This morning during prayer time I asked God to give me patience- to help me be patient. He revealed to me the correct prayer for me right now is, "Lord, help me to choose patience." I had this idea that God would give me patience as He gives rain. Or transform me (with or without my futile works) into a patient person as miraculously as He adopted me as His child. I've been praying for patience for years while struggling to have patience. Hmmm, praying, yet acting as though I needed to still strive for it myself.
I don't need to strive, nor should I just pray and be continuously disappointed when I fail to be a patient person the very next moment, hour, or day. I regret that I have sown so many impatient words in my relationships with my children and my husband. I could waste time blaming health, stress, or circumstances. Instead, I'm grateful to proclaim, "All my hope is in Jesus. Thank God, my yesterday's gone. All my sins are forgiven. I've been washed by the blood!"
This responsibility to strive toward becoming more patient is not all on my head. I'll continue to fail. It's not all on Jesus, either, He never promises to whisk away our sinful habits without us lifting a finger. What His Word does say is that He will always offer us a way of escape from the temptation to sin. He offers the escape, I need to be mindful it is there, and willing to walk through it with His help. Focusing on the small steps will can make daunting tasks (like that of learning to bite my tongue when I feel we are behind schedule) into reasonable opportunities. So grateful for a Savior Who is in relationship with us!
I understand that this may just seem like a play on words to some people, but it offered me a much needed perspective shift. I will continue to flounder in this area, but that does not change my identity (I'm not a failure), nor does it change God's faithfulness (He's not neglecting me on this journey.) I am sharing it in hopes it encourages another saint who continues to sin at times like myself.
Following Jesus imperfectly, but authentically.
Discipling Your Children without a Bible Curriculum: Lifestyle of Teaching Kids to Practice the Presence of God
With countless curricula available and surrounded by Mrs. Jones's kids who can quote entire chapters or even books of the Bible from memory, sometimes I feel I'm not doing this "teaching" thing quite right. As a Christian, homeschooling, church-going mom, I've had many conversations over the years about how we should teach our children about the Lord and the Bible. I've laid hands on and leafed though pages (and even purchased) some amazing resources that are geared to enrich our understanding of and relationship with the Lord. But, can I let you in on a not-so-secret admission? That curricula is sitting on a shelf. Not being used. Am I doing something wrong here?
I don't think so. I came to faith by reading the Bible and lately, I've been concerned with my own spiritual and mental health state being bogged down by to-do lists and don't-do lists that seem to come at me from many sides: church suggestions and promotions, voices within the homeschool community, Christian books, literature, and online articles. While some of these suggestions are wonderful, they can also serve as distractions from listening for the still, small voice of Jesus in my own life. Many of the voices I listed are speaking at large audiences. Masses, even. They're geared to spread a message to multitudes (often about their own curricula, program, or current priority). Call me crazy, but I think God has an individualized, personal plan for each of our lives. Of course He does, you say. What does that have to do with curricula?
One of the many reasons we choose to homeschool is to provide an individualized learning experience for each of our children. Tailored to their needs and even interests at times. (I say "at times," my kids haven't been terribly interested in percentages, but I will teach them about it anyway!) I'm not indicating that Bible curricula are bad, poor, or a waste of time by any means, but I'm writing this article to encourage those who aren't using them.
There are so many ways to disciple our children. The following ideas don't cost any money, don't need to be scheduled, and are 100% customizable for what fits your families' needs best.
Read them the Word of God. It doesn't have to be every morning, every bedtime, or every afternoon during a time of rest. If you miss a day (or a week or a month) give yourself grace; Jesus offers it to you.
Answer their questions with eternity in mind. This is a lifestyle choice. This can become daily and there's no check-list, prep-time or quiz afterwards. When your kids hear about a pet dying and wonder whether animals go to Heaven, answer the best you can (it's fine to say you're not sure!) and tell them something you do know about Heaven from God's Word. When you're admiring a beautiful sunset, big-clumps of snow falling to the ground, or a fascinating plant or animal, talk to them about the Creator Who made such an exquisite world for us to live in. When you've caught a child in the middle or aftermath of an anger outburst, they may be full of questions (why did he get away with this? Why can't I...?), Slow down and remind them who they are. Children of God, forgiven by Jesus, loved by the Lord of the Universe, created with a purpose, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Tell them who they are so they can repent, rise up and take the right path next time. Answering their questions about sins of others, possible injustice, etc. is often more beneficial after the emotions have calmed and they've accepted their responsibility (if any) in the situation.
Link celebrations and struggles back to the bigger picture. This is similar to answering questions with eternity in mind, but it takes the matter one step further because the parent takes initiative to bring up spiritual matters without getting a que (question) from the child first. Weddings, the birth of a baby, the death of a loved one, individuals struggling with chronic or acute pain or handicaps, a challenging relationship or task, or reaching a long-awaited goal can all be seen in light of God's love, mercy, and care for us. It's not always easy, but we can model looking unto Jesus even in the midst of adversity and trials of life. There are so many unhealthy places people turn to when celebrating or struggling, show them how to navigate the highs and the lows resting in God's faithfulness.
Point out God's protection, provision, and divine intervention in daily activities. If you don't notice any of these yourself, you may need to pray and ask God to begin revealing them to you. That won't be enough, though, you'll also need to start looking for God's involvement in your daily life. You know He's there, so expect to see Him, and offer Him praise when you do.
Pray for your kids, in front of your kids, and with your kids. I don't pray for each of my kids by name daily. I wish I did sometimes, but in reality, I don't. So I'm not preaching that you have to. I tend to have a very private prayer life. I sway between chatting with God like a bestie to approaching Him with deep reverence. I think that's okay since I can do the same thing with elders I respect here on earth. We can have casual, light-hearted conversations or gut-level discussions. Both appropriate in my opinion. Sometimes I am angry with God and I tell Him so. I complain to Him and ugly cry to Him too. If David, a man after God's own heart, can be real with God when the going is tough, I can too. A wise pastor told me that Satan loves it when we give God the silent treatment. If we stop talking to God (or listening via His Word or Spirit) when we are struggling or when things are going great, it creates a vacuum for other voices to speak into. Some of these voices may be godly counsel from wise individuals, and others may very well be lies (some of the best lies are 90% true so you will swallow them). Pray in front of your kids sometimes so they can hear how your "usual" prayers are worded and learn from you how to communicate with the God they do not see. Pray with your kids, encouraging them to pray out loud if they are comfortable. Giving them suggestions when they are at a young age or during a difficult time is perfectly acceptable, but the goal is to encourage them to pray for their own situations, praises, and concerns in addition to you praying for them.
Wait, isn't this just another to-do list?
I sure hope you don't take it that way, as that's not how its meant to be. Please, don't think in your head, I'm going to start doing all these things tomorrow (or next week, etc)! Take them into consideration. Pray about them. Take one here or there and you may just find that they weave into your lifestyle and soon you're teaching your kids to practice the presence of God. Teach them to keep Christ in the forefront of their minds by tearing down the boundary between spiritual and ordinary. We live in a world where spiritual and physical co-exist, yet all too often we try to mentally separate the two.
Lifestyle (interwoven into day) vs. Habit (set time & task) One of my hesitations against using a curricula for Bible or even against requiring my kids to have a set time to read an assigned portion of the Bible is that it will become nothing more than a forced-habit, a check mark on a to-do list that they can fall right out of the habit of and let drop off the list once my authority is removed from the situation. I've experienced this in my own life. I was committed to reading through and emailing out the entire chronological KJV Bible in a couple of years. I was sharing it with others and while it was a worthy project, I found myself turning to the Word less often out of my own desire and more often out of a sense of obligation. After I completed the project, I went a few months without opening my Bible to read without prompting (such as for church, or to read/talk to the children about a passage). Now, I'm not saying I never require my kids to read God's Word, there are times when I do, but I tend to model the behavior and make suggestions more often than requiring reading. My kids aren't fasting from God's Word, my husband and I read the entire Bible to them regularly and my son who can read voluntarily reads his Bible.
It's a relationship with the Lord I choose to foster, not a disciplined religious life.
I once explained to my son like this: Do you know George Washington? He responded that he knew who he was. Exactly. You can read about George Washington, study his life, artifacts from the time frame, and interview people who are experts on his biography. That is knowing about George Washington. I could force you to read 100 books on the first president and you'd know a LOT about him. But you still wouldn't know him. If you want to get to know someone, you have to spend time with them. Even though Jesus is no longer walking the earth in physical form, His Holy Spirit and Word are alive and rich. I don't want my kids to be able to quote the book of James, but to fail to willingly turn to the Scriptures when they are trying to make a hard decision. I don't want my kids to pray as eloquently a Paul in church, but fail to hit their knees or raise their hands in intercession and worship at their homes. I don't want my kids to perform acceptably in a church program or answer apologetic and creation science questions in a curricula but fail to see and serve the lost, hungry, and lonely in the world.
Church programs and religious curricula aren't bad if the messages they send are Truth. My kids attend some church programs and I do hope to casually use one of the Bible curricula we own someday because it is a solid way to reinforce teaching for your kids. However, if you feel like you can't keep up, remember that Jesus taught his disciples by walking with them, talking to them, sharing meals with them, going on a boat with them, praying with them, sharing God's Word with them, showing them mercy and justice and loving them. Deuteronomy 6 gives examples of how parents should teach their children: by talking to them when sitting, walking, lying and rising. Basically, as you go about life, doing the things you do every day- teach your kids to remember, respect, and love the Lord.
On a final note, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence is a short book that tells the inspiring effects of one man's efforts to keep the Lord at the forefront of his thoughts no matter what his activity or circumstance happens to be. I'm not promoting that anyone uses this book as the standard of how to live their life- that's what the Bible is for! Just thought I'd share if someone were wondering where the phrase "practice the presence of God" originated.
Which of my women friends are courageous?
Leonard Sweet has a casual, witty writing style that includes some thought provoking one-liners. I appreciated his look at Jesus through a different lens. This book doesn't focus on Jesus as a great Teacher, although He was. It doesn't emphasize how Jesus as a great Healer, although He was. This book isn't about how Jesus counseled or how He comforted. These are all wonderful characteristics and habits of Jesus, but Leonard Sweet chose to zero in on how culturally and socially disruptive (or at least unyielding to accepted standards) Jesus was- listing one after another the "bad" habits of a sinless man.
I found this book to be a quick read and was admittedly disappointed when the introduction shared that Sweet wrote the book in 6 weeks. Now, don't get me wrong, he is a talented writer, but I do believe had he taken longer on this project there would have been more meat to chew on while reading it. It is a good read and I think the general theme of it will stick with me longer than any particular takeaway. The concept that Jesus did not behave the way we'd likely expect our church leaders, friends, or even missionaries to is fascinating and calls for some reflection on how I view my own "Christian" life. I will stash it away on my bookshelf for my sons to read when they are in middle or high school.
The most creative acts in history are God-generated acts. It shouldn't surprise us that creative people are often chronic procrastinators. Creatives generate more ideas than they can pursue, which is one reason they are not the risk takers they are often made out to be. They tend to be cautious about the ideas on which they expend their energy. (pg. 18)
Jesus' prayer time was not alone time but Father time. He was always escaping into boats, up mountains, to the water, into the desert- anywhere to grab a moment with God. These were not retreats. These were advances. (pg. 47)
The tenor of culture has moved from the idea that everyone has a right to their own opinion to the idea that everyone's opinion is equally right. Jesus would not have made many friends with his claims and assertive manner- and he didn't. When Jesus begins citing Scripture, you know he's going to nail someone for something. (pg. 58)
The Greatest Story Ever Told was made to resonate God int he echoes of our souls. Faith is not "to live as if the Story is true." Faith is to stake your whole life on the knowledge that the Story is true. (pg. 78)
In the interest of full-disclosure, I received a copy of this book courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review, my opinions are genuine.
There were a few passages that had me nodding my head in agreement, longing for days when the church's light will shine brighter in this dark world. One of the simple quotes I enjoyed was early in the book, when the author was setting the foundation for later concepts. He stated, "When Jesus said, 'Come follow me,' he wasn't heading to Sunday school. He was on his way to heal the sick, befriend a tax collector, stand up for an adulteress, and proclaim Good News to the poor."
I felt like I had a good grasp on how discipleship "ought" to be done in the Biblical sense from reading the Bible and reading or talking about ministries which have proven to be very fruitful and have the contagious joy of the gospel, which seems to often be lacking from large group format programs. I was not sure whether reading this book would simply confirm the ideas I'd formed or expand on them, but it has certainly expanded them and been well worth my time to read. I have a half dozen pages marked with post-it notes and the book has sparked a couple good conversations with my spouse. The entire section devoted to why having a multi-enthic church congregation is so important was very well written and thought provoking.
Several different controversial topics are addressed with tact. I have heard of people disliking the phrase "accept Jesus into your heart" because it sounds so individualistic and self-centered. The emphasis is on what WE do rather than what Christ has done as the finished work on the cross. This book also asks us gently to examine the phrase "having a personal relationship with Jesus," not because it is inherently wrong, but because it can become a misconception that our relationship with Jesus is to be private. "Our relationship with Jesus is personal, but it's never just personal. It's also communal [we need to be in fellowship with others] and missional [we need to be involved with those outside our belief system to share the gospel]." (Comments in brackets are not quotes from the author, but my commentary for clarification.)
The author of this book quotes several other sources, aside from the Barna Group, and I think I'd enjoy reading some of these books he mentions. For example, he refers to a book called "Church Refugees" by sociologists Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope. They interviewed 100 people who left the church (referred to as "dechurched" for some reason) and were very surprised by the results they found. Here's a quote from their book, "The dechurched are leaving to do more, not less. The church isn't asking too much of people; it's asking the wrong things of them . . . . Jesus commanded his followers to care for the poor, the sick, and the hungry,, [yet] the dechurched have experienced the church as an organization that cares primarily for itself and its own members."
The much discussed topic of why we have children leaving the church when they hit adulthood is also addressed briefly, suggesting that we may not be laying a large and deep enough foundation for our children by teaching them primarily about how they are to be saved and neglecting to teach them the calling Jesus had for those who are saved: to count the cost and follow Him. "Jesus didn't come preaching a gospel of individual salvation, nor did he come to take us to church. He came preaching 'the kingdom of God'-- the reign of God over all things. .... Jesus's kingdom is a whole new reality, a different way of living, a counter-cultural existence that can't be contained inside the four walls of a church building."
I would recommend this book to any Christian, middle school aged and above. I think it would provide a very thought-provoking study and conversation for leaders and laymen to go through this book together while examining the church's programs, resources, and available talents which are not being tapped into. I cannot picture that happening without conflict in many cases, but if Christ were the center and the fruit of the spirit was abounding, I think it could lead to a revival of serving in that community.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I received a copy of this book courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review, my opinions are my own.
Despite the hectic world we live in, as confessing Christians, our lives should look different in some ways. I have been very intentional about praying, particularly for others since I felt God calling me to intercessory prayer a few years ago. I let my Bible reading slide and wasn't reading God's Word daily for the last few months, but I realized that is a pitfall I don't want to find myself stuck in. My faith was greatly kindled at a Voice of the Martyr (VOM) Advance Conference. I picked up my Bible again and I asked God to forgive me for not setting time aside to commune with Him and read His Word. I asked my husband to pray for me to have wisdom. God does answer prayers! Here's one thing He's revealing to me:
Don't focus on what you cannot do, watch for opportunities of what you can do.
Also, the emphasis in this book is not "Jesus is love" or "Jesus is loving" or "Jesus forgives." These things are all true, are all good, and all play a part in the Good News of the Gospel, for sure. Sometimes I wonder that we don't give our children, especially at the youngest ages, a full enough picture of the Lord's depth of character. The emphasis in this book is that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. What an excellent reminder that we are all called to the Great Commission. Christianity is not supposed to be an exclusively consumer lifestyle. "I got saved," "I have a lot more peace," "I've been forgiven" (again, these things are excellent, but the fullness of the Gospel is SO much more!). Christianity is a radical rebirth that should change the trajectory of our lives and cause us to consider the Lord's Kingdom before considering the cares of this world. High goals He gives us, not because we are capable, but because He is sufficient.
In the interest of full-disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via Tyndale Blog Network for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review, my opinions are honest!
Food Allergy/Special Diet
Free Knitting Pattern
Holiday / Special Occasions
Movies To Check Out
Poems About Faith
Recipes (NO Gluten/dairy/egg)
Refined Sugar Free
Love this girl's writing... feels like she's a long distance friend. Well, her sister is my long-distance friend, so that probably helps. Either way, what an inspiration and encouragement- you just need to check out some of the places life has taken Leah and be strengthened and inspired by the love that oozes (yes, oooozes) from her heart for Jesus, His people and His creation!
If you like nummy recipes, or have special dietary needs (or both!) check it out. ALL of her recipes are Vegan, and many can be made gluten-free. I stumbled upon it when searching for dairy/egg free treats to make for my kiddo and have gotten hooked on several recipes. Okay, "hooked on" doesn't portray it well enough. How about "addicted to"? That's more fitting. Will definitely be going back for more!