Monday, May 25, 2009

a pep rally, Bible-style

This weekend I got to attend two interesting events: Beth Moore's Living Proof Live conference right here in Laramie, and a pre-conference event called "Women Reaching Women". Here's a link to the song "In Christ Alone" - I heard this song first at the Living Proof Live event in Colorado Springs last May, and was thrilled that it was part of the worship again this year.

The pre-conference event was held right at our church and we had about 150 ladies from all over Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado. The topics ranged from "How to Start a Women's Ministry" to "Heart Friends" to "Involving the Uninvolved". The topic that really struck my heart was one called "Life Changing Bible Study."

That was really the theme of the entire week, at least to me - how a relationship with Jesus Christ, through His Word, really can change your life. I certainly know it has changed my entire worldview, though I would like to see it change more than just my perceptions but also how I live my life: more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (the fruit of the Spirit) and less pride, selfishness, insecurity, and anger. I know I have a long, long way to go, but this weekend really challenged me that one way God wants to me to grow is to get more involved in encouraging other women and girls to strive toward these goals, too.

Life change all comes down to spending time DAILY with God in His Word and in prayer. Luke 9:23: Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." There is no other way, no other short-cut. Other means of changing, like counseling and therapy and motivational seminars, they will all produce results - but only temporary ones.

The session on Life Changing Bible study focused on James 1:22 "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." The speaker, Martha Lawley, paraphrased it this way: the James 1:22 Deception: when we think it is good enough just to know the Word.

She tied this into 2 Tim 3:6-7: "weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth." It doesn't matter how many Bible studies you've been through (and I've been through many... at least two a year now, for the past 14 years), it doesn't matter how much Scripture you have memorized, or how far you get in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Bible version (I actually put together a version of that game once!)... unless you DO it.

Here's a famous quote she used that really hit this home: "Einstein's definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."

Then she pointed to how Jesus taught his disciples: they didn't just go to a study with their Master for an hour, then head home or off fishing again till next week's meeting. They left everything behind and followed him. Learning was intimately connected with doing. Jesus also had to re-teach them the same thing many times.

Of course we can't practically model this method of discipleship, but we can try to share our lives more with each other, be more open and transparent about or own progress or lack of progress, and apply the method of re-teaching. Instead of finishing one Bible study and moving right on to the next one, stay with just one study, or even just one Biblical principle, until you've got it down. Until you see progress in living it out. (Jesus doesn't expect perfection, only progress).

Okay, on to Beth Moore's topic. (Another ridiculously long blog. Good thing I write these things for myself, to reinforce what I've learned... if you've made it this far reading this, I'm impressed).

I had one friend who didn't want to go to Beth Moore's conference because she is boycotting Lifeway, the company that promotes Beth Moore, because Lifeway promotes people instead of God. Another friend wouldn't go because she said she said it was just a pep rally.

Both of them are right: Lifeway does promote people, not God, and the Living Proof Live event was a pep rally! I am glad I have some friends who are more discerning than I am... but, I'm also glad I went. I wondered if it could be any equal to my first live Beth Moore event last May in Colorado Springs, where she taught on Matthew 16:24-28, summed up in 16:25 "If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it." These four verses still make my heart go pitter-patter every time I read them, as a result of the excellent teaching Beth brought to us. This year she picked Psalm 66 to teach on.

I am so thankful that Beth Moore remains completely focused on the Bible. On her website, she states that her ministry, and her passion, is to encourage women to know Christ more through His Word. Her method is a combination of pep rally tactics (including emotional manipulation) but also good, solid Bible teaching, topped off with some serious challenges. I know I needed that encouragement, that teaching, and those challenges. I've read Psalm 66 probably dozens of times, but that's all I've ever done is read it, and its certainly not one of those Psalms that jumps out at you, like say Psalm 23, 27, 34, or 139. However, it will certainly jump out at me from now on! Beth studied it thoroughly and with a heart-felt desire to apply it and teach us how to apply it.

She picked 66:9 as the theme of the Psalm: "He trained us first, passed us like silver through refining fires" (the Message). Then she had eight points on how the Lord trains us/tests us, and the glorious results. I won't go into all eight points she covered, but here are a the three that spoke to me the most:

1) He trains us to praise louder. 66:2 Make His praise glorious!
When we praise the Lord, we show God's worth to others. We show them how splendid He is, how copious, how worthy. Our praise also silences our foes (Psalm 8:2). I wish I could capture just some of the passion and wisdom she shared with this verse. I don't believe any unbelievers who might have been standing in that crowd could have emerged without at least some marveling - if not for God, then for how believers can be so captivated by Him!

2) He trains us to emerge purer. 66:18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.
One of the things I love about Beth is how vocal she is for purity, especially sexual purity in a culture where we are saturated with sex, not just in the media but in talk and insinuations where ever you go.

3) He trains us to pass the Word on. 66:16 Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for me. She encouraged us to share our story, to tell other people what God has done for us. To mentor younger women. In fact, she had all the women under 30 come down to the center of the arena, and then encouraged all the rest of us older ladies to pour our hearts out and our lives into this younger generation. Before the TV generations, most women knew at most only a few hundred other women to compare themselves against or to look up to. Now, young women are exposed to thousands of other women through the media, they are forced up against a "model" of womanhood that is completely unbiblical, sex-based, and basing our worth as women on looks or professional success or how many men you've had. They desperately need (we all desperately need) strong women of faith and purity to look up to.

I am pretty sure God was trying to teach me two things this weekend from these two events: I want you more with Me, and I want you reaching out more to other women, and that means your own daughters, too.

As you can tell, I'm all fired up. The pep rally really pepped me. Now, do I apply what I learned? It is certainly providence that our mom's Bible study has dedicated the next week for all of us to take turn watching each other's kids so that we can each spend a half-day alone in uninterrupted prayer (my time will be Wednesday morning). Boy do I have a lot to pray about from this weekend, as well as prayer for my family, my church (we've had some issues crop up in another Bible study), our finances, my parents.

As a little challenge to myself, I'm going to start a new blog label "goals of a follower" where I plan to follow up on myself with 1) more time with God and 2) more time mentoring my daughters, and other women too if the Lord opens the door.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Two birthdays, two haircuts, and a broken arm

Last Sunday was rather busy for us, with two birthdays, two haircuts and a broken arm. May 17th was Dreamer's 5th birthday, and we ended up having two "parties" for her, one with a bunch of her friends from church and the neighborhood, and a second one later with Grandma and Grandpa. Dreamer kept exclaiming, "I have two birthdays!"

Here is a shot of her taking a swing at her pinata:

Right in between Dreamer's two parties, Starlet decided to climb up on a stool to see if she could reach the balloons that I had tied from a light fixture on the ceiling (she's a climber by nature). She fell and broke her arm! - actually she broke the small bone in her arm, and bent the larger bone, so that there was quite a noticeable bow to her arm. Daddy took her to the emergency room while we finished up singing Happy Birthday to Dreamer again and let her blow out her candles on her second cake. After another round of presents was opened, I headed off to check on Starlet at the hospital while Mom kindly offered to stay with the other three girls.

B. said there was a long wait in the emergency room, but Gracie wasn't put off by her misadventure at all. She found a box full of toys and got busy playing, hardly favoring her arm at all. I got there just after x-rays and got to hold her while they put her in a splint and the very smallest-sized sling available. Gracie was fascinated by the nurse, or more specifically, she was fascinated by the nurse's freckles. I have never heard the term "fairy poop" for freckles before, but that was just funny enough I had to mention it. Also, the nurse said, with a good-natured smile, that her family used to accuse her of kissing boys through rusty screen doors. I didn't realize there were so many creative ways you could get freckles!

Here is a picture of Starlet in her new, neon pink cast (it's already got a few signatures), and the twins' new hair cuts.

This was the first hair cut for both Serious and Starlet and they both sat through the procedure quite well (this was before Starlet's broken arm). Of course I have to post before and after pictures. These "before pictures" were taken at a short trip we took to Steamboat Springs, CO, with Fish Creek Falls in the background.
Here's a picture that shows just how long Starlet's hair was before it was cut (Blaze and Starlet playing dress-up and dancing).

This one doesn't show their hair very well but it was just too cute not to share:

Another one I just had to share: Blaze and Dreamer posing beside a funny planter outside a store in Steamboat Springs.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I am so proud!

Last week Blaze and Dreamer both received awards for finishing their books from their respective AWANA clubs. AWANA stands for "Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed" and it's based on 2 Tim 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourselves approved to God as workmen who are not ashamed, accurately handling the Word of God."

Here is Dreamer receiving her blue ribbon:

Blaze finished three years of Sparkies (5,6 and 7 year olds) and her third book, and Dreamer finished two years of Cubbies (3 and 4 year olds), and her second book. In order to receive a book award, they must recite verses from memory and work on several projects. Dreamer recited probably about 30 verses, and Blaze probably closer to 100 verses!

Here is Blaze after receiving her plaque:

B. was really proud of all their hard work, and I was too, of course. But he also asked a really good question: how many of all those verses do you think they actually remember?

I'd say Blaze could probably remember 4 or 5 (and then probably only if I prompted her), and Dreamer could remember 2 or 3.

You really only remember the verses you review often, or the ones you really make an effort to think about and work into your life. As I help them memorize verses, I try to get the girls to talk about them, too: what do you think that means? Why do you think Jesus said that? When is it important to remember this verse, and how can it help you?

But all too easily I forget to ask myself these questions as I'm reading my Bible, or even working on my memory verses. It becomes merely a task to be checked off, rather than learning in order to apply, learning to become more Christ-like. How easy it is to become a hypocrite and boast - I memorized a 100 verses! - instead of Lord, help me to live out just one verse this day...

Friday, May 8, 2009

People I Respect the Most

Teachers, Pastors, Missionaries and Stay At Home Moms

I respect these people because they care about other people and live their lives showing that, often with personal sacrifice.

Here are four beautiful reasons why I am motivated to write this blog. Taken on Easter morning, with the "Easter tree" we made and decorated together.

I was thinking about maybe homeschooling my first two girls... up until the second two girls (the twins) arrived. Then I felt overwhelmed, so I visited a couple kindergartens to decide which school to send Blaze to. Watching kindergarten teachers in action always leaves me a little breathless. How they can keep the attention of 25 children for 5 to 6 hours a day and make learning fun so that my daughter comes home and says "I love school!", absolutely amazes me. Being an elementary teacher requires creativity, patience, boundless energy, and a love for children. I enjoy teaching the occasional Sunday School class at my church, but even just one hour a week can quickly burn my energy and creativity out.

Everyone has an opinon on what their pastor should be doing, shouldn't be doing, what he should be saying or shouldn't be saying, how he could say it better, and why doesn't he teach more/visit more/help more/counsel more and so forth. He has one of the toughest jobs out there. He has to live an example to his flock and practice what he preaches; he has to constantly provide spiritual and emotional support to other people when many times this is what he needs himself; he often has to confront people about thorny issues; and oh yes, his wife and kids have to be perfect, too. I truly respect any man that willingly takes on this kind of challenge because he loves the Lord and wants to lead other people to learn about Lord and love Him more too.

This includes anyone with a heart for the poor, the sick, and orphaned. See my blog about Ann Judson of Burma for why I am amazed and humbled by a true missionary spirit that emodies these verses:

Matthew 25:35-40
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me... I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Stay At Home Moms
I often jokingly call my part-time job my "vacation", but I'm not really joking. It does feel like a vacation to get away from the constant chatter, clutter, questions, requests, and fighting that also happen to go along with all the fun of having four small children. Granted, I have a particularly cushy job (for which I am very thankful) - good pay, flexible hours, creatively challenging without being stressful, doing something I love. But even if my job weren't so pleasant, I still think it would be easier than being a stay at home mom. I've noticed from reading some of my friends' blogs that most of their posts are about their kids. Very few of mine are. I love my kids, and I'm very proud of them. I try to be a good mom, but I wish I were more naturally focused on my kids rather than on reading or writing or work or pondering deep questions of life. Or that while I was doing these things I was better at involving my kids.

I do love to read to them, and we always (all five of us) pile on my bed or Blaze's bed every night to read for at least 10 or 15 minutes (if they pick the book) or much longer (if I get to pick the book). My kids also know that while requests for "candy", "play dates", or "I want to go to the pool" are often denied or delayed, they can almost always coax me into reading them a book. I also love to hug and kiss and hold my kids (and tickle them, and plant loud raspberries on them). But... to actually play with them? To take time to actively teach them? This is a real stretch for me. Just helping Blaze with her homework can make me feel half-crazy some nights, like I need to run off to a Coal Creek Coffee House afterwards and debrief myself with a good book or some quality time with my laptop.

My own mother was very career-oriented (she still is, in fact), and always worked full-time, but other than being bored by some of my after-school daycares, I never felt like I suffered from not having a stay-at-home mom. She was very loving and interested in whatever I was doing, though not very involved. So it's easy for me to say, well I turned out okay... but then again, I was also an only child!

So anyway, the point of all this is that I am a long way away from being one of those people I respect the most, but I think it is possible (with prayer, and priorization) to push myself to be more of a teacher, pastor and missionary to my kids, or in other words, a more of a stay-at-home mother. I don't want to have any regrets 10 years from now, because I was too busy pursuing my own interests to build strong relationships and traditions with my girls. I was so proud of the project we did together during Easter week, decorating an "Easter tree" with various symbols from the last week of Jesus' earthly life (the whole week leading up to Easter, including Ressurrection Sunday itself, is an important tradition I want to build for our family). I had some wonderful conversations with Blaze and Dreamer during and after that week because of the things we did together and what I was teaching them about Jesus. But that was almost a month ago now, and what have I done since then?

Well, I confess, here is what I've been doing since then... not so proud this time to report my writing progress. I've worked through some major edits on the Valley, all the way to chapter 15 now (this time last month I was still stuck on chapter 3). Some motivation for this came from another lady in my writer's group who is editing her fantasy book right now too so we are exchanging chapters and critiquing each other's work. The motivation of having another person involved has been great, but I have to be careful it doesn't throw me too much off balance, with regards to family and work. (My parents are back in town now too, after a three month hiatus in Hilton Head).

I also have to be so careful not to let other things crowd out my time with the Lord. Especially since our financial situation is still critical, and stress for B. and I is a lot higher because of that. It is so easy to let fear take hold, making us forget that the Lord is in control, and He is our Provider. I am so thankful for my Bible read-through goal this year, and Beth Moore's scripture memory challenge. Reading the Bible daily and practicing those verses has really helped me keep fear at bay. I recorded all of this year's memory verses so far on my hand-held recorder, so when I go for walks in the morning I can practice them. Here are the verses I'm working on in Psalm 34 from April 15-30 and May 1-15.

Psalm 34:3-6
Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;

their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him
He saved him out of all his troubles.