Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Making the Crooked Paths Straight, Waiting for Our God to Come

When I think of John the Baptist, a couple of Biblical phrases come to mind: "making the crooked straight," "preparing the way" and "I must decrease, He must increase."
I heard a well-known preacher say the other day on Christian radio that raising godly kids is not rocket science.  Do Steps 1-5, and voila! Christian kids you can be proud of.  No mention of the fact that godly parents (not those who do 'everything right'- as those obviously do not exist) occasionally have rebellious children.

There comes a time when GOD HIMSELF has to make His grand entrance into the lives of our children, or we labor in vain.  So how do we "make the paths straight" for the coming of God into their lives.  Back to John the Baptist.  He recognized the coming agenda/will of God, and he showed the people their sin and need of a Savior.  He prepared their hearts to receive the Son of God.  In parenting, is this not the 'stacking of the deck?'  It is not enough to say, "Well, God has to do his work, and even He, the perfect parent, had a rebellious child- Adam?"  No!  We shout and yell, "He's coming.  He's coming.  Expect him.  Get ready.  You need him!"  Through intentional, godly, Biblically wise parenting, we do all we can, with His help, to smooth the way for the coming of God.
And then He comes.  Quietly sometimes.  A child will make a remark, and You will realize he/she is starting to hear the voice of God.  Our job is to say, "Yes, here He is!  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away your sins!  Accept Him!"  Then we must be willing to be God-like.  God WILL walk down the path we have straightened for him and offer our children eternal life.  (In fact, He offers life to all.  But for some the path is still so messed up and crooked, I'm afraid they don't even recognize him.)   But he will not force entry or overpower their will.  If they walk away, we continue to call out the truth.  God forbid any of us experience the pain of watching their backs fade into the distance!  But some of us already have.  Becky Keep wrote a beautiful article on this in a recent God's Revivalist issue.  (It begins on page 14 of the May issue here)  I would encourage a reading of it.  Through the tears and personal rejection, we accept the comfort of God, who in Isaiah 5 says, "What more could I have done?!?!"  He has experienced the pain of a wayward child, and we can trust Him to keep asking, to keep knocking.  So, so hard- I can't even imagine.  However, we can't afford to become so demoralized that we leave off straightening the path, preparing the way for the younger children still in our care. 

The other scenario, far more pleasant but yet still painful, is transitioning them into responsible Christian adulthood.  There should come a time when they stop 'following us' and start following Christ.  At some point, we should be decreasing and Christ increasing in their lives.  See Valorie Quesenberry's excellent article here.  That's the goal.  To stand back and watch them become path-straighteners for others.

Luke 3:4-6 
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
    and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

John 1:29
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

John 3:28-30
I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

Psalm 127
Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.

It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

God help me straighten to path and prepare the way in Kathryn and Alex's hearts! 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My mom's dad was a gardener.  His garden was large enough to feed our family of seven, his family (him, my grandmother and my invalid uncle, "Benny Sherrill"), and have plenty leftover to give to neighbors.  It was big enough to fill 3 deep freezers and a huge pantry of canning jars every year.  It was big enough for him to work in from sun-up to sun-down and still have plenty for us five kids to do for hours everyday.  Between homework and garden, that's about all we did.  We would step off the school bus to bushels and bushels (no exaggeration) of work.  The stain of purple hull peas stayed on our hands for days.  The sandy grit of shelling butterbeans.  The shucking and careful silking of the corn that would be inspected by our (once upon a time) USDA inspector grandfather.  The sycamore tree that popped its bark off during thunderstorms that kept off the sun we shucked for hours.  The many hours of standing on the yummy a/c vent, picking out wormy peas as I ran the batches through cold water (somehow made more lovely by seeing my brothers through the window sweating it out).  The watermelons and cantaloupes that lived all over his house, on all the other a/c vents to chill them.  Ever stubbed your toe on a watermelon in the living room?  The time he accidentally hit a watermelon with the tractor tire, and we stopped right there- to eat sun-warmed, busted up watermelon in the field.  

My grandfather was not a kind man.  Rough, gruff.  He died the week of my wedding; we teasingly said he did it out of spite.  I cried the first time he called me "honey," and then got yelled at.  He shamelessly played favorites with the grandkids, and I was not one of them- haha.  But there were times, like when he would request #160, "Under His Wings," when I wondered what played there inside his head.  Somehow, even through all our complaints (to which he'd respond, "You wanna eat this winter, don't ya?") we all picked up bits and pieces of him which come out in the spring.  Even my younger brother, Ethan, the worst sworn enemy of the garden, has one of his own now.  Will wonders never cease?

Nathan says, "Gardening is in your past.  Let's keep it there."  And for good reason.  I'm not actually good at it.  We were experts in our individual tasks.  That means there are parts of gardening I could do in my sleep, but those mostly involve harvest.  Unfortunately, for me, I was in school when he was putting in the seed and fertilizing and doing the daily things plants require.  But even with that, something kicks in this time of year, and I feel compelled to plant something.  Somehow, the joy of holding something edible that comes from my yard outweighs the fact that I kill off 90% of what I plant.

As a tribute to my grandfather, we often eat purple hull peas, albeit from the store.  He would be proud to know that I still smash them (as he taught me to), salt them and eat them on saltines.  Of course, that pride might disappear if he saw that I planted morning glories ("those nasty weeds") on purpose and plan to let them wreak glorious havoc. 

Putting in the Seed

by Robert Frost
You come to fetch me from my work to-night
When supper's on the table, and we'll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea);
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Re-reading my favorite 'fun' author, Jan Karon.  Her main character, Father Tim travels to Ireland to explore his family genealogy, and this poem is referenced in his travels.  This is the last poem written by Pádraic Pearse, the night before he was executed as a leader in the 1916 Easter Rising (an attempt to secede from the United Kingdom).  He wrote this sitting in Kilmainham Gaol- a young 36 year old man.  This poem speaks to me in a way few do.  There is just so much breathtaking beauty in this world.  We have been reading through the psalms, where so much of God's creation is celebrated.  Romans 1 says that God is revealed to everyone through his creation, so that they who reject Him are 'without excuse.'  I find it sad that all this beauty (both His creation and the thousands of years of human artistry) will someday pass away.  I know that's ridiculous, as we will be trading it for a perfect new earth, unscarred by sin.  This beauty is a "beauty that will pass," stepping off the stage to allow a superior and eternal beauty to come on the scene....

The Wayfarer – Pádraic Pearse
The beauty of the world hath made me sad,
This beauty that will pass;
Sometimes my heart hath shaken with great joy
To see a leaping squirrel in a tree,
Or a red lady-bird upon a stalk,
Or little rabbits in a field at evening,
Lit by a slanting sun,
Or some green hill where shadows drifted by
Some quiet hill where mountainy man hath sown
And soon would reap; near to the gate of Heaven;
Or children with bare feet upon the sands
Of some ebbed sea, or playing on the streets
Of little towns in Connacht,
Things young and happy.
And then my heart hath told me:
These will pass,
Will pass and change, will die and be no more,
Things bright and green, things young and happy;
And I have gone upon my way

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Life in Pictures
We've been up to... life and homeschooling and stuff.  Here's a little catch-up in pics...  Hope your spring is going well!

The zoo let members ride FREE on the new zipline course for a few days.  We happened upon it- Serendipity and Joy! 
My brave adventurers!

My, my, what high platforms they have!  All the better to jump from, Mom!

Mitzi attempts to escape her bath by impersonating Darth Vader.

Kathryn with a mouth full of green eggs and blue cottage cheese- ick!  This was Earth Day- so we had a green, blue and brown breakfast.  They thought it was cool.

And now we have the requisite spring nights in the basement.  Tornado season.

Which leaves us feeling a bit like this the next morning....

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 27, 2013 Daybook Entry
Outside my window …. The sun is going down, the armadillo trap is re-baited with nasty, old shrimp shells, the daylily foliage is really popping up.  I love flowers that I can just throw in the flower bed willy-nilly, and they will come up anyway.  (I'm very good at killing plants)

I am thinking …. about a good friend's relationship with God.  Wondering what God is saying to her heart and how she will respond.  Wishing I knew more, sometimes glad I don't.

I am thankful for …. a godly mother-in-law who brings her extraordinary grandmothering skills around this time of year each year.  She loves spring in the South, and her only granddaughter's birthday, dark chocolate and chai tea lattes from the kitchen.  We are happy to oblige.  Here is a pic of a quilt she's making for her Asian-obsessed Kathryn.  Each little girl is unique and a little piece of Mom's imagination.  We love it!

In the kitchen... my oven sits sadly, quietly deceased.  I feel quite handicapped.  First, did you know that the surest way to kill your oven is to promise to bake something for a friend?  or your daughter? yep.  dead.  dead.  dead.  I received a phone call today promising the arrival of my new one in 8-10 days.  I am fearlessly entering the world of induction cooking.  Unless I blow up the house, I may write of my experience.

Around the house …. We are changing up some decor.  Going into a black, white, tan color scheme / vintage/french country/old Hollywood look in the master bath.  I'm loving it so far.  I am a super slow decorator, and highly incompetent.  If you have any ideas for this room pics below, I'm all ears (seriously!)  My plan is to paint the beadboard wallpaper (yes, that's wallpaper :o) glossy white and the cabinetry glossy black.  

The boldest look I've ever done in the house

En lieu of his/hers signs

French- love some french!

Beadboard wallpaper with added wood trim
Speaking of all ears (random thought alert) while doing some Spanish translation work this week, I discovered "wingchair" is "earchair" in Spanish. And this is what I thought of...  Turns out it's been invented already- by the Japanese.

I am loving …. the taste of homemade buttercream icing on Kathryn's (early) birthday cake tonight.  I bake yummy cakes and make yummy icing.  I am a terrible decorator, though, so the kids now decorate their own cakes.  Here's Kathryn's mosaic flower garden cake.  The plastic wrap was pulling off the candies, so I left the wrap on for the picture.  How is this child about to turn 9?!

I am hoping …. that this week's cold snap is the last of the season.  And yes, by cold snap, I realize that it was warmer than my three readers have seen for months.  Sorry.

I am sorely tempted by ….going to bed early.  Spring break is a beautiful thing. 

I am reading …. (don't laugh) Grace Livingston Hill.  I found a some of her books free in a book bin outside 2nd & Charles, and I just HAD to know if they are as cheesy as I remembered.  Yes.  Just that cheesy.  Yes.  So I read until I start laughing so hard I have to stop.  So far I think I've covered four pages in a week.
On my To Do list …. sew new curtains for dining room.  These 'shiver' in the a/c and scare passing children in the night- ahahahahaha (evil laugh).  Maybe I should leave them up and spare us the awkward child knocking on the door moments.  You know- when they (because they have recently learned interesting things both from homeschool science and more importantly, from amorous lemurs at the zoo) think you're "doing something" and you are.


Sunday, March 09, 2014

A Healthy Part of the Body of Christ

Couch to 5K.  Flab to fit.  There are plenty of programs and plans to help you become healthier in a few weeks time.  What might it look like if we 'worked' on becoming a healthier part of the body of Christ this month?  With that in mind, here are a few ideas I jotted down.  I will following this myself for the next month.  On this Lord's Day, let's focus on Him and how to build up His Body, the church.

Day 1:  Pray for yourself ~ ask for God to search your heart and see if there be any wicked way in you.  Repent of any revealed sin.  Your part of the body must be healthy spiritually if you want to be a part of a healthy local body.
Day 2:  Pray for the body’s head, your pastor ~ ask God to illuminate his time studying the Word, to encourage him as he works under the burden of leadership, to give him guidance for the body.
Day 3:  Pray for the pastor’s wife ~ ask God to bless her as she sets the emotional tone for the parsonage and bears the main responsibility of daily training any children still in the home. 
Day 4:  Pray for the music minister and musicians ~ ask God to guide them in making the best music decisions that will set the atmosphere for the Body to worship God each Sunday and that they will steward their musical gifts for His glory.
Day 5:  Contact two people in your local body who have been suffering physically.  Ask how you can pray for them and offer to help in a practical way.
Day 6:  Prepare your home, clothes, food and mind for the coming Sabbath.  Expect the devil to be resisting more than usual a calm, peaceful atmosphere in the home.  Limit unnecessary words and refuse to be sucked into family conflicts.
Day 7:  This is the Lord’s Day.  Pray for yourself ~ that you will be a blessing to your local body today.  Thank your pastor for his sermon. 
Day 8:  Pray for yourself ~ ask God to help you see ways that you can bless your local body through the skills you have.  Commit to finding a way to use your spiritual gifts to bless your church.
Day 9:  Pray for your pastor ~ ask God to protect him from sexual temptation and to bless his marriage and home.
Day 10:  Pray for the board ~ ask God to give them wisdom and unity of Spirit in helping the pastor guide the church.  Pray that none of them would allow pride or selfishness to pull them into power struggles.
Day 11:  Pray for the teachers of the children ~ pray that God will refresh them with new ideas, creativity, and endurance as they present the gospel to impressionable souls.
Day 12: Pray for the teachers of the adults ~ pray that they will have a love of the Word and be faithful to bring meat to the body and not settle for milk.
Day 13: Contact two people in the local body who were absent from the fellowship last week.  Tell them that you love them and look forward to seeing them tomorrow.  Prepare for the weekend attacks of the enemy by working ahead for the Sabbath responsibilities.
Day 14:  This is the Lord’s Day.  Pray for yourself ~ that you will be a blessing to your local body today.  Stay engaged in the service and at least nod your head when you agree with the pastor’s points.  Thank him for his sermon.
Day 15:  Pray for yourself ~ commit to thinking only things that meet the Philippians 4:8 guidelines today about your church and its members.  If negative thoughts come to mind, quote Phil. 4:8 instead and whisper a prayer for whomever entered your mind.
Day 16:  Pray for your pastor ~ pray for him to be filled with the Spirit as he goes about his week.  He is often called on to fill the pastoral role at all hours of the day and night, requiring him to be on his toes spiritually.  The devil is continuously hounding him in ways a layperson does not experience.  Pray for his protection.
Day 17:  Pray for the pastor’s children ~ the health of their relationships with God affects your pastor and his wife spiritually and emotionally, whether they are still at home or not.  Pray that God will give them a desire to serve Him and preserve them from bitterness against the church (a common pitfall).
Day 18:  Pray for the person who sits in front of you in church.  Pray for the person who sits behind you in church.  If you know their needs, mention them specifically to the Lord.  Make an action plan to encourage them this week – a card in the pew, a homemade goodie bag, a phone call – whatever ‘fits’ you and your skill set.
Day 19:  Pray for the youth of the church ~ that their enthusiasm and energy will be channeled by God in serving Him.  Pray that they would be protected from Satan’s attacks at school today.
Day 20:  Prepare yourself for the weekend attacks of the enemy.  Pray for the person in the church who makes you most uncomfortable.  Ask God to bless them.  Contact one person who has been out of fellowship for a while and ask them to join you at church tomorrow.
Day 21:  This is the Lord’s Day.  Pray for yourself ~ that you will build up the body today in all you say and do.  Mentally engage in worship today.  Really read the words of the songs from your heart.  Make a point of looking a child in the eye and making them feel important.
Day 22:  Pray for yourself ~  being a healthy member of the Body of Christ extends far beyond the walls of the church.  Ask for His help as you share the gospel and live in His power in your own family.  Smile at each of them today.
Day 23:  Pray for your pastor ~ contact him and ask what you can do for the church.  If you feel unsure of the best way you can be used, ask him to help you pray that God will show both of you the best way you can build up the church. 
Day 24:  Pray for the people who sat in your pew last Sunday.  Pray that God will give each of them a desire to love and serve Him.  If they all live under your roof, give each of them a hug today.
Day 25:  Pray for the people who clean and maintain the church grounds.  This is often a thankless job.  Pray that they would do this ‘unto the Lord.’  If you know who does this, tell them thanks.  If not, find out.
Day 26:  Pray for the new converts in the church that God will bless and protect them as the seed of the Gospel grows in their hearts.  If you don’t have any new converts, pray for unsaved family and friends that need Jesus desperately.  Speak a word for God in public today.  Tell the cashier, “Have a blessed day” or answer “God’s been so good to me” when asked how you’re doing. 
Day 27:  Prepare for the weekend attacks by the devil.  Dwell on the privilege of the freedom to worship.  Get excited about tomorrow!  Make a special dessert for Sunday lunch.  Get ready to celebrate the best day of the week!
Day 28:  This is the Lord’s Day.  Play hymns in the car or pray on the way to church.  Talk about things God is doing for you with your family in the car.  Tell your kids stories of how God has worked in your life.  Give a little extra money in the offering.  Healthy bodies have expenses.  Thank God for your church!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sneak Peek!  (Whatcha think?)

We have been excited to hear that so many of you are enjoying Nathan's chronological Bible reading plan this year!  As you probably know, the NASB gave Nathan official permission to include their version on his website!  That is a favorite version for so many, and Nathan is gladly including it.  Along with adding that daily, we're working on something new for next year.  We've decided to offer a prayer for each day's reading, and I can say from helping Nathan in the development process that it takes the reading to a whole new level of comprehension and meditation.  I am personally learning so much.  So!  Here are some samples.  We would love to hear what you think...

January 9

January 15

January 17