Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bedtime strikes again

She: I really appreciate the braid that you put in my hair today, even though it ended up getting messy.

Me: You know what?  You are a really sweet girl.  That's a really nice thing for you to say and I appreciate that you told me that.

She: Aw, you're welcome.

Me:  You know what? I love that about you... You are just so sweet.  I would love you even if you weren't this sweet, but you sure make it easy for me to love you.

She:  I would love you even if...

Me: *hands on my hips*

She: ...even if...

Me: *grinning at her in the dark, hands still on my hips*

She: You're just awesome.

You can't help but love this girl


Sunrise, Sunset

This was the scene at 9:15 this morning:

My kids are at the table playing one of our favourite board games, Ticket to Ride, and the youngest starts singing the guitar riff from the beginning of "God's Not Dead" (the Newsboys' song). The others can't help it... They join in.

I ask if they want me to put some music on for them and they all unanimously cheer, "Yea!" I start the playlist of our current Christian favourites and they sing along as they keep playing.

This is a great way to start the day.

~

Yesterday, my girl got in trouble for doing something. (To be honest, this is a rare happening in our house.)  After the shedding of many tears, she and Dad went out for an already-planned bicycle and ice cream date. When they got home at dusk, she bounced in the door, happier than a lark, singing and smiling and hugging.

I had just finished tucking in the two boys, taking time to talk to them about the day and encouraging them in making good decisions the following day. As I was closing the second boy's door, she came up to me and asked me to tuck her in.  

I walked into the room and plopped down beside her on the bead.  We chatted about the day, her date with Dad, and the resolution of the problem that caused so many tears.  She smiled through it all, telling me the good and the bad, and saying that it was a good day because she started happy and she ended happy.

And then, after we prayed together and hugged and kissed, she said something that stuck with me.  "Mom, I like it when you tuck me in because we get to talk for a while.  I like talking with you."

Oh, I hope it stays that way.  I hope she wants these tuck-ins for a good long while still.  I like talking with her, too.

This is a great way to end the day.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Changing Course

Well, that didn't go as planned.  I gave it a week and after 125 people clicked over to see how I wanted to Do Something, four people commented with the name of a charity that was trying to do something. I had planned to donate money and I will.  I'll check back at the end of the month and randomly choose a charity to receive $50 from the comments at that time.

In the meantime, I've learned a few lessons this week:

1.  I need to stop trying so hard - People will read this page if they really want to know what I have to say.  Otherwise, I just need to stop pestering people.

2.  I'm not Matt Walsh  - That is to say, I'll never be the kind of blogger who impacts multitudes of people. I will never have a lot of people reading what I write, I won't make a big difference on the world, and that's okay.  I make a difference to the immediate people around me, and that's enough.

3. I need to stick to writing for my kids - When I started, I wanted to transcribe the fun and the funny, kind of like an online scrapbook. I realize that I have tried to make this more than it intended to be.

4. Numbers don't matter - I need to stop looking at numbers.  They don't matter.  People matter.  If I can make a difference to people, just the small handful around me, then I am doing a Good thing.

~

I want to apologize...

If it seemed like I was trying to get bigger, well, I probably was. I'm sorry for that. I won't use my readers to try to generate more blog traffic.

I have removed any ads that I could from my page.  I never made any money from them anyway.
I'm not planning on updating my blog's Facebook page.  It rarely generated any meaningful conversation.  I will, in fact, be removing it.

I will continue to write about our life as a family as we learn, love, and laugh together.

If you want to walk with us, please continue to do so.  We're happy to have you along the way.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Do Something

There's this song that has been playing on Christian radio stations a lot lately. It echoes the words of many who are frustrated at the suffering that we all see in the world. People do evil things, nature tears our homes apart, and we blame God. "God, why don't you do something?"

Listening to these lyrics, I thought, "People who are mad at God need to hear this."

And then I thought, "You know what? I need to hear this." And you might too...


Do Something
by Matthew West

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”

Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something...

(Click the link below to hear the song in its entirety.)


If you are sick and tired of the suffering in this world, do something about it. There are so many organizations who are helping in very real ways. They aren't just feeding starving masses, they are teaching them how to farm. They aren't just healing their diseases, they are teaching them to how stay healthy. They aren't just pulling people out of slavery, they are giving them love and teaching them how to live a meaningful life for themselves.

I can't do it all. You can't do it all. But together we can each do something. 

I'm going to do something...

Please comment below with the name of an organization that is helping in ways that I listed above. For every comment written below, on this blog post, I am going to donate $0.25 to charities that are doing something. One will be my choice, Amazima Ministries, Katie Davis's organization in Uganda which serves the poorest of the poor, and the other will be from a random comment from below, to a maximum of $100 ($50 to each organization.) 

It doesn't need to stop there either. I'd love for someone else to step up and offer to keep the donations going. $10, $50... Every bit makes a difference.

Ready to change the world?

Go!


Friday, July 4, 2014

Blessing and Suffering - Part Two

I wrote in my previous post, Blessing and Suffering - Part One, about the word "blessing" and how we can abuse and misuse it. Please read it before reading this one. 

Abuse and misuse of the Bible isn't limited to the word "blessing." I think that if we misuse any section of scripture, we can really mess up people who aren't fully grounded in the Word. Those who haven't searched out the Truth for themselves, but rely on what other Christians have to say, are at the whim of our faulty turns of phrase and misconceptions about God's Word. (This is why I'm always stressing context and looking at the chapter(s) around a verse in order to understand it better.)

My dear friend is struggling right now with the thought that a loving God blesses me with health and wealth, relative to the rest of the world, and lets a child starve to death in another part of the world. “Why do I receive physical blessings and the child in Africa does not? Does God play favourites? He is omniscient and all-powerful, so he should be able to just make everything right. No loving father would let his child suffer when he can intervene. He's either a sick, twisted God, or he's not real.

I think there is a third option. God is neither sick, nor twisted, nor is He made up. I propose that the gap in our understanding has more to do with our own imperfect understanding of God than God's lack of desire to “make things right.”

Please read that again. Our inability to understand why God does this or that has more to do with our own imperfect understanding of God than God's lack of desire to “make things right.”

I cannot control God, neither can I fully understand Him.

W
hen I use the Bible to say that God's gifts and blessings are physical, then of course you'll think that my wealth and health are extremely unfair. I'm going to be radical here and use a word that many Christians try not to use. I'm just plain old lucky. (I saw one of you twitch right there. Bear with me as I trudge along this muddy path.) I beat the odds so far. Luck, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.

I try to make pretty good decisions, living according to the morals and ethics that God delineated in the Bible. And I was born into a family that lived that way, so it's kind of been all I know. I don't engage in dangerous behaviours, and I try to avoid putting toxins in my body. I am healthy and have all that I need for survival (and so much more.) The truth is that there are plenty of people who live their lives the same, making the same decisions, and they are afflicted with brutal, ultimately fatal, diseases.

So why? Why does all this bad stuff have to happen?

I explained it to my kids this way: I could write a computer program to say, “I love Wanda” every time I hit a button.

Plunk - “I love Wanda.”
Plunk - “I love Wanda.”
Plunk - “I love Wanda.”


But do you think that would really do much for me? Would I feel loved because I programmed my computer to tell me it loves me? Uh, no. How about my kids... What if I forced my kids to say they loved me, every morning when they woke up, regardless of what they really think? Do you think that I would really feel loved by them? Uh, no.

Relationships work best when there is choice involved. Some mornings, my son comes up to me and says, “I like snuggling with you. You're so warm and cozy and nice. You're the best mom ever!” My heart melts. I'll take that over a programmed computer any day.

And that's what God did. He created this world and the people in it. And he gave them choices. He knew what the choice would end up being, and what the result of that was, and I'm sure he grieved over it. But he wanted the relationship to be a two-way relationship. Otherwise, we would be equivalent to programmed robots, going through life with no emotion, no choices of our own. And with imperfect choices and imperfect people comes an imperfect world.

Creation is decaying as a result of sin. Romans 8 discusses this, as do Isaiah 2 and Genesis 3. As Genesis suggests, our genetic makeup is moving away from perfection, not evolving into better health as Darwinians would have us believe. We are subject to the natural laws of this cursed earth.

Yes, there are miracles and there are times when God intervenes. Why does he choose one to receive the miracle and not another? Only God knows. Just as a parent knows and understands why one child receives a benefit that another child does not, only God can say why one lives while another dies.

But, without wanting to sound uncaring, I want you to understand that the 20, 40, 80, 106 years that you are on this earth are so insignificant in light of eternity. It is best summed up in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 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, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
God's perspective is so much greater than ours. I trust that he knows what he's doing.

I'll leave you with a few quotations from Katie Davis, author of “Kisses From Katie.” She went to Uganda to do mission work and ended up staying there, ministering to, and bettering the lives of, thousands of people in the process. But more importantly, she brought the love of Jesus to these people. She is Jesus's hands and feet to thousands of people in Uganda, day in and day out.

Katie spent a year in Uganda and then came back to the USA to fulfill a commitment she had made. Sitting in her room with all of the stuff that she had in the States, she marvelled at the difference in the two lives. She writes in her book, “I hadn't realized what a transformation had taken place while I had been in Uganda, the spiritual richness I had experienced in material poverty and the spiritual poverty I felt now in a land of material wealth.”

Elsewhere she says, “I'm running from things that can destroy my soul... I am much more terrified of living in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than I am of any illness or tragedy.” Perspective. It's important. We are chasing fleeting dreams and temporal riches and totally forgetting what should be most important to us.

One more word from Katie Davis, “Do not forget in the darkness what you have been promised in the light.” There is much darkness in this world. Be blessed as you find the light that is promised.

Ready to do something about the suffering in this world?  Keep reading...

Blessing and Suffering - Part One

There is something about having friends who suddenly abandon their Christian faith that makes a person revisit their own beliefs... That's not to say that I'm questioning my faith (been there, done that, got my feet firmly planted), but that I'm tweaking the way I present it.

But before I get there, I've been thinking about the word “blessing” a lot lately.  It's not a new topic for me, as I've written about it before. It's been written about by others and we've been asked to stop using that word. (I'm sure some of you have read "The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying.") We seem to toss it around flippantly without really understanding the word:

“I was blessed to get that job.”
“We're blessed with three kids.”
“What a blessing you are to our family!”
“We've been blessed with so much.”


I don't think it's wrong to attribute physical, tangible things to God. After all, every good and perfect gift comes from the Father (James 1:17). Of course, if you read that verse in context (D'oh!) it's speaking more towards the eternal. But there are verses that speak of physical blessing.

Proverbs 5:18 may make you blush when you read it with the surrounding verses... “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” It's saying that having babies with your wife is a blessing. (Psalm 127:5 says something similar; “Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of [children].”) It doesn't get more physical than that!

God, in prophecy to the land of Israel, in Malachi 3:11-12, says that physical prosperity is cause for saying one is blessed. “I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

So it is certainly scriptural to call ourselves blessed when positive, tangible things happen, but it goes beyond that. In fact, as I read through and look at the various ways that the word “blessed” is used, it seems to indicate a God-given joy for the one who is blessed, rather than a feeling of having much.

In all of this pondering, I kept coming back to The Beatitudes. I think that I may have totally misunderstood them over the last 30-some years that I've been reading the Bible. I've been reading and comprehending them backwards.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I always felt that there should be a sense of pride or exultation when the first line of each Beatitude happened to me, because it meant that I was being blessed. As if, somehow, the blessing was in the beat-down. “I am merciful, therefore I am blessed. I get involved in arguments and make peace, therefore I am blessed.”

I had it totally backwards and flat-out wrong!

I'm sure you already know this, but I'm a bit dense at times, so let me write it all out here, just to make sure I've got it straight.

It's actually saying something like:

Even if you have a weak spirit, you will be blessed with the kingdom of heaven.
Even though there will be times of mourning, take heart, because you'll be blessed with comfort.
Even though you are meek, you will be blessed with the inheritance of the earth!
In those times when you feel far from God and are searching for him, you will be blessed with his overflowing spirit.
When you resist the urge to get revenge, you will be blessed with the same mercy you showed others.
When you rid yourself of worldly filth, you will have the blessing of truly seeing God's beauty.
When you make peace and dispel discord, God blesses you by calling you His Child.
In those times when trouble comes to you for doing the right thing, you will be blessed with the kingdom of heaven.
When your faith in Jesus is being assaulted, you are blessed because you are following in the footsteps of the spiritual giants who have gone before you. And, just like them, your reward is in heaven.

Blessed!

So, what are the real blessings here?

Kingdom of heaven
Comfort
Inherit the earth
Filled with God
Shown mercy
Seeing God
Called a child of God
Kingdom of heaven
Reward in heaven.

These blessings have little to do with physical, tangible comfort and more to do with the eternal. (I should note here that inheriting the earth does seem rather physical in nature.)

A scripture that is often misused to say that things will be hunky-dory in this life is Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It seems to be saying that followers of God will have good things happen to them in this life. That doesn't line up with the rest of scripture. Jesus tells his disciples that there will be trouble in this world, but to take heart as he has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

When you read Romans 8:28 in context (you'll need to back up to about Romans 8:18 to get some context) you see that it is speaking more to the eternal than the temporal:
v 18 - our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us
v 21 - in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
v 23 – we... groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
v 28 - called according to his purpose...
v 29 - to be conformed to the image of his Son
v 30 - those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
v 32 - He who gave [his Son] up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? [Is that “all things” in a physical way, or “all things” in an eternal way?]
V 35 - Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
V 36 - “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

And the big summary at the end of this discourse which says:
v 37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, to summarize so far... Blessing is often used in the Bible to speak of God-given joy, rather than a feeling of getting something from God. But, when the word “blessed” refers to us receiving something, it is often of eternal value, rather than temporal value.  The few times that it is a tangible, temporal, earthly thing, the blessing is still in the God-given joy just as much as it is in the physical gift.

...Which brings me back to the beginning of this discourse.

Read Part Two to read more on how our misuse of the Bible can lead people away from God.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Chicken Day

The following pictures depict a fun day at the chicken farm.

Well, it was fun for us. Not so much for the chickens.

Look away if you do not want a biology lesson on the innards of a chicken.
Look away if you do not like to see chickens being "processed."

Continue through these pictures if your curiosity is piqued.

~

~


This poor chicken had no idea what was ahead of her.

She was placed head-down in this bag, with her head poking through the bottom. Mr. Farmer slit her throat and let her bleed out. We were fascinated.

Once she had bled out, we dipped her in scalding water for about 45 seconds. This made it much easier to pull the feathers off.


The feathers came off really easily.


Mrs. Farmer took out all the entrails and showed us what was what.


The heart is on the left. The lungs are bright red, on the right. Gizzard at the top, liver in the middle on the left, and so on.


She thought the feet were pretty cool.


Chicken Number Two. Now that we've seen the process, we'll get our hands dirty.


Giving her a hint of what's to come, I guess.


He can do this!


It was such a cool experience! We are grateful to have such great friends who were willing to let us invade their farm to watch this whole process. The kids had a blast watching the whole thing and getting their hands dirty. And now we know a little more clearly what it takes to put a chicken on our table.