Wednesday, January 21, 2015

American Heroes and God's Heroes

My Love and I went out to see American Sniper the other night. I have been fascinated by this man's story for the last two years, since I watched his wife give his eulogy at his funeral. This was a well-known warrior, but I had never heard his name until that day I saw his casket placed perfectly over the Dallas Cowboys' star. I was suddenly filled with sorrow that I had never known who he was in life.

The book was always on my "to read" list, but with a household to care for and five kids to homeschool, a home-based business, and an obsession with writing, reading hasn't been priority lately.

But then there was the movie. I had to see it. I needed to see it. I don't know why. I don't like war movies.

Maybe it was because the thought of standing and speaking about my just-murdered husband to thousands, or millions of people, with the strength and courage I saw his wife speak that day, inspires me to face what scares me most. Maybe it's because I want to know what kind of man could have touched so many lives that his funeral should be held in the largest building I have ever seen. Maybe it was that he was Texan, and no matter how much I joke about or make fun of Texans, I know that Texas is still so much of who I am, so I feel a connection to a fallen Texan hero.

I didn't know why, but I had to see the movie.

Honestly, there was a one-dimensionality about his character in the movie, but it was that vacuum I felt in watching it, that drew me in even more, recognizing that that was just a cover for something so much more complicated hiding behind his simplicity. Something about him, was familiar. Something about who he was, what he believed, why he did what he did, the way he loved his wife and his kids, and that "thing" that drove him to be the hero that he lived to be, was so familiar... in my husband.

I still couldn't figure it out. My husband is not a fighter, or a warrior. If you pick a fight with him, he'll most likely walk away or take it without hitting back, not that he couldn't. Given the right circumstances, like someone hurting one of his kids or me, he could do some real damage to someone's face.But he's not the hero type that runs into a burning building. He's not the kind of guy that faces a threat with his own gun. No, he just gives them what he wants and prays he can walk away unharmed. So why in the world would this legendary hero make me think of my gentle husband?

Then it struck me, he is the same kind of hero, in a different realm.

Chris Kyle killed physical enemies from a rooftop, to protect his boys. He went into buildings ahead of them to make sure they stayed safe.

Kyle was driven by his loyalty to his country, and his value and his morals and his beliefs.

Kyle was even driven by his love for his wife and kids, his brother and parents, and all people.

Kyle struggled between his loyalty and love for his wife and kids and his loyalty and love for his country and the soldiers out there fighting.

Even greater, Kyle was driven not just by the love for his fellow Americans, but by a love for all people, especially the innocent, the oppressed and even those related to the enemy trying to kill him.

My husband, a pastor by calling, is a warrior just like Kyle except the enemy he is fighting is in the spiritual world.

When my husband is acting as a pastor, he is fighting and running down enemies in the spiritual world, enemies no one can see, to protect the church, the believers, and his family.

He is driven by his loyalty to the Lord, by his values and morals and his beliefs.

He is driven by his love for me, and the kids and his parents and all people, especially the lost or oppressed.

He struggles daily between his loyalty and love for me and the kids and his loyalty and love for the Lord and the ministry to which he has been called. He struggles because if he drops the ball and doesn't reach that person, they don't just lose their life, they lose their soul.

Just like Kyle, my husband isn't just driven by the ones in his church or other good looking, nice Christians. It's the hard cases that he loves. He once found out a friend had been hurt by the church and no longer attended. His response was so classic as a pastor, "Oh good! I can do something about that!"

He sits on rooftops, shooting those enemies before they can reach the ones he is called to protect. He does it with the Word of God, with teaching the Word of God, and with prayers. Sometimes, he does it with just time or a hug.

When he was a children's pastor, he had an afterschool program at the church where the kids could just come and hang out and play games. There were some little girls that would just wrap their arms around him and not let go. He told me once, "I may be the only man in their life that loves them." He stood between the enemy and that little girl, with a hug. It doesn't seem like much, but in the world today, a man who just hugs a little girl, could be called something ugly, ruining not just his reputation but his life. But he hugged her anyway.
 Sometimes, he stands between the enemy and its target, taking a beating or a shot or two, without anyone ever being the wiser. Most of the time, those beatings come in order to protect his family. One of the worst beatings he ever endured lasted not days, not weeks and not months, but over a year. He took it for our son's sake. He was mistreated, abused mentally and emotionally, bullied and slandered, in order that we might do what was best for our son. But that's what good soldiers do, protect the people silently and without recognition.

You see Kyle didn't shoot down the guy that was aiming the bazooka at the US troops doing their job on the street, and then holler out, "Hey Guys! I got one! Look, right there! I took care of you!"

It was just understood.

In the movie an officer tells Kyle that those boys feel invincible knowing he is on the roof watching out for them. They can't see him, they don't know what it is that he does up there, but they know he's there watching over them and protecting them from the unseen enemy.

A pastor is the same. He doesn't stand in the pulpit and say, "Look at this enemy I destroyed for you, and the injury I sustained while battling him." But almost daily and weekly, a pastor is facing the unseen enemy and protecting his people. It may come in the form of a disgruntled member or something far worse like a flirtatious woman or even the temptation of pornography. He faces it with courage because he knows who is fighting the battle for him. It's when they face those enemies without the Lord being the one fighting the battle for them, when the pastor thinks he can extinguish the enemy all himself, that he loses.

When you watch the movie and you see The Butcher drilling a hole into the head of a child, Kyle trying desperately to get a shot at the monster but finding it impossible while yet another enemy is firing continually at him, you'll cringe. Imagine if you were the pastor, watching as the enemy drills a hole into the soul of a child, but you can't reach him in time because the enemy is firing rampantly at you from another direction. Now imagine you are that shooter, with your complaints and your dislikes and your threats. You are the enemy, preventing your pastor from doing his job because he can't get around you to help the others.

Most offenses people take in the church are stupid. They are.

Very few offenses on which people take action against their pastor are legitimate. Most revolve around something that starts out with "I don't like...." Guess what, a good pastor doesn't make decisions based on what he thinks you will like. He is only interested in pleasing the Lord, and willing to take the shots from people in order to please the Lord.

Most of the battles a pastor faces, are not with unbelievers. It is not a battle between whether or not homosexuality is okay with God. In fact, most unbelievers couldn't care less about what pastors think.

The majority of battles a pastor will face come from his own people, the very people he serves. Imagine if Kyle was trying to save that little boy, but it was his own men firing away at him. Imagine if while Kyle was trying to shoot that man with the Bazooka, the soldier the bazooka was aimed at was firing at Kyle. His job would be impossible. He would probably give up, go home and try to forget about protecting them.

This is happening every single day, every week.

Here is one example from the book Toxic Church.

"One of the greatest pains that wounded pastors have shared is how good friends and godly individuals within the congregation stood by and did nothing to stop the carnage" 

Do you know that most pastors want to quit? Hundreds of pastors choose to leave ministry every week, not because of unbelievers, liberals, democrats, homosexuals, pro-choicers, or any of those people. They leave the ministry because of Christians.

Now imagine, fighting that kind of battle against your very own people, the ones that you thought you were going to protect when you signed on the dotted line. Imagine if there was a scene in the movie where Kyle goes to shoot a bad guy with a bomb, and it is close to one of his soldiers. When the soldier realizes how close he was to the shot Kyle took, despite the fact that it was to protect his life, the soldier becomes angry and starts shooting back at Kyle. Now Kyle is being attacked by his own man and he can't just shoot him down. Not only that, but that soldier gets more soldiers riled up that starting firing away too. Now all a soldier can do is hide behind the wall from the onslaught of gunfire, talking on his walkie to the Commander, asking teh Commander to talk to the guys and get them to stop shooting at him. Meanwhile, the enemies are sitting by laughing at how the US soldiers are killing each other. All they have to do is just sit back and watch.

This is the current state of the American church in more cases than not. The pastor is being attacked by his own people, sometimes by other pastors.

And imagine, after finally escaping your ally that was shooting at you, going home to a wife and children who so desperately want more of you, but the battle has beat you down. Every time you sit down to have dinner, you get a call that someone else's child needs you right then or someone drops by and just wants a minute to talk with the pastor.

There were nights my kids missed out on time with their dad because he was expected to be at other kids' ball games. There were evenings he didn't spend with his children because another parent needed him to talk to their kid about salvation. There were days when he was supposed to be on vacation, but daily the calls came in wanting to know this or that. 
There were even times my kids made comments about how they wished their dad didn't have to spend so much time at the church and with other people so they could see him for a little while. 

When I watched that movie, I could relate to his wife so well. The desire to have my husband home with me, not at the ball game. The desire to go out on a date without having to do visitation first. The desire to let my kids be kids without judgement, or to make decisions for our family without having to get permission from people who care so little about us that they will take a shot to wound every chance they get.

I understood what it was to have my husband home, but not really, because his mind was still "there". I know what it is like to watch his personality disappear into oblivion, wondering how it would change my children and our marriage. I also know what it is like to have him give up the fight for a while, come home and come back to us. 

At the end of the movie, Kyle is caught in the middle of a huge fire fight. In order to take out the enemy that had been taking out many of their men, he reveals their presence on the rooftop of a building when he shoots and kills the enemy. As soon as he fires, extinguishing the enemy with a single bullet, hundreds more descend upon the building, thirsty for blood. This is the life of a pastor. Distinguishing an enemy doesn't bring rest and peace, it reveals your location to the enemy who descends upon you with terror in tow. This is how lives are destroyed. Sometimes he comes out alive, sometimes the whole family goes down in flames. I have seen it first hand more than once, unfortunately.

I am guilty of complaining and starting a sentence with "I don't like..." but the older I get the more I pray and beg God to keep me from being the enemy to my pastor and our church.

 Pray for your pastor the way you pray for our soldiers. God made warriors to fight wars and protect us from enemies. But He also set apart an entire tribe of people to be the spiritual warriors. Pray that God will equip them, strengthen them, and make his arrow true. Pray that God will fill him with courage, and despite whatever enemy he faces, may he never give up fighting for the ones for whom he has been ordained to protect, teach and lead. Pray that he is given adequate time with his wife and kids to lead them as a man of God should.

There is a scene in the movie when Kyle says something like, I wonder why I am here at home, perfectly capable, when there so many more out there that need me. That is the constant struggle of a pastor as well. "My family is home, with the knowledge of Jesus Christ, but there are so many out there that need the Gospel and I have it!"

The fact of the matter is, Kyle seemed to be something beyond human,or a modern day superhero, but he wasn't. He was just man with an extraordinary love for his country and his people. He made mistakes just like you and me. He bled, he got angry, he loved, and he could be hurt.

This is the quandary of a pastor too. The fight is difficult, but it is that question, "I am capable. I am available. How can I just ignore the need. If not me, who will go?" 

Pastors sometimes seem to be spiritual superheros, but they aren't. They are just men and women with an extraordinary love for the Lord and for His people.
Stand by him and pray for him. Love his wife and his children as if they are your own family. Give them grace, even if they don't deserve it. And remember, they are just people too, just like you and me. 

Don't forget all our heroes from military, to pastors, to our first responders and our police officers.They all need our prayers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My Love Awakens

I know I write very little, but every day I think of something to write. I just figure I have no reason to really write it.
I know few, if any, people will read the words I write. So I store them up in my mind instead.

I realized today, what a tragedy that is. I want to write these things more than anything.

I discovered my love for writing when I was 17 years old. I wrote a report letter after a mission trip to Peru to all my supporters. I read through the final tale of missionary adventures and thought, "This is good."

My dad read it and asked, "Did you write this by yourself?" I could tell he was surprised by the letter too.

It was then that I thought, maybe I should write?

 I adored, I mean ADORED writing in the first grade. Each Friday our teacher would have us write a story on our Big Chief paper and then draw a picture to go with it. She'd staple the pages together, the picture at the top and the story underneath, hanging them all on the wall.
Those were my favorite days. I can remember how I felt when she told us for the first time to write a story.
"What does she mean write a story? We read stories, not write them." Then it suddenly hit me, "I can write a story!" The excitement I felt came bubbling to the surface as I stared at my blank page, just waiting for words to come between the blue lines. They flowed out of me. I don't remember any stories I wrote, but I do remember drawing a picture of a school bus to go along with one story, so it must've been about school.

I also remember the feeling I got when I wrote my stories, like I was creating this great masterpiece that would touch the world somehow. I'm sure they were silly, incoherent, and seriously lacking, but as a 6 yo writer, I relished the task. When first grade ended, so did my task, and my love was forgotten for the first time.

A few years later it still  its way to the top of my life. I wrote a series of stories about a Kangaroo named Katie when I was home entertaining myself. My mom kept them for a while and I eventually forgot all about them, but she never did.

In my eighth grade year, I entered one of the most glorious classrooms I ever encountered. Mrs. Bleakley. She wore long skirts, socks with her Birkenstocks, and tossed aside her wavy,  medium length,hair that seemed much too silvery for her young age. She was the kind of person that inspired me, and awakened the love inside me as she gave us one composition assignment after another.

She taught me words like azure, and showed me paintings of girls walking on the beach, urging me to dig deep into my imagination and create a story from a single image. It was exhilarating. Every. Single. Class. I worried about people reading my compositions, especially since we always peer graded every assignment. Yet, I couldn't wait for someone to read it, hoping it would be the day my writing would touch the world and change it somehow.
Unfortunately, that class only lasted a meager semester and once again my love was lost in the recesses of my life, forgotten and abandoned.

 It was my father's question at 17 years old, that awakened my love. "Did you write this by yourself?"

It was in that moment I realized my writing had touched one little piece of the world and made it take notice. Could I do it again?

Years drug on.  I tried my hand at journalism, but it was much too boring for me. I wanted to use my imagination.

I tried writing Bible studies for children, but I felt cramped and claustrophobic on the pages.

I wrote a few children's stories for my firstborn, but nothing that awakened my love again.

I told my Beloved that one day I would love to write out my story.
"Do you think it's interesting enough that anyone would want to read it?" He asked.

Oh my. I had never thought in those terms. "Please God, give me an interesting story to tell!" I prayed. Why should I be surprised by the struggles we've faced, after praying such a prayer. Every good story includes the best struggles. But daily I doubted my love. I doubted my story. Maybe it will never be told. Maybe I am just a person with a pencil, and not a writer, much like I could be a person with a microphone, but not a singer.

Soon, I felt like my love was dying, to be forgotten forever, unless I made an effort to awaken it once again, refining it in the depths of days and days of writing and more writing.
"I may be 30 years old, but maybe I could start again, and work at it," I thought. "Maybe one day, I can touch the world and make it feel something new."

I started this blog. Eventually, I penned a story about a traumatic event in my life and suddenly people were asking me, "When are you going to finish it?" One person even told me, "This could be a movie!"

I felt my love awaken to an even greater life. The world was touched and feeling because of the words that flowed from my mind to the keyboard. So I continued on, writing my heart and my soul.

I took some time away while I dealt with a prolonged illness, but recently came back to my love, in the form of teaching the art  and starting my first novel.

Every day I think about my story, I go to bed dreaming it and I wake up planning the next scene. I want to hold it close and protect it from any criticism, and yet I have this deep, driving desire to show it to everyone!
Either way, my love is awake and a powerful driving force in my day to day life, pushing me to write, to spill my heart on the pages of my computer, in the pages of my journal, and along the pages of my mind.

What I have found is that the interest of my life is no matter to the story. Any good writer can take a boring event and spin a tale worth reading. My hope and desire is that here, on my blog, I can spin some truth about God and my relationship to Him, in a way that inspires you. Yet sometimes, I hope to spin a tale that keeps you wanting more and terribly depressed when it is done.

Today, I will no longer hold my words in my heart to be kept for me alone. But I will write them, to be discovered, at the very least, by one lonely reader. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

But the Greatest of These is LOVE

Today was a tough one. I went to the funeral of a young lady, a very young lady. She didn't live her last days peacefully, but painfully, looking cancer right in the face, and saying to her Goliath, "Soon, I will be free of your bondage, and free of your pain, because I am a child of the Great Physician."

Cancer is not a face I've seen up close and personal as so many others have, but I've known many who bravely stared it down and won their battle as they entered Glory, and I've watched as they said, "See you soon," to their loved ones, sometimes far, far too early.

My sweet friend went to be with Jesus on Saturday, and I am so very happy for her. My heart rejoices at the thought of her beautiful face in heaven, worthy to stand among the beauty of the angels that surround the Father's throne. She is one of the most beautiful women I have ever known, inside and out.

But today my heart broke for her family, especially her mother and father. They were such a picture of God's grace. I imagine if I had to live this day as a parent, I would need to be carried. But they walked arm in arm, clinging to one another for comfort. It was beautiful to see God's strength and grace in the lives of two very precious people, though their pain was still easily seen, God's strength in their weakness was just as evident.

As I sat and listened to her eulogy, I thought about the last time I saw my friend. It was by accident that we met up. She was there with her mom and dad, visiting a church I was also visiting with some family.

To see their faces was such a joy! It had been years since we had stood together and talked, and this family blessed me and my family in gigantic, selfless way years and years ago. They probably don't even know, because that is just who they are.

I was so happy to see them and have the opportunity to hug their necks.

But what originated as a joyful moment turned dark and grey quickly as I started to walk toward them to say my hellos. Church was set to begin within 10 minutes or so, but my family member yanked my arm and said, "No. We don't do that here. You can say hello after church."

I was horrified and humiliated as I walked passed my dear friends, knowing they would expect me to say hello, but instead ignoring them completely, much to my shame and horror. I was so pleased when their wonderful personalities shown through, and they left their seat and came to me, forcing me to be polite despite the horrible restrictions unwillingly put on me.

Even though it was not my doing, I still felt shame. Today, as I stared at her beautiful face in the picture next to her casket, I remembered that moment, the grace the family showed me in that moment and after when I wrote them all to apologize and explain my actions. Again, today I felt the shame all over again.

It suddenly occurred to me why I felt shame. I allowed a stupid rule and "we must act properly" idea to over rule my affection and love for others. And now, she is gone. That moment is part of my story no matter how much I want to erase it, and, once again, I gained a deeper understanding of what Jesus taught. I had a little more clarity of what Jesus meant when He told us to love each other, to turn the other cheek, and to love our enemies.

This command, that is the greatest command after loving God, is so very important because one day, whether or not we acted properly and whether or not we followed the proper etiquette rules will no longer matter nearly as much as how we treated people. When I am no longer living on this earth and I am just a memory, will the memories reflect how I treated people with kindness and love, or how I followed every rule and met every expectation?

Today, I let a tear slip down my cheek and imagined that moment differently. I imagined yanking my arm back from my relative and saying, "It may not be what YOU do, but it is what I do." Then I would walk graciously to my sweet lovely friends, who have always blessed me, hugging their necks and rejoicing in our meeting once again by surprise. Today as I said, "See you soon," to this precious lady, hugged her parents' necks letting the words, "I love you," fall from my lips; I wished that there wasn't the tainting of that shameful moment in my mind.

And I was reminded of what we all are reminded of in the midst of saying "See you soon," to someone so young; tomorrow is not promised to any, single one of us. It is cliche, but it still holds true, make the most of every moment, every day, and every opportunity. I don't mean make the most of it and travel as much as possible, or do as many things as possible, or experience as much of the world as possible, although, those are all good. But to truly make the most of each and every day, love as much as possible, even if it offends someone else.

My sweet friend, and her family, taught me a little more about how to love on that horrible day. Many would have been offended that I walked passed without even a wave of the hand, much less a hello. Many would have perceived what I did as rude, and held a grudge, but not this family. They loved me enough to not get offended or let me be rude. They loved me enough to forgive my actions, my cowardice when I willingly followed along instead of standing up and saying no. They loved me and forgave me, and never thought twice about the situation.

Tomorrow, I hope to forget all the obstacles that might stand in my way make the most of every moment by doing what Jesus commanded.
"Love your neighbor as yourself..." "Love one another, by this all men will know that you are my disciples..."

And I will cling to the most famous of all, in memory of Morgan Clayton, and the love she and her family have always shown me.
"...but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Think Positively Or Honestly?

I sat through an almost 9 hour conference in a freezing cold room yesterday, listening to a man talk about motivation, vision, and affirmations.
This kind of thing is hard for me as a Christian, especially when it is not particularly Christian focused. At some point I feel a bit like I am listening to the meaningless drivel that flows freely from the Houston pastors that make me cringe at every quippy and cleverly penned quote.

You see, I am a network marketer recommender of an amazing product that has changed our lives. I did not set out to make money recommending a certain product, but when it changed so much about our health and our lives, I couldn't help but tell our friends. Soon, they told their friends, who told their friends, and then this remarkable thing happened; the company compensated me for recommending their products to others. Wal-Mart doesn't do that.

 I did not set out to give anyone a plan for financial freedom, or piles of cash. I simply shared a good thing. As of now, I am not rolling in piles of cash, not even close. But I have a bit of extra money to buy some groceries.

For months I prayed for an opportunity to help our family out financially. Each month our financial situation grew tighter and tighter. Not because we aren't making money, or  because we are making less money, but because our kids are growing and eating more and more, and groceries are getting more and more expensive.

Despite my best efforts to be frugal and price match, coupon, and implement every possible avenue for cheaper prices, our kids' appetites were quickly outgrowing our budget. Something had to happen. So, I prayed and asked God to provide.

Within a month or two, I got a check in the mail for recommending a product I use. At that time, I listened to the message God was sending, and I made the decision to put forth effort to make money, instead of just sharing randomly.

Now others are doing the same and looking to me for guidance, so I am looking to others for guidance as well.
At the end of the conference I was more than happy with the tools I gained to lead my team even better and share what I was able to glean.

However,  my mind and spirit struggle with this new concept of speaking positive affirmations.

The lesson summed up was this; to be successful (his definition is to be successful is to have joy on the journey of whatever you are doing, not to make lots of money and gain lots of power and respect) you must be motivated, and to be motivated you must speak positive things to yourself. Sounds a bit Osteenish if you ask me or at least that's what I thought at first.

But, in reality, as I listened I prayed God would speak to me, and indeed He did.

The message of speaking positively and letting your mind dwell on positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts is not a heretical message. It is indeed Biblical. Philippians 4:8 says,

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

It is Biblical to control your thought processes and not allow them to be subject to every evil and whim that comes along.
"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ," 2 Corinthians 10:5

The problem with the message we so often hear about positive thinking is that it is separated from Christ. Jesus said in John 15:5

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing." 

Did you get that? Without Christ you can do anything you set your mind to NOTHING!

We ended the conference by evaluating our values, our gifts, and then writing a vision in the form of positive affirmations. Such a good practice, if done correctly. But here's the problem. So many people wrote things like, "I am a good person." 

But you may ask, Isn't that just what Paul said to do in Philippians? What is wrong with that? 

Paul indeed said to DWELL on good things, not bad. But the very first quality he lists when it comes to your thought processes is TRUTH. Let me give you an example of a lie.

People don't like me. 

Do you know that for sure? Has anyone told you they don't like you? Have you asked? Such a good question to ask yourself when you are allowing negative thoughts to consume you. Can you be certain this is true? But an even more important question to always ask is,

 "Does the BIBLE say this is true?" 

 The Bible is your standard for truth. Period. Anything else is a waste of time. If your answer to either of these questions is, No, stop wasting your time on such a destructive thought!

So what's wrong with saying I am a good person? You must ask yourself the question, do I know this to be true? Does the Bible say this is true?
In fact, the Bible tells us this is a lie. Romans 3:12 says, 

"All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one."

I could say every morning and every evening, I am a good person. I might even truly believe it. But at some point, it will fail me. No matter how much I say it to myself, I will never, ever, be a good person. I will still do bad things, say bad things, and think bad things. If I was a good person, I would have no need for Christ. I would BE Christ.

I can say to myself, "I deserve good things." I could say it all day long, but the truth is, I do not deserve even one good thing. The Bible says that no one is good. It also says in Romans 3:23;

 "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  

And Romans 6:23 says the price for being a sinner is death.

"For the wages of sin is death."

I deserve good things death. Not jail, not a spanking. No. Death.

 I have sinned, I have lied, and said bad things. Therefore, I deserve... death.  I can say all day long, "I deserve good things,"  convince my mind it is true, but my spirit still knows I have sinned, and what I deserve is death. My spirit is still not satisfied, nor will it ever be satisfied through speaking those things. Because speaking myself good just doesn't work. Only faith in Jesus Christ can truly, without a doubt, change me. 

Instead of daily positive affirmations and meditations about myself, daily positive meditation on TRUTH that is found in God's word will change the heart of a human being, thus changing their life.

I no longer say, "I am a sinner. I am a wretch. I am a horrible person. I deserve nothing good."

I can say, "I am redeemed by the blood of Jesus. I am a new creation. The old is gone and Christ remains."

2 Corinthians says, 

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

What are the new things? Those new things are your truths, given to us in the Bible.

 I no longer say to myself, "I am a horrible mother." Instead I say, "I am a good mother through the power of the Holy Spirit who has given me everything I need to be their mother, because God in all his sovereignty and wisdom, gave them to ME."

I no longer say, "No one will listen to me." I say, "Because God has not given me a spirit of fear, but rather, He has given me the Holy Spirit that brings with Him, power, love and a sound mind. Therefore, I can speak what He puts in my mouth." 

I no longer need to be afraid of what people think of me. I can say, "I am dearly loved and how great is the love the Father has lavished on me, that he would call me a child of God!" 

This also means I no longer need to dwell on all my faults, and fears, and failures, but rather I can dwell on the truth that is Christ is in me. I have access to the power of the Holy Spirit in me, and it is because of the work of Christ that there is anything good in me at all. Although I do not deserve anything good, Christ has redeemed me and I am an heir with Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven and as a child of God, He will bless me with whatever He determines to be good for me, in all his sovereignty and wisdom, even if it appears to me to be anything but good

For example, when I am digging in the foot of my child with a needle to remove a splinter, I am doing something good for him. However, he can not understand that what I am doing is good. He only feels the pain, so he may only think I am hurting him. God does the same with us.

The other night we watched the movie, Mom's Night Out. It speaks volumes to me because, really, that is my life on the big screen. I am inadequate as a wife, a mother, a housekeeper, a teacher, a friend, and most of all, a child of God. But in the end, the mom character has a transformation from totally down on herself to confident and successful. She doesn't transform because she started telling herself she was enough. She could never be enough. No one can be enough for this job.

Her transformation came when she realized, Christ in her is enough, and because of Christ in her, she is free to be who He made her to be, instead of perfect. 

She didn't change what she did or her circumstances. She simply changed her thought processes, she replaced the lies with the truth.

"Do not be conformed any longer to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2

You see, the people who begin to speak good things to themselves, may indeed experience a self-fulfilling prophecy and become skinny, rich, successful, and get everything they ever wanted.

But, that won't be the end of the story.

 I was relieved to hear our speaker end the conference yesterday with this little nugget of truth. You may get everything you ever wanted,  but your life, that is your heart and mind and spirit, will still be incomplete. No amount of things or money can make you happy. It can only give you a bit of shallow entertainment, ultimately leaving you empty. 

Romans 12:2 gives us what the positive affirmation message does not. Transform and renew your mind, to be like that of Christ in order that He may be glorified. 

"I am good because Christ has redeemed me." 

"If I have to boast I will boast of what pertains to my weakness." 2 Corinthians 11:30

"But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14

"But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil." James 4:16

The most important part of Philippians 4:8 is that you DWELL on what is TRUE. Anything else is evil. Anything else is fruitless. Anything else, is pointless.

So what does  the positive thinking and affirmations in light of truth look like? It looks like taking our eyes off ourselves and putting them on the only ONE that matters, Jesus.

Matthew 6 tells us not to worry about tomorrow or what we eat and drink, what we wear or where we will live. It tells us we think too much about the body and waste too much time worrying about it. Instead, we have only one thing we need to do.

"Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33

To be successful in marriage, parenting, business, friendships, or anything in this life, simply, 
"Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:3

Thursday, July 31, 2014

I Wanna Live Life Like a Kid!!!!

Almost every day I wake up with one thing on my mind; my to-do list for the day, week, month and year.

I come out of my bedroom and immediately start barking at the kids.

Pick this mess up!

Have you done your chores yet?

Would someone PUH-LEEZE put the milk away! Do you think I'm made of money?

I often get convicted that the first words my children hear in the morning aren't, "Good morning, my loves! This is the day the Lord has made!"

But, let's be real. I'm a mom. I don't have time for "nonsense".... or do I?

Tonight I dropped all five of my children off at church (we don't have adult classes on Wednesday nights). My youngest just turned 3 which means he is now welcome to attend the preschool class, pull-up and all, much to my chagrin. Or maybe not.

I pulled into my drive, minutes before my love arrived home. And realized, I'm all alone... at home.

It is raining, sometimes a downpour, but always a drizzle at the very least. I stepped out of my car and decided to just stand there, in the rain. I felt the drops hit the top of my head before I looked up at the sky and let them pour down my face and neck. I reached up to heaven and felt every little drop on the palms of my hands and I felt like a child again.

I remembered what it was like to go outside and play. I would get dirty without every worrying about ruining my clothes or the mess my mother would need to clean up. I walked through Johnson grass without caution or concern, later learning the dangers. But I trudged forward first, feeling as if I was pioneering a way through some exotic jungle through grass taller than me.

I tromped through the creek as my favorite shoe was sucked into the mucky mud in the creek bed. Another sacrifice to the wild jungle.

I remember the day I mounted the giant Yamaha big wheel motorcycle by myself. I had not clue what dangers came with controling such a large and powerful machine with my small 50 pound body. I only knew the feel of the wind on my face and the thrill of speed.

As I stood in the rain, I remembered that feeling. My responsibility as a child was to explore and have fun, not to worry about getting wet, or getting a cold, or having to clean up a soppy mess. I have forgotten what fun is. It's not staying clean, or orderly. It's finding myself shivering, sopping wet, with a huge smile on my face because I lived like a child for just a moment. Now, if I can only remember that when the Littles are home. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Why I support MLM and Network Marketing Distributors

There is this big taboo in our society today for some folks. Just saying the word makes people cringe. Ask someone to go to a home party and instantly the recoiling happens. I personally think it is a shame.

I don't support MLM and network marketing companies just because I am part of one. I have supported those people in that business for years before I ever got involved myself, for many good reasons.

First, let's address the elephant in the room. I have heard it over and over again.

"They just want to make money off of you."

Well, I have news for you.

Starbucks just wants to make money off you.
Target just wants to make money off you.
Your gym just wants to make money off you.
The author of your book just wants to make money off you.
Hollywood just wants to make money off you.
Your favorite blogger, just wants to make money off you.
Heck! Your doctor just wants to make money off you.

The fact of the matter is, everyone is out to make a buck. That's how we live and survive. We find a demand for a product and/or service, we market that product to potential customers and then we sell the product and make some money. It's how the world turns.

There are so few people in this world that will offer you  and the entire world, anything without expecting to get paid for it. Why? Because we all have to make a living and feed our family. However, most Network Marketing distributors really do have a desire to help people find a great product, in addition to wanting to earn some extra money.

Which brings me to my next point.

Who do you want to support when you buy products?

I support the Network Marketing mother for one good reason; she's working to support her family! Many Network Marketing people are stay at home moms, or someone just trying to help their family make ends meet. I would much rather buy a higher quality product from a mother and help support her business so that she may support her family and stay home with her children, than to buy a cheaper product at Wal-Mart. I would much rather support the college student trying to work their way through college, holding down a full time job, and selling a product through network marketing so that they may not be in debt upon graduation, rather than getting what I want or need at the local big chain company.

Here's the thing. Someone who is selling something as a home business, isn't just selling air or junk. It is a product or service that they believe in, they love, and they want to share with others as well. Most times it is a product you can buy cheaper somewhere else, but the quality is much better, and you can just consider that it is supporting your local small businessman/woman.

Another very important reason I support network marketing is that is it vital to our economy. These kinds of businesses have been around for decades. "There are over 2,000 Network Marketing firms distributing over $30 billion a year in goods and services in the U.S. alone... $110 billion worth of goods and services are sold worldwide each year in this industry." -The Four Year Career by Richard Bliss Brooke

Lastly, these people don't just sit around and make money off you. If you know someone who is successful in Network Marketing, they have worked their toosh off to get there. These people not only work to find new customers for the product that they love and believe in, serving the role of CEO, Marketing Executive, and customer service, but they also support a team of people trying to do the same. This means they may spend hours answering questions, emails, text messages. They may travel far and wide, without getting paid, to support their team members' first party or class. These people work hard, just like all the other people out there working to build their own small business. Only  they do it with their kiddos by their side while managing a home and family at the same time. But! It beats being a cashier at the local gas station!

So next time you come across a Network Marketing or MLM product and distributor, smile and pat them on the back for working hard, just like you do. Consider whether or not the product might be a help to you, and consider supporting your local people, and local families, over a big chain company. And stop saying, "They just want to make money off you," unless you're going to say the same thing to someone when they ask what restaurant you would recommend. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Choosing Curriculum Part 1

You’ve made the decision to homeschool, and you've learned what NOT to do when choosing your curriculum. So now, let’s talk about what you should do.

I have several homeschool friends from all walks of life that have each taught me something different. I take all those lessons combined with my own experience and give you;

How to Choose a Curriculum
 Part 1

Before you ever start making any buying decisions, you must engage in two pertinent and non-negotiable tasks.

1. Figure up your homeschool budget.  This will not only include your curriculum, but your supplies, your trips, your printer ink and paper, and monthly library fines (Forget it, you will pay fines. I have not figured out a good system to avoid late fees. If you are reading this and you are able to avoid it, please reveal your secret to the rest of us!)

2.  Most importantly! Pray over your budget, for wisdom and guidance as you look to find just the right curriculum that fits into your budget. Pray for what you want or need and wait for God to provide according to your budget!
So why worry about a budget at this point? Figure it up, because it is vital to picking out curriculum. I believe an average amount spent per family is around $1000 per school year, and this is fairly conservative.

If you find yourself on the lower end of that number, you will want to look into more conservatively priced curriculum. Buying the full set of BJU or Abeka, brand new, for each kid, is not going to be easy, although possible, on a tight budget. So here are a few guidelines to follow if you are on the lower end of the budget.
  • Consider a free online curriculum like Easy Peasy All in One Curriculum or Ambleside.  Even if you use it as a supplement or just for a couple subjects, they are both fantastic and free resources which could lead you to even more free resources.

  •            Look for used curriculum. There are several fantastic sites to find used curriculum including eBay, and homeschool classifieds. Ask around at your local homeschool group if they have an annual book sale or put it out on a email loop or social media that you are looking for used curriculum. You can also find some good deals at garage sales, or on some publishers’ websites. There are blog swaps and giveaways. I once won an entire flannel graph set I could never have bought myself from a blog giveaway. It is still one of my little ones’ favorite school activities.

  •         Consider non-consumable curriculum. Workbooks or paces are examples of a consumable curriculum. These can only be used by one child and must be bought again for each seceding child. However, non-consumable curriculum is most often something that can be used again and again, with only a small purchase of an inexpensive packet of worksheets or notebooks to accompany it for additional children.  It may require a large purchase up front, but can be affordable as time goes on. This is a good way to go for a big family, especially if you can find the non-consumable items used at a lower price.

  •          Check out your local library. Many libraries carry a good deal of homeschool curriculum. Some areas even have libraries devoted to homeschool curriculum.

  •          Consider swapping with a friend. A friend of mine uses Life of Fred and has been buying the middle school level books while I have been buying the elementary level books. We have worked it out so that we swap our books to help save each other money, approximately a savings of $200 for each of us. Another advantage I have found to this method is that I am more likely to stay on schedule since I know she will need the books we are using very soon.

  •      Use resources like I love this site and I get a great deal of our readers from them. You post books you no longer want or need and when someone requests that book you mail it to them free of charge, paying only the shipping which is usually no more than a few bucks using media mail. In return you earn a credit per book that you can use to request other books people have posted.

  •          Use free earning sites like Swagbucks. I spend some time working on earning my Swagbucks, but it really is like a job for our homeschool budget. With my Swagbucks I can earn Amazon gift cards and use those to purchase curriculum. I have bought hundreds of dollars of curriculum using my Swagbucks, and all it cost me was a little of my time.

None of these tasks are going to be easy or quick. It takes dedication, prayer and time to shop around and find what you want that fits in your budget. There are days I feel like all I've done is sit at my computer and search. But in the end it is worth it when I have just what I want without hurting our family’s budget.  And when I pray about it, God always gives me just what I need.

If you are a homeschooler on a tight budget, please share with us your best tips and tricks for sticking to your budget and getting the most out of your curriculum and homeschool.