Not my typical attire for the day either like jeans or yoga pants, but an actual skirt and soft pretty sweater.1 And I can't forget my high-heeled, pointy-toed boots that I can barely walk in. What am I thinking??

It's Kajijis Day today! That's what I'm thinking. Even when I feel like this, I'm lucky enough to look forward to my KGs every Friday. Every Kajiji Girl is awesome - they're all such a great group of women. I'm blessed to be able to call them...ACHOO!!...friends.

Well, time to go.

Wait, I can't forget the coffee!

...and flavored creamers...

...and banana cake...wait, where's the chocolate?

Oh, right, the kids too.

"Everybody ready?"

I have to chuckle at the kids speedily getting their jackets and shoes on. They're just as excited as I to get out of the house and go play with friends.

"Jayce, hand me a tissue, will you?"

1. Dressing up is not required but is rather the exception.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Giving Back the Blessings

David sent this to me this morning. It so beautifully went with Crystal's most recent post here, that I wanted to add it. What will be our gifts to the One who has so richly blessed us - Us, who so pitifully don't deserve it?

My Gift to the Queen

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.'"1

I have read that Queen Mary made a regular visit to Scotland every summer, and how, on "one occasion she was strolling with a group of school children. Suddenly the sky turned gray and thick, and dark clouds appeared. The queen stopped at a nearby house and asked if she might borrow an umbrella. She told the lady of the house, 'I'll send it back to you tomorrow.'

"The lady was reluctant about lending a good umbrella to a total stranger, but she remembered that she had an old one up in the attic. One rib was broken and there were several ragged holes in it, but she nevertheless turned it over to this lady at her front door with a weak apology.

"The next day there was another knock at the door. This time, when she opened it, a man in gold braid stood with a big envelope in hand. 'The queen sent me,' he said, 'and asked me to thank you for the umbrella.' For a moment the woman stood motionless--speechless, but then burst into tears. Finally she cried, 'Oh! What an opportunity I missed that I didn't give her my best!'"

How embarrassing! But how often, I wonder, do I give Jesus my second best ... or even my leftovers?

In younger days ... much less tactful ones ... when I was the pastor of a small church, as we didn't have a janitor, I was cleaning the church. The vacuum cleaner we had was next to useless and I said to myself, "I'll bet one of the members gave this to the church because it wasn't any good to them."

I reported this thought to the church officers at our next meeting. Oops! Deathly silence. I was right. It was a gift from the key families in the church! As I often kid, my comment went over like "a pork chop in a synagogue!" But we did get a new vacuum cleaner!

Let's not give Jesus the King of kings our broken umbrellas, nor our leftovers--whether it's time, talents, gifts, or money. Let's give him our first-fruits ... not our last-fruits.

In the words of the old hymn: "Give of your best to the Master; Give him first place in your heart; give him first place in your service; Consecrate every part ... Give him the best that you have."2

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, in thanksgiving for your great love-gift to me and your so-great salvation, grant that I will always have the grace to give you the best that I have to give. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Matthew 25:40 (NIV).

2. Mrs. Charles Barnard.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Paradise Foreclosed

One of the biggest questions of the human race has been, "How does God allow such pain and suffering for humans?" If He were a good God, would He not prevent the tragedies that continually befall our race? We see pictures of those less fortunate than us all around the world living in shacks in the middle of a place that looks like our local trash dump. We hear about those who are sick and diseased because of unclean water, infectious mosquitoes, contagious viruses. People die by the millions everyday from starvation and sickness. But I think the real question is, "How do we as a people deserve anything more than that?" Living in tin shacks next to a river of sewage is the perfect example of the only lifestyle we can spiritually afford. Our souls are bankrupt when it comes to righteousness, and we gave up the good things of Eden when we chose knowledge over God. Once sin entered the world, our proverbial bank accounts emptied, and Paradise handed us a foreclosure sign. Since when do we deserve anything but tragedy and misery? When did we start thinking that God's blessings were a right of ours?

The Scriptures are full of accounts of God's mercy and grace to those undeserving. How many times did Moses plead for God to stay His hand of judgment from the Israelites? And countless times, God showed mercy instead.

"Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee" Psalm 63:3

We sit in our furnished homes and drive our luxury cars and eat our organic foods. God's blessings have been poured out on us abundantly. If we have a roof over our heads, we are blessed. If we are healthy, we are blessed. If we have food to eat, we are blessed. If we are warm in the winter and cool in the summer, we are more than blessed. If our children are without distended empty tummies, they are blessed. If we have a Christmas tree this season with gifts underneath it, we are abundantly blessed. If we have one dollar in our pocket to give to someone else, we are richer than most.

"Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful" Luke 6:36

Misery is what we traded paradise for, and yet God continues to shower us with His grace and mercy. Our life's wages can only afford us a life not worth living. Yet God took us out of our garbage dump existence and handed us a mansion. The world gives pain and suffering to us freely. But more than occasionally, God raises us up out of this existence to give us glimpses of Heaven.

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit" Titus 3:5

God allows pain and suffering, because we chose it. It is not the right of His people to live like we do surrounded by every conceivable blessing; it is our ultimate privilege that God grants us the gift of His mercies and blessings. So the question truly is, "How does God allow us the tender mercies and bountiful blessings of which humans experience (even those with nothing to their name)?" How did we get so lucky in all that we've been provided and given? The answer is a simple one: "Because He first loved us..."

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life." John 3:16 (The Message)

In this season of Love, may the blessings you've received flow over into your charity to others so that those who are living in poverty, misery and poor health will see and experience Christ's love and mercy through you and be blessed. Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


In 1620 when the Pilgrims first arrived in the New World, most didn't make it too far beyond their first season. With not much food and nothing in the way of adequate shelter, half their numbers never survived that first winter. Thanks to the Native Americans who welcomed them and taught them how to survive, the following year was very different. Their harvest was successful enough that Governor William Bradford declared a time of thanksgiving to God for a good crop and survival. This thanksgiving celebration lasted for three days.

What most people don't remember too well is that thanksgiving was not celebrated every year thereafter. If there was a good harvest brought in such as in 1623 (which by some is referred to as the official First Thanksgiving), then there was a celebration or two to accompany it. If not, there was no harvest celebration. Many days of thanksgiving were celebrated between 1621 and 1863, but it wasn't until 1863 that it became a yearly nationwide tradition proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln. If the here and now happened to be prior to the year of 1863, I would guess that this would be a year in which thanksgiving would not be celebrated based on the reapings of our nationwide harvest. Too many people unemployed, underemployed or simply living beyond their meager means would make this year a non-harvest celebration year for many of us. Personally, this year has been very hard on us - we've spent the last five years sowing a huge crop which has yielded very little for us to reap. As we sacrifice even more in order to survive the tough winter ahead, I am reminded of God's promises.

And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. Joel 2:25

The Book of Joel sums up a year in the life of the nation. The people of Israel had been plagued by a swarm of locusts that had devoured the land. The crops were destroyed to the point that even the bark of the trees was stripped. There was nothing left. All of the energy and effort of the previous year had been eaten up in a matter of weeks. So too, maybe as you look back at the past year of your own life, you feel like locusts have descended upon it. Maybe you put a lot of energy into a relationship only to have nothing to show for it now. Maybe you gave a lot of yourself to your job but were passed by for a promotion. Maybe the creeping, gnawing, crawling, stripping locusts have left virtually nothing behind of that which you so lovingly planted, to which you so energetically gave yourself.

But, as he said to his people in Joel's day, God says to you this day, "I will restore the years the locust has eaten. I'll not only give you a fresh start, but will restore to you the years that were lost, the energy that was wasted."*

Even in this year of poor harvest for many, we are thankful. I am thankful for family (blood and through Christ) who make life worth living and are what it's all about. I am thankful for each one I call friend. I am thankful for the community surrounding me and my family. I am thankful for the abundance of God's provision despite the poor health of our money tree out back. I am thankful for faith, hope and love which bolster our spirits and care for our souls. Big harvest or small, I consider myself very rich indeed.

Thanks be to God!

*Thanks to Erin for forwarding me this from Jon Courson's Application Commentary by Jon Courson.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Making Light of the Dark

In every generation, followers of Jesus Christ have had their faith put to the test, without relenting, without recanting, and without compromising, even in the face of death. That is what the night of Halloween was established to contemplate and celebrate.

Redeeming Halloween by Kim Wier & Pam McCune states quite emphatically that you can celebrate Halloween "without selling out." With the origins of Halloween spelled out, the authors go on to give tips and suggestions for celebrating this day commemorating the holy martyrs of our faith. I'll include these ideas here:
  • Dress up in costumes representing the kind of people who need Christ (hint: this would be everyone!). While dressing up in costumes depicting Biblical characters or heroes of faith is great, it can also be quite limiting - you can go beyond this and come up with anyone actually in need of Christ and His salvation. So yes, stretching it to include musicians, sports stars or even certain Disney characters (Mulan representing the people in China or the Little Mermaid representing those who make their living on the sea) could be acceptable as long as the intention is to represent and pray for others who are in need of the Truth. Training our kids in the knowledge that they can reach others with the gospel is no small thing.
  • Decorate with light representing the True Light of the world. Decorating is an important part of any seasonal celebration. It sets the mood, symbolically communicates a message, and adds some plain old fun. Like nativities at Christmastime, we can use lights at Halloween to testify to a needy world. White Christmas lights, luminaries lining your walkway and candle lights in your window all display light, look festive and even give you a head start on your Christmas decorating! Make a banner with a scriptural truth ("Jesus, the Light of the World" or "Father of Lights") printed on it or display a wreath with a verse on it.
  • Use traditional Halloween props to teach parables. The jack-o'-lantern can be a great teaching tool. Use the carving process to share the gospel. (We actually did this just tonight! It was fun and spiritually educational. If you're interested in this activity, I would be happy to lend you the book.)
  • Start the tradition of watching a family movie that either retells the story of a Biblical hero or martyr or includes a Biblical message such as, depending on the age, Veggietales, Storykeepers, classics like Ben Hur or The Robe or movies by Vision Video (Check out Behemoth). A movie night with a redemption theme is a wonderful opportunity for celebration. By establishing this kind of a movie night during the Halloween season, kids will have fun being introduced - maybe for the first time - to these unique characters and faith heroes. Make it a fun night, possibly one with costumes or movie-themed food, and then talk about the movie's message afterwards.
  • For older children and teens, plan an Underground Church Party. This party celebrates the history and adventure of the early church heroes. An Underground Church Party is full of action and fun as kids discover the risks that people around the world can face when they choose to follow Christ. The party can include games, dressing up, easy snacks, and a devotional, and it can help kids grow a real heart for believers around the world. (Detailed instructions for the game is included in the book.)

Other ideas for commemorating the true meaning of Halloween:
  • Be welcoming to the trick-or-treating public - always have your lights on, be known as a generous giver, engage with not only the children but the parents and overall show the love of Christ to all who come knocking on your door.
  • Host a Fear-Not Party. [Halloween] is a season of commemorating ordinary people who did not "fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear [ed] Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28) [The party] is an outside event with s'mores, a costume parade, Romans-versus-Christians Flashlight Tag, and a "scary" story around the campfire. While the whole party is fun, we have found that it is the story that makes the biggest impression, because it is always the tale of someone who faced the greatest unknown and conquered his fear. It is the story of one of the heroes of the faith from the era of the church's early persecution. The Fear-Not Halloween Party is not an alternative to a Halloween event. Instead, it celebrates the very heart of the season by rejoicing in God's goodness and communicating the message that faith drives out fear.
  • Be a Tricky Treater secretly leaving offerings of love and encouragement to those who need it most.
  • Send a care package called a Harvest Box to a missionary and pray for them.
  • Celebrate your Halloween 'season' like you do with Advent - take the four weeks before Halloween to study various heroes of the faith.
  • Read The Pumpkin Patch Parade by Liz Curtis Higgs*
After you have spent the month looking at heroes worthy to emulate, we suggest spending All Saints' Day experiencing the worthiness of God Himself. October 31 is an exciting night, but All Saints' Day should be a day of honor. Like Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, they go hand in hand.

Celebrating All Saints' Day:
  • Play "God is Great" Game - Repeat "God is great. He made..." and then go down the alphabet thinking of things He has made such as "apples", "butterflies", "candy",etc.
  • Worship through song.
  • Read some Psalms.
  • Be creative and worship God through art. Have your children draw or paint their praise!
  • Worship Him through nature - go on a hike or stargaze and talk about His wonderful works.
Most of you know about Martin Luther - by nailing his 95 theses to the church door he sparked a massive spiritual movement and forever changed the way the body of believers worshiped God. The authors go on to tell more about his story, but what was interesting about this man of faith was the timing of the start of the Reformation. The day Luther is said to have posted his theses was October 31, 1517, Halloween Day. Reformation Day is a celebration of the rediscovery of truth and an opportunity for Christians to thank God for the chance to lead lives of faith instead of fear. How appropriate that Luther would choose Halloween-the day of commemorating those who died for the very truths he rediscovered- to make his proclamation. Commemorating Reformation Day on the last Sunday of October is especially rich with meaning as we observe the importance of faithful stewardship of the truths entrusted to us.

Not coincidentally, the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church falls on the first Sunday of November. It is our privilege and our calling to "remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering" (Hebrews 13:3).
Remember, and then pray.

Some of these ideas might seem like alternatives to the world's version of Halloween (and didn't the authors mention their ideas would NOT be alternatives to Halloween?), however the ideas are simple but effective ones - getting your children to think outside the box and to start thinking in terms of our spiritual heritage as well as the needs of others. When I first picked up this book, I wasn't sure what I would learn nor how I would feel about reading another fundamentalist's viewpoint on an "evil holiday". Now I feel as if my eyes have been opened and I've just been shown the true meaning of the holiday, such as a new Christian seeing past the Easter bunny and chocolate eggs to be able to reflect on the Cross or seeing past Santa Claus and presents and seeing the nativity and God's Gift to us. With all the relatively unknown holy days surrounding Halloween, it seems this is a time for reflection, commemoration and true celebration. We celebrate holidays such as Veteran's Day and Memorial Day, and they are worthy holidays. But how much more as Christians should we take time out to celebrate a holiday season for which the heroes and martyrs of our faith are remembered? Honor them this Halloween, and in so doing, your focus will be on the Light that shines through the darkness of this world.

All text in maroon including all celebratory ideas unless otherwise noted comes from Redeeming Halloween: Celebrating Without Selling Out by Kim Wier & Pam McCune.

* Book suggestion comes from Homespun Memories for the Heart

Some great websites about learning more about the persecution of Christians around the world and what you can do can be found at Voice of the Martyrs, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Christian Freedom.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Halloween: Sacrilege or Sacred?

After my church decided to close their library and sell most of their books at a deeply discounted price, I ended up with a few books I probably wouldn't have bought on but looked interesting enough that I might eventually pick them up and read them. One of them is called Redeeming Halloween by Kim Wier & Pam McCune and put out by Focus on the Family. With the actual holiday looming ever closer, I thought it might be a good time to leaf through it and see if it had anything good to say.

I had to laugh at the author's description of her own experience in "celebrating" Halloween (or rather the lack thereof) with her family as it so closely resembled mine in my childhood days. Every year on Halloween night, my family would draw the shades, turn off all the outside lights (and most of the inside ones too), and pretend we weren't home to any and all trick-or-treating passersby. This was a concerted effort on my parents' part to make it as clear as day that we did NOT welcome these ghoulish pagan children knocking on our dark door looking for free sweets. This was the day of the devil, an evil occasion of sorts, and we would not be caught dead fraternizing with the enemy. Of course, with the lights out and shades drawn, my brother and I would stay glued to our dark windows and peek around the shades in anticipation of spying would-be trick-or-treaters and getting a glimpse of the diabolical but thrilling world we were missing. Our eyes would strain to see the various costumes that walked by on our dark street, and anytime there actually was an unwelcome knock on our door, we'd run out of our rooms to see what our parents would do which was usually ignore all pleas for treats and pretend we weren't home. If, God forbid, a persistent little kid continued to knock (I want my 2 dollars!)* , my mother would be forced to open the door and tell the child we didn't have anything for them, mortifying me in the process. Since my brother and I didn't really know what we were missing, having never taken part in the smorgasbord of door-to-door dessert, it was the experience of hiding and looking at the outside world trapped within that was our excitement. Looking back from a parent's perspective and a Christian, I have no fault with my parents' choice and know they were standing up for their beliefs, and I can only admire that.

My children's Halloween memories are quite different however. I have allowed my children to take part in the customary tradition of dressing up and walking door to door collecting treats. My only rules have been no scary costumes, and all the candy must be inspected before consumed. I have no guilt in this allowance, however I have always wondered if there is a better way or a better explanation to this annual tradition in which we take part. After reading the first part of this book, I now have a clearer idea of where Halloween came from and what it can mean for those interested in redeeming a holiday that is judged as pagan and not fit to celebrate.

To know how Halloween came to be is to revisit ancient times. The authors start by reminding us what times were like in the early church. With the severe persecution of Christians beginning under Nero's reign, there was no shortage of martyrs in the beginning of the church's history. "...the lengths to which the government would go to force Christians to deny their Savior seemed endless. The methods of torture have been unparalleled in human history. Strangled, beheaded, gouged, beaten, racked, boiled in oil, melted on hot iron plates, burned at the stake, fed to lions and bears, and crucified, men women and children went to their deaths praising God. Outsiders, amazed at the grace and often the joy with which Christians faced and endured death, discovered for themselves the salvation of Christ. In the face of unspeakable evil, the church grew."

As Tertullian, a second-century martyr, rightly proclaimed to the Roman officials who sentenced him to death, "Rack, torture, grind us to powder. Our numbers increase in proportion as you mow us down. The blood of the martyrs is the harvest seed [of the church]."

We are all part of that universal church - no matter the denominational label. As those who believe in salvation through Christ alone, we owe a debt of honor to the faithfulness of those who stood firm in the face of death and established the church.

As the church stepped into a new position of worldly honor, these martyrs were officially recognized. Special days were set aside to remember the individuals who had suffered and died for the love of their Savior. The list, though, was too long. There were not enough days on the calendar. Eventually one day was set aside for remembrance. In A.D. 610, the church dedicated May 13 as All Saints' Day. The "holy day" was added to the Christian festivals already being celebrated, namely Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. Also known as All Hallows, May 13 was the day the festival was celebrated for over one hundred years.

Though so many of our Christian holidays seem to have pagan roots, what I didn't realize was the church purposefully placed their holy days next to or on pagan holidays to counteract the traditions celebrated by the rest of the pagan world. This time, Samhain, the pagan festival of death, was replaced with All Saints' Day. Borrowing from the Jewish tradition of preparing for significant festivals, the Christian church reserved the day before the religious festival as a sacred time. October 31 was then set aside as an evening of preparation called "All Hallow'een," or "the eve of the holy ones." Together, they created a meaningful time for the church to remember the early martyrs.

There is no denying that the original intention of the church fathers in celebrating All Saints' Day has been distorted by pagan tradition over the years. Just as in the case of Santa Claus for Christmas or the Easter bunny for Easter, original spiritual intent seemed to get lost over the ages. I've known other Christians who refuse to celebrate holidays such as Christmas because of the supposed pagan roots of the holiday. But are the holidays, even Halloween, really beyond redemption now? Can they hold no value for us and our families in this day and age?
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ. I Peter 1:18-19

The blood of Christ has the power to redeem all worthless things, whether that's Halloween or another "empty way of life handed down from our forefathers." If Halloween is just one more empty way of life in your family, we challenge you to consider the power of the blood of Christ, which brings worth out of something worthless.

I'm hoping to include some ideas by the authors for celebrating the season in next week's posting. But the authors are clear to state: This book is not a plan for Halloween alternatives. We don't suggest you simply remake the world's version of Halloween. We hope to inspire you to take back the celebration that rightly belongs to the people of God and restore purpose for which it was established.

Stay tuned...

*Sorry, I couldn't resist including the classic 80's movie line here! If you don't get it, you're probably too young to be a KG! :-)
All text in red comes from Redeeming Halloween: Celebrating Without Selling Out by Kim Wier & Pam McCune

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Worldwide Impact of Kajijis?

Ok, so maybe 'worldwide impact' is a bit extreme, but one of my favorite widgets added to our Kajiji Girl blog is the sitemeter - that little number down in the right-hand corner of the blogsite that lets us know how many visitors we've had to our site. Since November of last year, sitemeter has tracked over 500 visitors who have viewed various pages on the KG blog almost 900 times. My absolute favorite part of sitemeter though is seeing from where these visitors hail. The sitemeter site will show me a world map with dots indicating where our last few visitors viewed our site. So far the map has shown me visitors from:


And that's just the last 100 visitors! Now I'm not going to kid myself into thinking that all of our visitors arrive at our site on purpose and remain interested enough to return, however it's always nice to see those visitors that return again and again. Besides the US from which 50% of our visitors come, our largest amount of visitors come from Canada - a whopping 42%! Visitors from almost every province of Canada has visited us. So to our neighbors from the North, we welcome you!

Some new widgets that have been added to our site are the "Subscribe" button just above the sitemeter counter as well as the "Followers" button on the top right-hand side. Subscribing to our blog will make it easier to keep up with any new blog postings and if you're a fan of our site, please consider becoming a follower.

I'm not sure how often I'll be able to post this season as I'm facing a whole new (and much busier) world this year with a baby, two boys starting homeschool and a teenage daughter who's schooling at home as well. I'm laughing at myself these days because my brain is so scattered, I'm reading about 5 books at the same time. This might make for some interesting reading, but organizing it all for the sake of writing on a weekly blog is near impossible. However I do have some ideas for this season and hope to be able to blog on a fairly consistent basis. So check back every so often (or better yet, subscribe!) to see if there's a new entry. And please always feel free to leave comments or post your own blog entries if you're a contributing author (if you're not, and you'd like to be, please email me). I'm actually very excited about this new season of Kajiji Girls as it looks like we have some really neat things on the calendar already! I'll fill you in in the days to come...

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I don't know if you've heard the buzz about this new movie coming out called Fireproof. Made by the creators of Facing the Giants and starring Kirk Cameron (who since "Growing Pains" has become very involved in evangelical Christian ministry), it looks very promising. Christian leaders are encouraging others to go and see this movie thereby giving support to movies with good morals and uplifting messages. Jimmy Evans from Marriage Today writes this:

Fireproof is an inspirational story about a fireman, Kirk Cameron, who is fighting to save his own marriage. As he accepts a challenge from his father and embarks on a forty-day “love dare,” his eyes are opened to his own shortcomings, and his marriage is miraculously healed.

Every couple will benefit from seeing this movie. You also might know of another couple who needs to see Fireproof. Be sure to tell your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family about this exciting movie. Who knows? You might just save a marriage!

I know all of us have grieved at times over the number of immoral and violent movies coming out that glorify evil and mock biblical morality. We need to understand that it is purely an economic issue. When movie producers know people will pay to see a particular type of movie, they make more of them.

Aside from the help to our own marriages, we need to support Fireproof to help the makers of this movie profit and also to send a message to Hollywood that other moviemakers need to follow suit. Only the Lord knows how many marriages and families have been destroyed by unrighteous movies. Maybe this can be the beginning of a new era of filmmaking that actually builds families and encourages couples to make their marriages work.

Now I don't usually promote movies, TV shows or other entertainment on this blog, but I would be remiss in not letting you know about this opportunity to support something good coming out of Hollywood as well as the opportunity it presents to potentially help a marriage, be it yours or a friend of yours. Check out the trailer and pencil in a date night with your husband or a night out with your friends. And let me know what you think!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Welcome to a New Season of Kajiji Girls!

Dear Kajijis (or Kajiji Girls-to-be),

Now that school has started, Fall is in the air, and our calendars already full of notes and scribbles, I want to remind you to remember to block out some time for yourself – yes, you! It’s very easy for us to start spinning out of control and forgetting priorities; namely our faith, family and friends. With all the “to-do lists”, extracurricular activities, church events, volunteer opportunities, and work schedules, let’s just take a look-see at your calendar and find the blocked out squares of Time Off, Fun Days, or Play Time for YOU!

Come join a group of mothers just like you who have busy lives, energetic children and the need for some downtime. Play hooky one morning a week, and come fellowship with other moms who share your dreams, frustrations, and day-to-day experiences. Every week we gather together to share laughs, concerns, opinions, food and life in general. Every week brings a discussion about various topics affecting our life – from finances to sex to self-esteem to parenting. And though I would encourage you to put Kajiji Girls on your calendar each week, I want to stress that this group is for you and your children’s enjoyment, not just another burdensome scheduled activity that ends up on your to-do list. We provide a very casual, “drop-in”/come-when-you-want, relaxed environment. Everyone is invited so feel free to bring other moms who are looking for some refreshing, friendly, playful downtime where children are always welcome.

This season, we have some cool new ideas such as having a once monthly series on subjects such as budgeting, photography, green cleaning, love & logic techniques, and more. It should be a lot of fun while gaining some knowledge together! And if you can’t physically join us due to scheduling or geographical distance, you can still be a part of Kajiji Girls by visiting our online blog where you can read about us, peruse past postings and even have the opportunity to become a blog author and write a posting (please email me if interested in this). There are also some new additions to the blog such as the chance to subscribe so you can be alerted anytime there’s a new posting. You can also become a “Follower” of our blog – essentially letting us know you’re a fan of the KG blog. We love to see who’s peeking in on and enjoying our blog! If you are local and looking for some “you time”, please consider joining us on Friday mornings from 10am-Noon.

Join us starting on

Friday, October 3rd

from around 10am – Noon

Crystal’s Home

Refreshments, Coffee & Tea provided.

Hope to see you here, and until then, have a great couple of weeks!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Kajijis is Healthy for You!

Ok, so a friend of mine forwarded this link to me from I loved the message and wanted to post it here for all of you to see - so enjoy our socialization on Friday mornings guilt-free! Just think...we're actually making each other smarter. :-)

Coffee Talk: It’s Good for Your Brain

Want a fun and easy way to power up your brain? Have a chat over coffee, tea, or even warm milk.

The key here is the chat, not your choice of beverage. Even if they’re brief, occasional bouts of social interaction can help sharpen your wits.

Keep Chatting for Better Thinking
Whether you engage in conversation with a friend, a family member, or the guy behind you in the express line, keep talking. In a recent study of young adults, a mere 10 minutes of face-to-face conversation about a social issue was enough to boost working memory and mental processing speeds. Chitchat was as good as a crossword puzzle, in terms of brain benefits. In fact, the more people socialize, the better their brainpower -- regardless of age. (For a quick way to boost your social network, join the RealAge Community.)

Mental Aerobics
Conversation requires us to pay attention, remember what was said, deduce the other person’s meaning, and come up with appropriate responses -- some pretty serious mental gymnastics. And when it comes to mental muscle, it’s use it or lose it. Here’s another fun way to make your mind do somersaults.

Bonus: Socializing can improve your mood, too.
RealAge Benefit: Visiting friends during times when they are stressed can make your RealAge 8 years younger.

References Published on 08/12/2008.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Adieu Until Next Season

It is my hope that you all enjoyed In the Midst of Chaos (at least, vicariously through my postings), and once again, I would highly recommend the book to anyone. It was a fascinating read, and there was tons in it that obviously I could not include in my postings. FYI, I will be taking a hiatus from my regular contributions to the blog from this point forward until the beginning of Fall, but in the meantime you will have an opportunity to contribute to the blog yourself which I look forward to (more details below). The summer also means more casual Friday gatherings that are usually held outside either at a park, beach or backyard when the weather is nice (BYOB & snacks). And as in the past, sometimes our outings turn into field trips such as pick-your-own-fruit at a farm. We will only ask for hosts on Fridays marked by iffy weather.

Last week we met and discussed what we as a group would do for the summer months and came up with the idea of choosing a book to read together. This would be completely voluntary, and whether you choose to participate in reading with us or not, it will not affect the group’s weekly meetings in any way. The idea is for us to read a book of the group’s choosing and then have the blog available to those who wish to post their own thoughts, questions, comments, etc. on the book. (If you would like to participate and are not yet a designated author to the blog, please email me and I will send an invite for you to be an author so you can easily post your own entries.) We will discuss ideas for reading material tomorrow ...

Thank you to everyone for their contributions and comments throughout this series. I've enjoyed discussing not only this book I've blogged about but also our many discussion topics this year. You all are an inspiration to me, and I consider myself blessed to be surrounded by a community of wise and godly women. Looking forward to having fun with you throughout the summer and to a new season starting up again in the Fall. God bless!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Blessing and Letting Go, Part III & End of In the Midst of Chaos

As one more school year winds to a close and another summer begins, we look forward to having fun in the sun, spending more time together as a family, feeling a bit more carefree, maybe even going on vacation. But blink and summer will be at an end and a new school year will start; our children will be in the next grade up or maybe just starting school for the first time; some may have children taking off for college; some may be expecting another addition to their family. All of these examples are lessons in blessing and letting go – even the act of giving birth is essentially letting go of our newest child as they enter the world separate from our bodies’ protection for the first time.

A paragraph from this last chapter makes particular note of the author’s goal in writing about practices of faith and specifically about the practice of blessing, and I’d like to include it here:

One big problem with any book on spirituality is that there is hardly any way to read along and not feel as if you were just assigned one more thing to do. Almost invariably, we see the advice as a blueprint for what we must do to earn our way into the spiritual elite, the inner circle of spirituality of those who are calm and prayerful. In this chapter, I would like to make one more attempt to dispel this myth.

The phrase “in the midst of chaos” itself suggests that our efforts to practice our faith usually take place amid conditions we don’t really control. Parenting constantly brings us to relinquishment, of self and ideals and dreams, of the other person, the infant, soon to be a child, soon to be an older child, soon to be a youth, soon to be a young adult. Just when I thought I had it down in those early weeks and months of parenting, my child would up and change. Damn. (A far cry from “God bless it,” I’m afraid.) Of course, those early changes were just the beginning.

We parents are always coming up against our limits – limits that come in all shapes and sizes. The first and often hidden step in the practice of blessing and letting go is to recognize this.

The whole of this book has been to show us the small but significant things we can do and probably already do in our daily life in practicing our faith as parents. It’s an encouragement in knowing that just by playing with our kids, reading to them, conversing with them, pondering on them, blessing them and taking the ordinary moments of daily life with them and making them sacred, we are practicing our Christian faith. …care of children as a spiritual practice demands that we ask how parenthood and the shape of family life make us and our children better persons in the world as a whole. [Letting go is a practice which] reminds us that we are not finally in control, that we are limited and finite. Ultimately, we are called to release our children in lament and joy. We turn them over to others and the rest of the world in trust, and we give them back to God in love.

We adopt specific faith practices for God’s sake and in response to God’s love, and not for the “sake of a preferred way of life,” as theologian Miroslav Volf puts it. We adopt them because they connect us, enliven us, and move us to experience God.

I hope this book and specifically this series of posts has been a blessing to you and has allowed you to be encouraged in your walk as a parent and as a child of God. None of these practices would come so naturally without the Holy Spirit working in us, but loving our children is natural, and that love gives us a small glimpse into the love our Father has for us. God bless!


All green text comes from Chapter 9 of In the Midst of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Blessing and Letting Go, Part II

Our children will eventually leave us and after the many years of mutual blessings imparted and received, the next step is much tougher – blessing their departure. Many good and wonderful parents who have blessed their children’s comings and goings throughout their childhood (and are used to their children always coming back), falter at this step. But letting go of them is crucial to their maturity as well as ours. Letting go of children goes against the grain of human self-preservation. It is hard because we have to let go of part of ourselves – a very precious part of ourselves, at that – that we have incorporated into ourselves in loving the other. Letting go requires trust that we - and they - are preserved and upheld by a force greater than our own efforts.

We have all heard versions of the ancient Chinese proverb, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was blah, blah, blah…” But there is truth in this saying when it comes to parenting and those apron strings we have such a good grip on right now. Parents must find the balance of hopeful care somewhere between neglect and overbearing control, both of which interfere with a child’s growth.

This ancient Chinese proverb articulates a powerful truth about the importance of letting go. It had a profound effect on me when I first heard it, and it has guided me in both my private and professional life ever since. I have often quoted it as an excellent model for parenthood, which is a gradual, wonderful - and sometimes painful - process of letting go. It begins with the cutting of the umbilical cord and ends when you hand over the keys of your car. They will fly the nest, but if you freely and willingly let them go then they will always come back.”1

The author includes a poem by Mary Oliver called “In Blackwater Woods.” I’d like to include the ending here:

Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the times comes to let it go,
to let it go.

When the time comes for my children to leave my nest, I’m hoping God will give me the wisdom, strength and maturity to let them go. And before I end up like a 4-year-old weeping over the severed apron strings (but being on the other side this time – after all, those strings come from my apron!), I can take comfort in the promises given by God:

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10b)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (I Peter 1:3-6)

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:18-19)

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. (Luke 6:21)


1. Quote by Alison Willcocks found at

All green text comes from Chapter 9 of In the Midst of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Blessing and Letting Go, Part I

“Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”1

As Lauryn nears the end of her high school career and the beginning of the rest of her life, the more dread and panic creep into my heart. It will soon be my turn to experience separation anxiety, a feeling I have not known since about age 4. As our children grow up, we know they will all eventually leave our nest, but we don’t like to dwell too much on that fact. Most of us as parents of very young children have the luxury of quickly dismissing these thoughts since that reality will not be most of ours for quite some time. But with a teenager halfway through high school, it is far too quickly becoming my reality.

Parents “inevitably begin losing their children as soon as they are born…”1

This anxiety hits each one of us though along the journey of parenthood – when our child takes his first step (away from us), when she boards the school bus for the first time, when he has his first sleepover away from home, when she goes out on her first date – all of these milestones remind us of the speed of life and how short the time we have our children to ourselves. The author calls this “mundane grief.” The whole subject of “mundane grief” – the daily nontragic grief so rooted in family life- is remarkably absent from most discussions of loss, as well as from discussions of the family. It is not a coincidence, then, that one of the most overlooked daily practices of faith in families is the practice of blessing and letting go of the other person and your own lament and sorrow. The problem is you can’t just up and bless someone you love out of the blue. Blessing commits us to a way of being with one another and comes with some very sticky strings attached: the strings of attachment, separation, loss, and failure. To get to blessing, you have to go through (or maybe it’s best to say “muck around in”) its component parts. You have to acknowledge life’s limits. You have to offer and receive forgiveness as a step toward receiving and bestowing blessing. Finally, you have to let go in trust.

The author mentions the story of Jesus as a 12-year-old teaching in the temple as his parents search for him for three days. In one translation, Mary, who speaks so few words in the scriptural canon, exclaims, “Behold, your father and I have been looking for you in anguish,”… Mary and Joseph searched for three whole days – an almost unfathomable amount of time compared to parents nowadays who become hysterical when a child fails to show up at an appointed time and place. In essence, we are not all that different from Mary, the mother of God, who, as Gaventa2 notes, contends with a child that is “profoundly hers and yet not hers at all.”

In blessing, we find reprieve and release. We step under the wide umbrella of God’s grace.

According to, certain definitions of bless include “to request of God the bestowal of divine favor on”, “to bestow good of any kind upon” and “to protect and guard from evil.” As our children grow and we repeat the phrases common in everyday life – “Have a good day”, “God bless”, “Goodbye”, “Love you” – we bless our loved ones. A hug, a touch, a kiss, a tear. These are all blessings we give all the time, marking our gratitude and care and granting peace and goodwill as our loved ones come and go. Blessings are also gestures that speak when words don’t… These small words and movements can feel so inadequate, so utterly mundane that we don’t even notice them. Yet they actually have great importance, and it can be helpful to recognize them for what they are. They are the blessings we bestow daily, coming and going, gracing others with our love, assuring them of our continued presence, and turning them over in trust to God and the wider world. Blessing is not an easy practice, nor is it one that calls attention to itself. But it is a trust-filled, hope-filled, love-filled practice at the core of Christian faith.

Blessings abound in Scripture, New and Old Testament alike. Some are given without much fanfare, others are wrestled over (Jacob w/the angel), lied for (Esau’s stolen birthright), create controversy (disciples shooing away the little children) and descend as a dove upon the receiver (Jesus’ baptism). Our society may not accord blessing the same status and power it assumed in Jacob and Esau’s time. But we underestimate its importance at our own risk and loss.

The practice of blessing, like a good benediction, declares our willingness to live joyously and gratefully within finite existence and to set our loves ones free to do the same.

We will continue with the subject of letting go next...



1. A favorite closing benediction of the author she heard given at a family retreat village.

2. Quote from historian Anne Higonnet from Chapter 9 of In the Midst of Chaos

3. In reference to biblical theologian Beverly Roberts Gaventa mentioned in this chapter.

All green text comes from Chapter 9 of In the Midst of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Swapping Misplaced and Dashed Hope for Better Days

I don’t know about you, but I really would like to have a whole string of great days in a row. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten into this nasty habit of gauging a day by how cooperative the children were, by how many things I could cross of the "to do" list, whether I found a great deal shopping or if I feel slim, energetic and sexy or bloated, greasy, and gray haired. I started to meditate on this emotional roller coaster and God convicted me of a spiritual virus in my pattern of thinking called misplaced hope.
To a large degree, barring Job like circumstances, lousy days are the result of misplaced hopes and expectations. The day went as my misplaced expectations went and so followed the roller coaster of emotions. The key to long strings of good days is identifying the misplaced hopes and expectations and properly placing them back where they belong, on God.
This viral pattern of misplaced hopes focused its target in three large areas: self, others and things/ideas. By design, all of these false targets will eventually leave us feeling short-changed. Regardless of whether they are intentionally or unintentionally elevated above our hope in God, they become idols, and idols are designed to disappoint, because God is most concerned about the intimacy of our relationship with Him.
Misplaced hope in self leaves us feeling self-condemnation, self-conscious, burnt out, inferior or proud. Misplaced hope in others leads to anger, unforgiveness, co-dependency or feeling trapped. Misplaced hope in something or idea leads to debt, stress (due to lack of time), and/or exhaustion (due to lack of rest and genuine refreshment).
Replacing misplaced hope for the real article happens in a process. First you have to recognize a counterfeit hope. Here are a few verses for helping with that.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.
Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
John 7:37-38 In the last day, that great [day] of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
Proverbs 13:10 Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised [is] wisdom
Matthew 5:23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee: Leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother; and then come and offer thy gift.
Matthew 19:6 Wherefore they are no more twain (two), but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (separate).
Misplaced hope in others can lead to bitterness, unforgiveness, strife, divorce etc..
What Jesus gives is rest, peace, refreshment, and life. However, if the thief has duped us onto buying into false hope, we feel empty, stressed, fearful and exhausted. Misplaced hopes give the thief, Satan, room to sow despair, destruction, death.
Try filling in the blank.
My _____ (children, house, job, finances, schedule, body, marriage, etc…) gives me stress.
Don’t dwell here. Just acknowledge where God puts his conviction of misplaced hope and confess it to Him.
1 Thessalonians 5:24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it.
In plain English this means, if God wants you to do it, He will do it by the enabling power of His Holy Spirit through you. Perhaps there are some areas of life that you know you are supposed to do (legalism/law), I mean called to, but haven’t discovered how to let Him do it through you. Perhaps there are areas that we you were not meant to take on at all. Beware of cultural standards of normalcy that you may not be called to…
Romans 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yeah, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
Truly, if you have faith in Jesus, you have the mind of Christ and He can show you the difference. Would you give Him the time to show you? Uncertain of some things, focus on crystal clear priorities first like getting to know the One in whom you are supposed to hope. Remember that the One you are transferring your hope to is the God of creation and resurrection. If anyone can remake (fill in the blank) that has been ravaged by misplaced hope and exceed expectations, He can.
1 Cor. 2:16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Can God fix it? He can do better than fix it, he can take a junker and recondition it into a priceless one of a kind classic that others ooh and ah over. The key to this is realizing that we don’t know how. It is like He’s the pro and we are the shop hand, just co-operating as much as we understand and relaxing with the knowledge that we don’t understand much of what is going on in the beginning, but knowing that it is going to be really good.
2 Corinthians 3:5-6 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life

Phillipians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Zec. 4.6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.

Is. 40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Properly placed hope in God’s promises of enabling grace for the moment, lead to peace, wisdom, love, rest and refreshment, creativity, joy, a thankful heart and abundant life.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Take, Read: From Seuss to Scripture - Part II

When our children first learn how to read, a whole new world opens up to them. Reading is about expanding one’s horizons. We are going through this process right now as Jayce is slowly mastering the sounds and way words are put together. Yesterday when he started reading to me, you could see the spark of excitement in the knowledge of this new power of which he was taking hold. His horizons are definitely expanding right now. And with this new power comes a safe yet challenging place – a sanctioned place for fantasy and imagination to acquire the ability to make moral and spiritual choices later in life. He will be able to “transcend the artificial boundaries of race, gender, class, and things.” He will “learn from the wisdom and joys and mistakes of others.” The practice of reading shapes us morally and intellectually. We master certain ideas, broach new values, and stretch our minds and hearts.

Most of you know I love books and am an avid reader though one of my favorite quotes by Einstein gives us some cautionary instruction on the subject: Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. Certain books as “brain candy” aside, I can see where using any books too much as an escape from the reality and adventure of living can be fruitless and even dangerous. Done right however, reading can reap enormous benefits in our lives mentally, emotionally and spiritually. With the “right books” and a “fruitful method”, [St.] Augustine was convinced, “truth could be found."

Reading aloud, reading silently, reading together, reading alone, meditation on words, meditating on the Word, listening for the Word among all the words – all of these deeply spiritual practices immensely enrich our daily life. If words are important, and if the Gospel of John pictures God’s own beginning as “Word” (the “Word of God”; John 1:1), then not surprisingly reading and its companion practices of writing and telling stories – the art of seeing and composing a life through words – have rich potential for faith. Christians are “people of the Word.”

If, after all this, you’re not sure of your own feelings about the written word, I’ve come up with some pretty good indicators (in a Jeff Foxworthy-style manner) as to whether you are a lover of books.

You just might be a book lover if…

…walking through a book shop is considered “Me” time.

…upon receiving a new book, you crack it open to smell the “fresh”, new book smell.

…you're sleep deprived because you just can’t put it down.

…80% of your wish list for Christmas or birthday is books.

…you enter a library as if it were a sanctuary.

…you’ve put as an icon on your desktop.

…you consider the printed word more precious than gold...and therefore spend much "gold" on the printed word.

…you recognize the act of picking up a book in some way feeds your soul.

…you have a pile of books by your bedside your are currently reading – all at the same time.

…you have more books than bookshelves.

So we read for pleasure. We read to learn, grow, experience new worlds, and connect to others. Ultimately we also read out of a fundamental spiritual need. We seek meaning and answers to profound questions of existence.

Just as food determines the state and shape of one’s body, books can form the soul. Reading, like eating, provides essential nourishment and communion. We cannot live without eating. We cannot live fully without reading. Take, eat. Take, read. Reading is this elementary, this basic to life and faith.

So if your main courses comprise of Scripture, nonfiction and "educational" books, your snacks of miscellany and your desserts of fiction, it sounds to me like you're a pretty healthy reader. Whatever it may be, enjoy your next read!

All green text comes from Chapter 8 of In the Midst of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Take, Read: From Seuss to Scripture - Part I

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” ~ John 1:1

Words have a certain power, whether spoken or written. The Bible is the greatest example of the power of the Word, however many books over the centuries have instructed us, influenced us and captured our imagination. One must have a certain appreciation for books whether one is an avid book reader or not or whether the last book read was Goodnight, Moon or something written by C.S. Lewis. We cannot take lightly the privilege of being literate when the majority of the world’s population since the beginning of time has not been. And in this day and age with libraries, bookstores and the internet, we have the world and its knowledge at our fingertips.

If we go back several centuries, suggests Steve Jones, a communications professor, we find that “people were enormously suspicious about the printed word. Somebody’s words, written down and distributed on a mass scale, were thought to be dangerous.” There must still be anxiety about the disruptive danger of reading, or books wouldn’t continue to be banned from schools and burned by political regimes. Books arouse us, challenge accepted ideas, and stimulate new ones.*

Many of the stories that first captured our heart and imagination were read to us while sitting on our mother’s or father’s lap. We probably all have our favorite children’s books we still remember and treasure and have possibly even carried on the tradition by reading them to our own children. For many of us, our lives take shape, as another author says “under the curve” of a parent’s arm or surrounded by the “calm caress” of a parent’s reading voice.

Having children rewards an adult with the privilege of reading just for fun. It gives us permission to read children’s books, read aloud, and read with a warm body or two or three pressed close. Children are a gift. Books are a gift. Engaging both can be an immense pleasure in life.

But reading for pleasure and capturing our imagination is one thing. Can we truly enhance our spiritual life simply by reading? What does Dr. Seuss have to do with Scripture anyway? For young children, a story is true not because it is factual, says theologian Ann Thurston, but because it “connects with their own experience.” Children who recognize such imaginative truth are especially open to the “myth and poetry and truth of the biblical stories.” She likens story to both play and liturgy. So there is a benefit to opening up fantastical and imaginative worlds through stories for children. Maybe that’s why the lore of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy still persist, and most of us are ok with that (though some have decided to use alternative methods to teach similar messages). Several centuries ago the father of eastern orthodoxy, John Chrysostom, ranked storytelling high on his list of ways to nurture children in a Christian “pattern of life.” Stories from scripture are best, he says, but he also encourages parents to use the heroes and marvels of pagan stories to stir a child’s imagination and prepare them for stories of faith. The author is quick to mention that though books need not be overtly religious to be valuable, reading as a practice of faith must include books that offer an alternative to some of the prominent stories of wider culture.

Seuss may seem to have written nonsensical stories that are simply for fun and pleasure (in fact, his first script was rejected 27 times for not having any purpose or moral to the story) however through his many books, there is an undercurrent of morality without being preachy. “Without being a moralist, “ assents Anderson, Seuss “managed to provoke the moral imagination of children ‘who have ears to hear.’”

Books bring us into deeper moral and intellectual relationship with ourselves, others, our world, and God.

* italics mine

All text in green comes from Chapter 8 of In the Midst of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

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