Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to Kill a Church

It is a shame when the church itself is a cemetery, where the living sleep above the ground, as the dead do beneath. ~Thomas Fuller

I felt I should first explain that my husband and I have had a wide range of experiences within churches. These experiences by no means make us experts, but they provide a certain familiarity with recognizing what is down the road that a church has chosen to take, if it does not change its course.

  • We have been involved in a church that split twice--well, the second time was more of a quiet exodus within a year of the first split and what came out of it was three churches, two still thriving well today.
  • We were involved in a church once that made my aunt worry that we had joined a cult and I suppose it edged that way, but the pastor had a radio ministry that was an excellent in-depth Bible study. It was just a very small, very Calvinistic church. I always found it ironic how much the pastor talked against legalism when it was the most legalistic church I have ever attended with an aging congregation and no young adults except for the family of pastor's son...and us. That church is gone as if it had never been. It died out as its congregation died off, even the building was demolished.
  • We were in a church that beat the idea of wives must be submissive to their husbands into my head every--every!--Sunday. When seeking counseling because I was concerned about my marriage, the pastor told me the best thing I could do is use my womanly wiles to make things right with my husband. That memory still makes my jaw drop and my head shake involuntarily! That church is still operating; sadly, the men really like the empowerment it promotes for them to use over their families with women resorting to using their wiles to try to influence their husbands.
  • We have been involved in churches wasting away in their legalism and/or traditionalism with most of the congregation going there because they thought it was the right thing to do.
  • Basically, we have been in churches that were Spirit-filled and growing, churches that were in the slow death of lukewarm stagnation, and churches that had pieces of itself falling off.

Did you notice that last bullet in the list? It is very, very rare that a Spirit-filled church is stagnant or in a slow death, and they are definitely not lukewarm. Some Spirit-filled churches have had pieces break off, but that is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it means another church is created or people are placed by the Spirit's leading in other ministries. However, the dying-out church is not a church on fire for God, it simply is just...dying out.

I have seen how killing a church is an easy process, like feeding small amounts of poison over a long time so that a person cannot detect it and does not recognize its effects often until he is too sick to recover, but I have also learned that even the sickest churches do not die off easily. The most resilient members are the last to admit that it should close...and ironically they are also the most resilient against any challenge God places before them that would revive it.

When a church becomes a stagnant, aging congregation with no infusion of youth, it is all that is going to be until enough members give up, become too ill, or just pass on so that eventually there is no hope of sustaining it. What a waste! Most of the time they are missing God's calling to another ministry in another church that will serve His purpose, but instead they seem content on just waiting out their time for heaven and expecting God to do it all Himself!

There are many other things that can go wrong within a church, but they all have one thing in common: not following God's leading. That said, some churches seem to have nothing in particular bad in them going on and yet...they are missing it. (Usually they don't even know what it is that they are missing.)

How do you kill a church?

  • Just stick with tradition because when you are not listening to God, it is all you have.
  • Idolize all that is traditional. 
  • Make tradition the greater god of your church than the living Holy Spirit in you.
  • Make traditional hymns far more important than the contemporary music that is flowing from the creativity of Spirit-filled artists inflaming the hearts of the youth.
  • Show the youth that singing about God with the new and contemporary music they like is only to be done during Sunday School or VBS, but never in the traditional services.
  • Do church the same traditional way you have done it, even after your children have grown up and grown away from your church.
  • Invite God into your service, but only if He promises to stay within the boundaries of your tradition--just in case He had other plans and ignore His challenges of your traditions.
  • Continue to do this until your tradition is so outdated that it does not reach any young families at all or any of the youth within your own families and they either fall away from the church entirely or find a church that is Spirit-filled that does reach them.
That is how you kill a church!

~ My Lord, please show Your people where the love of church traditions have taken place of the love of You in their hearts. ~

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Homeschool Planning Out Loud

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. ~Allen Saunders

There is nothing like a homeschool convention that reignites one's passion for homeschooling on a Friday. My husband was hoping to be home in the afternoon so he could take apart his ATV (all terrain vehicle), but instead he, our daughter, and I spent the entire day just walking, looking, and talking from booth to booth. I did skip the college, the grade-in-a-box, the prepared for schools, and most of the multilevel marketing still took us all day.

Last year's expo was not as inspiring for me and I really did not buy anything at it. The Princess begged for the self teaching violin curriculum, which made me spend far more than I hoped and I ended up not buying anything else for homeschooling there. Also off the path of purpose, I did buy one of these really cool new hair clips, called Flexi8, in gold with a cross for the Princess (and me) to use. This year the lady was at the expo again and we bought a dangling one with light pink beads matching the Princess' earrings. From the same vendor I bought the Princess two EZ buns, one leopard and one burgundy, and she was able to fix her own hair in a bun this morning for church. I also bought a few little items for the kitchen I did not plan to buy from the Bread Beckers' booth, a local grain and bread making supply store which is not that local for me but close to the Princess' piano lessons and Living Science. I will be checking their prices against the health food store with my discount to see which organic grains will be cheaper. (You should have seen their faces when I said I had recently bought a motorized stone grain mill for only $100!)

Back to the path of purpose...when I began gathering homeschooling materials about ten years ago now, I bought all the Princess would probably need up through third grade and many reference books that would serve her well into the middle school and some even in the high school years. Since then, if we liked a certain curriculum, I would tend to buy three years at a time when I could, if it had levels like math and her classical Latin and Greek do, for many of the other materials I chose do not have levels. I knew as she approached the middle school years that I could tweak my teaching style to make the material suit her learning style and then she would probably like to have more involvement in curriculum choices. So, basically, we were mostly set with leveled materials up to the seventh grade level when last year I bought the math program Teaching Textbooks 7 used.

She is now seventh grade age and I have wanted her to be more involved with the choices, but she was not as interested that day as I hoped she would be. Her father, on the other hand, was ready to buy nearly everything he liked in the first aisle--there were seven more. Knowing that using the materials is far different than being infatuated with it at a convention, I have this strict rule that nothing gets bought until I have seen everything I wanted to see and had time to look most of it over usually during lunch. He restrained himself well and I made it easier for him as I had the money.

I was hoping to find something on civics, because even though I have gone over how our government is structured with the Princess, it apparently did not make it into her long term memory processes, or so it seemed during our test prep on the subject. I did not find anything there, however my husband (I knew he would come in handy there) heard about a curriculum from a vendor for a non-competitive product that her family had used...of course, the only vendor that carried it did not have any there. So, I will be ordering Uncle Sam and You online, because it seems to be new and not well known so I am not finding it used.

The Princess is on the last CD of her math and this method seems to be going well for both of us, so I will be ordering Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra probably in a few weeks, since there never is any discount offered at the expo and people think selling it used for just $15 less is a such a deal that people will be waiting in line--pluh-ease, folks! Get real about this!

I will be selling the Singapore Math books and possibly the Math Mammoth CDs. I also have a pre-algebra wipe-off game called Opps! by Muggins Math--I love all their stuff, but I have not been seeing them at the expos the last few times, even though they are in north Georgia. That will be a nice break/fun supplement for us, I hope.

I so liked the idea of Classical Writing, but I saw some serious grammar issues when I used it. I took another look at Writing Strands. My husband was ready to purchase on the spot, but I remembered having at least two of their books at home, I just was not sure of the levels and I knew that I could find them used pretty easily for cheaper. I have levels 2 and 3. I think she would be good with Level 3. We will give it a try now that I think she is more capable. I am hoping to give my daughter more guidance in her creative writing; the girl is always writing and her plots are impressive, but she needs to improve her delivery.

The vocabulary of the Princess needs some broadening. Although I liked the online program Words and Their Stories, it is limited and I was not regulating her use of it to see what words she was learning, although she does keep a glossary. I think at this point she could use something more robust and one curriculum I was looking over suggested Vocabulary Vines, I think, as I cannot seem to find the reference now. I like it and began looking over other possibilities. I am liking Vocabulary from Classical Roots the best so far, which I might find used and will be a good accompaniment to her Classical Latin and Greek studies. It will help her to breakdown the words, addressing the root with prefixes and suffixes so that she can determine and retain their meaning better. She recently read a book where the heroine used lesser known words and my daughter has been using those words whenever she can fit them into the conversation since, so maybe this will work for her.

I have been using Harvey's Elementary Grammar, a reprint of a book my grandfather probably used in school. It is highly advanced by today's standards, even more than the advanced English courses I was taking in high school in the 1970's, which were better than what is being taught today--we just have not been taught grammar as they use to do it! Although I would have liked to see a bit more practice exercises, its scope and depth in grammar goes into college levels--proven to me when I talked to the creator of another grammar curriculum and I asked her if she knew what a copula was; she looked puzzled until I told her it is the formal name for a linking verb. This term is only used today in college level grammar today, but was used in Harvey's.

So, believe me when I write that I truly love Harvey's and would not even consider any other grammar curriculum...except for this one thing: although I have the answer key, there are some things that are assumed to be known by the teacher and student that are not covered in the textbook. There are these rule numbers in the parsing of a word that are not covered at all or not covered well enough. I have the answers in the answer key, but I did not have any reference in the book to look it up. I had to find a similar book with more exercises in Google books to get the parsing charts and the rule numbers. Needless to say, until I found that, it as frustrating for me as it was for the Princess. That is why I took a look at another grammar curriculum.

During the lunch review, I decided to buy Analytical Grammar. It is strong in sentence diagramming and does parsing although it may not be as extensive as Harvey's. It is designed to begin with the basics as if no prior grammar has been used. It is divided into three seasons and the first season as well as most of the second season and a portion of the third would be review for the Princess, but I feel most of it would be necessary review. For her age, they suggest the three year program, as in one season each year with every other week a review sheet, while the student focuses on other things under the category of language arts, like reading, writing, evaluating literature, vocabulary, etc. After the third season, she is done with grammar, so they say. (I think I would be doing a comparison at that point with Harvey's before I concede to that.)

The only thing I dislike about the books is that the workbook and teacher books are very thick and in the videos they were spiral bound, but now they sell them as glue bound books with the student book having tear off pages. I am thinking about having them both cut and spiral bound, which I have never done before, but is commonly done with workbooks by homeschooling mothers. I have since found out that the local office supply stores could do it, but they do not have the coil binders big enough for 400 pages. I found that Kinko's does so that will be something I will be doing next Thursday and it will cost around $6 more or less. It is worth the cost as the way it is now is difficult to use.

I am sticking with the Classical languages using Latin's Not So Tough and Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek for now. For modern French, we have Tell Me More and a free Babbel app on our tablets.

Of course, this is covered by her course with Living Science and we are paid up for that. The class will begin in September.

Unit Studies
We will continue with the History of Classical Music by Beautiful Feet and I have another history of music curriculum in waiting that covers the politics more and how that influenced music.

We may be dropping History of the Horse by Beautiful Feet. I need to see where she is in the course. If she is close to finishing, I may have her finish it out.

Piano and music theory are the domains of her piano teacher. She is independently working on violin with a very good curriculum for that. She has a guitar and a recorder as well.

I will not be using a curriculum for art and will try to coax her to copy drawing and painting stills or photos to develop other techniques. I hope to begin covering the history of art along with history.

I have been having her read out of print Landmark world history books for several months and for the summer she started on American history. She reads about three chapters two or three times a week and then writes a paragraph long narrative per chapter that I check for grammar and spelling. I think I would like to structure it a bit more, but I have to say that she was learning more about the history she has read using this method than I did and history, like science, is a subject that you can learn all your life and not know it all.

Hmm. Well, that is next on the agenda. There is going to be an adjustment period with her starting the science class and moving our errand day to Wednesdays. I have to look over all the curricula and determine when and how much time is needed for everything.

Right now we are still in the middle of test prep and I think I have chosen the test that she will be taking in August.

Whew! I need to schedule a vacation!

~ My Lord, thank you for Your guidance in educating my daughter. Please make Your will clearly known. ~

Friday, July 19, 2013

Homeschool Changes and Challenges

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. ~Roger Lewin

What three things do sending a letter of intent, a change in Georgia homeschool laws, a homeschool convention, national standardized testing, and a starting a science class at the Home Study Center have in common? Homeschooling (obviously), deadlines, and me--well, us. In case you do not know, deadlines can cause me a bit of anxiety.

Homeschool Laws

We are fast approaching the end date of our homeschool year, August 31. When I checked in May the state finally had the website set up correctly to input the full year's attendance online--this resulted in a change in the laws from last year. Since the Princess was six, every year until last, I have had to send a letter of intent to homeschool by September 1st and monthly attendance records to the local school superintendent. I have complained about this four years ago in Those Pesky Attendance Records.

Last year the law changed so that the state received everything and that attendance records could be sent in on one form at the end of our homeschool year, with the exception of those trying to get their driver's license, but that would not have been a concern for me for a few more years. Today I thought I would look over the form for my 2012-2013 school year attendance records as we have fulfilled our attendance requirements (although I am still homeschooling) and put in my letter of intent for the next year. I was pleasantly surprised to find that as of July 1st this year, just a few weeks ago, Georgia no longer requires attendance records at all, even for those at the driving age.

Some years ago now, I met the state senator who initially framed the homeschool laws and mentioned to him that I thought it was a bit ridiculous that Georgia was the only state that require sending in monthly attendance records, not that he or anyone else listened to me, but I did my part in making my thoughts on the subject known to my representative. Yes, this change in the homeschool laws is very welcomed! It even relieves some of the deadline anxiety for me.

 The Home Study Center Class

Although all changes should be appreciated, I suppose, especially the ones we choose, I am careful about obligations as they always have deadlines. With the interview behind us and the invoices received in the mail that are now due, I am a bit apprehensive about the Princess beginning her science class at the Home Study Center. I know this will be very good for her in many ways, but I am not sure how she will handle being in a class at first and doing the homework, which will be as many hours each week as the class is, and the two projects with presentations she will be expected to do: one this fall and another in the spring.

Making way for this one class is such a huge change for us: we are changing our errand day to Wednesday after doing everything on Thursdays for the last eight years. It is going to take some getting used to. I might have to change our dental appointments and our chiropractor will not be available in the afternoons, only the mornings. I will have a three and one half hours to myself on our errand day when I have never been alone for more than an hour--of course, it is broken up as I have to drive the Princess from school to her piano lesson, but still two and one half hours unbroken with a half hour between the class and piano lessons and then another hour to myself. I am not sure how I will structure the day. I may be doing the grocery shopping alone during class. It probably will not be as fuel efficient as our present schedule to do it that way, but it would work best with the time, I am thinking.

The Princess, of course, is far more practical about the entire thing: she is excited about the idea of having a cool looking insulated lunch bag as she has wanted one of these for years, but she really had no need. We saw a couple she liked and plan to stop at a couple more stores before the final selection is made.

Homeschool Convention

I was given the opportunity to register my husband and me for the Southeast Homeschool Expo absolutely free this year. I am thinking that this is because the last few years there has been a pretty poor turn out. Last year there was only about half the people attending as there had been years ago and on a Saturday, which is usually the busiest. It is understandable with the economy of this area, how the variety of homeschooling materials have exploded, and availability on the Internet.

I am a bit apprehensive about going to the convention. Last year, my husband came home with an idea for a new project: a worm farm. Now the way we have our rabbit cages is not conducive for worm farming the way it should be done, but when we began to get compose from the pile to enrich some of the garden soil, we found that the worms were farming themselves...without us. Hundreds in each shovelful! However, we also would like to find a way to separate the castings so that we could use it as a liquid fertilizer. My husband has been thinking that out and he might have an idea that will work.

One of the things I did not mention about the last time we went to the Expo was the booth selling a hydroponics system. Having dealt with the bugs and slugs attacking my cabbage and lettuces the last two years, I can see the advantage for certain plants to not be planted in the ground. The system, of course, was very expensive, but it has been churning in the back of my husband's mind. Just this week, he mentioned to me about getting a couple of these 250 gallon plastic food grade tanks we saw on Craigslist (when I was looking for worm farming solutions) and starting a hydroponics/fish farming system.

Oh, that sounds quite interesting, Honey.

Actually, I like the idea of being more independent for our food sources--and who has time to fish in this household?--but it also ties us down even more than we are...and when I write "us" I mean me. We planned to expand the rabbits to supplement even more the food for the dog and cats as well as for us. We are saving a bit as my husband just gave up the lease for the hunting property, since nearly everything we had on it of any value was stolen recently--but let's not go back to that--and this just after he bought the ATV and is still fixing it to use when hunting, but where or even if he will be hunting this fall we do not yet know.... But, since this has not much to do with homeschooling changes and challenges, I will drop it...for now.

The point is that I am a bit more than apprehensive about having my husband accompany me to the homeschool convention next Friday. Who knows what project that man will add to my life next!

National Standardized Testing

In Georgia, homeschoolers are required to test every third year beginning with third grade. I have a deadline of getting the test done in August before the Princess starts the science class--it is more of a personal deadline, but since my school year is technically supposed to end August 31, it makes sense that I should have the Princess complete the test before that date.

For the last two weeks the Princess has been in test prep. I began with 4th grade, we are now in 5th and will continue until she has completed 7th using Spectrum Test Prep books. This increase from an easy lower level to her present level is a very good method to build her confidence and also identifying her weaker areas that may need more review prior to the test. The newer Spectrum editions are set up more like review than the previous versions or maybe it is just the difference between 4th and 5th grade in how they structured the books. Either way, I am pleased with how she is working through this challenge. She is learning about reading the instructions well and to be sure to fill in the answer she meant to mark as she made a few mistakes that she knew the answer, just because she was not concentrating.

I will have her tested with the 6th grade test because she is the right age for it, but she currently is at the end of 7th grade in math. And guess which subject she consistently tests high...the very subject she likes the least: math. The rest of her subjects have no grade level as I do not use made for school curricula, but from what I am seeing she is above sixth grade in most everything, although we do not line up with state standards with history and science. These subjects are things that one could learn about all her life, so that does not concern me. In the long run she will have learned a great deal in both, probably more than necessary to meet the standards.

The first time she was tested she was in the 96 percentile with the CAT. I am contemplating using the CAT again and I am hoping she does well this time, but these scores are based on how everyone who took the test scored. I could chose the PASS which has a better scoring system and made for homeschoolers, but it only goes up to 8th grade so that really would not be a good comparison to the tests she would have to take afterward.

Things are definitely going to change! The Princess and I will probably be unsettled until we make the adjustment in the next few weeks...and hopefully, my husband will not start any projects that are too demanding of my time.

~ My Lord, please continue to guide and bless the education of my daughter. ~

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sponsoring Judite Joao

If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!
~Dwight L. Moody

We had this idea for the past few years of sponsoring at least one child, and after our finances eased up with paying off our debt and reducing our tithe back to 10% and the Princess turning twelve, we decided she should chose a child through Nazarene Child Sponsorship.

(If you have been following my blog for the last year, you might be wondering why we would chose this organization. Even though we are no longer members of a Nazarene church, we truthfully have no problems with the denomination as a whole and have always been impressed with the mission work being done.)

I thought the Princess would have preferred a girl about her age in India as she has talked about that country so much influenced by The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Instead she chose Africa.

Since April we have been sponsoring an eleven year old girl in Mozambique named Judite Joao, who helps her mother and likes playing netball.

We have not yet exchanged letters so we do not know much about her at this time, but if I know the Princess, she will probably wish to write often and send drawings too.

~ My Lord, thank you for this precious child Judite Joao. May she grow to love You and know Your love for her. May others hear Your calling to sponsor a child in need. ~

Saturday, July 6, 2013

One Space a Day - Part 1

Remember the law of the home: Junk expands to fill the space available, plus one room. ~ Deniece Schofield

Today is a very wet day. I could not work outside. It would have been excellent for baking bread had I planned to do that, but the weather prediction for the week suggests I will have plenty of other wet days to bake. It just would have been another distraction from what I really need to do anyway.

I planned to to use the same concept downstairs, I did March when I tackled the job of reorganizing my panty and kitchen food storage areas (although I have one cupboard in particular that still desperately need to be done, but not today). Actually, I have been toying with it more than planning as I have been putting it off but my one motivation is to have a useable workout area in the garage, a functional office/homeschool area, and--best of all--an space for inspiration and creativity that I will call my art studio. I need to work on one area, one drawer, one shelf, or whatever each day in those areas.

My husband has said that these three areas (which are as big as the entire living areas upstairs) are all connected, which means that to move things in one usually means you have to find a place for some of them in the other two. That makes it seem so, so, so overwhelming to me, because all three are in a state of disaster--well, the office/homeschool area is not too bad now that we have sold some items that took up so much space.

Let me explain what happens. I moved the table and kid-sized chairs out of the office area so that we could put the Princess' new desk in its place. The table is folded up in the garage but needs to be in the center of the art room, when the that room is organized. The two chairs were placed out on the curb with a for sale sign for a few days (and are listed on Craigslist) and this is how they ended up in the garage instead back into the office area. The toy bin organizer was moved out of the office/homeschool room into the art studio until it sold last week.

I have a several boxes of things that are from all three areas in the homeschool area that are piled in front of a stereo cabinet that I use to organize homeschooling items as they are waiting for new homes. This large spread out pile is very inconvenient and terribly bothering me. I really hate piles. I also really hate it when piles just get moved to add to an existing pile or make another whole new pile. Piles make have an adverse effect on me.

It even bothers me that while I am organizing something I have to make temporary piles. That is why just one area a day works best for me. It is just one concise area so that I can manage all the little piles I must make in the process of organizing and making it all so wonderfully better.

Although I have been wanting to tackle the art studio, I am just not mentally ready to enter that room yet. Its piles have piles on top of piles and some of the stuff is not mine. I have to have my husband help out with deciding what to do with his stuff. So, for today I decided that I would take on the two lowest two drawers in the office filing cabinet. It was my hope that everything would fit into the lowest one when I was done. Well, not everything did even with the things that I decided to throw out or give to Goodwill. I had to find places for a few things, but I am pleased and the drawer above is completely empty--not for long, but for now.

I also had a few things that needed to fit into the cabinet were we have our printing paper, labels, envelopes, and such. This is the finished product. Not particularly pretty which is why we have it inside a cabinet we can close, but now we can find everything much better than before.

~ My Lord, I finally started on what I have been avoiding, ridding myself of the things that take up so much room in my home and time from the things I believe You are encouraging me to do. Please bless my efforts so that my daughter and I can create artwork to honor You. ~

Friday, July 5, 2013

God Provides Something Better

The cautious faith that never saws off a limb on which it is sitting, never learns that unattached limbs may find strange unaccountable ways of not falling. ~Dallas Willard

Interesting thought, isn't it? I do not want a cautious faith! Although I am very careful with finances, there are still times when God amazes me in meeting our needs when it seems it is highly unlikely, even impossible. Impossible just means that God is going to get so much more glory when He makes it happen because only He can make it happen!!!

Over the course of my life I have learned that God is a wonderful Provider. I mean, we have been very blessed that we have had the resources to take care of the costly surprises that have come up. I find His blessings in stories like the time when both our mini-vans needed new transmissions within six months of each other and we found a way to pay for them without going further in debt.

You might recall my recent post, Starting Off Badly...Again, when I wrote to the roofer we hoped would be replacing our roof, but would not be due to some rather unfortunate and largely avoidable circumstances. I have to confess that I do not know if I truly believe that all things happen for a good reason. However, I do believe God is good and would not give a stone when we ask Him for bread, so bad things are not what He desires for us. Perhaps, sometimes what seems "bad" is just a bump to straighten up on His path as it was this time, or like when your computer hangs and just needs to reset to run better than it was. My husband heard the advertisement for another roofing company called Allgood on a local Christian radio station and called them. A man, one of the co-owners and manager, came and prepared an estimate...for $1,000 less than the first company's proposal, which had been in agreement with what the insurance adjuster told us would be typical.

Not only was the company cheaper, they did an excellent job. It has rained and rained since, and there have been no leaks. The Hispanic crew was polite and quiet mostly. They came on a Thursday so I was not home while they worked but my husband had that week off so he was. He was pleased with the quality of work and since he used to do roofs as a job to pay for college and has repaired a few since, I trust his judgement.

Not only did we get an estimate for the roof, but also for the siding, windows, and gutters. We cannot do vinyl replacement windows, but need new build wooden windows with the frames. This is because of a spray-on siding product that trapped moisture and is causing everything to rot. The estimate is very reasonable, but we do not have the funds and we really do not want to go into five figure debt again. If we did not have a second mortgage already, we would have done that but.... Right now it seems hopeless for at least a year and we are in a race between the rot and saving enough money to replace the damage it is doing.

We have holes in the siding on one side of our house. We have considered doing one or two sides at a time knowing that will cost us more in the long run, but having another loan or credit card debt again is not that appealing either. Right now, I cannot see how my Lord will provide and my husband would like to get it done in the fall, but that just does not seem financially feasible. I am thinking we could save up about half of the cost for the work to be done in the spring and finance the remainder.

It is difficult to know how and when my Lord will provide for this necessary expense, but I know that He can and that He will. And I am sure that looking at it in retrospect we will see His blessing in it all, so I am excited to see how He will provide for us to have this work done.

~ My Lord, You are a God of abundance and provision. You led us to a good company that is far more affordable. I trust You. My faith is in You. May I be anxious for nothing with assurance that You will provide for this need. ~

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bringing Jesus

Missionary zeal does not grow out of intellectual beliefs, nor out of theological arguments, but out of love. If I do not love a person I am not moved to help him by proofs that he is in need; if I do love him, I wait for no proof of a special need to urge me to help him. ~Roland Allen

People often think that a mission field has to be in a foreign country, under some mission organization, or perhaps for a particular cause like bringing shoes to children in India. We have made the concept of being a missionary or going on the mission field synonymous with an organization. While it is true that organizations can do more by pooling resources and they have their place in God's plan, that is not the only way to get it done, the "it" being God's work. Even today there are missionaries who just...go.

Years ago, I knew a newly married young couple who were called to be missionaries in Albania. They asked churches and individuals for support and when they had enough to make the trip over, they just went. They had no organization to support them, but they had everything they needed because God just provided it. They told us stories about how God provided for them. Once they desperately needed about $200 before a deadline of 2:00 PM while they were back visiting family and gaining more support. There was a place that had very small houses where missionaries could stay while they were visiting in the States. There they prayed and prayed. A trucker pulled up his huge semi to the little house and handed them a check saying God told him they needed this money. Even in the early days of their missionary work, they had many such stories of God's provision.

That was how they lived as missionaries without the security of an organization. They simply had faith in God to provide for their needs in every way. They also had no oversight other than God. In this way they had complete freedom to go where the Lord wanted them to go and when He wanted them to go. They held Bible studies in their home and in the homes of the people who invited them. They traveled to surrounding villages and helped people with whatever they could. They did not hand out dishes of food or bags of clothing and leave. They did not live in a nice house. They lived there as one of them with only a tickle of water at certain times of the day and some electricity a few hours of the day if they were fortunate. Even the most impoverish American families had living conditions better than these missionaries. They also dealt with danger: someone tried to set fire to their home.

These conditions are what we think is a real mission field, but I once met one of the princes of Ghana. To be a prince of Ghana, you simply had to be the son of one of the twenty-something kings or tribal chiefs who could have several wives and dozens of children. This man was the first born of the king, so he was in line to be king. One of the things he hoped to change in his country was the hospitals; they needed more of them and better equipment. He felt that he would be able to accomplish more as a politician and since the kings there cannot be in politics, gave his birthright to his oldest brother. I met him when he was a missionary here in the U.S., because he believed that Christianity in the States was so watered down and lukewarm that too many church members were not really Christians. His mission field was not on the streets or in shelters with the homeless, but all over and in our churches also. I guess we would like to think of him as an evangelist rather than missionary as I noticed some people were offended and others thought him to be quaint, I suppose, missing the point of why God called him to be a missionary in the States for a time.

Jesus was a missionary. His disciples where missionaries. I am a missionary. I believe all Christians are called to be missionaries. It is our mission to be His Kingdom at hand, to be Jesus to people. My mission field is not in another country or another state. My mission field is where I am and where I go. Sometimes it is the grocery store. You might see me shopping for food and for years I was just shopping trying to get it done and move on, but now I am shopping for my Lord; I am shopping for those who need healing, for those who need to see Jesus, for those my Lord has brought to the store to meet Him in me. I am happy to stretch my schedule on the spot to be Jesus to someone who needs Him.

I am not bragging on myself, I am simply determined to refocus every area of life, especially outside of my home and the church, on my Lord and His Kingdom, and lead by example so people will do the same. Everything that I need to do or comes up is foremost a means to be where He wants me to be at that time to show His love to others. I will wait in line just so I can talk to others waiting in line or to the cashier instead of using the self-serve check-out stations. I want my life to be about making Jesus real to people. Healings have happened in stores and restaurants--yes, while out shopping and eating, folks--and more healings will happen in unexpected yet ordinary places. For me, it is no longer about doing errands just to do them, but how can I use this to be Jesus, to be encouraging, to show His love, to bring His Kingdom to the people in the same place I am.

I do not want to miss the opportunities to show people the Kingdom, their home where they would want to be if they could just see even a glimpse of it, their God they would want to worship if they could just feel His love. I am not very good at this, but I desire it and I am surrendering myself to my Lord. I want to bring Jesus to people.

~ My Lord, give me Your boldness and Your words. Guide me to be where You need me to be and help me to get my selfish self out of the way of You and Your work. ~

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Church #7

Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late - and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.
 ~A.W. Tozer

We went to another church on Sunday that meets in a local school a mere ten minutes from our home, the one to which we were invited by the man who pierced the Princess' ears (in my last post). I have done some research to find the senior pastor had been a missionary for two years. They are not really denominational, but are aligned with the theology of Church of God, which is Pentecostal. This church is on the conservative side, believing in the gifts but not making the gifts themselves things to be worshiped, so the pastor explained to us. The preaching was good and had my daughter in stitches for three minutes at one point--I thought I would have to ask her to leave to get back in control of herself. As common with the churches we have been visiting, it is come as you are and uses contemporary Christian music. It also stresses equipping its members to be the Church.

Before starting the church, the two pastors who planned it together visited many of the churches that were growing in the area and modeled theirs accordingly. What do growing churches look like in our area? Exactly the type of churches we have been visiting. That is not to say that all of the denominational churches are stagnant, some are growing, but most of the ones really growing have contemporary services and have the "come as you are" dress code.

Many of these churches, who are taking church outside the walls, also have really intriguing names. Now you cannot judge a book by its title, but a church name can give a person some insight as to their focus. Such names tone down the denominational thing, which is a huge turn off for many people who have had bad experiences within denominational legalism, but on the other side of the coin, such names seem to make those who are hard liners for their own denomination just as turned off. All that proves to me is that some of us have been going to church for far too long and are trying to protect our little corner of Christianity instead of boldly being His Church to all. When I think about it, churches used to have revivals (some still do), but what many Christians are feeling called to, as my husband and I are, is a movement to revive all of Christianity, to revitalize the very spirit of Christianity, in a matter of speaking, not just a church and not inside a church.

We have not been led to visit all of these churches and some are too far away, but I can appreciate all their ministries:

  • Hearts on Fire
  • The Journey
  • Elevate
  • Full Turn
  • Oasis
  • Vital
  • New Seasons
  • The Rock
  • Vertical
  • The Well
  • The Gathering House
  • Crossroads

When I think about the history of the churches during my lifetime, I realized that these upcoming generations had youth group names like Souled Out, Fusion, Power Source, Cross Trainers, Rooted, Stand, Awakening, Impact, Fired Up, Radical, Underground, U-Turn, Ignite, etc. Is it any wonder we are now seeing more contemporary churches with names having that same energy and allure? I mean, really, did we think that if the church catered to children from the time they were babies to older teens with contemporary music that reached them and catchy youth group names they would like while telling them how they look and what they wore was not important that they would later settle right into the plastic model Christian singing hymns at First Church of (Home Town) in their Sunday best as young adults? How many young adults fell away from the church because they just had no desire to make the adjustment from how they were raised in the church to how they were expected to be once they aged out of the youth group?

I loved the name "The Journey" when we were thinking of a name change with our former church, but another church moved in just south of us on the same road with that name. It did not matter, really, because the members voted against any name change 5 to 3, so no spirit of revival happening there.

I would go with whatever my Lord wishes, of course, but if I could name a church now, I think I would call it Revitalize, just so the people would remember their mission is to stay revitalized in the Lord so it would be effective in being His Living Church, to bring His Church, His Kingdom, to the people not in any church instead focusing so much on trying to get them to come to their own church.

~ My Lord, I pray for those who have been reading here. May we hear You, my Lord. May we learn to let go of how we think church should be and be Your Church to the unchurched and unsaved. May we stop counting heads of attendees within the walls and be out attending to the people according to Your leading. ~