Tuesday, May 28, 2013

For the King!

We just finished reading Kingdom Tales (by David and Karen Mains) recently and I'm quite sure our family has never enjoyed a read aloud story more.  (I know I never have.)  The precious friend who insisted I take her copy of this great book told me she wanted everyone she knew to have it, and I completely agree.  (The key is, once you lock the cover in your mind from Amazon, head over to this site to buy it for about $10 cheaper.)

I don't think you'll find a more captivating read-aloud for perhaps 5 or 6 -10 year olds, and honestly, why stop there?  We've loaned it to a family of young teens and I think they're going to love it too.  The edition given to us has all three Kingdom Tales books in one and each chapter is fantastic (though I would skip completely the Carnival's Daughter in book 2 and be ready to censor the story as needed if it's just too intense for reading to littles.)

At our house, story time is usually after lunch, just before the kids' rest time and my afternoon quiet time.  How can I put in words how my heart was compelled in prayer the day that I read the chapter The Forbidden Princess?  Hot tears poured down as I asked for Amanda's weapon and war strategy and aim!!!  And after reading Grandma Vigilantes, which I (silly) wept straight through almost every single word of, there were more deep knee bends from this mama and perhaps more understanding from our kiddos for what mama was after in her time bent down at the bedroom window.  

And there's Scarboy's fire-defying escape from Enchanted City, there's Mercy and Caretaker, Amanda and her dragon, and in the final chapter of the first book, there's Hero's entrance.... which is only the beginning... of e.v.e.r.y.thing.  Just the the way the Rangers of the King cry out to each other "How goes the world?!"  "The world goes not well, but the Kingdom comes!"  Could there be any truer, greater call to courage and hope and passion?  And they shout their battle cheers for each other too:  "For the King…. and the Kingdom!"   Yes!  Oh my soul....YES!

There is the issue of eschatological perspective in Kingdom Tales that I take with liberty as "story".  I have much more to learn about that realm and I don't endorse the ideas in Kingdom Tales as truth-telling of the end times of our world, but I do take this book with great joy for the magnificent story that it is.  Oh, I wish I could get a copy to all of you friends!  I would love to hear if you read it, how you like it...

As I read through Kingdom Tales with the kids,  Matt and I are also slowly reading through John Stott's commentary on the Sermon on the Mount and loving it too.  Stott's meditations on the beatitudes have been churning in my soul for weeks and I hope I never move past it.  Stott describes the whole Sermon as Jesus presenting his culture, a Christian counter-culture, to his disciples.  He tells of the ways of His kingdom of light to the ones who live in the dark of this world.   

Jesus begins his introduction, his explanation of a Christian counter-culture by declaring what he calls blessed.   It's nothing like what the world admires or applauds.  The first thing Jesus opened his mouth to say is this:  

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Maybe that's something like "Blessed are those who have nothing else to lean on, nothing else to trust in, nothing in themselves... you will have all of me. "  

I yearn to be a place where the King is, where the King's reign is all-evidenced.  I yearn to live with the Ranger cry bursting out from my heart and lips and in all of my life "For the King!"  

All of my life for the one who is Truly King, King of me, King of All.  

All of my life poured out, Emptied.... To be filled with His Word:  Blessed.  He pronounces it over me and it is so.  That's the joy I want to strain after with all my might, and bless our kids to see as the all-worthy goal and consuming passion of their lives too.    May it be!

For the King!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Take This Gift!

Oh to drink these words deep!  I'm praying for me and for you friends, to hold these truths in the depths of our souls, to let the greatness of these truths shake us and awaken in us a brighter action and affection and ambition for this All Supreme Savior....

Oh please don't miss this, dear friends... (Thanks again to Ann Voskamp for yet another great link!)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

True Things

Tonight a dear local friend, a believer who has very little fellowship, sat at our table and asked for help in parenting and I said surely to her that we have no wisdom beyond the Word.... But she gently offered that there is wisdom to gain from Christians who have grown up under generations of godliness and in a culture more influenced by the Gospel over previous centuries.  Ahh yes....  she’s right.  Absolutely true.

I had forgotten already what I shared with Matt this morning, before we’d even gotten out of bed.... about what I’m reading in the chapter on attitude in Good and Angry:  Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Children (by Turansky and Miller).   There is incredible, practical wisdom in this book!   The authors wrote about three parts to attitude:  thinking, feeling and acting/ behaving. 

My own poor pattern recently has been to lay down discipline on disobedience before there’s been recognition of wrong, repentance.  Then I end up with kids that have disobeyed and are now even more upset because of their discipline (more accurately, their punishment) for their disobedience.  Oh to relearn the wise way of first gently bending towards them with compassion and then discussing the disobedience.  What did you do wrong?  Why was that wrong?  What can you do next time?   (Turansky and Miller’s 3 questions).  Then to hunt for the wrong thinking going on under that wrong behavior.  And then, to lovingly, prayerfully lead them toward repentance.  At last, there may still need to be a discipline/ consequences talk and there will definitely need to be affirmation of acceptance and love and forgiveness again too.  

So the wrong thinking thing.... this is big.  Turansky and Miller offer a few suggestions in their attitude chapter, but, in the spirit of Clay Clarkson’s “Our 24 Family Ways”, I’ve gathered a longer list of “true things to remember” that I really want our family to know well.  

This list, however, has gotten a bit sloshy...  I had intended it originally as truth things to remember to correct wrong thinking but it has turned into a bit of a life vision statement for our kids )because how unfun would it be to read a whole list of things from "the dark side", only countering what is not true.  So if you're willing to sludge with me through two purposes at once, read on!   I pray that our kids would deeply understand that our family is on this path, headed this way... towards truth, together, all for God's glory.  

  • You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.  Your heavenly Father loved you before time and your family loves you from now to forever too.  And being loved doesn't mean you'll always get your way.  With God's love and his sovereignty, you have all that you need to be assured that what's been chosen for you will be worked for your good.    Please adjust your heart and your plans when things don't go your way.  Mommy and Daddy will try our best to work for your good and your Heavenly Father promises it perfectly... in His time. Trust Him.  

  • Dad and Mom love you and want to do good for you as we see is best. 
  • So if you’re not getting what you want right now, please remember it’s not because we don’t care about you.  Please speak with a voice that tells me you’re remembering this truth, and not in a complaining voice that shows you might be believing a lie like “mom doesn’t love me since she’s not giving me this right now.”

  • This world is a hard and hurting place and you will be hurt.  There’s no guarantee that no one will bump into you today.  You may loose a toy or someone may even take one from you.  It’s up to you not to let it steal your joy.  And... we will be here to bandaid your owies and give you lots of kisses and assure you of our love. 

  • Your hands are for helping.  Our King died to give us life and help and hope and we are called to follow in his steps... You do not have the right to hurt others.  Not. at. all.   If you use your hands, voice, feet to hurt someone, there will be sad consequences and you will hurt yourself too.  

  • You don’t really know why he did that or what she was thinking until you hear from them.  Come humbly to the discussion.  Ask questions and listen.

  • This is the way to live:  forgive as you have been forgiven.  Trying to assert “your right” to hold a grudge will only imprison your own heart, dear.  Walk in the freedom that Christ bought for you and forgive!  And you’ll need to trust in and receive His forgiveness for your sins, darlings, so that you can extend his grace to others.

  • Learning anything is Hard and can be scary work, but it’s worth it.  Do all your learning, creating, exploring, sharing excellently to the Lord’s glory and your joy will be endless.  Difficult doesn’t make it not worth doing.  It makes it worth working even harder for... Persevere sweethearts.  Run the race of life- every step- with all your strength and zeal for the prize of his eternal glory and your eternal joy in Him.

  • Half-effort and half-completed bring no joy.... to you or to anyone else.  Excelling expands your capacity for joy.   Aim for the highest praise you can bring to your King and you will bullseye eternal gladness.  

  • JOY really does spell where it comes from... Jesus first, then Others, then Yourself.  It doesn’t depend on your circumstances.  Joy is a choice you make, you initiate.  Please be thankful for what you have instead of looking cranky at what you don’t have.  “Thanksters not Cranksters”.... as Rachel Jankovic says. 

  • You have been uniquely gifted.  Your contribution is needed and desired.  How greatly blessed we are to have YOU!  Would you please share with us your ideas and desires and fears and concerns and let us be with you, knowing and loving you?   Thank you for serving others in our home with the strengths and the skills you’ve been given, and a happy heart you’ve chosen!    We really do need you and we delight in you!

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit.  Where the world calls you to strive for your own fame, to show off all the best that you've got for your own praise, Jesus said we’d be truly blessed when we pour ourselves out, when we're done with accumulating all this stuff that fades away, when we’re done with seeking approval and applause.   His love endures forever and is lavished on YOU, his child.   That is more than enough to live by, to live for.  

  • Rest, Stillness, Creation...are all gifts for you.  Give each other space sometimes.  (And maybe mama too sometimes?)   Look for gifts, enjoy life and creation!  Don’t buy the world’s lie that you always need more, that you don’t need rest or that faster is always better.  You’ll miss life with the God who is Present every moment.   As Ann Voskamp says “only amateurs hurry.”

  • You were made for relationship.  {Don’t go alone.}   God made you in his image and he is three in one perfect, eternal relationship.  We need others to sharpen and encourage us, to serve them and serve others with them.  We need people for help and wisdom and perspective.  Be a friend.  Bless your friends.  

  • Your possessions are not only yours.  You have been given much... Go and give wildly too! Intentional, lavish, strategic, sacrificial generosity, in the light of eternity... this is the happiest joy in the world.  You are the steward to determine how best to share the gifts you’ve been given.  And as you give stuff, money, time... plan on laying your whole life down (just as Jesus did for you) to serve others, to rescue the weak, to love the lost.  Yes, this is Love.  To know that you are forever loved and then to share it, to be love to and for others...this truly is the highest joy on earth.  

  • Truth matters... everything.  The promises of God are true and our lives will be whole when we live according to his kingdom ways.  Our world is really into the lie that meaning is what you make of it but we can’t afford to loose the actual meaning of words, or we’d loose truth and answers, we'd loose real reason for peace and joy.   We simply can't afford to loose truth or we loose purpose and meaning entirely.   Let us live by God’s word which he upholds and by ours as seekers, speakers, lovers of truth.

  • Eternity matters... everything.  Knowing the truth of God in His word, we can live assured that our King will come, that He will fix all the brokenness of our lives and of our world, and will glorify himself for eternal gladness for all who trust in Him.  Live for eternity!  Don't cast your pearls before swine and pour out your precious life for the dust-in-the-wind things of this world.

Perhaps this is all too basic to even mention, but I think these are truths we need to call to mind here at our house.  If you can see more true things that should be on this list too, please do let me know!   The list would be better with your input!!

You (would have been) Invited

If you were nearby, we would have loved to have you join us for our Cursive Dinner Party.  Isaiah was just a little bit excited to celebrate his cursive writing,  hide a gift for his siblings and daddy, and dress up (cursive is fancy so we dressed fancy too) for his favorite dinner:  Gong Bao Ji Ding (chicken & veggies stir fried with peanuts over rice) .  Just a super sweet, fun family night....

The door sign.  Ok-  he was crazy excited for our party plan.  

And this girl.... all by herself she thought to write this card for Isaiah.  

 Isaiah picked out a pencil for each of the gift hunters... 
and he wrote a card for each (in cursive, of course!) ( Marian is holding her card from him above.)  

"I See"  she'd rather see the pictures than be in them
(don't miss the nails)

ordinary goofiness
"Formal attire" turned into "dress up clothes" b/c none of us have formal wear half this exciting.
(Thanks again for keeping us stocked with halloween clearance costumes Heather!  The joy goes on...)  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

She Was Loved

This morning the large community of Christ in our city is grieving the death of a beautiful baby girl.  When her mama was only three months pregnant, they could see that something was wrong with baby's heart and doctors and family all advised and pressured her tremendously to abort the baby.

But they chose life.  The gave birth to their baby girl as an abortion was being performed at their side in the hospital.  And their baby was tender and lovely and she was loved.  And her parents fought for her life for 6 weeks or so and now she is rejoicing with God and her parents are left aching without her and grieving with Hope.

But she was loved!  No one could insert a death instrument to kill this little life simply because she wasn't a bit bigger, because she was living on loaned land. This unique image of God, helpless to care for herself, heard the voice of her mom and dad and sister speaking their love, singing their love, testifying of God's grace for her tiny little ears and her precious little heart to soak it all in.  She was loved.  And now she is with Love forever.... no more sickness, sorrow, tears.

And her life, however short, was BEAUTIFUL.   Give Grace Lord and mercy and peace and soothing comfort to her parents and sister who are broken, utterly broken in these hours...May the body of Christ support and surround and comfort them now.  And...

Oh God use this one precious life to ring out the message of Your Love and your eternally precious image in human-kind.  Work in this nation that doesn't think twice about abortion.   Arouse a culture of life-loving, God-loving, protectors of the weak.  Awaken questions, conscious.  And answer those hearts with your own great love and forgiveness and healing.  May it be to your praise, oh God who Rescues us!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dark And Lovely

I had a strangely dark week recently.  I’m more often the ridiculous optimist.  But not this time.  It wasn’t because of pollution that was 4x the “off the charts” measure like we had earlier this spring.  It wasn’t because of us all throwing up like we did for weeks after that time.  This was all simpler stuff, that looking back on, was really silly to fuss over at all.  But just for that time I felt like there was a dark cloud was hovering low over just my own little heart.  

We painted our living room and schoolroom in our home after two years of children playing and generally gross messes on paint cheaper and chalkier than America even allows, I’d guess.  Nothing washed off it but stayed displayed boldly all. over. our. home. 

So we gave a whole day laboring for a “new home” as John called.  Fresh paint.  And it’s dark.  I knew when I chose the color, and when a brilliant color advisor-friend went with me to the store- that it would be bolder than we’d ever gone before.  And it is: bold.  

And you know what?  I really do like it (hear me urging myself?) and I’m learning to like it more and more.  But there is something pretty skewed in my heart that I almost always like things (paint colors, cookie recipes, lesson plans) better at someone else’s home than I do in my own.  The darkness just scares me a little I guess.  

That night, after painting, we were rearranging furniture and I lifted our coat rack only to have the base of it crash down on my toe.  The corner of that 40ish pound mass cracked right down on my innocently happy, little big toe and I cried. (Sobbed.) For 30 minutes.  

Fear swirled too.   What if my bone is crushed?  I d r e a d going to a local hospital for an x-ray.  No... it’s just the pressure of blood under my nail.  More darkness.  In my body now... throbbing darkness.  And with my bone it felt like my heart was crushed too under my own deep yearning for beauty and what if I just can’t make it happen here in our home?  I want to create beauty for my family to grow up in so badly.  

But I am who I am.  And may all of me, broken and beautiful, well-intended but still lacking, cracked and generally full of holes, may all of me somehow be for the praise of Your glorious grace, Lord.  

The day after painting, I took our kiddos to a fantastic book party that an even more fantastic friend of mine hosted.  She read to the all-dressed-up-listeners, then we ate what the characters ate and played games like they played in the story.  It was beautiful.

(I had heard that homeschooling would be hard and that I might be tempted to compare my kids or my efforts to others but I still had no gauge for the greater-than-I-could-imagine pressure I could lay down on myself with this endeavor.  Definetely too much for me to carry...the pressure, not the endeavor, will need to change.)  

And suddenly, all of my dreams and desires for a fairy-tale, wonderful education for my kids felt like they were shot down by arrows of plain reality.   Punctured and pierced.  Do I think what I’ve ever given my kids is as amazing as this?  Who am I joking?  All I’ve ever done is dream big and then read (several hundred) books to our kids and talked about it with them afterward.  Nothing half as beautiful as this.  

Poison, I know.  Comparison is deadly.  I know it.  I don't want to.  I don't like it.  But I do slip into it sometimes.  Such an ugly trap.   Lord help me guard against this!

My dark cloud hovered low and I cried like I haven’t cried in years for any heart pains.   And yes, I know it was all basically nonsense.  Petty to get so strung out on just this.  But this was the reality of my heart for the time.  I have dear friends who experience darkness much more often than I and for much more legitimate stressors than these.  The good news is that the truth and the promises of God are for dark clouds, whether legitimate or less so.  

There was a time years ago when One Day was set apart for worship and prayer (with Passion).  Without every articulating it, I positively expected the Lord to display his favor on our gathering with sunshine and cheery white clouds.  But no.  It was dark.   The sky trembled with heavy clouds.  I was stunned.  Prayer began in the gray drizzle of morning.  And then Beth Moore came to the mic and her strained heart rushed out of her voice as she urged us with God's word:   “Revelation 1:7 says “Behold, he comes in the clouds!””

He comes. My Lord Comes For Me.  

And He is here too.  With me under the cloud.  

And wasn't it a cloud and a fire that he gave to provide for and protect his people when they fled Pharaoh?  

There is grace- all the promises and love and faithfulness of God- in those dark, weighted clouds.  

Renewed, refilled compassion is worth pain to aquire.   In my toe trouble I saw changes I want to make in my approach to our kiddos when they come howling in pain to me.  I’ve too often erred on the side of “You’ll be alright.  Be brave, dear,”  and missed my chance for “oh darling, I’m so sorry that happened to you!  I wish so much I could take away your pain.  I love you so crazy much.”

It’s a gift of grace to see our kids explore and engage much more fully with a story than I’ve ever given them opportunity for.  And it's a gift to be loaned books that prove I haven't been so far from the mark in my homeschool planning.  And this too-it’s been brilliantly beautiful to hear our eldest making music this week, playing a tune of beauty that’s not giddy silliness, but deep loveliness... playing his first dark, beautiful notes.  

Somehow, because of the faithful love of God, under the cloud, there’s a refining thats warmed my spirit.  A gift of humbling like the windows-wide-open, fresh and clean of a home that’s been spring cleaned.   

I’m grateful.  

Grateful that the debt I owe for my sin has been paid by the Priest who offered Himself as the sacrafice for me.   I’m grateful my King accepts me, loves me, is with me.  What have I to fear!? 

And I’m grateful for this... from the sermon I got to listen in my dark week.  

What is sustaining grace?  by John Piper

Not grace that bars what is not bliss
Nor flight from all distress, but this-
The joy that orders all our trouble and pain
And then in the darkness is there to sustain.  

My cloud is lifting now but his grace remains and sustains... even me.  

Revival Fire

Gems to share with you here (and just a few of the many) from Why Revival Tarries, by Leonard Ravenhill.

Most joyfully will I confirm with my blood that truth which I have written and preached.  John Huss at the Stake

The primary qualification for a servant ministering overseas is not love for souls, as we so often hear, but love for Christ.  Vance Havner

Now I leave off to speak any more to creatures, and turn my speech to Thee, O Lord.  Now I begin my  intercourse with God which shall never be broken off.  Farewell, father and mother, friends and relations!  Farewell, meat and drink!  Farewell the world and all delights!  Farewell, sun, moon, and stars! Welcome God and Father!  Welcome Sweet Lord Jesus, Mediator of the New Covenant!  Welcome Blessed Spirit of Grace, God of all Consolation!  Welcome Glory!  Welcome Eternal Life!  Welcome Death!"...  And so, with Christ was Hugh MacKail "with his sweet boyish smile."  "And that will be my welcome," he said; "the Spirit and the Bride say, Come"  The Martyrdom of Hugh MacKail, a Covenanter

O brother (and sister!), pray; in spite of Satan, pray; spend hours in prayer; rather neglect friends than not pray; rather fast, and losse breakfast, dinner, tea and supper- and sleep too- than not pray.   And we must not talk about prayer, we must pray in right earnest.  The Lord is near.  He comes softly while the virgins slumber.  Andrew Bonar

The law of prayer is the law of the harvest:  sow sparingly in prayer, reap sparingly; sow bountifully in prayer, reap bountifully.  The trouble is we are trying to get from our efforts what we never put into them.  (p 119)

And oh friends... there are many more words to be swallowed whole like a fire seed for the soul... but I'm off now for water and Son's light for the seeds planted in me so far.

Off to prayer!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

visiting Granny

My good friend and her two girls and our four kiddos and I went for an outing to our bread selling "Granny"'s house.   Here are two of her nine kids, these big guys kneading and shaping the round bread all day long and selling it all afternoon and evening.  So great to go with a friend who was clever enough to bring bubbles along for fun!

For four and a half hours we played in the street (walkway) outside the family's tiny home and though we brought gifts for their kids, we didn't have anything our kids could play with.  But there was paper.  Our big girl jumped right in, making paper hats for lots of the little friends who joined us for play.  I just LOVE our girl and this amazing girl too...

This guy was skillful at ripping up that same paper....
and then he found a worm on the ground that thrilled him for the final hour :)

Granny is a sweet lady and one super fantastic cook!  If only I could tune my ears for her accent and generally speed up my language level 3-4 years to be able to communicate clearly with her!  

a view of the neighborhood...  not a nice place.  Lots of sadness peered out at us from the hotel rooms just above Granny's place.   

Granny cooking on her front step... the kitchen.
This family of six live in two tiny rooms that are big enough for two beds each.  There's one spicket of running water about one foot over a squatty potty (that appears to not really work) and the kitchen is outside.   The whole neighborhood pays to use a potty or a shower down the street.   But you know what.... they've got internet access.  Good thing there's good sites for them to read... 
And...  I wouldn't have made it here without Matt without our new car....  what a great gift it is!!!