Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Drink for Weary Moms

Isa. 55:1-3 - Come, everyone who thirsts come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear that your soul may live; and I will make with you and everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

As moms, our lives can and generally do spin into the daily monotony of screaming kids, diaper changes, spilled sticky fill in the blank, dirty dishes, mountains of laundry, cooking, cleaning, and more cleaning as the littles follow you around like an aura of dust and filth, undoing what you just did in 2.61 seconds. Add to that grocery shopping, homeschooling, discipling, gardening, miscellaneous activities, and oh yea, supporting hubby and making him happy too. When we finally get a breather, we are bombarded by picture perfect Pinterest and Instagram houses and families whose kids must not have hands because there is not a fingerprint to be found in their perfect white paradises. Girls, we are drained, exhausted, spinning plates and juggling, and there comes a time when we know we are at the end of our rope. We are out of gas and we're just ready to quit. We don't have the energy to shepherd our children, we'd rather parent from the couch. And romance???? Let's not even go there... LOL! So what do we do?
Our culture tells us that we need more "me time", a girls' night out, a retreat, a vacation, more shopping. While these things are nice and not inherently bad or wrong, they are not what you need. They are not going to sustain you and nourish you much more than a candy bar will. Sure, they may give you a quick burst of energy in the short term, but in the grand scheme of things you will still crash if you are not receiving true nourishment of your own personal time in the Word. What we really need is a change in perspective that comes from drinking from the well of living water found in the scriptures. You see, if we aren't abiding in the true vine (as beautifully illustrated in John 15), our focus gets all out of whack, and we begin to think and act like this life is all about us and our comfort, our ease, and our happiness. And when we come to verses like Luke 17:7-10, we aren't comforted. We look at that servant and think, "Of course I want to come in and relax at the table, but this servant doesn't get to." And ultimately, this servant displays an attitude of humility, recognizing his undeserved gift from the master and a willingness to persevere in serving.

So our first perspective shift comes by knowing WHO GOD IS and WHO WE ARE. It comes in realizing that man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, (Westminster Shorter Catechism #1). Once we realize this by faith, then we also realize the truth and comfort of Matthew 11:28-30  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Now, as you take up the yoke of Jesus, it may be that you are convicted to simplify your schedule, extra activities, or maybe not. But what WILL happen, is that as you go throughout your day, you will realize that you are glorifying God by cleaning the toilet, changing diapers, picking up the toys, cooking the meals, etc.  Instead of these things seeming mundane, now you can realize that you are serving the God who created the universe, the God who sustains each star, the God who formed your inmost being, the God who converted your heart; something that you did not deserve and can never repay. How can you not love and gladly serve such an awesome Savior? The joy of the Lord becomes your strength throughout your day, because you have discovered and abide in your first love. From that joy, you now have strength to serve your husband, your children, your home, and your family in Christ. Because you are drinking from the vine, out of your heart are flowing rivers of living water. Do you see that? Your circumstances didn't change, but by letting the Lord change your perspective, the burden/load/work becomes more joyful, lighter, and you recognize there is a greater purpose which is bigger than you.

The other perspective/focus adjustment I want to address comes from Proverbs 14:4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. There are so many applications in this little nugget of Scripture. Our blessings generally come with responsibilities: no garden - no canning, no chickens - no cleaning the coop, no cattle - no feeding them in the winter, etc... You get the idea. But here's where it hits home to me EVERY TIME: I wouldn't have diapers to change if I didn't have a baby. I wouldn't have shoes laying all over the house if there were no feet to wear them, I wouldn't trip over toys if there were no kids to play with them, I wouldn't have fingerprints to clean up if I didn't have children, I wouldn't have a sink full of dirty dishes if we didn't have food, etc... Do you get the point, Sweet Mom? All of this is so worth the blessing of a home, food, and a family. So the next time you feel frustrated, remember this proverb and let the Spirit speak its truth into your life.  I'm thankful for the dirty diaper because it means I have an Elijah and he eats and is healthy. I'm thankful for the EIGHT pairs of shoes not put away because it means I have many healthy, active children who fill them.  I'm thankful for the sticky fingerprints on the fridge because it means my children have abundant healthy food to eat. I'm thankful for each of these blessings in disguise because by them, the Lord is sanctifying me (Romans 8:28-29).

So weary sisters, come to the fountain of the pure word. Drink and be refreshed! Worship and abide in your creator. Let your focus be fine tuned to your Savior through the Word EACH DAY. There, and no where else and in no one else, you will find rest for your souls.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Here's What I've Been Reading in May...

I am a book addict. I love to read, I always have. There was a time in my life many years ago, though, that I felt guilty if I read anything but the Bible. I thought that if I had extra time, that the best way to spend it was in the scriptures, so I didn't allow myself to read anything else. While that school of thought may not be all bad, my position changed after listening to some good teaching. This particular person recommended reading GREAT BOOKS that can help you grow in your faith and theology. That was so freeing... and it makes sense! Just like I can learn from my local pastor or a solid pastor online (sermon audio is my absolute favorite resource), I can read the writings of Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, Spurgeon, Calvin, Augustine, etc... and learn from them too! So my book addiction began to be fed with a vengeance! Homeschooling has also opened up a plethora of great literature resources that I never would have found on my own! So I am hoping, little by little, to do a brief review of a few books a month. Some months I may have a certain theme I'm hi-lighting, other months it will just be a random mix. But I am fairly certain that you won't find any of these on the NYT best sellers list.

And as a disclaimer, I still do recommend spending the bulk of your reading time in the scriptures: the inspired, inerrant Word of God. That being said, I'm also fairly selective as to what I will read. I only have a limited time, so I want it to be time well spent. I want to renew my mind with things that are consistent with a Biblical worldview. Sooooooo, let's get started!!

Duncan's War (Crown and Covenant #1)

Duncan's War, The King's Arrow, Rebel's Keep

These books are widely available but here is the link to the set from Amazon.

 Do you want to learn more about the Scottish Covenanters of the 17th century? (Trust me, YES you do!) The Crown and Covenant trilogy by Douglas Bond is a captivating, historically accurate account of the persecution and plight of the reformed church in Scotland between 1660-1688.
Grace withereth without adversity. The devil is but God's master-fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons. - Samuel Rutherford  The trilogy follows the M'Kethe family (fictional) as they endure the persecution under King Charles II and strive to walk according to the Word of God. These fictional characters are ingeniously woven into the lives of the true historical men and women from the killing times and the years surrounding them. Duncan's War, King's Arrow, & Rebel's Keep are a must read for junior high age to adulthood! This is a fun way to brush up on your history, and it will inspire you to emulate the firmness of faith demonstrated by our spiritual ancestors. By the way, you can't go wrong with reading anything by Douglas Bond!!! His historical fiction novels are just fantastic!

 A CHURCH IN THE HOUSE - a sermon by Matthew Henry
A Church in the House
Years ago I listened to a sermon that told about a woman who upon returning home from church spent 3 hours pouring and praying over her sermon notes. This sermon by Matthew Henry is one that could be prayed and meditated over for years!

A CHURCH IN THE HOUSE – A sermon concerning Family Religion was preached on April 16, 1704. This book is a transcript of that sermon and is a must read for anyone who is passionate about restoring daily worship back to the christian household. (No, it is not advocating skipping corporate worship and doing church at home. Rather it is a call for daily family worship.)
Matthew Henry breaks the subject up into three main parts and expounds upon each providing scriptural basis and life application for the areas of DOCTRINE, WORSHIP, and DISCIPLINE. He speaks at length about incorporating the scriptures, catechizing, specific areas of family prayer, Psalm singing, and the discipline needed to implement this high privilege. Don't miss this invaluable resource which ends with MOTIVES and practical application concerning implementing daily family worship. "If you do not have a church in your house, it is feared Satan will have a seat there. If religion doesn't rule, Satan will." - Matthew Henry

Available as a free Kindle book here, or in print here
A Peep Behind the Scenes 
 A Peep Behind the Scenes by O.F. Walton was published in 1877 and sold over 2 ½ million copies. In fact, it outsold The Scarlet Letter by 2 million books! 
Rosalie's father is the god-less, heartless owner of a traveling theater company. Her mother is an actress and Rosalie was born into this not-so-glamorous lifestyle, void of the gospel, void of hope, and void of the glitz and fame projected to the circus-attending fans. One day an old man gives Rosalie and her sickly mother a picture of a shepherd rescuing a lost sheep with a verse printed on it. This began a spiritual awakening within them both, a hunger for the word, repentance, and a strong desire to tell others about the Good Shepherd.

Don't underestimate what the Spirit is able to do with a simple tract, a picture, a book, or even a simple question from a little child in the spreading of His kingdom. This is a great read for elementary school to adulthood, or even a family read-a-loud. Has the Good Shepherd found you?

The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front YardThe Turquoise Table is a beautiful little book filled with do-able and practical ideas facilitating outreach and building relationships within your community. There are a myriad of helpful examples and recipes to show you how simple hospitality and reaching out to your neighbors can be. While it is not filled with scripture, it is definitely written from a Christian perspective.

How often do you invite guests over? How well do you know your neighbors? Relationship is key in discipleship, evangelism, and bearing one another's burdens. This book will inspire you to start cultivating friendships right where God has planted you. This will be especially helpful if you live in town. However, as a country gal, I'm brainstorming on how to adapt it to those who live in the middle of nowhere...

I hope you enjoy these brief book summaries! I'm looking forward to posting more next month!

Monday, May 7, 2018

May our Daughters be like Palace Cornerstones - Psalm 144

I was recently invited to a baby shower for a baby girl. One of the gifts my girls and I made was a rustic wooden sign with the scripture from Psalm 144 which says: ...and may our daughters be like palace cornerstones. When I make scripture word art, I love meditating on the truths of the verses I am working with. I pray for the recipient of the creation and hope that it will be a blessing to them. That was the case with this verse/sign.  As I was meditating, I was wondering what the deeper meaning was behind these simple words: May our daughters be like palace cornerstones. So I began to do a study on the verse for my own personal devotions. About a week before the baby shower, I was asked if I would be willing to give the devotional. WOW! Yes, I thought... and I know EXACTLY what I'm going to talk about!

So below is a copy of the devotional that I gave. I left it in "speech" form, so as you are reading it, that's why it sounds like I'm talking to you.   The resources I used were Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, .Kevin Swanson's Family Bible Study series on the Psalms, and my own personal study of the scriptures. After the devotion, there is a list of a few of our favorite resources.

Before you begin, open your Bible to Psalm 144 and read it.... ENJOY!!!

May our daughters be like palace cornerstones...
Psalm 144

This Psalm is a Psalm of faith: in God's provisions, promises, and protections. We are going to look at a few different aspects of this Psalm, but focus mainly on verse 12. Towards the end of the Psalm, we see David (who represents a type of Christ) praying for two main topics: 1. a faithful progeny/future generation and 2. prosperity for the nation. Certainly (as indicated) a people are truly blessed whose God is the Lord! God has made promises about faithful posterity and prosperity in many places in scripture and we see here that David prays for those things already promised. Keep that in mind, as this applies directly to us as well.

We are going to focus (in the first place) on verse 12: “Our daughters as corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace”.

When I do an in depth study, I generally go to a lexicon and Bible dictionaries and study the words in the original language. I'm not a Greek or Hebrew scholar, so those are helpful resources. However, in this case I was disappointed! There were no rich goldmines, synonyms, or deep thoughts for the word cornerstone or cornerpillar. Basically, what you see is what you get. So then I had to ask myself: What is the function of a cornerstone, and how does that apply to our girls? A cornerstone is an integral part of the foundation (of a palace in this case), and it helps hold together two walls. Like I said: nothing earthshattering here.... But how does this apply to our daughters? We are going to talk a bit about two different ways our daughters function as cornerstones. I'm sure there are more, but time is going to constrain us to just two. As I speak of each of these functions, realize that when I say “daughters”, I'm referring to GROWN UP DAUGHTERS who are (hopefully) functioning as cornerstones. So picture your little girls in your mind and fast forward a decade or two as we look at their future roles.

Matthew Henry said that by daughters, two families are united and connected to their mutual strength. It took me awhile to decide if I agreed with that or not, because at first thought it seems like the man as head of the family would be the one binding families together. However, after reflecting upon my experience (which I'm not trying to promote as a method of Bible study), it is the daughter/wife who has the power to bring families together or drive and keep a wedge between them. Think of families you know which have been filled with strife. Is it the son or the daughter that typically resists reconciliation and relationship? We certainly don't want to raise daughters who are easily offended, hold grudges, or who are unforgiving and selfish. We want them to exhibit 1 Cor. 13 love and to be humble peacemakers. As anyone who has been married for any length of time knows, there are ample opportunities for offenses, discord, and for Satan to work in the in-law relationship. We want to raise our daughters to do everything in their power to bring Christlike unity into the inter-family relationships. In Romans 12, we are told that “as much as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all” and also “repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all”. So after reflecting, I agree with Matthew Henry, our daughters are cornerstones between two families and can strengthen both of them. ...or tear them apart.

My dear friend and prayer partner and I were discussing daughters as cornerstones and their roles within their own families, namely with their husband and children. The daughter who has now become wife and mother has the opportunity to be the cornerstone between her family and God. Again, I'm a firm believer in male headship, and I'm not trying to discount that. But our daughters as wives have the opportunity to be a helpmeet to their husbands in a physical and spiritual sense. She can pray for him, encourage his spiritual walk, and encourage his accountability with other godly men.... OR NOT. She can be supportive of him in family worship... OR NOT. I won't go in to a lot of application on the marriage aspect of this cornerstone since this is a baby shower and not a bridal shower. But I'm sure you get the idea.

But another major arena in which our daughters have the opportunity to be a cornerstone is the influence that they have upon their children. Even if they work outside the home, and especially if they stay home and/or homeschool their children, our daughters' impact on that next generation is hard to overestimate.

Again, as I'm speaking of daughters, we are still looking into the future at what role we see them performing. In the physical sense, the daughter is the one who will decide how nutritious of food she will feed her family: fast food, pre-made, gummi-worms, fresh, organic, whole, frozen, etc... She will decide how they are clothed, bathed, or how clean the house is kept, etc... In the spiritual sense, the daughter (who is with the children most of the time) will either actively or passively determine what goes into the hearts and minds of her children. Will she lead them to God? Or away from God? What kind of story books will she read to her babies? What is the worldview behind the toys she allows into her home? What kinds of songs will she sing to them? Will they be babysat by the TV? What kind of shows will she let them watch? What will she do during naptime? Will she fill her own mind with godly, nourishing things or soap operas? Proverbs 14:1 says: The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.

As you can see, our daughters' influence on the next generation is very great. Discernment must not only be made between right and wrong, but between right and almost right. Will our daughters be a cornerstone between their families and God? That is what we pray. That is what David prayed.

Now that we have looked at a deeper meaning of the word “cornerstone”, we need to glean some truth from the 2nd part of this verse.
ESV – cut for the structure of a palace
NAS – fashioned as for a palace
NIV84 – carved to adorn a palace
NKJV – sculptured in palace style
KJV – polished after the similitude of a palace
We see words like cut, fashioned, carved, sculptured, and polished. Notice that the cornerstone wasn't just picked up out of the quarry and set into the foundation. There was a lot of work done to it to get it prepared “just right”. In the same sense, when God gives us our daughters as little 6ish pound packages all bundled in pink, cute and perfect as they are, they are hardly fit or prepared to be a cornerstone. When I speak of “daughters” from here on out, I no longer am referring to them as the grown up product. I'm referring to them in their current state as diamonds in the rough who need to be prepared. There is much work to do and a whole lot of “fashioning” to accomplish. As firm believers in God's sovereignty, predestination, and His hidden will, we must not make the grave mistake of neglecting His revealed will, especially in the bringing up of our children. God gives us many promises and instructions for raising our children in His word. We need to cling to these, pray over these, and seek wisdom in implementing them, because this process of fashioning will be a real battle, in fact, a war.

Going back to the beginning and rest of the Psalm, we see that God is the one who has ultimately defeated the enemy and allowed David to triumph. BUT, we also see that despite that, God TRAINED David's hands, even his fingers, for the war. DON'T MISS THIS: God won the battle. God trained David to fight. It applies to us... particularly in the battle for the hearts and minds of our children. We have to actively be fighting: on our knees and in our decisions and actions. Thankfully we have the entirety of Scripture before us, to guide us, to train us. Our pastor has been preaching on Eph. 6, and it is very applicable in preparing us for the battle.

This brings us to the next truth in raising our children/daughters: THERE WILL BE A WAR! THERE IS A WAR! Unfortunately, not every parent recognizes this fact, and to miss it is a costly error. According to this Psalm, who or what is the enemy? Those whose mouths speak lies and whose right hand swears falsely. In our culture, we are bombarded with false teachers, false Christs, false gospels, and very inviting ½ truths. Discerning the enemy is not easy. Remember that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. And we can find him in our movies, TV shows, advertising, educational systems, books, music, the liberal left, even in twisting scripture... But that's nothing new, there is nothing new under the sun.... We need to be prepared and fight the battle well for the hearts and minds of our children and daughters as we endeavor to cut, polish, fashion, and sculpt them to one day be palace cornerstones.

***Application – How do we apply this to our daily lives?
  1. Immerse yourself in the truth!
-Daily read God's Word.
*Always be systematically reading through the whole Bible! The pace doesn't matter so much as that you are constantly working through it in a scheduled manner: once/year, twice/year, once every two years, etc... You CAN do this. I prefer using the chronological plan.

-Be studying passages in depth.
Regularly do topical studies, spend time on what your pastor is preaching on, use resources like Ligonier online, listen to teachings available on SermonAudio, etc...

-Memorize Scripture – long and short passages... YES YOU CAN!
Memorize with a friend, memorize with your children, memorize passages that will help you in areas of temptation in your life, etc...

-Know the truth about God – Study Good Doctrine
WSC, Westminster Confession of Faith, Knowledge of the Holy by Tozer, AW Pink's Attributes of God. The scriptures warn us of thinking that God is like us. Know his attributes! Beware of cotton candy theology! This is where Satan easily invades our minds and hearts with stuff that sounds good and sounds biblical... but is not! Don't get sucked in by your emotions!

    1. Be vigilant about what is coming into your home!
Titus 2:5 uses a word that means working at home/keepers of the home/guard of the home. You are the guarding over what in entering into your domain. What are you letting in? Where is Satan deceiving you? ---TV, movies, books, people, devices, clothing, music, toys... What is the worldview behind them? Remember how Absalom stole the heart of David's people? Don't let “well meaning” and seemingly innocent things come and steal your daughters' hearts.
*Example – what are the roots of Barbie? Did you know she was modeled after a doll sold as an adult novelty in Germany? She was sold in bars, tobacco shops, and adult themed toy stores. Does she portray a model of a polished cornerstone that we want our daughters to emulate?

  1. Have a vision – know why you are doing what you are doing and convey that to your children. This helps protect against legalism where you have the actions without the heart behind it. Why do we learn to read? So we can read God's word. Why do we learn to write? So we can write about God's Word to others. Why do we learn to speak well? So we can accurately tell others about the gospel. Why do we memorize scripture? So we will not sin against God.....

  1. Don't underestimate the ability of your kids!
-Matthew Henry learned to read early and was reading the Bible independently at 3 years old.
-The WSC was written for children! Yet we have striven to make it easier and condensed it into just a few words. Our little kids are capable of memorizing it.
-Have your kids memorize scripture – even long passages! Have a systematic review system in place. Every kid is different, but they are capable of a lot! My 7 year old has several chapters and verses memorized... including the entire sermon on the mount.
-Lack of diligence on the parent's end tends to be what limits our children... it isn't their lack of ability.

  1. Teach them wholesome songs: The Psalter and Great hymns, set scripture to music
-We all know the power of music. What lyrics do you want flowing through your daughter's mind throughout the day? Truths about God? Or the indoctrinations of man? Don't be fooled into thinking that there isn't an agenda behind things like Disney's “Frozen” and “Let it Go”.

  1. Read them Good Literature/ Provide them with Good Literature and Godly heroes/role models.
-Hudson Taylor, John Paton, Gladys Alward, Amy Carmichael, and Elizabeth Elliot are much better role models than Superwoman.

  1. Bathe them in prayer and cling to the promises God has given to us in His Word.

This is not easy, it is not for the faint hearted, and it is EXHAUSTING! Sometimes battling Satan feels like the game Whack-a-Mole. You win one victory and he immediately rears his head in another arena. Persevere, Sisters! Each minute spent discipling your daughter is effectively fashioning her to be the polished cornerstone God is calling her to be.

So I'm asking all of you grown women here: Are you polished cornerstones between your families and God? Between your extended and in-law families?

And as mothers, grandmothers, and mentors, are you actively polishing these little daughters in our midst to be palace cornerstones?

Recommended Resources:

Standing on the Promises – Douglas Wilson

With the Children on Sundays – Sylvanus Stall

Knowledge of the Holy – Tozer

The Attributes of God – AW Pink

The Child's Book on Repentance – Thomas Gallaudet

Christian Heroes Then and Now series – Janet and Geoff Benge

Hero Tales – Dave and Neta Jackson

Training Hearts Teaching Minds – Starr Meade

Family Driven Faith – Voddie Bauchum

Shepherding a Child's Heart – Ted Tripp

Leading Little Ones to God – Schoolland

The Ology – Machowski

Large Family Logistics – Brenneman

The Shaping of a Christian Family – Elizabeth Elliot

Truth and Grace Memory Books

Dangerous Journey ---- a beautifully illustrated version of the Pilgrim's Progress

WSC set to music – Holly Dutton

Wednesday, May 2, 2018



Well, I've been inspired lately to start adding to my much neglected blog!!! I'll tell you why in just a bit. But anyhow.... as I logged back into this site I realized that it has been nearly 3 1/2 YEARS since I last posted!!! 😲😲😲 Well, a LOT has happened with our family in that time: namely, we've GROWN by another little one.... (I know, you all are super surprised by that)!

We welcomed Elijah Knox into our tribe on September 12, 20016. Much to the disappointment of our girls, this made THREE boys in a row! We gals are super outnumbered now! He has been a huge blessing to our family, as they all have been.

We have joined the ranks of families with teenage drivers and now TWO high schoolers. I don't know where the time goes, but it sure flies! These kids have grown up sooooooo fast! It is certainly a reminder to be redeeming our time and be teaching them diligently (Deut. 6:4-9) as they are only entrusted to us for a teeny little while!!!

I can't possibly catch you all up in a single post, but I wanted to let you know what to expect in the near future. I'll be posting lots about our homeschooling journey, discipleship and scripture memory methods we use, products we love (can I get an AMEN for the invention of the Instant Pot), and a super awesome family worship resource we have been using the past several months. In addition, the kids and I have been flexing our creative muscles and making some great farmhouse and pet decor! We will be sharing some of those things with you as well! Finally, I have been appointed as our 2018 women's presbytery's literature coordinator, so I will be posting several book reviews and recommendations for the next several months. (That's the main reason for resurrecting my blog... I need a place to organize my thoughts in preparation for presenting these resources for next year's meeting).

So there you have it...😜 My hope is to post at least twice a month... more if the opportunity presents itself! I'm not really a facebook person, but I recently joined the ranks of Instagram. You can find us at: Wolf Creek Rustics (wolfcreekrustics). Hope to see you all there!!!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Tattooed Jesus - book review

I recently read "The Tattooed Jesus" by Pastor Kevin Swanson which takes an insightful look at our pop culture and the worldviews that it promotes. Our family's lives became radically altered when we started taking Romans 12:2 seriously (do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind....). As we began to spend large amounts of time renewing our minds by the Word, we became increasingly sensitive to the messages portrayed through the media, fashions, education, and overall culture around us. At worst, messages were blatantly antichristian, and at best, the culture certainly did not encourage personal holiness.  Since beginning this journey of renewing our minds, the culture hasn't gotten more Godly... quite the contrary! It is refreshing to find a book that addresses the trends and agenda of our western society.

Pastor Swanson has done an excellent job examining the messages emitted around us. He shows how our humanistic worldview has drastically affected our views of God and how we worship (or don't worship) Him. In our post-modern, anything goes culture, we Christians have largely failed to be the salt and light. We have let the world affect us to the point that we blend right in. Like the frog in the kettle, we don't even recognize that our surroundings have largely overtaken us and our children. We passively and actively expose ourselves to the things which God hates, especially through the media that we turn on in our homes. We call evil good and good evil, and the Word of God has a few things to say about that... We are so desensitized to our culture that we fail to critically discern the underlying messages of authors, songwriters, producers, and companies. Actually, we are so "dumbed down" as a society, that we don't even know that there is an agenda out there that wants to govern how we think. We have entertained ourselves to death and using our brains and seeking discerning wisdom is frankly too much work for our society in general. Swanson carefully delineates these trends within the music, television, movies, literature, body art, piercings, fashion, etc... and exposes the obvious and not so obvious impacts upon our western culture. 

In an era where it is widely popular for the church to be relevant to the culture, this book forces one to ask if that is such a wise thing? Is our "freedom in Christ" being used and abused to give license to do/act/watch anything that makes us feel "right" or happy?  Has our "freedom in Christ" ultimately turned into freedom FROM Christ? Have you even thought about it? Whether you have or haven't, this book will challenge and encourage you to evaluate and engage your culture. 

(I would also highly recommend the book "Apostate" by the same author).

Friday, November 14, 2014

Our Unforgettable Journey - Grammie Eve

I’ve been mentally writing about this for the past 8 months, but haven’t gotten it on paper until now. (Actually I spent 3 hours writing it last night only to have my 6 year old accidently delete it… so here I am again, sharing our hearts about my grandma.)  Shortly after Zeke was born, I took all seven children to visit Great Grammie Eve. She was living at the assisted living facility in Holyrood and had recently recovered from a case of pneumonia. I had planned a rather lengthy visit, so the kids brought their Bibles to read to her and some school work to pass some time. Grandma was 103 and not the most communicative person anymore.  The visit went well, but the Lord used it as the beginning of a blessed journey that our family will never forget.

Grammie had progressed to the point of being beyond the level of care that the assisted living facility was licensed to provide. She had probably been past that “point” for some time. But none-the-less, plans had been made to move Grammie into a nursing home in April. As we sat in our family room the evening of our visit, the Spirit brought to our minds several scriptures concerning caring for the widows, honoring your father and mother, laying down your life, self sacrifice, storing up treasures where moths and rust cannot destroy, and loving your neighbor, etc… He also brought up Haggai 2:9 – “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts.  And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.” We prayed and continue to pray this verse throughout the building/remodeling process and for our (now finished) home. Our desire was/is that it be a gospel outpost and would be used to glorify His name through the raising of our kids, serving others, Bible studies, home groups, and whatever else He would place in our path.  It became quite clear that the LORD desired us to bring Grammie into our home to care for her.

We prayed for wisdom and discernment, but God didn’t really leave any room for doubt in our minds as to what He desired us to do. Our decision was easy to make. I sat on the couch and started writing out notes about the logistics of conforming our home into something more user friendly for Grammie. I looked around and I could imagine Grammie napping in her chair in our family room. I thought about what our office would look like with her bed in it. I did some internet research on products that would make our bathroom suitable for her. I also tried to think about every possible scenario that might come up. I made a list of pros and cons that would affect our family: what would we gain, what would we have to give up?  (Every “con” was a direct result of selfishness.) The verse from Haggai continued to fuel our preparations. What would glorify God more: a picture-perfect office and bathroom that look like they came right out of a magazine or a rearranged office with a hospital bed and a bathroom with a stool riser, transfer bench in the tub, and denture container sitting on the sink? After all, we value life and so does God. It doesn’t matter if that life is “pre-born” or 103 years old. If you are pro-life, you also must be pro-elderly.  At any age, we are still created in the image of God and He values life, whether or not that life is (by man’s definition) a productive member of society or not.

Move-in day!
On March 31, 2014, Grammie Eve became a permanent member of our household and took her place as our 8th and oldest “child”.  Not every family can say that they have a 103 year age span between their oldest and youngest children!  Just like when you add a new baby to a family, there were a couple of weeks where we felt like we were juggling and spinning plates at the same time. Our family got a crash course on hearing aids, wheel chairs, dentures, depends, hospital beds, transfer benches, walkers, etc… But we soon figured out our new normal of having Grammie around.  We adapted to the routine of providing for the needs of an “adult-sized toddler”. We learned that we rarely could do spur-of-the-moment things without finding a “Grammie-sitter”.  But, in a way, it was kind of nice to be forced to simplify things, stay home, and really integrate her into our family.

She loved hearing the kids play their piano, having the toddler give her toys (which she sometimes didn’t give back), and listening to the kids read their Bibles and books.  She was a part of our school day too. This year we are studying modern history and the kids were always calculating how old Grammie was when: the Titantic sank, WWI happened, the Lusitania sank, the stock market crashed, WWII occurred, etc… She was a walking history lesson! We just wished that she could have told us stories!

Grammie had her days where she was very interactive, and those where she wasn’t interactive at all. Sometimes she stood up, clapped, and told the kids to play their piano more.  Other times she just slept through her personal concert. When she was interactive, the kids enjoyed getting her to write and draw, fold clothes, and play with play-doh (though she kept trying to eat it).  We looked at books, photos, did pedicures, she watched us clean house, and she got lots and lots of baby holding time.  She and Zeke took many naps together.

She was a part of our daily family worship. We prayed for her and we prayed with her.  On my Sundays to stay home with her, we watched many sermons by Joe Morecraft.  I would sit her right in front of the ipad screen and crank up the volume to make sure she could hear. When we tucked her in bed, we said the Lord’s Prayer together and many times she said it right along with us. I would tell her I loved her each night as I tucked her in. Sometimes she said “Uh huh”, other times she said, “I love you too.”

As the weather warmed up she enjoyed seeing and smelling the fresh lilacs, irises, and wild flowers. We brought in the new chicks for her to hold (though I seriously thought she was going to pull one’s head off)! She held the kittens, saw the alpacas, and watched our tomato seedlings grow into strong, vibrant plants. We spent many evenings on the screened in porch watching the kids play. She watched me process and can dozens and dozens of quarts and pints of garden produce.

We came to appreciate that she was far more than just a “shell”.  Her personality would definitely shine through when she was feeling spry. She would tell the kids to get their shoes and socks on, and zip up their coats… typical things that Grandma would be concerned about. If the kids weren’t around, she missed them. I’m sure she came to appreciate the inherent noise level in a home with 7 kids… or maybe she thought that being hard of hearing was really a blessing!

A week before she passed, she had several really good days where she was chatty, getting around well, observant, and interactive. One morning I had been putting clothes in the dryer and I stopped by her bed to say good morning.  She grabbed my hands and said that they were cold.  She cupped her hands around mine and rubbed them, then she put my fingers to her mouth to blow on them to warm them up. (Just like any mom would do.)  Later that morning she said to me, “When are they coming to get me? I’m ready to go!”  I told her that we weren’t going anywhere that day. She asked me the question again.

We’ve been told that often people will rally right before their time is finished. That seemed to be the case with Grammie.  The next day she was a “rag doll”. She didn’t seem to know what was going on, she was weak, and not very interactive. The next few days continued on the same path where she became less and less responsive. She wasn’t sick at all, but just coasting through the last days that the good Lord had ordained for her. She died so peacefully while Keilah and I were holding her hand and caressing her head, telling her that we loved her and praying for her. In retrospect, I wonder if she had a much deeper meaning in asking me, “When are they coming to get me? I’m ready.”

When we took Grammie in, we did it in order to be a blessing to her. We knew it would help teach our children about true love, self sacrifice, honoring the elderly, and valuing life.  Although we knew she would be a blessing to us too, we had no idea how much of an impact she would have on our family.  She gave us far more than we gave her. What we would give to still have our “oldest child” with us again: to have an opportunity to serve her longer; to serve her better.  But we are so thankful that the Lord gave us the time He did. We are grieving, but are comforted by 1 Thes. 4:13: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”  We have hope.

We now sit in our home where 8 months ago we imagined what it would “look” like to move Grammie in with us.  Her chair is gone, her bed is gone, her wheel chair and walker are gone, her bathroom supplies are gone. And now we get to figure out what our “new” normal looks like since (as Keilah puts it), “Grammie Eve has gone to glory, and is clothed in white with a crown, worshiping Jesus.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fear of the Lord and the Attributes of God

For many months I have been meditating on and doing a Bible survey on the fear of the Lord. What is it exactly? How do you get it/do it? How do you teach it to your kids? How do you live it out in your life? Doing a Bible study on it by looking up each instance it is used (fear of God, fear of the Lord, etc.) is very helpful and I would recommend that you do that. I am a firm believer in letting scripture interpret scripture… and in letting the scriptures define fear of the Lord you will find such definitions as: wisdom (Job 28:28); is clean, enduring forever (Psalm 19:9); beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10, Prov. 9:10); the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7); the hatred of evil (Prov. 8:13); a fountain of life (Prov. 14:27); instruction in wisdom (Prov. 15:33); it turns you away from evil (Prov. 16:6); it leads to life (Prov. 19:23); etc… (Note that this is not an exhaustive list.)  Even more, you can walk in it, delight in it, know it, continue in it, it leads to life, riches (spiritual), and honor, it is better than treasure, it is Zion’s treasure, you can be taught it, it is clean….

Wow! Don’t you want this to the fullest extent? Don’t you want to teach it to your children? I do! I want to grasp it, to drink it in, to breath it out, to fully understand it more each day. One of the ways that our family immerses ourselves in God’s truth is daily reading and studying of the Word by reading the Bible chronologically through each year. Here is the reading plan we use. I get through it 2-3 times per year by just doubling up on the daily readings and this year, my 11 year old wanted to go through the Bible 2 times too. I teach our kids to read at the age of 3-4 so that by the January after they turn 5, they can join the family in the yearly Bible reading plan. In addition to the daily reading, we also read a chapter in Proverbs, going through the whole book once/month. (For example, if it is the 10th, we read chapter 10 in Proverbs.)  This is very helpful in cultivating a good knowledge of God’s word throughout the years. In addition, we generally work our way through a more in depth study of a book of the Bible, a character study, a topical study, etc. for our morning devotions and we have a fantastic study guide on the book of Proverbs that we work through with Dad in the evenings.

So in an attempt to better understand the Fear of the Lord, we began an extensive study on the attributes of God. If we are going to fear God, we have to know WHO we are fearing. WHO IS THIS GOD??? What do we believe about Him and have we been taught RIGHTLY about who He is? Or is He just what I have constructed in my mind? Have I been taught rightly about Him? If what I believe about Him consists of what my fleshy mind comes up with, then “He” is just a fabricated idol. I want to believe correctly about Him based upon what He says about Himself in the scriptures and how He revealed Himself through His son. And, I want my children to do the same.

Paul Washer has a great, FREE, ebook/pdf file entitled The OneTrue God that the kids and I are working through together. (He also has a free ebook about man’s true nature that we will do when we are finished with The One True God.) In addition, Tozer’s book: The Knowledge of the Holy is an awesome reference. I have read and worked through it several times and each time I am richly blessed. I also started the Bible study, Behold Your God by John Snyder. It sure is amazing how the Lord brings so many resources into my life that all deal with the same thing! I guess He is really challenging me to study His attributes!

This journey continues to be a blessing to my soul as I “taste and see that the Lord is good”. I find myself striving evermore to behold the beauty of Christ and His sacrifice for me. As I see God for what He really is, and see myself and my sin for what I really am, I am forced into submission, humility, trembling, and thankfulness to my savior who would save a “wretch like me”.  I would encourage you to reflect and really study what scripture says about God: His holiness, eternality, sovereignty, omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, love, justice, grace, mercy, faithfulness, truthfulness, righteousness, self-existence, immutability, etc… You will be highly blessed.