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.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Baby number seven...

I have been blessed with the BEST family and friends!!!! It has been a whirlwind over the past week and a half but as the light at the end of the tunnel shines through, I am able to reflect on God's goodness and provisions, His trials and His mercies, and His steadfast love and faithfulness in answering prayers.

Last week, a major snowstorm was predicted for our area. I love snow storms, but being due with number 7 at any moment, and knowing how fast my labors can progress, we were concerned about baby picking such a weather pattern to make his/her appearance.  When I woke up Monday morning, it was evident that labor was going to happen within the next couple of days. Since the snowstorm was predicted beginning Monday night, we went to the midwife Monday afternoon who checked our progress and non-medically got our labor started at about 6pm.  Based upon past experience, we figured the baby would be born within a few hours and we could make it home before the snow and wind began. However, that was not to be. Overnight my contractions were 10 minutes apart, but lasted a hard 3 minutes each.... ALL NIGHT!  By morning, I was exhausted and only dilated to a 6.  Had I been in a hospital, I would have asked for an epidural and told them to wake me up when the baby got here. But that wasn't an option. The only option was to keep persevering in my exhaustion through transition. My lifesaver was the jetted tub. This was a new experience for me. The hot, jetted bath did wonders for refreshing my body and spirit and fairly quickly got me through the transitional phase and into the ready-to-push phase.

Then there came the pushing. Again, I am not used to having to push. Only on one of my previous 6 did I have to push and she was "sunny side up".  But pushing on this baby wasn't making any progress. Finally, at 10:26 A.M. on February 4th, Ezekiel Jon was born..... yep, he was sunny side up and he was also cock-eyed in my pelvis.  It just goes to show you what a difference mal-positioning makes on labor progress (15 minutes on baby 6 to 15 hours on baby 7)!  Zeke was 19 1/2 inches long and 6#2oz.

God was faithful in answering all of the prayers that went up for the little guy from the beginning of pregnancy through the birth.  We stayed at the birthing center for just a couple of hours before heading home. The snowfall was already significant, but at least the winds hadn't kicked in yet. It was a slow trip home, but we made it without any mishaps.  As you can imagine, we had quite the welcoming party when we got there: 6 older siblings to welcome the new addition home!

He is the perfect little baby, but unfortunately I wasn't able to fully enjoy his first week as I had hoped.

About day 4 I started having a tooth ache on one of my molars (on baby #5 I had the same thing a few days post partum but it got better).  I did salt water rinses, tea tree oil, thieves' oil, and just about every other home remedy I could research. But the toothache only got worse. By Sunday my lower jaw was swollen and it got worse by Monday. I was crying out in pain (FAR WORSE THAN LABOR)! I thought I was dying.  By Monday evening I wanted to die! I started antibiotics ad stronger pain meds Monday night and by Tuesday I was feeling great. The pain was better, even when the pain meds were wearing off, and I could at least enjoy my newborn again!  However, I looked awful as my jaw was swollen to the size of a baseball. My hubby made me go to the dentist (actually he made the appt. and escorted me there... I would not have called or gone as things were improving). The dentist pulled the tooth..... NOT A PLEASANT OR PAINLESS EXPERIENCE... but at least the problem is taken care of and my swelling is back to normal.

So after a whirlwind of a couple of weeks, life is back to normal! As I reflect, again, I'm reminded about the goodness and faithfulness of our God who has blessed us with great family and friends who have stepped up to help out during this craziness! We have been given great meals and lots of help around the house. Our other kids have also been awesome in pitching in when I was not exactly functioning at a high level.

So as we settle in to our "new normal" of seven kids, we dare not forget to worship and praise our Lord who has blessed us far more abundantly than we could ever ask or hope... even and especially in the midst of trials.