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Archive for June, 2012

I thought this was good.  I think it had its genesis at Fly Lady.

The question?  Does this bless my home?

I’m really trying to clean out as many cupboards and closets as I can this summer.  I’m using Fly Lady’s suggestion of 15 minutes/day (and it’s surprising how often I am encouraged to go a bit longer, just because I made myself start with that shorter commitment.)

My husband is good at encouraging me to “get rid of it” (at least if it’s my item in question), but sometimes two heads are not better than one.  I’ve been pecking away at my laundry room.  This is the room in our house, when in question, you’ll hear…”Just put it in the laundry room for now.”  [Unless it’s for a college student’s apartment or brought home during the summer from college, then it goes into the “college room”…which is a post for another day.]

Well, I had amassed a small corner of items that we’d stored for years and years and had not used in years and years.  I was so proud that I had overcome all the practical reasons for keeping the items.  I wanted advice though from my husband on how best to get rid of them.  However as I went through each item, telling him what my first intentions for the piece had been, somewhere in the middle of my descriptions of how it would have made our lives better, I convinced my husband.  Then it was Dana telling me I’d better not get rid of that, and it doesn’t take too much space, and “let’s see if we can get x-part for it or have it repaired…”  As you’ve probably guessed, nothing has been thrown or given away yet.

The solution may be to just go on my instincts and not discuss it with Dana until it’s too late to go back, but I have a seed of uncertainty that was planted a few years ago.  It is really one of the few dark Fly Lady moments I have had.  It may have been during a “27 Fling Boogie” which is really just a call to get a big garbage bag and quickly go through your home and throw away 27 items (don’t ask me why 27 is the magic number).  I think we all have 27 items in our homes at any given time that could be thrown–old magazines and shoes, mugs, flyers, mail, gifted resin figurines from the dollar store…

However, that unfortunate, dark day I got caught up in my zeal.  I threw away my silk flower wedding bouquet which I had used to decorate a cabinet.  It had gained a dust layer and so in my fervor, I tossed it in my bag and let it go to the dumpster.  A couple days later the garbage men came and took it away and a few days after that I heard of a product to clean silk flowers.  I am still sorry when I think of it and it has been probably ten years since.

I wish I had had this list of questions before me that day.  Not only is this a great list for helping to discern those items that really are not dear to us and should probably be discarded, but on that fateful day, it probably would have helped me realize my wedding flowers were not in the same place in my heart as the resin figurine.  Here’s the list of questions for responsible “flinging.”

Do I love it?

Do I use it?

Does it make me smile?

Does it have a home?

Do I have another one like it?

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Happy one-month birthday, little Calvin!

I was at a baby shower last night where my dear friend, Joyce, gave a devotional on Psalm 78:1-7.  As I have said, the Word of God is new to me each time I read it, because I am a different person—at a different age and stage in life—than I was the last time.  This passage was an example of that.

Reading these verses at this new stage in my life reminded me of the trust given to parents and grandparents; this sacred trust to pass on the Lord’s commands and the testimony given to us, so the next generation “might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children.”

Joyce charged us to open our mouths (v.2); to speak of the Lord in season and out.  We must tell of how great and sovereign and powerful and lovely He is.  We must tell of the glorious deeds of the Lord and the wonders He has done.  Joyce invited us to make Jesus a common household word, a part of our families, not a visitor who we only speak of before meals.

And to what end? This is no formal assignment or soul-less discipline.  This is not  born of legalism.  Instead we utter things we have heard and known so our children, and theirs, and theirs after them should not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments and “set their hope in God.”

1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth!

2 I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will utter dark sayings from of old,

3 things that we have heard and known,

that our fathers have told us.

4 We will not hide them from their children,

but tell to the coming generation

the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,

and the wonders that he has done.

5 He established a testimony in Jacob

and appointed a law in Israel,

which he commanded our fathers

to teach to their children,

6 that the next generation might know them,

the children yet unborn,

and arise and tell them to their children,

7 so that they should set their hope in God

and not forget the works of God,

but keep his commandments.

[Photo: Kristin Solberg]

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If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” a

Our foundational “checks and balances” system is proving impotent in the face of legislative courts and rebellious fiats.  As helplessness sets in, I must lean on Leah Teital’s discipline, “We have trained ourselves not to lose hope.”  And Leah knows of what she speaks.  She and her husband, Pastor Ortiz, are Messianic Jews living in Israel.  Their home was bombed by a Jewish extremist hoping to rid Israel of those with beliefs different from his own.  Their son, Ami, was severely injured in the bombing but has made a significant recovery.  Leah reminds me, “God’s Word ‘comforts, supports, guides and gives hope…’”

 

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 43:5).

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

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Carolyn McCulley is the consummate modern woman—author, business woman, public speaker and entrepreneur. So you can bet I took notice when she wrote in a recent True Woman blogpost, “Over the years, I’ve talked to many women about whether or not they should pursue a career. My answer is a qualified no.” I held my breath for a moment until she answered her own question, “So should women work? Absolutely!”

I have to agree with McCulley’s assessment that our modern idea of career is a self-centered one. “It’s ultimately about self-fulfillment and self-definition—how you are defined by what you do.”  Although I desire both of my own girls to find meaningful, fulfilling work to do in their lives, I have never desired their chief identification to come from a “career.”

McCulley echoes my heart for my girls in my wish that they will spend their lives in God-honoring and God-glorifying occupations, “Women should work and work hard every day. As Christ-following women, the Bible calls us to work for the glory of God. But the location of where we work is neither the definition nor the measure of our productivity.

“We may be wives or mothers, but as important as these are, they are roles that end in this life. We continue on as children of God and sisters to those who have been rescued by Christ. We may work in highly esteemed professions or we may not be paid for our daily labors. Those roles are not our identities, either.”

McCulley would challenge women to find their identities through the many opportunities God gives them in their lives. Certainly we are responsible for the use of our talents and interests, which we may or may not be paid for, but we are equally answerable for our relationships, our children, our time, and the myriad of tasks, urgent or mundane, that fill our days and years. “Whatever God gives us in terms of relationships and opportunities, He wants multiplied for the sake of His kingdom.”

Our career, if we must, is to be good investors of these opportunities and to steward them to the glory of God. And that is no mean life-work.

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If I could personify it like C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, I might say that Perfectionism is one of the demons assigned to me.  Perhaps that is giving our enemy too much credit…perhaps not.  Voltaire, who had his own set of demons, did get it right in saying, “The best is the enemy of the good.”

I used to think to claim to be a perfectionist was to boast.  It was to nobly aver that one did not stop until it was done right.  Over the years I’ve come to see that perfectionism is the means by which the accuser of the brethren whispers “it’s not good enough”…and it’s never good enough.

Perfectionism keeps me from trying new things.  If I’m not sure I can do well, I’d rather not risk it.  It keeps me from hospitality.  Since my cooking, my housekeeping, my conversation skills (add your own excuses here) will never be perfect, that level of intimate scrutiny is very difficult.  Perfectionism keeps me from doing what’s important, instead I flounder in minutia.  Whereas others learn to stop and say, “Good enough,” and scurry away to kith and kin at a respectable time, I find I have no such governor.  I will do and re-do until the good becomes best.  It’s hard for me to even see “good” when I know that “best” must just be a tweak or two away.  Even being aware of this tendency, does not usually help me identify it when I’m in the midst of my work.

You might imagine, then, how Christine Hoover’s Confessions affected me.  I long to put the word “recovering” before my vice like she does.  Although, like other addictions, I imagine that mine will be a life-long struggle, somehow I think Hoover’s one-step plan may just be the mantra needed to move in a good direction: “Today, I’m practicing…”

I’ve included her post in its entirety because, well, she says it perfectly.

Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist by Christine Hoover, May 2, 2012

As a recovering perfectionist, I sometimes confuse holiness and perfection. Rather than try to reflect on God’s grace or allow its natural compelling work in my life (holiness), I try really hard to do godly things, produce spiritual fruit, and live a neatly tied-up life (perfection).

Sometimes I do this because I believe God can’t love me without my efforts, but most of the time I do this because I am trying to fulfill some arbitrary Christian standard that I think others expect of me or that I expect of myself. I feel like a walk-in freezer forever attempting to keep myself at a constant, controlled temperature.

I grow weary of myself, of maintaining my frozen image.

Sometimes, to thaw out, I practice letting people see me in various states of disarray. When a friend is dropping off her children to play, I purposely do not change out of my bright-red, extra-large moose pajama pants and do not fix my hair or makeup.

I practice asking for help, even when I can likely do it on my own and even though I must ignore the feelings of guilt over being such a burden to everyone.

I practice telling my friends the sorry state of my heart — how I envy, how I don’t trust God sometimes, how I am restless, and how I grow discontent.

I practice letting people see my house in various states of disarray, because that somehow feels even more intimate than showing them my heart or letting them see me in my red moose pajamas.

I practice not cleaning the ring from the toilet bowl and not fussing over an elaborate meal when friends are coming over. And then I practice leaving the garage door up so they will walk through the jumble of bikes and coats and backpacks and leaves blown in rather than climbing the stairs to my beautifully arranged porch.

I practice not hiding from other moms the Cheetos and the juice boxes I allow my children to ingest.

I practice letting my children draw all over the windows with window markers (and then I practice not immediately digging under the sink for the Windex when they run upstairs to play).

I am not always prepared for people to see me or my home in disarray, but I am secretly glad when they do. Like when one of the other pastors at our church showed up one morning last week at the kitchen door as I was doing dishes in my red moose pajama pants and previous day’s makeup. (My husband had forgotten to tell me he was coming.) I was a smeared, moosey mess and so was the kitchen, but instead of running to hide in my room, I said hello and returned to the dishes with a smile. Good, I thought to myself. I’m getting better. I’m thawing.

I’m practicing the thawing, too — the not worrying when others see my disarray on accident, even when I am not controlling what disarray they see.

In thawing, I find myself in a state of gratefulness. Less of my time is spent corralling life and more of it is spent seeing, listening, and relating. There is less coldness and looking inward, more warmth and seeing outward. Less trying to impress and more enjoying the life and people I love.

Sometimes I am not good at gratefulness. Sometimes I don’t let God’s grace flood my heart because it reminds me that I actually need it, and that I can’t do it all. Sometimes I care more about the state of my home than the state of my heart.

But I’m practicing.

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Today at church we had four baptisms.  Two of the boys have been reared in the church, but the other two, a man and a woman not related to each other, are from China.  Both spoke and were addressed through an interpreter.  The older woman spoke of her coming from three generations of Christian believers, but when she saw her parents persecuted for their faith in China, she rejected Christianity.  But the Hound of Heaven chased her to Hong Kong and then to America.  Through God’s faithful Word which was given to her by a church in Hong Kong and through the witness of a faithful sister here, she came face to face with the reality of God and the victory of his Son.

These two are not the first Chinese to be baptized at our church as we have a student group that meets there, but I am always reduced to weeping as I watch.  Unlike me or my family, baptism for these new brothers and sisters is a definite line in the sand; a very public proclamation of their inward transformation.  By it, they declare, “From here on, I choose to identify with the Church.”  For them, more so than for us, they must weigh the alternative (life apart from Christ) and decide that is insufficient and unthinkable, even in light of the very real suffering that may be theirs when they return to China.

The persecuted church is a burden that my husband and I carry.  We have found the organization Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) to be a reliable and trustworthy source of information for us as well as a resource for practical means of participation (ex: weekly prayer focuses, writing to Christian prisoners, Bible programs for restricted nations, parachutes for dispensing the Gospel in Columbia, aid to the families of those in prison, etc.)

“Voice of the Martyrs was founded in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned 14 years in Communist Romania for his faith in Christ. His wife, Sabina, was imprisoned for three years. In the 1960s, Richard, Sabina, and their son, Mihai, were ransomed out of Romania and came to the United States. Through their travels, the Wurmbrands spread the message of the atrocities that Christians face in restricted nations, while establishing a network of offices dedicated to assisting the persecuted church.”  More of Pastor Wurmbrand’s story is found in his free book, Tortured for Christ.

It was during Richard and Sabina’s United States tour back in the 60’s that my husband was taken by his parents to hear Pastor Wurmbrand speak at our local civic center.  My husband traces his conversion to that event as thoughts of what was said that evening concerning the gospel churned around in his mind and prompted him to desire to receive Christ.  [As a side story, after trying several prior attempts, my husband’s dad left off smoking cold-turkey after hearing Pastor Wurmbrand speak that night.  He reasoned, if the Pastor could go through something like that for the gospel, he (my father-in-law) could certainly give up smoking.  And he did.]

VOM continues the Wurmbrand’s mission around the world today.  Their ministry takes its charge from Hebrews 13:3, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

For those that may be skeptical or those who would like more information, current and specific details on where persecution is taking place today around the world is found at VOM’s newsroom page.

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I know in recent years the Christian fish symbol has fallen into some pretty tacky and over used marketing (much like the ruin of the Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter).  However, it seems to have had a noble beginning, one with which I am still glad to associate myself.  It helps me recall the still dangerous situations many of my persecuted Christian brothers and sisters find themselves around the world today.

In the early years of the church a famous acrostic was made in Greek for the acclamation “Jesus Christ , God’s Son, Savior” (Iesous Christos, Theou Uios, Soter).  In Greek ch is X and th is Θ, so the initial letters of this phrase spelled IXΘUS.  U is interchangeable with y so IXΘUS could also be IXΘYS, which just so happens to be the Greek word for fish, thus the frequent use of the fish by early Christians and up to now as a symbol for Jesus Christ.

Greeks, Romans, and many other pagans used the fish symbol before Christians. So, unlike the more obvious cross symbol, the fish attracted a lot less attention which made it the perfect secret symbol for persecuted believers. When threatened by Romans in the first centuries after Christ, Christians used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs or to distinguish friends from foes.  According to one ancient story, when a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian might draw one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt; if the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in trusted company.

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