Saturday, October 29, 2011

Homeschooling as a Christian

A few months ago, I started a website that could serve as a resource for families in the county I live in considering homeschooling.  I didn't realize at the time that I should have defined who a Christian is.  This past Monday, I realized that I need to define it.  

Hundreds of years ago, there was a lot of controversy over who a Christian was.  That is why the Council of Nicea met and wrote the Nicene Creed.  

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen. 

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end. 

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets. 

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen. 

Later, the Apostles Creed was written.  It is a little more succinct and some might say it is easier to recite.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
    the Maker of heaven and earth,
    and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
    born of the virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, died, and buried;
He descended into hell. 
The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
    and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
    from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit;
    the holy catholic church;
    the communion of saints;
    the forgiveness of sins;
    the resurrection of the body;
    and the life everlasting.

In our bulletin each week, there is a note about the word "catholic".  It means the universal Christian church.  Capitalized "Catholic" refers to the Orthodox Catholic church.  

I think the Apostles creed is a good description of the core beliefs of a Christian.  There are many other ways you could define who a Christian is, but I think the Apostles Creed is a good place to start.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Turning My Brain Off

My brain is a jumble of thoughts and stress right at the moment.  I'm trying to calm down, but I'm not being entirely successful at it.  You see, my mom moved across the country to come live near us a week ago.  This week was filled with the normal homeschooling schedule and activities plus helping my mom get her car (it was shipped), have it inspected and registered, get her driver's license, and switch her Medicare supplement provider.  It was a very busy week.  I saw God's fingerprints all along the way.  My mom had such a great attitude about everything.  She lessened what could have been a lot more stress for me than it was.

From the day she arrived, my husband and I began talking together and with her about where would be the wisest place for her to live.  Within a few days, we realized that we didn't want her to buy a house in our neighborhood because we want to move.  We want to move closer to our church family and be a part of people's lives more regularly.  And so began a decluttering movement in our house amidst all of the things my mom and I needed to tackle.  By Friday, the house was mostly decluttered and our real estate agent came over. She sat down with us and talked through what was ahead for us-as both sellers and buyers.  She was encouraging and hopeful.  She has been in this business over 25 years and that was a blessing to me.

Saturday morning brought a full day of busyness.  Painting our upstairs ceiling and many other projects.  Going to see 4 houses.  Going to a birthday party the girls were invited to.  And more painting the ceiling.

Sunday morning brought an hour of painting the ceiling and then cooking for our friends that were coming over for lunch after church.

Amidst all of this my mom was a big help.  She was always ready to pitch in and was never impatient with me.  She understood what we needed to get done and simply supported us as she could.  On Saturday night, I suggested to my mom and husband that my mom should go stay with my friend so there would be less people in our house as we're trying to sell it  Both said, "No."  Wow.  That wasn't the answer I expected.  I expected my husband to want his privacy and my mom to want a break from our kids.  Nope.  I realized in that moment what an amazing blessing that was!

Monday was filled with more minor repairs and moving furniture around.  By the end of the day, pictures were taken and the house was in order.  Tuesday held other tasks for me like getting preapproved for a new mortgage loan and working on our budget.  And now Wednesday has arrived.

It's raining outside and I'm relieved.  The for sale sign should arrive today.  I've heard both negative and positive comments about the possibility of us selling our house right now.  I'm nervous about purchasing a new house, but excited.  I have to come back to the Word.  

Deuteronomy 31:8
8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Psalm 27

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
   whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
   of whom shall I be afraid?
 2 When the wicked advance against me
   to devour[a] me,
it is my enemies and my foes
   who will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
   my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
   even then I will be confident.
 4 One thing I ask from the LORD,
   this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
   all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
   and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
   he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
   and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted
   above the enemies who surround me;
   at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
   I will sing and make music to the LORD.
7 Hear my voice when I call, LORD;
   be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
   Your face, LORD, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me,
   do not turn your servant away in anger;
   you have been my helper.
   Do not reject me or forsake me,
   God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
   the LORD will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, LORD;
   lead me in a straight path
   because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
   for false witnesses rise up against me,
   spouting malicious accusations.
13 I remain confident of this:
   I will see the goodness of the LORD
   in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD;
   be strong and take heart
   and wait for the LORD.

I have felt nervous over the past few days and almost anxious.  But, Psalm 27:14 reminds me of what I'm supposed to do.  Yesterday morning, I was discouraged.  In the span of 2 hours I heard several negative, worrying things.  As I read Psalm 27 this morning, I realized that our enemies may be our friends.  In this case it is not my friends that are the enemies that would attack me, but the things they say.  Those statements are like arrows.  There was no malicious intent on anyone's part, but our cynicism creeps into our lives and what we say.  It steals our hope.  In this case, it stole one of my friend's hopes.  I have compassion for her, not judgement because the same thing happens to me.  Have I stolen someone's hopes by my statements?  Do I reflect that I am trusting the Lord in what I say?  That's definitely something for me to think about today.

Today I am going to remind myself that God has gone before me and is in control of everything.  I can "wait, be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Little Lessons from Knitting

I spend more time than I'd like on the computer.  I have realized many times that it is easy to gravitate to this thing on the desk which I can turn on and be instantly entertained by or interact with.  But, is it real interaction?  No, not really.  It's this semi-real kind of thing.  I think it falls in a gray area.  It's not entirely authentic and real or entirely fake.  One of the conclusions I've come to as I've watched myself spend more time, mostly out of necessity, on the computer is that I need to seek out real, tangible hobbies all the more.  I need to put the people in my life that need me first at all times.  Interruptions that are real need to take precedence. 

I have a few hobbies that I enjoy.  I knit--just simple blankets.  I like to quilt and do simple sewing.  I try my hand at gardening--it gets me outside in the sun.  With homeschooling and taking care of my kids and home, there isn't time for much.  I find time to squeeze in these book reviews and blog because it keeps my brain fired up and thinking. 

Revell is publishing a book of encouragement for knitters.  It's titled Knit with Love by Lisa Bogart.  In all things, we can see how God uses them and works in our lives if we look.  Sometimes we have to pause and consider, because we're running so fast that we don't look carefully and realize what is in front of us.  That's what this book is all about.  Basically, the author considers in short passages how all the parts of knitting reflect aspects of the Christian life.  There are stories of how to find and be a part of a knitting group.  There is a chapter with examples of how you can give through your knitting.  There is also a chapter with lists of books and websites that are helpful.  The chapter with little knitting tips made me want to try something more than a blanket. 

This is a light hearted read that will remind you of the truths you know and have heard over and over through your life as a believer.  This isn't an especially deep book.  It stays on the surface, but that's okay.  It is exactly what it sets out to be.  It is a collection of reflections of how God works in the little things we enjoy doing.  This quote by the author on page 13 sums it up well, "Knitting brings blessings to both sides of the needles, the creator and the receiver."

Please note that I was given a complimentary copy of this book for review by Revell Publishing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Secular Fiction and Christian Fiction

This weekend I went garage saling with my kids as I often do on Saturday mornings.  My mom was with us for the first time.  She was surprised by how many conversations I struck up with strangers.  But, she chuckled about it and told my husband many stories about our adventures when we got home.

One of my conversations was with a woman who has written a book.  She self published it back in 2007.  She's been trying to publicize it and get it out there for the past 4 years.  It was interesting to hear from her how challenging that has been--and how much she's invested in it.  She wrote a book that matters to her.  I suspect that most authors feel that way.   Or at least I hope they do.  During my conversation, I discovered that the book was a fictional story about a young woman who has an autistic son.  The author has an autistic son who is in his 20s now.  Autism is such a mystery and I was very curious about this story.  So, I offered to review it.

Janet Lord Leszl tells the story of a young single parent with an autistic child in her book A Pebble to Polish.  The young woman, Cassie Delaine, is isolated without family or friends.  The story follows her from college through her first days learning that her son is autistic.  There are breaks in time when the story skips ahead to other periods of time in her life.  The story is well written and very true to life.  It does not feel contrived or forced at any point.  It is a good story, but...

I was surprised by my strong reaction to this book.  It was strong in good ways and in bad.  

On the first page, I realized this was not the kind of book I usually read.  It was in the middle of the second paragraph that I caught a glimpse of the main character's personality and perspective on life.  It became very clear within a few pages.  Early in the book there's also a sexual scene on page 15 that I'd recommend skipping.  I think many people would be surprised at this specific recommendation, after all it the scene does not go into all the graphic details of what happens.  Words can be very suggestive and I don't think our minds need to go where this scene leads us.  I've heard romantic fiction described before as porn for women and I do think it can be.  Words are very powerful.

The words used by the characters as they speak to one another reflected to me the biggest way that this book is different than many others I read.  I learned a great lesson in reading this book.  I have read several books over the past few years about suffering.  I have struggled to understand and accept the purpose that God has for it in our lives.  This book kind of brought things together for me.  This explanation isn't going to be very theological, but hopefully it will make sense.  

When Christians say, "Why me?  I'm a Christian.  Christians shouldn't suffer."  Their thinking is not in line with what the Word tells us.  The verse my girls have been learning this week is:  
John 16:33b "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

God doesn't say we won't suffer, but he does say this:
John 16:33a “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace." 

In our lives, we will suffer.  But, that suffering is lessened by God's peace.  Our suffering isn't pointless or hopeless.  That is what I saw in the characters in this book.  As the women shared about their lives with their autistic children, I felt such a hopelessness in them.  They saw their lives as just plain yucky.  Several of them blamed God--which grieved me to read.  A few of them did go to church, but none spoke of knowing the love of God.  I was saddened to hear about how the churches they went to or had visited treated them and their children.  But, I felt it was sadly a very realistic picture.  We are often afraid of what we don't know or understand.  As believers, we need to show more grace and love for people that we do.  

I realized in reading this book that God has lessened the suffering in my life by  giving me peace.
Philippians 4:6-7  " Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

That peace and Christ's love change my life.  In this story, the women feel they only have themselves to rely on.  They're mistaken.  They feel they're alone and on their own.  They're mistaken.  

In the course of the story, Cassie finds support in a group of women who are able to encourage her and help her understand what's going on with her son and what's ahead.  

At the end, the reader could think that Cassie has done it on her own.  She's survived by her own strength that she found within herself.  Yes, she has survived and she is even doing reasonably well.  But, how's her heart?  How is it really?

I'm glad I read this book, I learned a lot about autism and the struggles of parents with autistic children.  It made me realize how much more sensitive, understanding, and compassionate I need to be towards other parents--especially parents who have autistic children.  I also realized that I need to love these children better, listen to them, and care when I have the chance to.

But, would I give this blanket recommendation?  I can't without the caveats I've mentioned in this review... Skip page 15 and skip the cuss words when you can.  Remind yourself on pages 225-226 of God's truth.  Romans 8:28 is a good verse to combat the lies that can creep into our minds.  And remember Jesus' promise in John 16:33.

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

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Downside of Cell Phones and YouTube

Yesterday, I saw our pastor at Starbuck's.  We talked for a moment about facebook.  I have come to the conclusion that there are more cons than pros about facebook.  I actually discourage people from joining if they haven't already.  My belief is that it's not wise to shift your conversation to facebook if it isn't already there.  Facebook lives in the land of quasi-real relationships.  The relationships aren't quite real, but aren't entirely fake either.  It's a bit of a trap in my mind.  The reason I don't withdraw from it altogether is that I now have relationships with family and friends far away that I don't hear about otherwise.  It also allows me to keep in touch with people that I don't see regularly where I am.

My pastor made a comment about communication and the internet and how it was supposed to improve communication, but it often leads to more frustration--that you can't get ahold of everyone right away or that you have to call someone because they don't have email.  I think that part of the reason why is that the internet has increased our amount of communication with one another rather than decreased it.  We communicate more and squeeze even more into our days.  

Food For Thought...

How many people do you "talk" to in a day on the internet?  
How many people do you "talk" to via text or cell phone call?


How many do you talk to via a landline or a phone while you are at home?  

I was driving my children to their piano and voice lessons on Tuesday when I was stopped at a traffic signal.  I looked over and saw a woman talking in her bluetooth through the entire stop.  I listened to the sound in my car.  It was quiet.  None of us were talking.  No cell phone talking.  A little music from the radio.  It was a good thing that gave us all a bit of peace amidst all that we had to do during the day.  

Another day last week I noticed two people walking away from the store.  One of them was talking.  But, he wasn't talking to the person with him.  He was talking on his bluetooth to someone else.  

I also remember some time in the last month walking through a store and noticing a woman alone talking on a bluetooth.  Of course I didn't see the bluetooth at first and I chuckled realizing how that woman would have appeared five years ago.  She would have looked like she was talking to herself and people around her would have been concerned because of how animated her conversation was.

What a time we live in.  When I read Distracted by Maggie Jackson last year, it made a huge impact on my thinking.  The ideas from that book now haunt me.  Do we have rest in our lives?  Do we have peace?  Are we tied to our cell phones or computers in a way that prevents us from settling our minds, hearts, and bodies down to rest?  

This isn't the downside of Cell Phones and YouTube that I meant to talk about in this post.  I actually had a frenetically busy day yesterday.  The part that calmed me down was talking to a friend face to face at church in the evening.  That conversation was such a blessing to me in a way that I can't quite explain.  There was no rush to our conversation.  I truly enjoy this woman's friendship and hearing her honest opinions.  

Earlier in the day, I tried to squeeze in a car wash.  My car was beyond filthy.  After rushing around my car to quickly wash it, I pulled out and ran over a cub!  Ay Ay AY!  I simply didn't see it.  Thankfully, no one had a cell phone to film my silly mistake.  Unfortunately, an 18 year old girl near where I lived was not so lucky.  She made a U-turn over a retaining wall and took a nose dive in the car.  I heard the story at the Starbucks later that day.  I went to church afterwards and mentioned the story to two gals.  One had already heard about it--and seen it on a YouTube clip.  

We all make mistakes but one of the downsides of Cell Phones and YouTube is that it makes even more of our mistakes.  

Most things have upsides and downsides.  The internet, cell phones, and YouTube are not exceptions to this. I can't help but be thankful 1) my driving over the curb wasn't filmed 2) the accident I was in when I was 16 wasn't filmed on a cell phone and 3) I have many friends who aren't on the internet or facebook much.