Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

Courage to Face a Giant

Have you ever asked the Father for something big, something miraculous, and been so afraid that He might choose to say no that you avoid His presence altogether?

I have.

So you hide away, like the original sinners amongst the leaves in the garden, and when He calls, you cower because what if you don’t like what He has to say?  What if you don’t have the courage to face what’s coming?

Yeah, that’s me lately.

Courage, fear, cowering, hiding, avoiding

You feel this yearning to give in and stumble to His arms, yet your stubborn heart resists with questions like why? and right now?

My sisters in Christ, have you ever felt like David before Goliath,  wondering what happened to your army, praying for the courage to “fight the good fight” even if it means you’re doing it alone?

Yeah, that’s me, too.

And perhaps, like me, you feel more than a little lonely standing there with your simple slingshot in hand. Maybe you long for a superhero sidekick or two…or three.

As you stand there, wind in your face, jeers wafting through the air from the Enemy’s camp, you hear a still small voice speak, “Courage!”

“Take Courage, my daughter.”

That’s the message I’ve been receiving from the Father all year long.

He’s been sending it to me a million different ways. Through a Beth Moore simulcast.  Through Bible Study.  Through a talk He had me prepare for a MOPS group. Through prayer and quiet time.  Through facebook posts and pintrest pins… you name the method – He’s used it.

At times I’ve soared gloriously on that message, that promise.  Other times I find myself a doubting Thomas, looking for evidence, asking for proof.

And I keep looking for rescue to come in human form, but He tells me, “Courage.”

Galations 1:1-0

 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

At first, I thought He meant the message for me in one specific area – that of pursuing writing and speaking.  But after a while I began to see that Courage applies to so many other areas of my life – marriage, parenting, trusting God, finances, and lately… well, this potentially life-changing  Giant.

Here’s the thing I’m learning about Courage, sisters: it’s not supposed to come from me or you or any human source.

Surprised? I was.

When you search for the word Courage in the Old Testament, you often find it used in connection with the phrase “be strong,” especially in the early years of Joshua’s leadership.

Keep in mind that Joshua was new in his leadership role, and he had some big shoes to fill. I mean, who wants to follow Moses, the man with the burning bush experience and the credit of leading the Israelites out of slavery?!

In addition, Joshua faced the enormous task of leading the people of Israel to conquer the Promised Land – hooray, right?!  Well, sure that sounds good after wandering in the desert an extra forty years, but something I didn’t realize until this year is that the Promised Land wasn’t empty.

No.

The Promised Land was filled with “giants” and well-fortified cities.  Joshua faced this very land.  No more Moses to look up to and learn from.  He was flying on his own set of wings now with a seemingly impossible task lying before him.

I’m sure Joshua was afraid. I’m sure he wasn’t completely certain that he was up to the task.

I’m positive because the Lord reassured him again and again in the first chapters of Joshua that He would be with Joshua.  He commanded Joshua four times to “be strong and courageous” in the first chapter alone!

And I’ve realized something about myself this year: I’ve taken the world’s view on Courage – you know, chin up, man up, just do it, what’s the worst that can happen, and all of the other sentiments we use to get past fear.

Maybe you have taken that view, too, without even realizing it.

But that’s just not God’s view, my sisters;  that’s not what He’s telling Joshua. It’s not what He’s telling me or you, either. Because when you look up the Hebrew for “strong and courageous,” you find both words or phrases (be strong, take courage) linked back to the Hebrew root “chazaq”  (pronounced khaw-zak’).

Last year I wrote about that root, but I was more focused on waiting patiently.

This year He’s telling me, “Take Courage!”

We must take it, you see, because “chazaq” doesn’t come from any human source. No, chazaq comes from a supernatural act: as in David’s triumph over Goliath, as in Samson pushing down the pillars, as in angel armies going before Joshua as he led the Israelites in battle for the Promised Land.

Don’t you see? The courage comes from Him, sisters!  He doesn’t expect us to muster courage up within ourselves. He offers it from His very nature, for our taking!

courage quote, fail or succeed, take courage in the Lord, be strong and courageous

It’s true. We’re destined to succeed in whatever He sets before us when “chazaq” comes into play.

So, I’m asking for some BIG things right now, Father.  And I’m a little afraid, so I’ve been hiding out, avoiding your Presence.  Hiding has only served to leave me feeling lonely and a little bit miserable. But like my friend Arabah Joy wrote, I’m asking for “rain” and I’m taking my umbrella with me.  I know I’m lacking in the courage department right now and the fear seems to be winning a little bit.  But I hear you say, “Courage, daughter,” and I know that means that You’ve got this. Chazaq – it’s Your Courage, not mine.

It’s Your battle, not mine.

Suddenly that giant doesn’t seem so big.

And I’m crying, but I’m grinning, too, ‘cause I’ve missed you, Father.

I’ve missed you.

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lordyour God is with you wherever you go.

I hear Him whisper Courage to me, and to you, too, sister.

Do you hear it?

Jen 🙂

Sharing with: #TheLoft, Cornerstone Confessions, Rich Faith Rising, Missional Women, Jennifer Dukes Lee/Tell His Story, Work in progress Wednesdays,

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#TheLoft Thanksgiving Edition

 

The Loft is open, come on up!

 

The Loft: A weekly Hangout and Link Up for Christian bloggers
Graphic by Kerry Messer

 

This Week’s Topic: “Thanksgiving” (Food, traditions, an essay or video, or your own gratitude list. Maybe we will find some new ideas to incorporate into our celebration this year!)

Next Week’s Topic: Surprise! (Next week we have a little surprise planned! Be sure to stop by early~~smile, grin, beam!)

About #TheLoft

 

The Loft is the place for conversation, community, networking, and Christian growth.

Each week we provide a topic to start the conversation.

 

PLEASE NOTE: We want to foster community and transparent conversation with one another, just like we’d do if we were meeting in real life. So we ask that your link stick to the weekly topic and that you mention The Loft in your post. Thank you so much!


Monday night, at 9pm Eastern, the linky goes live and all week you can link up your post on that week’s topic.

We’ll have fun topics, serious topics, practical, soul-ful, holiday, and so, so much more…we can’t wait to get started! This is not only a great way to connect with others, it’s also a fun and easy way to establish a writing habit. If you aren’t a blogger, you are welcome to join in by leaving your comments in the comment section.

So grab your coffee mug and come on up! Hang out for a bit. We betcha you’ll be glad you did.

To Participate:

 

1. Be creative. Feel free to use words, photos, video, audio, your family pet, whatever, to communicate on the weekly topic. But please stick to the weekly topic 🙂

2. Listen twice as much as you talk. If you leave one link, visit two. Trust us on this one~wink.

3. Be a community. Include #TheLoft graphic and/or link back in your post so we can find each other. Also, share the great stuff you find when you visit around…we’ll be doing the same.

 

The Loft Link Up

 

When you link up at The Loft, your link will appear on 4 blogs! We’d love for you to visit The Loft co-hosts and know who we are: Jen, Rebekah, Leah, Arabah

 

 

Now it’s time to link up!

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Spirit-propelled Life

Good morning, friends! 🙂  Today I’m honored to be guest posting over at Encourage 24/7, a website all about encouraging Christians in their walks with the Lord.

 

Do you ever feel like you push and pull your way through a long day?  Are you sometimes overwhelmed and ready to give up by 10 am?  Do you ever long for something more, something better?

If so, this post is for you!  Come on over and join us at Encourage 24/7 to find out what I learned from my Kirby vacuum.  🙂  Be sure to check out the Testimony Posts tab, too, for more encouragement from other bloggers.  Just click on the link below to find the post.

Lessons from a Kirby

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Like a Mustard Seed

Faith the size

It’s one of those paradoxes of Christianity, like “the first shall be last” and “you must first die to live.”  He chooses the small, the weak, the completely inadequate as vessels, rather the big, strong, and impressive.

It’s one of those things that I struggle with often, in spite of my work-in-progress mindset.  How can I possibly do these big things He’s asking of me?  Who am I, Lord, who am I to take on these giants of Life?

I’m so small.

I’m so flawed.

I’m not right for the job.

There are so many better equipped, stronger in faith, more Christ-like. Would not they be better for the job?

Like Moses, I doubt.  Like Jonah, I wish to run.  Like David, I plead for wisdom and I wait. But like Mary, I also say, “let it be done to me according to your word.” Like Isaiah I whisper, “Here am I. Send me.”

I may be small, but my God is not.

I may be flawed, but Christ was not.

I may not be perfect for the job, but I am a willing vessel.

Because when I am weak, then I am strong.

Only because of Christ.

With the faith as small as a mustard seed…

Jen 🙂

It’s Five Minute Friday, but I’m a day late thanks to recent events.  On Five Minute Fridays, bloggers from all over the globe write on a single word prompt for five minutes.  No planning, no editing, just raw and real writing.  Then we all share at http://www.lisajobaker.com .

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5 Ways to S-t-r-e-t-c-h a Budget: How a Family of 6 Lives on a Single Income

  Today on Mama Monday, I want to touch on the matter of saving money!  I know in these tough times, many families are looking for ways to stretch the budget.  I also know that my husband and I learned several difficult lessons about finances early on in our marriage. So, as a family of six living on a single income, I’d love to share with you how we make our tight budget work! 🙂

Growing up an MK (missionary kid) taught me many life lessons.  I’ve seen what it is to truly be in need.  I know in many areas of the world, children often go hungry and families sleep on the bare dirt floors of a thatched jungle hut.  I’ve witnessed firsthand the difference between needs (for survival) and wants (for pleasure).  I’ve also seen our Father God provide for our family in some amazing ways – money for shoes sent from another state, postmarked before we even prayed for it!

So, when my husband and I first joined our lives together, it’s not surprising that some of our first arguments were over money – how to spend it.  🙂  I was very reluctant to spend our finances on anything I did not deem a need and my husband was more laid-back in his approach to finances.

However, a few short months later, we found ourselves expecting our first child and my husband without a job.  During that time of zero income, I forgot those missionary kid lessons.  I forgot that when we have needs, we turn to our Heavenly Father for help.

Matthew 6

 25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

………………………

As a result of trusting in our own abilities rather than in the Lord, we quickly found ourselves in debilitating debt.  It took 5 long years to dig out of the money pit we created.  Since then, we have grown tremendously in our financial stewardship, mostly out of pure necessity.

I praise the Lord for the work He has done in overhauling our money mindset!  Today, being a stay-at-home mom of four, I contribute very little to our family finances, so making the most of what we have is not optional – it’s mandatory!

5 Ways to Stretch a Budget, tight budget, single income, large family, ways to make a small budget work

I often field questions from others on how we make a single income work for our larger than average family (although I know many much larger than ours).  So, I asked my husband to help me make a list of the areas in which we save money so that we can achieve our financial goals, the primary goal being that I am free to stay home with our children, and a secondary goal being to eventually live debt-free (that’s the work-in-progress part).  🙂

I hope you find these budget-stretching tips helpful!

***Disclaimer – this is not a post about whether or not women should stay home or go to work. That is a decision for each family to make with God’s guidance, and I recognize that some families just don’t have that option. Additionally, it is not a post to brag about our money-saving budget – it truly is by God’s grace alone that we are no longer living paycheck to paycheck and we still have much growing left to do.  This is a post on ways to stretch the budget if you are looking for help – how we make a single income (a pastor’s salary) work for our family of six. 🙂

Top 5 Ways to stretch your budget.  Budgeting for a family of six on one income, tight budget, making a small budget work for a large family, single income, pastor's salary

Top 5 Ways to stretch your budget. Budgeting for a family of six on one income.

1.       Follow God’s Plan for Finances

Start with a Budget!  It seems obvious, but many people don’t have a detailed budget, or they have one that they don’t follow. (Of course, we always stick to ours….Ha!)  If you don’t have one, make one.  If you don’t know how, ask someone for help. If you aren’t sure where to start, visit Crown Financial Ministries  for some helpful tools.

Pay off Debt – OR better yet, try not to take on any debt in the first place; instead trust God to provide for your needs.  Oh, how I wish I had understood how interest works earlier on in life!  If you are already overwhelmed by debt, check into Credit Counselors’ Corporation or a similar non-profit group as soon as possible.  The longer you wait, the worse it will get.  Trust me – we’ve walked that path before! 🙂

Offerings –  For us, giving a regular offering is non-negotiable.  However, it was not always so!  When first married, we were both still in college, so our income was very, very small, at times non-existent.  So, we didn’t give consistently and usually what we did give was the leftovers at the end of the week.  In time, however, we both became convicted that giving needed to be a priority.

We started very small: only five dollars a week.  But we gave faithfully, and little by little God helped us to increase it.  And while we wondered where our food was going to come from, He continued to provide! I want to encourage you that even if you have so very little at the moment, you can still be obedient to the Lord in this area.  Even if the amount seems too small to matter, remember that it’s not about the money, it’s about the heart.  I’ve heard that “you can never out-give God.”  Test Him!

Luke 21:1-3 “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them…”

Savings – For our family, savings is also as non-negotiable as we can possibly make it.  Of course, sometimes things come up –something major breaks on the minivan, someone becomes ill, etc.  For us, savings is definitely still a work in progress, but the goal is to have savings built up for each one of those occurrences so that we don’t have to take money from our budget to meet those additional expenses.

2.       Distinguish Needs vs. Wants

Cable TV/Internet – We  realized early in our marriage that for us, the expense was a want, not a need, and we simply didn’t have room for it in our budget.  So, for many years we used an antenna when we wanted visual entertainment, or a VCR.  Today, we splurge on Netflix – $7.99 plus tax per month. 🙂  Additionally, Internet service is not really a need (unless you work from home), but we choose to splurge on it now that we have room in our budget.  If you are struggling to meet your monthly budget, these are two expenses that can probably go.

Cell Phones – I recently read that average cell phone bills for single users are upwards of $71, and for a family of four, as much as $200!  That’s a lot of money to pay out every month for a “want”!  What has worked to keep our costs low is using Tracfone, Net10, and other prepaid companies. (Update: currently we use a company called Consumer Cellular – 3 lines on a shared plan for $67.00/ month!)

We receive all of the advantages of cell phone usage (even data plans) without being tied to a contract, and since our company pays to use larger companies’ towers (like Verizon and AT&T), we rarely lose signal! If a cell phone is a true need for you because of work, etc., consider changing to a less expensive company or plan. If you can’t change your cell phone to a lower-cost plan at this time, consider getting rid of your home phone altogether and save in that area, or consider downsizing to one shared cell phone.

Clothing – This area is probably the one in which we stretch our budget the most.  Growing up an MK, I wore whatever clothes were available, plain and simple.  Brand name loyalty was not an option for our family back  then, and it’s not an option for my family now!  Don’t get me wrong – I love nice clothing, but buying new wardrobes for our children every year is not feasible for our budget.

Clothing three children, one teen, and two adults can be a challenge, but we’ve found a variety of ways to save (check out 9 Ways to Save on Kids Clothes). Clothing for adults is more challenging, but garage sales and thrift stores can still be useful. When we have a clothing need, I often take it to the Lord in prayer before I start shopping around. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been blessed with bags of clothing from friends, church family, neighbors, and even a well-timed garage sale!

 Philippians 4:6-7

 Be anxious for nothing, but in everythingby prayer and supplication with thanksgiving

let your requests be made known to God.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Food – Again, we don’t have the luxury of caring about brands.  Although, I readily admit that I am  toilet paper snob . The cheap brands just don’t cut it. 🙂    To save money on food and toiletries, I buy store brands and shop at stores like Aldi’s, as well as local  farmers markets (when in season).  In the last few years, I have also learned a great deal about couponing!  I know, I know – not everyone loves using coupons, but it works for us. (Yes, I have a small stock-pile. No, I’m not one of those extreme couponers with a basement full of paper towel). 🙂

Another way to keep grocery bills low is to create a menu and shop for only the items you need for that menu.  This really works for our family. I also cook from scratch (or nearly from scratch) almost every night of the week, rather than buying pre-made meals or eating out, although we do splurge by eating out on occasion (dollar menu, anyone?).

need or want, How to stretch a budget, how to tell needs from wants, making a small budget work for a large family, tight budget, single income, pastor's salary

Bottom line: always keep in mind the question of whether the item you want to purchase is truly a need or if it’s just a want.  Once you have honestly assessed the situation, then you can decide whether or not to fund the purchase even if it is a want.  I also cannot emphasize enough how prayer impacts the way in which we use our limited finances.  Often, when we have a need, if I cannot find the item at a price we can afford, I wait…

And He provides.

Please join me  for the second half of 5 Ways to Stretch a Budget with more practical ways to save!

Jen 🙂

Have a tip to share?  Comment with your best money-saving advice!

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Power to Produce

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If you are anything like me, then cleaning out the fridge is low on the totem pole. You might occasionally reach in for some sustenance and pull out rotten food instead. Instead of giving life and energy, the food is wasted, worthless, and sometimes even downright disgusting.

Our spiritual fruits can be that way, too!  Have you ever tested your fruit?  Held it up to the Lamp, the faithful Word of the Lord?

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love,

joy, peace, patience,

kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,self-control;

against such things there is no law.

 

In my bible, beside this passage I have written two small words: the test.  Do you want to know how closely you are walking with the Lord? Examine your fruit of the Spirit!  Do they pass the test?  Are you overflowing with patience, joy, peace, kindness, love, goodness and so on?

All too often I find myself trying to produce these fruit all on my own. I wake up in the morning thinking, I’m going to be patient with my children today.  I’m going to be kind and loving to my husband.  And later in the day, when strength runs low, I feel frustrated and out of control. I wonder, “Why am I acting this way?  What is the matter with me today?”  as if some sort of spell has come over me, and I’ve been rendered incapable of obedience.

In truth, my fruits show that I’m not out of control, I’m off of the vine.  I’m not abiding, not remaining.  Instead, I’ve chosen my own path, my own methods.  I’ve chosen doing rather than being, resisting rather than submitting, striving rather than resting.

I’ve somehow forgotten that most basic truth of Christianity, that we cannot produce fruit on our own, for there is nothing good in me.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;
for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
Romans 7:18
When I lift my fruit up to the Lamp, I see it – that bruise there when I chose to be selfish rather than selfless.  The wormhole caused by putting off time alone with God.  The blackened area of sin left hidden and unconfessed.  Surprisingly, some of my fruit appears to be pretty and polished, but on the inside the core rots, the result of a valiant effort to do things in my own strength.
It’s ugly fruit.
It’s rotten and worthless.
It reeks of self.
I have to toss the bad fruit out and start anew: reconnect to the Vine, drink the Living Water, break the Bread of Life.

2Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching,

for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

so that the man of God may be adequate,

equipped for every good work.

Only then, in the hands of the Master, can I produce beautiful and bountiful  fruit, sweet-smelling fruit. No matter how often I fail the fruit test, He is faithful to forgive, faithful to redeem.  His grace is sufficient for my weakness!
Today are you feeling weary, impatient, overwhelmed, dissatisfied, or out of control?  Test your fruit.  Hold them up to the Lamp of Truth and see what they reveal.
come to me all who are weary
Matthew 11:28-30
 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
We have no power to produce good fruit on our own!  Instead of trying and toiling, why not take His yoke and find rest? Turn to your Maker and Sustainer for the power to produce!
Which fruit is most difficult for you to produce?  What verses help you to rely on the Spirit rather than self?  Please share with us in the comments!
Jen 🙂
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Rough Morning?

Some days just getting started in the morning is the most difficult challenge we’ll face all day long.  You know the days when:

the kids wake up way too early

you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list

you didn’t get enough sleep

you’re so grumpy you feel out of control

it’s rainy and dreary outside

all you want to do is get back in your comfy bed.

How do you overcome those dreary mornings? What do you do when you wake up with zero motivation?  How do you get past a grumpy mood so early in the day?

Today I’m honored to guest post over at my cousin Angie’s blog, My Four Monkeys.  I’ll be sharing ten tips for getting your inner motor going first thing in the morning. Just click the picture below to read the full post at her site:

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Be sure to leave some comments for us on her page and give us your best advice for dealing with a not-so-great morning!

Jen 🙂

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Be a Transformer

Have you ever put off saying (or posting) something because you feared the repercussions, how it might be received?  If so, then this post is for you.  Even as I wrote it, and re-wrote it, I felt that same fear because being bold in my witness does not come naturally to me, rather it usually results from conviction of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, I have put off posting this message for too long now, and God has  convicted me that I’m not trusting in the Him, the God “who goes before me.” I have spent hours crafting the message so that it will hopefully ring true without causing a permanent loss of hearing. 🙂

So I hope that when you read it, you will consider my heart (even though some of you might hardly know me).  My heart beats for God’s people and for His truth, it yearns for us all to strive toward Christ-likeness not for the sake of personal pride or satisfaction with self, but for the sake of His glory, that His name and His Truth should be known around the world!  My heart aches for the lost, those who are searching for His Truth without even knowing it.  You can blame my parents for this since I spent a great deal of my growing up years as a missionary kid. But that’s another story for another time.   Today I want to ask you some tough questions in relation to the following verse:

do not conform

Recent conversations on Facebook and other media outlets have opened my eyes to a developing trend in Christianity today.  Being a Bible-believing, truth-defending, Christ-follower is no longer popular even in many Christian circles!

Somewhere along the line, some of us Christ-followers have become so conformed to this world that we are afraid and/or unwilling to take a stand on issues that the Bible clearly addresses.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve found myself in this camp before, keeping quiet because it’s just easier.  Some believers even go so far as to throw their total support behind worldly ideology, political correctness, tolerance  – whatever you want to call it – and then condemn their fellow believers for being “judgmental,” “close-minded,” or “intolerant.”

While criticism from the world is to be expected, criticism from fellow believers often surprises us!  We are not accustomed to being labeled (or  dare I say “judged”?) by those who should be our support.  How warped is it that Satan has convinced some of us that simply standing on God’s Truth is being judgmental, and is therefore wrong?

Allow me to clarify: the Bible DOES speak strongly against judging others and becoming self-righteous. We are all familiar with the words of Luke 6:41-42.

speck or plank

Only God can see, and therefore judge, the motives of the heart.  Therefore, we should not pre-occupy ourselves with the sin of others; rather we should be too busy dealing with our own sin.  However, God also calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and to be bold in our witness as transformers.

Unfortunately, well-publicized, so-called “Christians” have recently taken a stand for their so-called “truth” in ways that ARE harsh and hateful, tarnishing our witness.  Furthermore, we have Christian brothers and sisters actively ridiculing others on forums such as Twitter and Facebook, adding to the world’s negative perception of us Christ-followers. While I fully support upholding God’s Truth, when we haughtily shove our beliefs in someone’s face with a sarcastic turn of phrase, a witty cartoon, or a picture that belittles others, we end up conforming to the world and looking just like it!  How can we then be salt or light to a world that is in dire need of God’s truth?

I believe Satan has seized hold of this shame over others’ behavior and used it to confuse believers (as well as the world!) and convince many of us that upholding God’s truth is wrong in and of itself, when the reality is that the fault lies in the method of delivery. We have only to study Christ’s example to see how he gently revealed truth to people, often with a single phrase or sentence, and always while caring for their needs, whether physical or spiritual.  He did not skirt sin issues, neither did he humiliate the lost.

We must follow Christ’s example in our efforts to live as transformers.  When the Bible speaks clearly on issues of right and wrong, we are called to uphold God’s Truth with – and this is the key – LOVE and RESPECT.

prepared to give an answer

The key lies in our delivery – a delivery which requires a balance between Truth and Grace, not the absence of either or both.  A total-grace perspective can lead to conformity, while a total-truth perspective can lead to self-righteous bullying .  Is it wrong to bully others into sharing our beliefs?  Yes!  Is it also wrong to be silent on issues that the Bible clearly addresses?  Yes!  Why then have we allowed the world, the Great Deceiver, and even fellow Christians to tell us that it is un-Christian-like to be a Christian? Ironic, isn’t it? 🙂

My purpose is this: consider carefully how your life and your actions or statements appear to others (especially in regards to social media).  Do they see a difference?  Are you being transformed by Christ, or are you choosing to conform to the world?  There is no middle ground!

power of risen savior

I know it is risky voicing the unpopular Biblical perspective on many current issues, but then Christ wasn’t all that popular with the worldly and falsely religious leaders of his day, either.  You may lose friends.  You may lose popularity.  You may even be judged by the very people who accuse you of “ being too judgmental!” Have the courage that Paul had when he wrote in Philippians 3:7-11:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Amen??

If at the moment you find that you’ve been conforming (and haven’t we ALL at some point or another??), remember that God’s grace is immediate and His power to provoke change in us is immeasurable.  On the other hand, if you are already actively trying to live out a transformed life, take heart. You are not alone!

I encourage you to look to God’s Word and the Word alone to form your opinions, and allow the Holy Spirit to transform your thinking.

Questions to ask  before posting or sharing a “truth” statement via social media:

  1. Is your audience one you love and one who loves you in return?  In other words, will your message be received in the manner in which it was intended?
  2. Is your message one of God’s truth rather than man’s truth?  In other words, do you have contextual biblical support  for your message?
  3. Is God leading you to share this truth at this particular time in this particular fashion?  In other words, has the prompting come from Him or do you just love your soap box? 🙂
  4. Have you achieved a balance between truth and grace?  In other words, how is your method of delivery – gentle or smug?

overcome evil for good

Telling the truth in grace and love is such a delicate balance to achieve, but as Christ’s image-bearers, we must work toward that balance!  We have amazing technology and a unique opportunity to show the world what Christ-like love truly is, so let’s allow Christ’s love to shine through us without diminishing the light of His message.  Don’t conform.  Be a transformer.

Because of His love,

Jen 🙂

You might also enjoy this post:

http://www.godspotting.net/2013/06/god-is-not-republican.html

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Five Minute Friday: View

Today I’m trying something new!  Another blogger has challenged us to participate in Five Minute Fridays – we’ll spend only 5 minutes writing on a word prompt that she gives us.  No editing, no grammar checking, no revising.  Just creativity. So, here goes!

 

View

 

I once lived in a land with breath-taking views.  Papua New Guinea, with bright tropical foliage filling the valleys, and the valleys ringed by tall mountains with a beauty of their own.  Our tribal home sat perched on the side of one of these mountains, up on stilts with our hammocks hanging beneath.

 

PNG house

 

I loved to sit in my hammock and look out at the blue sky that seemed so much brighter at that elevation and across to the mountain range on the other side of the valley below.  Some mornings, thick, white clouds filled the valley as if a blanket of white cotton was laid out for us.  So much beauty from the hand of our Creator!

hammocks under png house

 

Today the views that grace my landscape are not quite so spectacular.  Our small town has its own form of quaint beauty, and the surrounding corn and soybean fields have theirs.  Still, I miss New Guinea and the way in which the physical beauty of our mountain home brought me closer to my Creator.  It was as if His presence was always evidenced before me, less easy to ignore.

 

But my Creator is so quick to remind me that my view has so much to do with perspective.  I may no longer be surrounded by majestic mountains, wild-growing poinsettia trees, and grass-topped huts scattered among the dense green bush, but I’m surrounded by beautiful people.  The man in my life who is quick to help anyone in need.  The four-year-old twins who frolic together in the backyard.  The seven-year-old with the impish grin on his face, no doubt planning some new mischief.  The thirteen year old with his gentle smile and willing spirit.

 

me and kids

 

Yes, my view is good.

Jen 🙂

 

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Sanity Saving Chore Charts

Sanity Saving Chore Charts

Last summer we sold our home and moved to a new town so that we could live in the community that we are currently ministering to.   We were very blessed to be able to move into a larger home with plenty of open space downstairs.  I just knew it would be perfect for the kids and perfect for entertaining people from our church, as well as new neighbors and friends.  What I didn’t count on was the time it would take to adjust to cleaning and maintaining a larger home!

Perhaps it wasn’t only the larger house but also the fact that we’d spent the previous year living with the bare minimum as most of our possessions were packed away in an attempt to present a tidy, de-cluttered home-for-sale to possible buyers. When we unpacked all of our “stuff” at our new home, it was a lot more to keep track of and we had not yet established where each item belonged.  Perhaps part of the problem was that our children, particularly our then 3-year-old twins, had grown a lot, which meant bigger messes, more loads of laundry, and additional cooking for those growing appetites.  Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest decision to also take on a new pet so soon after moving (our beloved cat, Cheddar).

Whatever factors were involved, I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the cleaning projects that come with maintaining an older, farm-style home that had not been lived in for at least a year, if not longer.

Nevertheless, I struggled for months with being overwhelmed by the housework and feeling like I was always “behind.”  Because I felt frustrated and overwhelmed, every little mess the kids made irritated me – every spilled cup, every toy left out, every article of dirty clothing on the floor – and I often found myself grumping at them even as I was telling myself to have patience.  I felt like I was losing my mind!  It was as if I was stuck in Romans 7, knowing what I wanted to do, but feeling utterly incapable of doing it.  A storm raged within, threatening to unleash itself at any given moment.

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So, after many tears of frustration and quite a bit of prayer, my husband and I sat down to discuss the situation in hopes of finding a solution.  We decided it was high time to expect a little more of our four children.  You see, our children have always had chores, but we both admitted that we’d become a little lax in our supervision of them, which was understandable.  It had been a busy year and a half of selling our old home and of settling in, not only to our new home, but also to new ministries we were attempting at our church.

We decided that the best way to save my sanity was to create a new chore system!  I set about researching some age appropriate chores since we have such a wide age-span in our family, and we quickly realized that we failed to see how much our children had grown.  I don’t mean that we failed to notice the obvious that they were taller, older, but that we failed to notice they were now more mature and more capable of handling more difficult tasks.

For our younger two children, we chose this flip-up system with pictures of each daily chore they have.  When all chores are finished and flipped up, they can see their name.  Need a little help getting started? You can check out my pinterest board  (http://pinterest.com/stults6/parenting/)  for DIY tutorials that I used as a base for building my own.  (Also, my amazing sister has taken these flip charts a step further with some great ideas at her new blog Love Notes.  In addition to the flip charts, she utilizes a morning and evening checklist and a chore jar, where children get to choose an extra chore to complete and receive a nice prize.)

Preschool chores focus mainly on taking care of the body, and beginning to take responsibility for their own messes.  For our children, we chose to incorporate things that we would like to become daily habits such as: brushing teeth, making bed, getting dressed, clearing dishes from the table, picking up laundry, and picking up toys.

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They both remain very enthusiastic about flipping up the chores they have done each day, even after several months have passed!  In fact, our daughter often wants to do her bedtime chores (laundry) in the morning because she wants her name to be complete, and sometimes she even reminds us of a chore they haven’t yet done. On the other hand, our youngest son is a good follower and enjoys the praise of a job well done. 🙂

Our older boys have a much more complex chore chart that is laminated so it can be re-used.  We use dry-erase markers to check things off.  One of the things I like most about the chart for the older boys is that it is divided into categories that emphasize different areas of their personal responsibilities.

The categories for their charts include taking care of: my body, my room, our home, our vehicles, our pets, and my relationship with God. They have daily responsibilities as well as a few weekly responsibilities.  Some of the weekly responsibilities have options to allow for personal choice, and the tasks in that area of the chart are more difficult for our oldest son, who is 13.  Again, if you’re not sure where to start, take a look at my pintrest board.  The chart we came up with was a combination of several different ideas.

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(One important note: the “Taking care of my relationship with God” area is included mostly as a reminder to our older boys. Honestly, I wasn’t really sure whether to include it or not, but we decided to.  Since that relationship is personal in nature, we encourage them to make it a priority daily, but we don’t force them to. We don’t want time with God to be assigned a “task” status.)

In our home, chores are part of being a family and working together toward a common goal, which is to be good stewards of the material things God has blessed us with.  We believe that doing chores helps our children to learn personal responsibility as well as team-workFor that reason, we do not pay our children an allowance in relation to their chores.  Instead, we reserve allowance for teaching financial stewardship and how money works in general, but that is just our family preference.

However, our older boys were understandably less excited about the new charts, and our 7-year-old was so overwhelmed by the change that he was practically in tears.  (What he didn’t realize is that most of the things on his list were things he already does on a daily basis, like brushing his teeth and making his bed.) In an attempt to lighten the mood and help them adjust to additional responsibilities, we added a bonus for good attitudes and for helpfulness without prompting – an additional 50 cents on their allowance.

Now, for our new chore system to function well, we realized that we would need a consequence for those times when our older boys failed to complete their chores.  We wanted the consequence to be more of a learning opportunity (“the punishment fits the crime” approach).  Eventually we settled on this method:  if there is a pattern of a chore going undone, then the consequence would be to complete the undone chore, as well as an additional one.

I love this solution!  It simultaneously helps me and provides an unpleasant experience that they don’t wish to repeat. I’m happy to report that we rarely have to enforce consequences with the chores because the boys really, really dislike doing extra chores.

Although we’ve had a few bumps along the way, our house has been much tidier in general, considering we have four children living here.  I no longer feel overwhelmed on a daily basis.  Additionally, I’m less uptight about the messes the little ones make because I know they’ll be picking them up before bed.  My sanity has been restored!!  Perhaps most importantly, I know that developing these good habits now will benefit them greatly as they grow into adulthood.

Although initially the chore charts mean a little more work for us parents in supervising and making sure tasks are completed (or even teaching a new skill), the goal is to eventually make parenting a little easier in this area of keeping a tidy home. Our hope is that one day we won’t even have to ask them if they have completed their chores because checking the chart on their own will become so habitual that they will no longer need our reminders.

So, if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by your housework, feeling taken for granted as the one who cleans up after everyone, or feeling like you just might lose your mind, consider the following questions.

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  1. Who does the chores?  Are you expecting enough help from your children, or do they think it is just Mom’s job to clean up after everyone all of the time?  Or do you often take on the majority of the work because it’s easier to just “do it yourself?”  I admit to being guilty as charged on both accounts previously.  However, especially if you have sons, try to consider how their future wives might feel about this unhealthy portrait of what a wife and mother is “supposed” to do.  At the same time, think of the message you are sending your young daughters.  Yes, we are called to be homemakers, managers of the household, but that does not mean we have to do everything on our own! 🙂
  2. Are the chores age-appropriate?  If, like me, you failed to realize how “big” your babies are getting, you might want to rethink your expectations of them. If you are unsure of what chores are appropriate for your children, a quick google search or pintrest search will return a wealth of information!
  3. Are the chores focused on teaching your children personal responsibility? One of our goals with the new charts was to emphasize the stewardship aspect of chores. We want our children to learn to take care of their things and the things we share commonly, such as our home and vehicles.
  4. Are the chores fairly distributed?  Yes, older children are capable of handling more responsibilities than younger children.  However, avoid burdening one child with the majority of responsibility.  For example, when in a hurry to tidy up previously, I would ask our oldest son to pick up the toys. He is generally helpful and I knew he would do a good job.  However, when my husband and I looked at teaching personal responsibility, I realized I was making a mistake.  It wasn’t really his mess to clean up; therefore, it was unfair of me to ask him to take care of something his younger brother and sister should really be responsible for.  With the new chore system, we really worked at making sure he wasn’t bearing a disproportionate load just because he is older and is more compliant.  Additionally, make sure you don’t put off the majority of the housework onto your children. Mom should have her own set of chores to do (Dad too)!  Lead by example. 🙂

For now I am very happy (and sane!) with our current chore system, but I’m sure after a time we’ll need to look at it again and make changes. I wouldn’t mind trying out a few different methods to give the children a variety, to keep it fresh and exciting.  However, the lessons we learned about what to expect from our children will remain helpful and our over-all goals will probably change very little. Thankfully, I now feel like I”m living less in Romans 7 and more in Romans 8 (the whole “we are more than conquerors” chapter!).  If you don’t currently have a chore system in place, why not give one a try? It just might save your sanity!

Jen 🙂

What methods do you use for teaching responsibility and team-work in the home?  Give us your best advice in the comments!

For more great ideas on how to maximize the flip charts for younger children, check out this blog:

http://sarahjofairchild.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/bogo-mommyhood-chore-charts/

You might find this post linked up at any of these lovely blogs.

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