Thursday, October 28, 2010

So, What Are You Going to be for Halloween?

My children are asked this question every year  during the month of October, (in fact, they were asked it again today!) and every year their response is, “We do not celebrate evil.”  Yes, that is a very strong response that I taught them at a young age.  I decided it was best to make a quick and straight forward statement and leave it up to the other person if they would like to ask us more questions about our beliefs.
Some Christians may feel that this response is too harsh or that participating in Halloween is no big deal.  But for me and my family, I believe as a Daughter of the King, I should take a stand for righteousness on that day because many Believers don’t.  In today’s society it is very difficult to be bold for fear of being rejected or by being judged by others, but regardless of the repercussions that we may face by ‘man’, we will ultimately stand before the Lord and have to give an account of what we did each year as October 31st came around.
We are set apart by God not just 364 days out of the year, but also on Oct. 31st as well.  I want my sons to know the fear of the Lord and realize that they were created to please Him. “But you are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). It may be hard to keep in mind what, we as Believers wrestle with, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
As my children came into this world, my husband and I had to make the decision about what to do with Halloween.  Should we participate in it or not?  Should our children go trick or treating or not?  Do they dress up or not?  How about attending church Fall Festivals as an alternative?  So, what we did was search the Scriptures to guide us in this decision making process and the one verse that we kept going back to is this, “Abstain from ALL appearance of evil.”  1 Thessalonians 5:22. So because of what the Word of God said, we have never had our children participate in the evil origins of the pagans practice of trick or treating.  “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15).
What we have done over the years was dress our children up in Bible costumes and attend church alternative festivals.  So why Bible costumes and not just regular costumes…So my children can learn to be the ‘light of the world ‘.  In Matthew 4:13, “We are called to be the light of the world.”, so that is what we have taught our children to do at a very young age when they were dressed up as Moses, holding the 10 Commandments, or Noah and all his animals, or as King David or a Shepherd.  By being dressed in Bible-themed costumes, it was my hopes that their witness would edify the saints or minister to the unsaved that we came across that evening and it always did!
When my boys get much older, we will some day open our doors for the neighborhood kids and hand out candy and Christian-gospel tracts, but for now, I still have little disciples that I am responsible for ministering to.  Their souls are still very sensitive to evil looking things/costumes, not to mention just being lured into by all of the darkness.  Of course they are exposed to the ghoulish-looking creatures and costumes that they see while out at stores, but I do not need to invite the appearance of evil (nor evil itself) to my front porch and the reason why is because my children are my first ministry, they come before me spending time ministering to the neighborhood kids that evening.
Hopefully by the time my children are in their teens, they will have received much knowledge and wisdom in the Lord and they will one day be prepared to minister to others on Oct. 31st.  “The fear of the Lord makes men turn from evil.”  Proverbs 16:6 Perhaps they will be serving at our church’s alternative to Halloween festival where an unsaved soul comes just for the candy but is really in need of a Savior.
I love what Romans 12:2 has to say, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  Romans 12:2 Maybe the Lord has been tugging on your heart this year about what to do with Halloween.  Meditate on this verse and pray for the Lord’s leading.  Find out ‘what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God’ for you and your family this coming October 31st.
We live in this world but we are not of it, so as my boys grow in wisdom and discernment from year to year, we assess what is best for their spiritual growth as to what we will or will not participate in on October 31st.  I am sure you will be faced with the same decision as well.
So what will you do with that day?  I would love to read your comments.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Uncertainty in Difficult Times

My son asked me this morning if we could take a day off from our usual homeschooling schedule and I laughed and said no.  However, the Lord had a different plan in mind for my family today.  He felt it was best for us to spend some time in the Emergency Room!
My Beloved, Eric, woke up this morning doubled over and writhing in pain.  Shortly after he was vomiting, so off to the hospital we went.  This incident is very unusual for us because Eric is the healthy one in the family.  He is the one that is usually sitting by my bedside when I am in the hospital.  But today was his turn to be the patient.

By the time we showed up at the hospital, his back pain radiated over to his side and down his groin.  When I heard that information, I knew it was a kidney stone.  A few minutes later we were greeted by the ER’s Triage Nurse who happened to be the husband of an old friend of ours.  I knew in that minute that the Lord was greeting us and ushering us through this experience with one of His servants.   As the man started to treat my husband, he was surprised by Eric’s low heart rate so he ordered an EKG.  A few minutes later they had to hook him up to oxygen and then the doctor ordered a CAT Scan.  I was surprised by how my husband’s body was reacting all the while I am sitting there thinking about the worse case scenarios about his condition, so I prayed that it would be JUST a kidney stone and no other serious conditions.

As the time ticked away, I could not help but think about the financial ramifications that this trip to the ER would bring to us.  You see, we have no health insurance because we can not afford it.  For several years now we have been trusting the Lord to provide for us in all aspects of our lives, and time and time again, God has proved faithful to us.  So why did I doubt that He would provide for us in this moment?  I am not sure why, perhaps I was acting on my feelings and not resting in the Word of God.

I later contacted my dear friend who was watching my children.  In the midst of my phone conversation, I broke down in tears and my voice quivered as I gave her an update on my beloved.  I asked her to pray and to tell others to pray for him as well.  I headed back into the hospital and waited for Eric to come back from his CAT Scan.  Moments later, my stomach began to growl since I did not have much time to eat breakfast.  I sat there wondering if the hospital’s cafeteria had anything gluten free that I could eat, but then thought that even if they did, I did not have any money to purchase it.  Oh well, I thought, I guess today would be the day I would lose a few unwanted pounds!

Later, we got word from the doctor that everything was fine and that Eric just had a kidney stone, I was very relieved.  As we walked out of the patient’s area and into the waiting room, a friend of mine showed up and said, “I brought you a gluten free lunch!”  I could not believe she was standing in the Emergency Room doing this.  She took the time out of her busy life to minister to us.  The Lord always knows what we need even down to the smallest details!  The ‘Great I Am’ sent this beautiful, godly woman just to minister on our behalf!  I was grateful.

As we were leaving, I received 2 prescriptions that Eric would need to have filled.  I sat there just staring at them wondering how we would afford it.  Within minutes, Our Most High God sent in another one of His servants to minister to us.  Our friend asked Eric how he was doing and the next thing I know, this  man of God took the prescriptions from me and said he was going to drop them off, get them filled and pay for them!  I was astonished.

Jesus was there with me as I walked through the uncertainty.  His presence was very evident.

No matter the circumstances that you are in, remember that Christ is your Rock and Comforter just like He was mine today.  He will not leave you nor forsake you.  He is walking with you as you go through those difficult and uncertain times as well.  Don’t lose heart.

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Ps 18:2

From Failure to Fruit

It’s almost mid-October and school is in full swing.  For my family, I school my children year round because that has been the only way for me to survive this homeschooling lifestyle!  “No”, I don’t do it because I think my children should always be learning so they can be ahead of everyone else!  I started doing this when my eldest started the second grade.  Originally, my homeschooling schedule was set up just like a traditional school year, but God had other plans for our journey and I am so thankful that He did because He ALWAYS knows what is best for us!  Let me tell you why….
I am a type-A personality; a determined, over-achiever who is borderline obsessive-compulsive along with being highly focused.  Now, this personality may sound wonderful if I was on a job interview for a fortune 500 company, but that is not what I was created for.  Just like you, I was created to be a wife and mother.  And just like you, we have both embraced the biblical commands to raise our children in the Lord, thus, that is why we homeschool.
God decided it was best for my personality to be a chronically-ill wife and homeschool mom for almost a decade.   For a good 10 years of my life I felt like a constant failure as I attempted to school my boys.  What I was physically capable of doing did not line up to what I was mentally capable of, therefore, I felt defeated everyday that I attempted to train, teach and raise up my children.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 I walked through the ‘valley’  as early as when my babes were in my womb up until just last year.  It saddens me to this day to know that I honestly don’t remember much of my time of being a young mommy raising up her little boys.  Health wise, I am now at the point where I am starting to see light at the end of the tunnel yet the chronic pain and the constant inability to teach my children and what I thought they should be learning was overwhelming.  My eyes well up with tears just thinking about what I physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually endured.  The pain is still so real.  Even though I feel that I lost many years of my life and I did not ‘school’ my children enough, my God in all of His sovereignty knew exactly what I needed so I would choose the better part of homeschooling and not get caught up in all the non-essentials.
You see, as an overachiever, I would have had my children down the path of being filled with as much knowledge as time would permit.  Now there is nothing wrong with knowledge, but if it is absent of God’s wisdom, then it is a futile pursuit; a pursuit that I would have embraced all for the sake of ‘homeschooling’.  God literally forced me through my brokenness of an unhealthy body to choose the better part of what to pour into my children.  For most of our young days of schooling, much of my time was spent teaching my children about godly character, them learning to obey their parents and simple Bible stories.  There were a few days during the weeks and months when I would be able to add in teaching them to read, count, etc. but those days were not often!
During the many years in the valley, I was often reminded of the story of Mary and Martha when Jesus came to their house for dinner.  “And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42 Had I had a healthy body filled with normal energy, I would have been like Martha, but my heart’s cry was to be like Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet.
When I would read God’s word about raising up children in the Lord and training them to obey their parents and teaching them wisdom, etc., of course I would do all of that to the best of my abilities, yet, because I could not add all of the other subjects, like reading, writing, math, etc. to the extent that I wanted to, I felt like I was failing my children and ultimately disappointing my Lord.  However, because I believed God’s Word for what it said, that was where I put my emphasis.  I chose the better part, but honestly it was because of my brokenness that I clung to the Lord and I thus I decided with the small amount of energy I did have, I would teach my children what mattered most; the fear of the Lord and godly wisdom.
So fast forward to today…
My eldest will be 11 years old next month.  He is now in the 6th grade.  We started this school year the first week of July and I have been able to teach my children many of the ‘academic’ subjects.  In fact, I have been able to teach them more in the last 4 months than what I have been able to teach them in the last 2+ years!  I am actually amazed at God’s faithfulness.  (O, ye of little faith!)  All those years when I felt like a failure, God is now showing me the fruit that has taken root in the lives of my children.
Perhaps you are faced with a chronic illness and you are contemplating putting your children in school, I implore you not too!  God has a plan for your life and the life of your children, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11 For years, many of our so-called homeschooling days were spent with me just keeping my children at home away from the negative influences.  Life was filled with daily responsibilities along with instilling in them godly character.  They were still better off at home even if I did not teach them anything other than the Word of God and I have the proof today of the fruit that is growing in their hearts!
Maybe you don’t have an illness that you are dealing with but perhaps it is a financial hardship or a difficult relationship, a job change or loss, etc. that you feel is hindering your ability to homeschool….I encourage you to change your perspective and remember the reason why you chose to keep your children at home in the first place.  If it is godly character that matters most to you then GOD HAS YOU RIGHT WHERE HE WANTS YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN!  Let Him do His work in your life and the lives of your children.
As tears come down my face as I look back over the years, my sense of failure comes from me not fulfilling MY PLANS for homeschooling my children.  Although I think I know what is best for my children, I am not sovereign.  God, who is the GREAT I AM is fulfilling His plans for the lives of my family.
He is also fulfilling His plans for your family as well.  Perhaps you need to put your eyes on the Lord more or maybe your need to change your focus or reason for homeschooling your children.  “Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22 Remain steadfast and be determined to teach your children godly wisdom, you will eventually see the fruit.  “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.  John 15:7,8
God answered that prayer of mine to be like Mary, yet, had He told me it would come through a trial like the one I experienced, I am not sure that I would have embraced it!  Even in the midst of what I thought was failure, God was producing in me godly fruit as well as my children.  I assure you He will do the same with you as well!