March 31, 2012

Bugs, busyness, and blogs...

It's been a busy week.

First I was busy being sick, then I was busy getting well. Lots of other stuff happened, too, but I laid low through most of it.

I found a few online things especially meaningful this week: 
Looking forward to a good day in the Lord tomorrow as our family worships and fellowships with friends a bit north of us...

He is Risen: sharing with our children

This post was originally posted in 2011, but I thought it was worth sharing again for Easter this year.

Easter has always been an important holiday at our house -- in fact, it's probably the most important holiday we celebrate all year! Through the years, we've tried to find ways to communicate the truth of our Lord's death and resurrection to our children. With our first, we used modified Easter baskets for a while; instead of candy in those plastic eggs, we'd insert Bible verses about Easter. And he would get a special gift, such as a children's Bible or special book. By the time our other two children came along, we were looking for another way to give them a good picture of Easter.

I wish I could remember who shared the concept and recipe for Resurrection Cookies with me; I do know it was while we were out at The Master's Seminary (undergoing our own transformation). By making these cookies with your children, you are able to share with them a bit of Christ's suffering, the grief of his followers, and the joy of finding the empty tomb. Click on the link and enjoy a sweet time of gospel story-telling with your family!

Photo: For those of you not from the South, the photo is a lovely dogwood tree in Cartersville, Georgia. We enjoy the lovely blooms in spring, fresh green leaves in summer, bright foliage in fall, and a unique silhouette in winter. Here's a little tree humor from my son: How do you know if a tree is a DOGwood? By its bark! :-)

March 28, 2012

Hunger Games: Amusing Ourselves to Death

(with thanks/apologies to Neil and Andrew Postman)

This will not be a review or even an exhaustive discussion of The Hunger Games. This is a post that I wanted to write two weeks ago, before I even saw the movie, but just never got to. (For a fair-handed perspective on the movie, go here -- and, for the record, I don't make a habit of referring people to CT.) Earlier this week, a dear Christian friend asked me (knowing I had seen the movie), "what would you say to someone who says it's evil, humanistic, etc. etc. etc....don't let your kids see it...etc.?" This post is, in part, an attempt to answer that question.

Ten to twelve years ago, when this homeschool mom had only one reading child in the house, I made a point to read everything he was reading. Truth is, I seemed to have more time for it back then, as it was easy to work reading in with nursing my younger kids and taking afternoon pregnancy naps. Now, however, with two teen readers in the house and the explosion of Young Adult Literature (and I use that term loosely, only in the library category sense, but that's for another post), it's much harder to keep up. Many times, I find myself just saying no to my kids when they select a questionable book from the library (thank goodness for book jacket synopses).

I'm not sure how The Hunger Games came into my children's lives. I think a friend from church loaned my now-sixteen-year-old daughter the first book. She quickly devoured the entire series, then passed them on to her thirteen-year-old brother simply to stop his repeated requests. Well, he (of my three children, he wins least-likely-to-read-a-book-unless-it's-the-only-available-option) devoured the first book. At that point, I figured I'd better see what had drawn my children in. I was drawn in, as well.

The story of The Hunger Games is compelling: a dystopian society (and yes, I had to look that up) whose leadership is bent on preventing future rebellion through a system of segregation and fear-mongering. The fictional country of Panem is composed of a debauched Capitol and twelve separate districts, and never shall they all meet -- except when tribute is due, once each year.

The definition of tribute from the Capitol's perspective:
A gift, testimonial, compliment, or the like, given as due or in acknowledgement of gratitude or esteem
The definition of tribute from the Districts' perspective:
A stated sum or other valuable consideration paid by one sovereign or state to another in acknowledgement of subjugation or as the price of peace, security, protection, or the like
In this case, the tribute is a human life. Between the ages of 12-18. One boy and one girl from each district. And of the 24 tributes, only one is to survive. These children are taken from their homes and pitted against one another in a highly televised and manipulated winner-takes-all competition. To the victor (and his or her district) go the spoils. The almost insatiable Capitol finds its hunger for pageantry, partying, and gambling and its thirst for blood temporarily quenched.

Without providing spoilers, here's how I can answer friend and, hopefully, help other concerned parents out there.

The story line is about evil. And the society shown is humanistic. There is no God present, other than the gods that people have made of themselves, of one another, of their lifestyles, of past tribute victors, of the games themselves.

This is a secular story, and the characters have no hope beyond themselves (unlike us).

This is the world that many of our neighbors live within, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps each day to make a living, give their kids a better life than they had, winding down at the end of the day by watching a TV show about someone whose life is, in one way or another, worse than theirs. And getting up the next day to do it all again.

Do you or your teens need to see this movie in order to get that message? No. But the Hunger Games is really about where our society, left to itself, could be headed. And I thank my God that we are not left to ourselves.

Do I think you or your teens should see this movie? That's a call only you can make. I do not think that it is an evil movie, but it is a movie about evil, about what humankind is bent to become. I'm glad I saw it (but then, Life is Beautiful is one of my all-time favorite movies). Our family will evaluate viewing the sequels as they come out.

And this is not a story for the young. If I had it to do over again, I may not have let my son read the books until he was a year or two older. 

One other note of encouragement, though: if your children have read these books or have seen (or will see) the movie, you owe it to them to either read the books or watch the movie (preferably with them, even if they've already seen it once), and discuss it with them. And remind them of the gospel. Don't let this teachable moment pass you by.

Have you seen the movie? Will you? What are your thoughts?

Definitions quoted from

March 7, 2012

Bad news... but there's always good news

I've heard lots of bad news this week. Some is news from afar -- world news, national news -- but several pieces of news have hit closer to home because folks I know and love have been greatly affected.

First, I learned that my husband's uncle died, leaving behind a widow, grown children, and grandchildren. While this was good news for him, as it's the ultimate healing for the Alzheimer's that has afflicted him for so long, it's sad for his family. They already had long been missing the husband, father, and grandfather they used to know, but the death of this man can feel so final to those who remain here. The family is left to pick up the pieces, many of which have been dangling as they have struggled to cope with the destructive nature of disease.

Then I learned that a ministry that has blessed our family is facing a tremendous set back. The men at His Steps Ministries have served our family by helping us with several moves over the last few years, but the biggest blessing has been just to see their hearts. These men have made a commitment to deal with the root of their drug or alcohol addiction through an intensive discipleship program which includes intentionally serving others. Their families have made a commitment to support them and stand by them, even as the men are away from home for six months. We've heard their testimonies and seen their lives change. But this week, a fire at the ministry house destroyed two bedrooms, as well as the possessions of the men living there. The ministry already runs on a shoestring budget and faces other needs, as well. And the men, most already facing financial hardship as a consequence of their addiction, have an additional burden at an already difficult time.

Yesterday, I learned that someone dear to me is facing critical health issues, more critical than we knew. My sweet sister-in-law, Michele, was finally diagnosed with aplastic anemia last summer and was admitted to NIH in Maryland for involvement in a very intensive four-month clinical trial. She has been home for the last few months, still struggling. She returned to NIH a couple of weeks ago for a check up and received the results yesterday. The aplastic anemia has progressed to Myelodysplastic Syndrome, which is basically pre-leukemia. Her doctors have recommended a bone marrow transplant within the month. This means excruciating pre-transplant treatment for her, major logistical planning to deal with traveling from Georgia to Maryland for treatment, other family members being tested as possible donors, and serious financial concerns as her husband used up his leave (as well as leave donated to him) during the fall treatment.

All of this news leads me to my knees. In addition to praying for each of these people in the midst of all they are facing, I am led to be thankful for God's provision in my own life.

I'm thankful that I have a husband, one who is working through all that comes with being underemployed, one who is pursuing the Lord and His timing for the work of church ministry, one who loves me and our children unconditionally, one who is lovingly serving his parents as he can.

I'm thankful that, even in uncertain times, we have always had a place to call home. Sometimes, God has provided this in unusual ways, but we have been safe and, really, quite comfortable. Knowing that this has been only through God's providence helps me to be content.

I'm thankful for my health. While kidney stones are sometimes a thorn in the flesh for me (quite literally), I do quite well day-to-day.

But, most of all, I'm thankful that even if all of those things changed tomorrow, I have the confidence that God cares for me, provides all I truly need, and desires only the best for me. And I pray that this truth will be very real to those mentioned above -- and you -- today.

“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God is of a different nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It never denies reality. It stands in the very teeth of suffering. The love of God did not protect His own Son. The was the proof of His love – that He gave that Son, that He let Him fo to Calvary’s cross, though “legions of angels” might have rescued Him. He will not necessarily protect us- not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”
Elisabeth Elliot

I linked up at:

{My entry to At The Picket Fence's  Inspiration Friday sponsored by Appliances Online and the Beko Fridge Freezers”. }

March 5, 2012

Heaven and Hell, lite...

Because of a recent relocation, my family has been visiting different churches, something we haven't done for many, many years. It's been quite a jolt, especially over the past two Sundays.

Last Sunday, I heard a little about heaven. I heard that it's a place I definitely want to go -- it's better than any party I've ever been to here on earth. It's one big party, one big feast. In fact, the pastor pointed out that the word feast appeared four times in the passage and encouraged us to research its meaning on our own time. I heard that anyone can go to heaven, "even Calvinists" (whew!).

I heard that there are certain foods that won't be included in heaven's feast: neither baby food, Spam, Snackwells, nor beef jerky will be part of the Lord's table. The pastor so earnestly desired that we would all want to go to heaven that he encouraged everyone present to sample a taste of the feast waiting for us there by partaking of the Lord's Table that day. Everyone.

This Sunday, I heard a little about hell. I learned that it's a place I definitely do not want to go -- it causes thirst worse than mowing a lawn in July in Georgia. It's full of torment and anguish, anguish worse than what University of Georgia felt during a recent loss. In fact, the pastor pointed out that the words torment and anguish appeared four times in the passage, but didn't have time to explain their meaning beyond the UGA illustration. The pastor so earnestly desired that none of us would go to hell that he encouraged us to come up to the front and pray... something.

I'm not kidding when I tell you that this pretty well sums up those two sermons, other than that both sermons included admonitions for the church to do more for the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, those of other races.

Here's the odd thing. These were two different pastors, in two different churches, in two different towns. Both of these men have doctorates; both pastor good-sized churches with multiple services, multiple staff members, and hundreds of attendees. Yet, other than the music (and I won't even go into this week's electric guitar riff intro to When I Survey the Wondrous Cross), they easily could have been the same church.

I left hungry. And sad. And wondering what all those people keep coming back for, week after week. I mean, what are they taking away from those sermons? If they are to be Bereans, what is there for them to study on? What example of unpacking the Scripture do these pastors provide? In an effort to be seeker-friendly (I suppose that was the goal), both of these messages trivialized the topic, as well as Scripture as a whole.

There have been some positives to all of this, though.
  • I'm more certain than ever of the value of expository preaching on a regular basis.
  • I'm more thankful than ever for faithful pastors who have placed a high priority on studying Scripture to bring God's Word to the church family each week.
  • I'm more convicted than ever to pray for those pastors to stay the course.
  • I'm more aware than ever of the value of Scripture over man's wisdom for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
  • I'm more mindful than ever of the power of Scripture over man's cleverness to provide us with us all things that pertain to life and godliness.
  • And I'm more excited than ever to hear my favorite expositor (who happens to be my husband) preach this coming Sunday, Lord willing.