Sunday, September 20, 2009

What are you holding onto?

God has been speaking to me a lot lately and some of the things he is saying have me a little concerned! I realized that I have left my heart unguarded and have become an easy target for the enemy. I have fallen into my old ways.

I have always been a little nervous about illness. I just don't naturally react calm and peaceful. I tend to anxious and worry. Since the loss of my sister and daughter to illness I have become even more anxious and fretful. Over the past couple of years God has really been convicting me that this is an area of sin for me. That if I do not take every thought captive and work on protecting my mind and heart I too easily fall into my old worrisome ways.

I confess I am trying to hold on to the power over my family and loved ones health. This is not for me to covet and hold tight to. When I worry I am saying that I don't have faith that God can carry us through anything and that I don't trust him with our health. Now I would really like to pull out my past experiences to defend myself. But, the simple truth is I need to let go of what ties me to this world and what causes me to sin and simply trust.

We all have areas in our life that we hold tight to and have a hard time surrendering, this is mine. What's yours? Have you asked God to reveal it to you? Are you ready? I certainly wasn't ready to deal with this issue. But, God in his infinite mercy has been so faithful and loving to me in this situation. He has never left my side and continues to comfort me, calm me and open my eyes to his presence.

The most ironic thing to me about all of this is that even after losing my sister Gea and daughter Olivia to severe illness's I still worried. You would think that after watching my sister and daughter battle severe illness's that the common cold or stomach flu wouldn't get me all flustered! I have found that what binds me and takes me captive is so irrational. My heart is deceitful above all and does not communicate well with my head. Often our worries, our sins, our struggles have no rational basis, but, our heart and emotions are not always easily spoken to by our intellect.

I am so embarrassed by my sin, but, I know I'm not alone. I also know that the more I pray, ask for prayer and commit all of my ways to God the closer I am to triumphing over this sin. Some days are still bad. I worry or allow my mind to wonder into dangerous territory, but, as I grow in my trust of God those days are fewer and fewer. I want to encourage you to go out on a limb and trust God with what you are holding onto. I once heard a speaker address how to confront and bring down your fears by taking that fear to the worst case scenario. I do not like this method as I have done it and it really offers no comfort. What has worked for me is to lean not on my own understanding, but, to acknowledge God and ask Him to make my paths straight. He has been so very gentle and kind with me through this and I trust he will be for you to.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Submit to this Administration?

In our culture we are encouraged to question authority and boldly protest against what we don't like. I've been wondering how our current ways align with what bible says about governmental authority. What is fitting for a follower of Christ?

All earthly authority is given by God. This is hard to wrap my mind around because I foolishly want to believe that all people are good and God would only allow good rulers to reign. The truth is God has allowed ruthless leaders to be in authority throughout time. When Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt it was from a ruthless Pharaoh. The bible clearly says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 7:3). Ultimately, this was for God's glory and the Israelite's freedom. At the time the Israelite's did the same thing we do now, grumbled and complained against their authorities, not seeing the entire picture.

As Christ followers we have a clear chain of authority to follow. As wives we submit to husbands, children to parent's, church members to their pastors, employees to employers etc. Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:3 that we are to, "Render to Caesar (government) what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Our submission in this life is practice for our submission to Christ in the next. God is a God of order in all things. Our job is to follow the order regardless of emotion.

David is a fine example of biblical submission. In 1 Samuel 24 Saul is hunting David down to kill him. Saul is jealous of David and fears for his throne. David has the opportunity to kill Saul, but he doesn't. He cuts off a piece of his robe and confronts Saul with it. As he is talking to Saul he says, "I will not lift a hand against my master, because he is the Lord's anointed one." David knew it was his duty and responsibility to follow Saul. Just as it is ours now to follow our authorities in government, as long as they do not require or ask us to sin.

There are many details that we can find that could be sinful in following our leaders. There are so many issues that are reason for concern such as abortion, assisted suicide, cloning, gay marriage, etc. As tax payers these are very real concerns, none of us want to encourage sinful acts with our money or votes. So what is a Christ follower to do? I admit I don't know and I wrestle with this issue. But, there are a couple of things I am sure of, the answer will not be found in disparaging and disrespectful talk about the current leaders in authority. Our slanderous talk is a reflection of our hearts, in which love cannot be heard if we are speaking harshly of the authorities God has allowed to be over us. Another thing we must do is get on our knee's and cry out to God for our country. The last thing I am certain of is that we must vote wisely, based on biblical standards.

One of my favorite verses is 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear them from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." My heart is so encouraged by this. What hope their is for our future in this verse. We must be diligent in spreading the good news of the gospel. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. We have so much work to do, but it is not too late!

Our votes can count, as much as the world's lie is that we don't matter, we do! Study up on who is a worthy candidate and then vote for them. Don't vote based on popularity, trying to keep someone else out of office or party affiliation. There are more than 2 parties. Vote based on how closely the candidate will lead according to God's standard. We will give an account for our choices here on earth.

The state of our country is declining and severely immoral. God has been kicked out of our nation and I believe we are under his judgement for our lustful, prideful, greedy and selfish ways. We deserve every bit of judgement we get for the terrible way we have treated our Creator and maligned his word. But, remember their is hope if we will turn our hearts towards the Lord, if we will trust him, follow him and rise above the disrespectful rhetoric and fear many groups are trying to incite us to. Awaken your heart to believe God's truths, walk in his ways and pray! We can rise above these immoral and dark ways of our country. We need not stand by and watch it decline. Pray for our leaders, pray for our people and tirelessly work for the name of Jesus. All praise be to Jesus our true King!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Book Recommendation

I wanted to write a blog on the difference between principles and methods that I learned about in Nancy Wilson's book, "The Fruit of Her Hands." I can't compete with the fabulous writing that she does, nor do I want to. So I thought I would recommend this to you. It is a must read for any woman looking to mature in God's ways. I have a copy I would be happy to loan out if you are interested. But you'll have to read it quick as I love to look back at this book often for encouragement. Here are a some of the things I enjoyed most about this book.
  • Principle vs. Method: The principle is the important thing (God's word, command) the method (way we do something) is of lesser importance.
  • Respecting our speech etc.
  • Working hard and finding contentment in our homes.

Hope some of you ladies are uplifted and encouraged by this fabulous book!

Where does productivity come from?

I read this on the Visionary Womanhood Blog...interesting

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by Bojidar Marinov, Sep 02, 2009
Several years ago a newspaper in Eastern Europe asked a socialist economist a question: “Why is it that the same worker works the same number of hours in Eastern Europe and in America but they make an average of $22/hr in America and only $1.5/hr in Eastern Europe? Where does the 15-fold difference in productivity come from?” The goal of the chief editor was to educate his readers with a short, easy to understand and illuminating article. The socialist economist replied with a 25-page essay full of religious . . . er, I mean, “professional” language that no one could understand, including the economist himself.
The chief editor filed the article in the round file, and called me, the Protestant missionary. “Bojidar,” he said, “I need an article. I need it quick, and I need it simple, digestible and informing. Do you have one?” I did. A good Reformed missionary always has a simple, digestible and informing article on every aspect of human life and action. If he doesn’t, he must go to his Reformed heritage. So I went to one of my Puritan ancestors in the faith, Daniel Defoe, and his character Robinson Crusoe.
Imagine Robinson on an uninhabited island. He has one immediate problem to solve: He needs to eat. He may have a few tools from the ship, but none of these tools give him any immediate solution. What gives him a solution are the few trees near the beach with fruits on them. There is a problem though: The trees are tall and difficult to climb. It takes Robinson one whole day of work to gather only as much fruits as to survive, and then go to sleep at night. He can’t do more than that, unless he wants to go hungry for one day.
Well, one day he has an idea and he really decides to go hungry for a half day. He spends that half day making a long 20 ft. pole to knock fruit down without having to climb the trees. The next day he tries his new production tool, and finds out that it has doubled his productivity: He can knock down the quantity of fruits needed for his survival in a half day instead of one whole day.
So, our first lesson about increased productivity is: It comes from sacrifice, i.e. from forbearing present consumption plus ideas and work. Increasing productivity always comes at a cost.
Now Robinson has several options. He can work a half day, have as much as he had before, and sleep the rest of the day. Or he can work one whole day and double his rations. Or he can work one whole day but eat as much as before, and save the rest—dry it and store it. He decides to take the last option. In a few days he has enough saved to be able to survive a few days without work, so he embarks on a journey to the heart of the island to catch a few wild goats. A week later he returns with two goats. Now he can gather fodder for them one hour a day, and milk them one hour a day, and have even more food than he had before.
Again, his increased productivity came from sacrificing present consumption and using the saved resources to explore and work.
Then one day Friday comes, and he is a good fisherman, but he has no boat. That’s not a problem because by now Robinson is productive enough to feed both of them and work with Friday for two weeks to build his boat and make his net. Now, with Friday’s productivity increased, they have enough time to apply themselves to even better use of their time. The effect of the original sacrifice can be multiplied many times over if they keep saving and use the savings in the right way—not for increased consumption but for more work and investment.
There is no other way to become more effective, more productive, and wealthier. This is how America became what it is today: The fathers of modern Americans sacrificed, saved, and worked, forbearing present consumption and looking to the future. America is rich today because it was founded on that Puritan spirit of self-restraint and work ethic, unknown to most European nations. It is as simple as that.
The editor liked my article, and by the response from his readers, they liked it too. Within a few weeks from its publication the article was republished on many web-sites and blogs online. Eastern Europe is learning from our American heritage.
The question is: Is America today learning from her own heritage?
She isn’t. For the last century Americans have gradually adopted an economic doctrine completely hostile to the spirit of their Puritan forefathers and to common sense in general: That not sacrifice, but consumption is what produces economic growth. We think we have found the way to both eat the cake and have it at the same time. If we eat more, buy new cars more often, spend more money on entertainment, these will somehow make us richer and more productive.
Our government is operating under that same doctrine more and more. Government projects for “creating jobs,” bailouts, “cash for clunkers” programs, printing more money, encouraging unrestricted expansion of money supply and credit—they are all offshoots of the grand illusion that sacrifice is not needed anymore, that utopia will come from unbridled indulgence.
If we look at our example above, this is equivalent to believing that Robinson will become more productive and better off by consuming everything he produced the day before, and even more than that, depleting his stores. Even simple common sense tells us that production for consumption and investing for economic growth are two completely different activities, and they compete for our resources. The more we consume, the less we will have to make our life better in the future. And vice versa, the more we sacrifice and save, the more we will have to invest and make ourselves more productive.
We don’t want to sacrifice anymore; we don’t want to pay the cost for real economic growth. We deceive ourselves that consumption comes at no cost. We are wrong. Both consumption and investment have costs. They both have costs, whether we realize it or not. Of course, we keep telling ourselves that in consumption we are transferring the costs to the future, that we or our children will pick up the tab in the future. But we are wrong. Gary North pointed to the fact that there are no future costs, all costs are present. (Gary North’s articles are true CR, I mean Chivas Regal: only appreciated 12 years after production.)
We need to go back and learn from the heritage of our forefathers. Our indulgence has cost us much so far, and it will cost us more and more. We need to learn to sacrifice our consumption and save. We have paid exorbitant amounts of money to self-destroy ourselves. It is time to start paying for rebuilding. If other nations are willing to learn from our history, we need to learn from it too.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Craft Time!

Anybody who knows me well knows I do not care for crafting. The idea of getting out messy craft supplies, directing the children and having to procure art supplies is not appealing to me. As we live on a very tight budget I have found some things that are easily recycled and used for craft or art time.

*Egg Cartons: In addition to making inch worms these handy little spaces where the eggs go are just the right size for small embellishments like googly eyes, pasta pieces, sequence, glitter etc.

*Styrofoam meat trays. I know if sounds yucky but these things clean up super easy and make for a great easel. I put the children's paints on one of these and then wash up again for another use.

*When you purchase something with a hard card board piece in it keep the board. These make great surfaces to paint and decorate or to glue things onto.

*This one I saw at a friends house, keep a two liter soda bottle, cut off the top half and keep pencils, paint brushes etc. in it.

*Disposable pie tins. These work great when you want to use glitter just put them under where you are working and dump extra in then you can easily clean up and put it back in the container.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two Ears, One Mouth, Part II

My previous post talked about our speech. In this post I would like to address some thoughts on listening. Our family is in big time need of training in this area. I hope you can learn from our struggles and the tools we are implementing to train listening.

A good friend of mine said, "God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we would listen twice as much as we talk." What wisdom that statement contains. But, I am afraid we Lebens girls really like to talk and have not always heeded this counsel! So we are now reaping the harvest we have sewn. We have found that often times there are more people talking than listening. Not at all a beautiful sound or understandable situation. Our children seem to struggle with wanting to speak their every thought. As little toddlers there is only so much ability to think without speaking, but as our children grow past the age of 4 or 5 they should have the ability to control their mouths. With the training of self-control they can do it much earlier, but won't be able to internalize thoughts without speaking until a later time.

So what is a mom to do, but get the heavy training artillery! At our house that sometimes means that the privilege to speak gets taken away so they can listen more. It also means we do training games. Before I tell you what those are let's figure our why listening is so important.

To have wisdom Proverbs tells us we must first hear. Proverbs 8:33-34 wisdom is calling us to, "Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway." To grow in understanding and knowledge and to learn we need to have the ability to not only hear words, but, to really listen to them and understand. If we are too busy thinking of the words we are going to say next, or speaking we cannot grow. For children this is especially difficult. As soon as they hear something that they can understand they usually want to share about it. It is beneficial for them to learn to completely hear a matter and then answer, controlling their thoughts and excitement. When our children are young we can encourage this by stopping often to make sure our children have really listened, and then to listen to their thoughts.

Another reason listening is important is that it will help our testimony with those who do not know the Lord. We have all had a conversation with someone who goes on and on about themselves and doesn't let anyone get a word in. This leaves no room for the Lord to work through us or for another person to connect with us, if we are the person chattering on. Connecting with someone is not a one way conversation! We want our children to be able to listen to another person and direct a conversation so that they can talk about Jesus when the time is right. Other's are so blessed by a patient open ear. We can practice this first by doing it with our own family. As parent's listening to every word the children say and being interested can be time consuming, can interrupt us and can slow us down, it is the perfect opportunity to model listening skills and capture your child's heart through conversation.

We teach children how to respect when we require them to completely hear a matter. The dinner table at our house seems to be one area of great temptation to interrupt for our children. Knowing this we have tried to use this time to encourage respect of others. Let your little ones know that love is not rude, listen to what your sibling has to say. If the children interrupt dad or mom that is another great time to remind them that they cannot honor when they interrupt.

But what happens if they need you and can't get a word in? There is this beautiful tool we use called the interrupt rule. The child simply puts their hand on dad or mom's arm and waits for the adult to address them. If they cannot address them right away dad or mom will rest their hand on the child's letting them know they are there. We have tried to train our girls to use the interrupt rule when we are talking with others, on the phone, reading, concentrating on something, or teaching a sibling. When this is used it is a such a blessing to parent's. We just have to remember to answer in a timely manner or our children will not do it again out of frustration that mom and dad don't answer.

One last tidbit on listening. I have heard parent's say of their teens that they just won't listen to them or talk to them. I have not had to deal with this yet and hope I find the teen year's to be a time of great communication between my children and myself. As a motivator I want to make sure that I am available to listen to them now. I believe that if the children learn when they are young that mom and dad are too busy to listen, or don't care about what they have to say by the time they get to their teen years they will have had many years of practicing not talking to mom and dad. No one wants to feel like what they have to say in not important.

Here are some games to help children develop listening skills. Some of these we have done and some are new to us. I would like to increase this list, so if you have a tip or game about listening, please share it!
  • Hide a set egg timer. Have the children work together to find it. They will have to listen more than they talk to hear the ticking
  • Play telephone.
  • Tell a continuing story, where one person starts a story and then each person adds on their own part.
  • When telling stories or reading have the children ask each other questions about the story to see if they listened.
  • Set goals in listening when at others homes. Ask them to be ready to share an idea, someone else had.
  • Have an open ear to playtime, if the children need help "listening" be available to moderate.
  • Pray for one another. Have the children listen to a prayer request from another family member and then pray for it.

I hope there are some helpful tips here for listening that you can use and I also hope to hear from you on what you have found successful at your house in training.