Monday, May 31, 2010

Missing something...

Recently, I received the CBD catalogue arrived in the mail and I saw a book by R.C. Sproul called The Lightlings on the front.  I haven't read any of R.C. Sproul's books actually, but I know that I would feel comfortable reading one of his books.  I was curious about this book, because the description said that it was for children and that it is an allegorical tale about the fall and the birth of Christ.

Typically, when I review books, the publisher sends me a hard copy of the book.  I like this because I am one of those people that writes in their books (actually all over them!).  I also like being able to pick up a book and not having to turn on the computer to read it when I can catch a few quiet minutes in my house.  It is also far easier to share a book with my children if I have the book in my hands.  It doesn't work so well for all of us to try and look at a computer screen.

In this case, that was my option for reading this book.  I contacted Reformation Trust, R.C. Sproul's publisher and I was sent a pdf file of this book rather than a hard copy. 

So, yesterday afternoon I sat down and read The Lightlings.  It was a very quick read.  It's written for about 5-8 year old children.  The vocabulary is right about that level and the illustrations are very engaging.  The illustrations were my favorite part.

The story was okay.  I think it could have been a lot better though.  In not adding in too many details, the heart of the story seemed to be missing.  The biggest hole in the story was why the king of the lightlings sent the baby to live among them.  Without knowing the reason, it didn't make sense to me.  What I felt as I finished the story, was that I just wanted more.  More details, more story.  I think this story would have been better fleshed out with more details written for 7-10 year olds.

I wouldn't recommend this book.  It might be nice to check out of the library, but I think there are other books that would help children understand God's story more easily and gain a deeper understanding.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of a pdf file of this book from Reformation Trust for review.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

What Do Fiction Books Say About Our Culture?

One of the things that reading so many books this year has made me do is to look closer at what I read and what messages it sends people about the culture we live in.  I read a book in which everyone in the book lived with other people before marriage and it was inferred that they had sex outside of marriage.  But, all of the characters went to church and it was never stated in the book that it wasn't a good idea to live with people or have sex outside of marriage.  Does this book send a message to people that it's okay?  Yes.  Do we all sin?  Yes and I didn't expect the characters to be perfect. But, in a Christian fiction book, I do expect for there to be lessons learned.  And to not address that particular issue at all made me very sad about what it would convey to readers.  When we see something in the culture around us over and over, we begin to think that it is normal and okay.

When Jennifer Knapp was interviewed by Larry King, I remember her talking about how God wants her to be happy.  She believed that it is not a sin for her to live in a lesbian relationship.  

One of my friends was recently talking about the Twilight movies with me and she explained the situation with the vampires.  That there were vampires who chose to give in to their desires and then there were vampires who chose to abstain and control their desires because they knew they were wrong.

As a culture we justify things by looking to examples of how we are choosing to live as support for our choices.  We use these examples to justify choices that we know to be unwise.

But, there's another matter that I'm beginning to realize that as a culture we have begun to accept and think is okay.

I think I've read about 25 books this year so far.  I can think of 5 Christian Fiction books that I've read and there was a common thread between them.  It was that the main character dates someone who isn't a believer.  In one of the books, the gal considers dating someone who isn't a believer, but then stays true to her boyfriend who does believe in God.  Of the other four, the people who don't know the Lord do come to believe in the Lord and become Christians.

Is this a new idea?  If you are a Christian and date an unbeliever, then they will be saved.

No, it isn't a new idea.  I remember back when I was in high school and college that it was something that came up.  It came up for me personally when I was about to graduate high school.  The interesting thing is--I had a lot of doubts about God at the time.  Even so, I went on a date one night with someone who wasn't a Christian and the next with someone who really did believe in God.  I felt God made it abundantly clear to me who I should and shouldn't date.  The guy the first night was fake and he was very concerned with how he looked to the world.  The guy the second night just wanted to have the best prom ever with his friends.  And it truly was an amazing date!

Just before my senior year in college, I truly surrendered my heart to the Lord.  I'd always believed in God before then, but had had doubts.  Then, God was gracious to me and washed my heart clean.

After college, I did a crazy thing.  I went on a lot of first dates.  Actually 24 of them.  But, no second dates. And the only guy who stood me up was a guy who didn't believe in God.  (He actually stood me up twice, because I gave him the benefit of the doubt!).  I didn't want to go on any second dates unless I really felt I wanted to date the guy seriously.

After that first year, I didn't date as much.  I had a boyfriend for a few months and then he broke up with me.  It took me a year or two to recover-- my heart hurt as much from what he said when he broke up with me as because I truly had fallen for him.

I remember the Christmas before my husband and I started dating.  My cousins asked me what I was looking for in a guy.  I gave them a list of things and then said... "and he needs to be a Christian."  They looked at me like I was weird.  But, I knew that I felt strongly about that.

Why did I feel strongly about it?  Why did it even matter whether I dated and married someone who was a Christian?  Do I feel differently about it now?  Obviously all of the authors of these books must think that it's okay or that it's a very romantic idea...  The basic plot:  Christian meets non Christian; they start to date; Unbeliever comes to know the Lord and gets saved; Christian is now dating/marries a Christian.

I grew up with a mom who loved the Lord and a dad who told me that religion is the opiate of the masses.  I remember telling my cousins that the reason why I didn't want to marry someone who wasn't a Christian is that I had seen what happened in my parents marriage.  The interesting thing was that my dad thinks he is a Christian.  But, his definition is a little different than mine.  He believe that a Christian is a person who lives a good life--it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ.  I believe that a Christian believes John 3:16.  If they had asked me to articulate more why it mattered, I don't think I could have answered them then.

But, now I could.

Who holds a marriage together?  God.  Not me and not my husband.  Without God in our lives, there are many times that I know our marriage would have fallen a part.  If someone were to ask me why they should or shouldn't date someone who is a Christian (if he or she was), I would say a couple of things.

1) I watched my parents for 18 years live unequally yoked.  There was a constant strain in my parents' marriage because my dad didn't support us going to church or believe in God.  He belittled my mom's belief in God.  My brother didn't go any more to church after 2nd grade, only my mom and I chose to go.  It would be easy to say "Well, that was just your parent's marriage."  True, it was.  But, even in the most congenial of marriages, when you aren't both believers, there is a huge whole in your lives, because the unbeliever isn't seeking God.  So, what's left for them to seek?  Themselves and the happiness of their spouse and family?  The spouse who does believe often has a hard time going to church, whether because of feeling guilty, or wanting to spend time with the other person, or because of actual pressure on the part of their spouse not to go.

2) The first time you get into a big fight--I mean a big fight and you want to walk away--there isn't anything holding you back from not doing just that.  God isn't there to hold the two of you together.  The one who believes might stay, but the other might.  I remember several fights my husband and I have had over the years (we are both strong willed, so it was inevitable) and the tears I've cried to the Lord.  I have been reminded many times of the certainty that I knew my husband was the man I was supposed to marry--that God had made that clear to me in my heart when I prayed about it.

3) It matters in the little things.  What you both think about money and tithing.  What you think about how to raise your kids.  When your spouse wants to sleep in on Sunday morning and you do too, so you let going to church slide.  Fellowship with other believers is important and without it you will slide, too.  Another not so little thing...what you want out of your marriage.  Two months into our marriage, I felt God point out to me that if I was in my marriage for what I "deserved" then that would be a slippery slope headed towards divorce.

As a Christian, we don't get married because of what we "need" and "deserve" (ie.  deserving/needing to be happy).  I think we get married, because it is the path that God has laid before us and he has orchestrated it to bring glory to Him.  Our purpose as believers is to glorify God by loving others well.  I love I John when it says that no one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, then his love is made complete in us.  What I'm trying to say I suppose is that as a believer, getting married isn't just a selfish thing.  It is about God.

A cord of three strands is not easily broken as the Bible says--God, Man, and Wife.  3 strands.  It isn't the same without God in the picture.  2 isn't as strong as 3.

I need to run, but hopefully, this entry makes sense.  I can hear my little two and four year olds crying.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Heart Concerns

I wrote this entry a month ago and then didn't publish it.  A comment was posted on my last entry asking what I think about the Emergent Church movement.  I hope this entry will explain what I think--please forgive that it is quite so long!...


Please forgive this first paragraph, but I think it will help you understand where the concerns of my heart have come from...

Over the past two weeks or so, I have been reading Deep Church by Jim Belcher.  Last week, I finished up Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur and Intimacy Ignited.  I'm almost done with Prayer Saturated Children and part way through Practical Theology for Women.  Then, yesterday, I opened up Doctrine by Mark Driscoll.  Heavy books.  

I am going to set Deep Church down.  I have just a little more of Prayer Saturated Children (which I'm going to go finish after this entry) and then I'm going to step away from Doctrine (after writing a pre-review of it).  I'm not sure if I'm going to pick up Practical Theology right away or not.  There's a really big reason why I need to do this.  It's a little involved, but I'd like to explain what I'm beginning to realize has been going on in my head and my heart.

It all comes back to my fight against cynicism in my heart.  I've written before how one of the ways I fight cynicism about popular Christian culture is to read books by authors I know.  One of the things that reviewing books has done, though, is to bring a lot of authors across my path that I don't always know or know of.  I have had to think more critically about the things that the authors are saying--and question whether or not they are biblical or leading my heart and mind astray.  

A defensive and somewhat combative spirit has crept into my mind as I've tried to discern what is "right" and "true".  I have a hard time finding peace and accepting a plurality among beliefs.  

The pastor of the church we used to go to was big about unity in the essentials and tolerance in the non-essentials of faith.  Rick Warren's Purpose Driven-Church is based upon a similar idea, as are the ideas put forth by the Emerging Church Movement.  One of the hard things that I found about taking that approach was that we heard about Jesus, but not how to live rightly before the Lord.  

In an attempt to sidestep touchy subjects, peace was kept by ignoring them.  In the process of attending that church, my convictions weakened and I faltered in my walk.  I did not feel that there were elder women I could or would look to for advice because submission and parenting were two of those subjects that were regarded as personal and involved convictions that were non-essentials about salvation.

When I first started reading Deep Church, the hackles on my neck stood up.  I immediately felt defensive.  I was surprised at how defensive!  I'm not even Southern Baptist which (my husband assumes) the author and the Emerging Church Movement see as the "traditional" church!  I could see the reason for my defensiveness. It is rooted in my own story and I felt attacked. 

I grew up Quaker.  I went off to college and went to an Evangelical Covenant Church during those 4 years.  I returned home to work at an evangelical Quaker camp in the summer.  After college, I moved to Denver where everyone went to non-denominational churches.  If they weren't nondenominational, they acted as if they were.  The church I was on staff with for a year and a half was a part of the EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Denomination), which is very different from other presbyterian denominations.  

Denominations were bad words--only old people, please forgive me for this stereotype, went to Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist or Lutheran or Episcopal churches.  (I don't feel this way now at all, but it was the stereotype I perceived from the culture at large in Denver.)  None of the young people I knew went to denominational churches.  I also saw two of the biggest young churches fold because of sins of the pastors.  I saw the church I went to for three years get drawn into the charismatic movement and experience huge division and the exodus of long time members.  Then, I got married and moved to Texas.  We went to a Bible church--again nondenominational.  

Six months later, we moved to Georgia and attended a house church, then a Southern Baptist Church that was following the Purpose Driven Church model, and then finally we found a home in a Presbyterian Church.  But, we struggled there.  We wanted contemporary worship and found fault with the ecclesiology of the church and the liturgy, so we left for a summer.  We went to a Calvary Chapel church where we were the oldest members.  The pastor felt seminaries are cemetaries.  He did not believe elders or deacons were needed.  This pastor felt he was the head of his church--like Moses and that he would delegate.  He was only accountable to God.  

After only three months, we realized that he would not let us mentor the young people in the church or teach any Bible studies because we did not agree exactly with him and desired more accountability for the congregation and the pastor, so we left and returned with a new appreciation for the PCA denomination.  That experience changed our ideas about church in huge ways.

We were humbled by our summer away.  I went to the pastor and apologized and asked forgiveness for my unneeded words when we left.  We came away seeing a need for accountability for pastors and churches.  We saw a need for solid doctrine and conviction about the Truth of God's Word.  We longed for teaching, for elders in the faith that we could look to as examples and for encouragement.

What I encountered in Jim Belcher's description of the Emerging Church Movement was what felt like a rebellious spirit to me--a desire to have no authority over one's church or an individual as they walk through their lives.  The claim could and I'm sure is made that we are all under God's authority.  True.  Absolutely True.  But, God uses people in our lives to hold us accountable and to be His hands and feet--because our hearts are deceitful.  

We justify and rationalize the choices we want to make.  We can often even find scripture verse to back our choices up.  Being accountable and honest with others--being in fellowship is important--as important for church pastors and church leadership as church members.  Denominations are not bad things as they are often portrayed to be today.  The other sentiment that grieved me was what felt like a disrespect and dislike for the old ways of doing things.  After attending three churches which all were culturally relevant, we longed for depth and Truth--not culturally relevant truth, but the unadulterated Truth of the Gospel.

I fell into what it seems like the Emerging Church Movement is doing--except that I'm on the opposite side.  I'm defending the Old Faith--the Old liturgy--  Everything new is not better--I once thought it was.  But, I found that path to be full of folly and hot air.  Change is not all bad, I'm not saying that it is.  But, if we focus too much on what is wrong with something, I believe it can lead to a critical and judgmental spirit, rather than a gracious and loving one towards others.

I have to set Deep Church down because I got too mired down in the discussion of metaphysics and reality and reading why they believe they are right and others are wrong.  It made me feel like I had to stand up for myself and say why I think I am right and why others are wrong.  Yuk!


The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  (from Desiring God by John Piper)

I want to get back to glorifying God and seeking to live rightly before Him in all I say and do.  It is not bad for me to ponder doctrine and what the Word says--but it needs to be for the purpose of my own understanding not because I want to debate who is right and who is wrong.  It needs to be from a loving and uncritical spirit. 

I found myself twisted into knots because I couldn't understand how someone else could be right about their convictions and I could be right at the same time--if those convictions are in opposition.  But, I'm not accountable to the Lord for the convictions of others.  I am accountable to the Lord for how I live and what I believe.  I'm not advocating politically correct tolerance, a plurality of truth, or that there's more than one way to heaven (Jesus says He is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father, but through Him), but I am going to leave the other issues I have been wrestling with in the Lord's hands.  Rather than trying to understand everything, I think I'm going to step back into my rightful place and seek to understand only the plate God has put in front of me.  

As for my thoughts about the Emergent Church, the Emerging Church Movement, the Prophetic Movement, and the Seeker-Sensitive Movement, I think it would be wise to go back to the Word.  At this moment, I feel grieved by the divisions among Christians.  The Truth can be found in God's Word and I think it is wise to ground ourselves in the Word and to write His Word upon our hearts.  We are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  

I'm not sure what this will mean for the reviews I have to write this week.  But I do know that I will be speaking from my personal perspective and what I find in the Word.  My goal in reading books has never been to be critical of what others' think and write.  I continue to believe that there is an important place for discernment and wisdom.  We are not to be misled and encouraged to seek ourselves rather than the Lord.

Whew...that was a very long explanation and if you made it to the end and thought that what I wrote was worthy of reading--I am honored--thank you for listening.  What are your thoughts about all of this?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Theology for Women

As women, our lives get busy and our attention has to be on so many different things that it is often difficult to slow down and articulate what we believe and be intentional about how we live our lives.  It is easy to get overwhelmed by the pressings and priorities of now and lose sight of the big picture. 

I have had several women say to me that they don't want to read books that make them think.  They would like to read easy to read books.  They don't want to sort through theology and what they believe if it isn't easily decipherable.  At first, I was surprised by these comments and honestly shocked.  And then, of course, God put me in their shoes!!

A few weeks ago, I said to a gal at church, that I just couldn't read any more heavy books about theology and living out the Gospel-centered life.  I was reading a book about the Emergent Church, Doctrine by Mark Driscoll, and another book at the time.  I was overwhelmed because I don't always have a lot of brain power left at the end of the day after taking care of the kids, homeschooling, and caring for our home.

Yes, I said exactly what someone had said to me just four months earlier! 

And in all honesty, I'm not able to tackle Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables right now.  I tried one day.  My husband looked at me puzzled when I set it down and explained to him that I just wasn't as smart as he is!  Honestly, I think it's more that he reads books like that regularly and I don't.  I have forgotten a lot of the vocabulary and meanings of words.  It makes it much more difficult to read books like that when you don't know what the words mean.

But, books can be difficult to read not just because of the vocabulary.  They can also be hard to read because they ask you to really think about what you're reading and process it.  With all the things on our plates as women and as moms, there often isn't a lot of energy left to put towards reading books that challenge us.

Or at least it feels like there isn't enough energy.

One thing that I find that helps is finding a book that I really want to read or that I feel I really need to read.  I also just read a little at a time.

I just finished reading Practical Theology for Women.  I requested it after reading the introduction on Crossway Book's website.  ( I enjoyed the introduction and wanted to read more.

Wendy Alsup's heart is to share solid theology and biblical commentary with women.  This book reminded me of the book John Stott wrote about the basics of the Christian faith that pastors often quote. 

This book covers the basics of theology, "which is the study of the nature of God".  p. 23
In part one, Ms. Alsup talks about what faith is, and what it means to walk in faith.  Then, she talks about who God is, which includes who Jesus and the Holy Spirit are.  In the third part, she addresses how we communicate with God and what the Word is.

She covers the basics well.  I was impressed that this is a book that is perfectly suited for a mentor to go through with a new Christian.  Reading this book would remind older believers of what they know and help new Christian women understand what the Bible says and who God is.  It would also be a good book for a Bible study which includes young Christians as well as women who have known the Lord for a long time, because younger believers wouldn't feel at a loss not understanding many of the words Christians use.

Here is an example of something that I thought was very well put in the chapter about the Holy Spirit:
"If a ministry talks more about the Holy Spirit than it does about Christ, it is probably not controlled by the Spirit of God.  The Spirit is all about Christ rather than himself.  The best way to figure out if a ministry is controlled by the Holy Spirit is to evaluate the clarity of its teaching and worship of Christ." p. 109

I have often longed for a book that I could recommend to new believers that wasn't fluffy or unbiblical.  Too many books today are thinly veiled self help psychology books with a few encouraging Bible verses in them.  I have also found many books that are simply unbiblical in what they say and take verses out of context.

I highly recommend this book if it sounds like what you are looking for.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Crossway Books.

Internet Security and Facebook

A few days ago,  friend posted a copied message as her status on Facebook.  It had to do with what Facebook was sharing with third parties without our knowledge.
This was the status message:

"As of today, there is a NEWPRIVACY setting called "Instant Personalization" that shares data with non-Facebook websites and it is automatically set to "Allow." Go toAccount > Privacy Settings > Applications and Websites. and then uncheck the box."

Basically, they had chosen to automatically check a box in the privacy settings that information could be shared about you with third parties when you visit their sites.  Scary!!  

I'll be honest, after Facebook changed the policy about what information belonged to them without telling people last year, I have been wary and cautious about what I post.  I do not go to any applications.  I do not play any games.  The email posted on my page is not my primary email.

Then, this afternoon I read an article in World Magazine that gave me more cause to be cautious.  Basically, the gist of the article is that if you have Facebook open and click on a link that opens a new tab, then Facebook follows you and stores that information.  Also, all the pages you have listed as your favorites, or that you are a fan of are now public.  Public information includes your name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, friend list, and pages.

There is a way to check what is shared publicly from your facebook profile.
Go to the Account tab.  Then Check your privacy settings.  Check each setting (including friends, tags, and connections and applications.  You can see how your profile appears to non-friends by clicking on preview my profile at the top of the friends, tags, and connections privacy page.

Google Buzz has similar privacy issues.  I reading a book about blogging a month or two ago and the author advocated integrating twitter, facebook, email, and your blogs into one interface.  The biggest problem I saw with doing that was giving another party access to all that information.  

There was also an additional note about digital copiers manufactured since 2002.  These copiers have hard drives and store all information that you have copied using them.  So, if you need to copy personal documents, use a copier/printer at home, but not a commercial copier!

I just wanted to share this in case you hadn't heard about it.

Thanks World for posting that article in this week's issue!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Choosing God or Self

When I was in college and for the past decade, their has been a strong emphasis in the Christian community on apologetics.  We felt we needed to defend our faith against attacks and prove it to people who didn't believe, so that they might come to believe in God.  It was the whole premise of Modern Thought--that everything can and should be explained.  There was a flaw in this.  God cannot be fully explained.  God is far bigger and greater than any of us can fathom.

Now, I think the world is using another age-old tactic to keeping people from believing--it's blatant and dangerous in my eyes.  

There are three sources of temptation--the world, Satan, and our selves.  The world and Satan blur together and it isn't really all that important to distinguish the two.  The tactic I'm concerned about this morning is one that is employed by the world, but that the self jumps on board with and runs with it.  

It is the idea that one must choose God or Self--the idea that we must pursue our own happiness.  Our world is telling us that we must be happy--that we deserve to be happy and that walking with God and living according to His truth will not allow us to be happy.  

"The characterized by the subtle and relentless pressure it brings to bear upon us to conform to its values and practices.  It creeps up on us little by little.  What was once unthinkable becomes thinkable, then doable, and finally acceptable to society at large.  Sin becomes respectable, and so Christians finally embrace it.  It is my perception that Christians are no more than five to ten years behind the world in embracing most sinful practices."  Jerry Bridges, p. 211, The Discipline of Grace

But Bridges goes on to explain that our self is actually the most dangerous source of temptation.  The heart is deceitful. 

"Knowing that our hearts are deceitful by nature, we should be especially watchful that they do not turn our liberty into license."  Jerry Bridges, p. 221 in The Discipline of Grace

What I think is happening is that many people today are choosing not to believe in God and saying that they just don't know if they can believe.  I believe that many people who are saying this actually don't think they want to walk with God.  They want to be happy and though they know God and His Word, they are choosing to believe the world--that they won't be happy if they walk according to God's Word.  Some people are actually honest in saying that they don't want to walk with God because they want to live the way they want to live.  But, I think that many people use doubt as an excuse for the desire to have license to live the way they want to in their hearts.

I see people making two choices in this place:  1) choosing not to believe and not walk with God because then they would have to live according to God's Word or 2) choosing to take what they want from God's Word and not believing all of it--essentially discounting parts of the Bible as not relevant to our culture.  You could use another word in the place of relevant, but it would be the same idea.  

I am deeply concerned for young people today who are being inundated by the messages of the world.  They even see Christians in the public eye say that the Bible was mistranslated as a way to justify their own sin.  

James 1
14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.   

We have to be careful and guard against the temptations in our own heart.  We need to be grounded in the Word.  That is the way we fight this temptation and the messages that the world tells us about what we deserve and need in life.  

Giving in to self will not lead to happiness, but rather to unhappiness.  God's way is best for us.  We may struggle with that and it may often not be easy, but it is best.

Jeremiah 29
11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Connecting the Dots

God has been connecting the dots in my head today.

The dots began with my Bible study this morning.  I'm working my way through the study Becoming a Woman of Prayer by Cynthia Heald.  The question that really struck me this morning was about several verses that said we need to pray with thanksgiving (one of them being Philipians 4:6-7).  The question was--why do we need to pray with a thankful heart?  I immediately thought about what a wise question it was.  I think we need to pray with a thankful heart because it helps us see God not with the eyes of a taker (I deserve/need such and such), but as a giver (one who does not expect or demand of others).  When we come with a thankful heart, we have no sense of entitlement.  Rather, we have a sense of how much we do not deserve and have been blessed with.

Next, I read the forward and first chapter of Growing Grateful Kids.  Gary Chapman wrote the forward and he wrote something that blew me away!  I'm going to paraphrase a little, but basically, he noted that when kids are simply given whatever they want and grow up without boundaries, they eventually become adults who are "takers" rather than "givers" and they will never be able to have healthy adult relationships.  As takers, their friends and spouses will never be able to give them enough to satisfy them.  Givers enjoy loving others and do not demand or feel entitled.  They are able to be satisfied in their relationships because they recognize that the relationship is not all about them.  

In the first chapter of her book, Susie Larson talks about how we cannot give our children something we do not ourselves possess.  In desiring our children to grow grateful hearts, we must first have grateful hearts ourselves.  We need to model for our children what it looks like to have a grateful heart and what that means.  

I do desire my children to have grateful hearts and I've always articulated it to myself as struggling with the entitlement mentality.   The way Gary Chapman articulated it hit me hard.  When he identified what being a taker means in relationships, it made complete sense to me.  That is one of the consequences of having an entitlement mentality.  

I am looking forward to reading more of Growing Grateful Kids tomorrow =)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Holding My Tongue

I remember when I was in high school, my dad once told me that he could tell me who to be friends with and who I couldn't be friends with.  As you can imagine, that didn't sit with me very well.  Not very well at all. 

At that point, I was a teenager who's father hadn't been around until high school.  It felt like a little too late most of the time.  He wanted to know every detail, but he hadn't been around.  He wanted to know what was going on in my life when it was things that he could brag about.  Even though I grew up in the 70s and 80s, I was a child in many ways who was to be seen and not heard.

I don't want that for my children.  But, I find more and more that I want to influence my children from the beginning in how they relate to other children and become friends.  I remember a mom telling me when Autumn was 6 months old that sharing is the hardest thing to teach a child.  It turned out that Autumn was a natural one for sharing.  But, Sami was not.  Not at all!  As I've watched my children, I've strongly come to believe that we have to teach our children how to be friends--how to treat others kindly.  Children are constantly testing things out.  If they say something mean or unkind and no one corrects them, they will likely keep on doing it.  Why not, after all!  

I think as much about how my children interact with others as how the other children interact with them.  I am protective of my children.  I see Autumn's soft heart and naivete.  She is willing to follow and tag along.  I don't think she would realize if she wasn't wanted around.  Some people might say that she needs to learn that by hard knocks--trial and error.  But, I think that once she realizes that some of the softness in her heart will get a little calloused--it will will have to.  She did say something in the car today that made me realize she is starting to understand this, though.  And then there's Sami.  Well, for all of Sami's strong willed character, I see her follow older girls too often and see them order her around.  My heart has hurt whenever I've seen this happen.

So, this morning the girls and I had a talk about how we treat our friends and others.  We talked about whether or not we do something when someone tries to talk us into doing something that we know is wrong.  We talked about being grateful and what that looks like.  It was a good discussion.  They both came up with examples so to show me that they understood.  And then this afternoon, we were at a friend's house and Sami did something that the other girl knew was not okay in that house.  I explained to Sami that when we realize we have done something wrong that we didn't know was wrong, then we need to apologize.  And she did.  

I've been thinking through a lot of things today and these are just a few of them.  There are many things that are hard about parenting, but this is one that is very hard for me.  

Bible Promises for Boys

Whenever I begin writing a book review, one of the first questions I ask myself, "Would I buy this book myself?"  The answer usually tells me a lot about what I think of a book.

The answer this time is, "no."

I think it was in college when I bought a book of "Bible Promises".  Essentially, it was a collection of Bible verses on various subjects taken out of context.  When I requested this book, I knew that this book was going to be such a book, but I was hoping that the verses would be really good ones and on target for the various subjects I expect to have to tackle with my son in the years to come.

What I found was a book with 3 or 4 rhyming lines about the topic and then 3-4 verses.  Sometimes the verses made logical sense to me and then other times not.  I don't think it would be a very good devotional because it would be too quick.  If you just want to check the box, I suppose you could use this book, but there are so many books out there that I think would be better.

There were several entries about doing something wrong.  Rather than reminding children that they should strive to do the right thing or that they should apologize and ask forgiveness, this book talked over and over about forgiveness and how children shouldn't feel guilty.  Yes, it is true that we are forgiven.  We attended a church for several years where grace was preached a lot--but living rightly wasn't.  People are so afraid of legalism that as a culture we seem to shy away from even talking about how we should live.  That way of looking at things seems to be very prevalent in this book.  There is much talk of grace, but not of living rightly and repentance.

I know this is just a book for little boys and parents.  Maybe I sound too serious in this review, but I think there are many books that I would recommend instead of this book.

For younger children 2-4, I would recommend the Read Aloud Bible Stories by Ella Lindvall and Big Thoughts for Little People by Kenneth Taylor for devotionals.  For 4-6 year olds, I would recommend an out of print book called Everyday Adventures by Pat Holt if you ever come across a copy.  I'm still on the lookout for other good devotionals for 5 and 6 year olds.  It seems like there's a lot out there for 7-10 year olds, but not as many good ones for 4-6 year olds.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review.


I was struck by a thought last night as I was pushing hard to get dinner on the table.  Often, I have a wrong attitude about the work I have before me each day. Often.  I may not always verbalize it,  but the feelings are there in my heart.  Unfortunately I do say something about how I'm feeling more often than I'd like to my kids. 

I thought about what it would be like if I didn't do the work before me in the day.  What if I didn't do the laundry, pick up, do the dishes, and cook dinner?  What would our lives be like?  Is that the way I'd want things to be?  And then I realized that no.  I wouldn't want things that way. 

I want my kids to get to wear clean clothes.  I want to be able to find things (like the bracket for the front door that my husband asked for yesterday from the garage).  I want to eat yummy food.  

I realized that just as I prayed and asked God to change my heart about painting my house eight years ago (when I didn't like doing it), I need to pray and ask God to change my heart about my chores and work.  These are the tasks that he has set before me today and I want to glorify Him by doing them well with a grateful heart. 

2 Thessalonians 2 (NIV)
13But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
 16May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

This passage was near a passage in my Bible study this morning. =)  

Friday, May 14, 2010

not alone

Today I went to the girls' P.E. class and was talking with a new friend just as the class was letting out.  I was struck by several things as she shared with me about her week.

I often think that I am alone in my struggles.  I was reminded that I'm not the only one to walk through struggles like mine.  I totally understood about her week--without her saying very much.  I understood--because that's been my week, or should I say past few weeks.

I drove home desiring to pray for this friend--this kindred spirit-- this week.  I want to pray a verse each day for her and me.  I thought I might share them here.  I don't know if they might encourage you, but maybe they will.

So, here's verse #1...

Psalm 23:1-3 ESV

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3He restores my soul.

I often want--I miss things from my past that I can no longer have.  It's sometimes things as silly as getting to dance.  I miss it so deeply!  I didn't realize at the time that these things would go away and I wouldn't get to do these things again.  So, I struggle with the "not want(ing)".  

My prayer today is for a few moments peace in which we can sit with the Lord and He can charge our batteries back up.  My prayer is also that we wouldn't want to be anywhere but under the Lord's guidance and in His will.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Chinese Food and Mother's Day Traditions

Today we were out and about and we decided to go to Chinese food at our favorite place for lunch.  I discovered from Autumn that this is where we went last year.  I did not remember at all.

We told the girls we were going to Chinese food and she said, "Oh, so, you'll get a chocolate strawberry, Mommy."

I was very confused.  I asked Chris why she thought that and he didn't know.  So, I asked her.

Her answer was because I did last year.

What a memory!

We love to go to the Chinese restaurant because our kids behave and they all like to eat the food--no complaints.  That's a wonderful thing not to hear =)

At the end of the meal, we each got our fortune cookies--and I did get a chocolate strawberry =)

Sami's fortune was this:

You are a bundle of energy always on the go.

I'm not kidding.  It really was her fortune!  I think that sentence perfectly sums up Sami.

I am thankful for my kids and for my husband.  Life may not always go the way I want it and it may be harder than I wish it was, but I don't think life is every easy =)  I am blessed to have all 4 of them in my life.

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Avatar and Francine Rivers musings

Last week, we watched Avatar.  I had very low expectations of the film.  Everyone kept saying to me that I would like it even if I didn't like the plot.  That statement scared me!  I hated Transformers.  Amazing special effects, but there's a scene in it between the boy and his parents that makes my stomach curdle.  But, back to Avatar.  The plot unfolded and I enjoyed watching the main character find his way.  I know that there is a theme of loving mother earth.  But, I watched this as a fantasy film.  I briefly thought of Baal and the Old Testament at the end of the film.  But, my thoughts about the film centered mostly on other things after the film ended.

After the film ended, I cried for ten minutes.  I know that may sound strange.  I cried because of the things I felt the Lord laying on my heart.  He helped me see through some bitterness I had been holding onto.  He helped me see beauty.  There is beauty in this film.  It is incredible to think that it is all created by a computer.  It is an amazing fantastical world--the world of Avatar.  All beauty reflects God--even when it isn't intended to.  This is such an amazing thing.  We can find God everywhere--in His creation and in what the people Has created create.  In creating things, we reflect our creator.  Our creator was the only one, though, to create something from nothing.  What an amazing, incredible thing to contemplate.  A few years ago, my husband and I were in a Sunday school class about Beauty and Truth.  Many of these things I thought about after Avatar I learned in that class.

Pt. 2

Francine River's new book is called Her Mother's Hope.  I did not have to review this book.  I read it, because I just wanted to.  A gal at the library told me she had started reading it, but that it started off really slow.  I think I've had it in my house for 4 weeks and not picked up the book at all because of it.  I had no idea that a bad review could affect me so much!  Realizing this has made me think a lot more about when I give positive and negative reviews.

Yesterday, I thought I would start reading it.  I didn't put it down for long until I finished it today.  It reminded me of why I have enjoyed Francine Rivers' books so much over the years. She tells the stories of the whole of people's lives--not just the romance in their lives.  A few people have told me that they think she is heavy handed with the messages in her books.  I don't think they could say that of this book.

This book is the story of a mom and her life growing up.  She becomes a mom and has 4 children.  The story centers on Hildemara Rose, her oldest daughter.  As the story unfolded, I was surprised at how I felt about the main characters.  Marta had my sympathy at the beginning and the end, but not the middle.  Hildemara Rose had it all the way through.

The story of Marta and her daughter made me think about my relationship with my parents and with my children.  Marta saw how she was treated by her father, but not how she treats her own daughter.  I want my children to always know how much I love them.  I want them to know that they have my approval and unconditional love.  My mother gave this to me, but my father didn't.  It was conditional at every turn.  I don't want my children to feel the way I did growing up.

I have been struggling with Autumn procrastinating and the girls not picking up their toys.  I know they are silly things in the whole scheme of life, aren't they?  They have seemed so large in my mind of late.  The story of Marta and her daughter made me think about what my daughters can hear from what I say and don't say to them.  I need to consider these things carefully and take the lessons I've learned from this book deep into my heart.  Weigh my words and choose them wisely.   Make sure my children feel safe, approved of, and most of all loved.

So those are my musings that I've been meaning to write down.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Being a Mom

My girls will often tell me that they love me and they're glad I'm their mommy.  It makes me smile.  But, last night Autumn told me she doesn't want to be a mommy when she grows up.  She only wants to be a dance teacher.

I asked her why.

She said that I have to work too hard and that I never stop working.  It is true that I have had a ton to do the past few weeks.  I've struggled with carrying my load and my girls have seen it.  I've struggled with managing it and with my heart attitude about it.

So, I told her--if I wasn't a mommy, then I wouldn't have them and I would be very lonely.  I wouldn't get to see them every day and have them make me laugh and smile.  I can't imagine not having them.

Autumn will be a great mommy someday if that's what God has for her--I hope He does.