Monday, November 24, 2014

Defense or Division?

I watch Facebook sadly, seeing GOOD Christian people do things that we shouldn't do.

I see anger, and malice, and greed, and wonder what happened to attempting to live Godly and temperate lives.

Oh, the anger I see is not always bad.
No, there is anger at sin, and anger at injustice.
But, there is also anger at inconvenience, and perceptions of injustice, and differences of opinion.

The malice I see is often directed at other GOOD people...people whose opinions are different, whose backgrounds are different, whose life-experiences are different.

I see greed.
It doesn't appear, at first glance, to be greed.
But when the desire for more (time, money, stuff...) is repeated day after day after day, and week after week, and year after year, it is obviously that we are not content with the good God has given us, but are greedy for more and more and more...more stuff, more time, more money.

Our pastor just finished an excellent series on Money, called "Money Matters" (you can go listen to it here).  One of the first things he covered was being content.  Did you know that discontentment can lead to sickness, fiscal difficulties, marital problems, and emotional illness?  The secret to contentment involves recognizing the true source of our money/stuff/blessings, and enjoying what God has already blessed us with (Phil. 4:12; Eccl. 6:9).

And then there is anger.  In some instances, anger is not bad.  In fact, Paul says in Ephesians, "In your anger do not sin," (Eph. 4:26), recognizing that it is possible to be angry and NOT to sin.  Most of us, however, would admit that we are not at that point with our anger.  Most of the time, our anger revolves around ourselves, inconveniences, selfishness, impatience, and discontent.   When there is "righteous anger" expressed, often it is expressed in such a way that it is not heard, whether because it is being expressed too vehemently, or in a way that is belittling of the other parties.

This is where the malice comes in.  From Dictionary.com, the meaning of MALICE:
noun
1.
desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another, either because of a hostile 
impulse or out of deep-seated meanness:
the malice and spite of a lifelong enemy.
2.
Law. evil intent on the part of a person who commits a wrongful act injurious to 
others.
I am quite sure that most people do not think that their responses to others are malicious.  However, when people are angry, we tend to respond in ways designed to make others hurt.  This can be in the form of belittling, name-calling, calling peoples' motives into question, and intentionally being disrespectful of their thoughts, opinions, and feelings.  Paul talks about this in Ephesians, when he says, "Don't use foul or abusive language.  Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them."  (Eph. 4:29, NLT)

Most days I love reading through my Facebook timeline, because I can catch up with friends.  I can see where there are needs, and I know to pray for them.  I love being able to see how families are growing, and what work God is doing in each of our lives.

Conversely, it makes me sad to see God's people complaining about superficial and unnecessary things, putting political things on an equal footing with the things of God, and treating our God-family in a manner completely unworthy of the name by which we are called.

So what is the solution?  How do we stop posting things on Facebook that are unbecoming to a child of God?  I would like to propose several steps:

1.  Evaluate our attitudes.
     This is not always easy.  Evaluation of my attitude is sometimes rather painful.  But this is a necessary step to seeing WHY I am responding or posting in certain ways.  Am I just grumpy in general?  Is there something that ALWAYS triggers this response from me?  Why does it trigger a negative response?  Am I hungry?  Did I just have a fight with my husband, or a run-in with my teenager?  Did I get enough sleep last night?  Each of these things can have a huge impact on my attitudes towards others.

2.  Take your time.
     There is no rush to post anything, to tell the world what you think about a particular subject, to pass on the latest, greatest commentary on whatever the hot topic of the day happens to be.  If you simply MUST post something, post without comment or personal commentary, thus allowing the article to speak for itself.  Another good rule of thumb is to hold off for 24 hours.  Give yourself time to cool down, and time to evaluate your attitude about the subject.  If, after 24 hours have passed, you still  have something that needs to be said, then post it.

3.  Think about who we are trying to please.
     Every time we write something, or post something to Facebook, we have a particular audience in mind.  We probably do not think about that every time, but there is usually at least the thought that someone will read and "like" our post.  We are trying to please our readers.  But Who, ultimately, are we trying to please?  As one who attempts to be worthy of the Name she bears, I try to think through whether God would be pleased with what I am posting.  Am I being self-serving?  Am I being vengeful?  Am I writing for the ever-increasing numbers of "likes"?  Do I want my "friends" to like me, or do I want to hear the ultimate "Well done"?  Additionally, if I am posting something angry, malicious, or selfish, am I being a faithful witness to what God has done in my life?  Will my writings and postings ultimately be a good picture of the change that has been wrought in me, or will I reinforce the negative stereotypes many have of those of us who follow God?

I hope I have not come across in a preachy manner.  It hurts me to see people who call themselves by God's name write and speak in ways that ultimately hurt that Name that they love.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

He's HOME!!

Today I was able to pull off the biggest surprise I have ever been able to manage.

I was able to surprise 5 of my six children.  (There are videos from 2 of them...sometime I'll get around to retrieving them from devices.)

Last night (actually this morning) at 1:45 am, I picked Jason up from the AMC Terminal in Norfolk, and brought him home.

Our eldest was home from college with a friend, and was still awake talking, so he got to surprise her before we went to sleep.

This morning, he surprised the youngest when she got up.

A little later, the two boys came home from the Scout event, and he got to see them.

After taking the eldest out for a Daddy-Daughter date (sushi!), he and I went to surprise #3 child at the Scout event, and then headed out to meet and surprise the final child.

There were tears, and laughter, and lots of happy smiles.

Everyone is OVERJOYED that Dad is home...

And now we can SLEEP!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Help me, PLEASE?!?

I have a hard time asking for help.

I would venture to say that it is PAINFUL to admit that I can't handle things, and need someone else to help me.

I have these ideas in my head that the act of admitting my need means that I am not doing what I am supposed to do.  There is this voice that says that a good mom should be able to take whatever amount of activities her children need to her to be available for.  There is the squawking voice that tells me I'm not fulfilling what my husband needs if I for some reason or another am not able to keep a perfect house, attend to my childrens' every need, attend to my husband's every need, have a fulfilling career, have my yard in perfect order, and my house immaculate, and my clothing of the highest fashion, and exercise every day, and have the perfect body, and have hair that behaves itself even on high-humidity days.

Frankly, I KNOW these voices are the voices of the crazy...and I will be joining in the crazy if I even attempt to do it all.

I cannot do it all.

I am only one person.

One person with six children, a husband, a dog, a baby-stepping career, a house that needs to be prepped to be sold, a yard that needs to be mowed and trimmed, and trees that need attention, a body that is in DIRE need of a haircut, and to work out, two cars that need to be washed, a motorcycle that needs to be started, papers that need to be sorted, and put away and shredded, and junk that needs to be sold, or donated, or junked.

In other words, I NEED HELP.

So, if you are in the area, and have some free time, and endless energy, I would WELCOME your company.

I might even be able to supply the coffee.

Monday, September 15, 2014

In which I am humbled...

I am becoming more and more aware of how very privileged my life appears to be.



I am a white Caucasian woman, living in the United States in the 21st century.
Americans are 4.43% of the world's population, and women are 50.8% of the US population, as of 2013.


I have a post-graduate education.  My husband has a post-graduate education in 3 different fields.
In 2012, "33.5 percent of Americans ages 25 to 29 had at least a bachelor’s degree" (link) and "Among the science fields, women were most heavily represented in psychology, earning almost 72 percent of the master's degrees in 1993, up from 61 percent in 1983; biological/agricultural sciences (46 percent in 1993, 38 percent in 1983); and social sciences (almost 47 percent in 1993). Men were most overrepresented in earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences (72 percent of the degrees) and the physical sciences (70 percent)." (link)


Our family owns 4 vehicles, three of which were bought brand-new.  We have 4 drivers.
"It is true that 95 percent of American households own a car, and most Americans get to work by car (85 percent)." (link)


All of our six children (four girls and two boys) are getting great quality educations at minimal cost to us. 
  • Worldwide, nearly 80 percent of primary-school-age children attend school. In least developed countries, this figure is around 66 percent.
  • The largest out-of-school population is in sub-Saharan Africa, where around 45.5 million children of primary school age are out of school.
  • Of the 67 million primary-school-age children who do not attend school, 53 percent are girls.
  • Worldwide, only 49 percent of children of secondary school age actually attend secondary school.
  • Of the 49 percent of secondary age students who do not attend school, 52 percent are girls.
  • The world’s functional illiterates include more than 130 million children who do not attend school, 73 million of them girls. (link)

We own our house...which is to say, we qualified for a loan to buy a house that was probably outside of our ability to pay for, but the bank decided to take a risk on us anyway.
In the US, 68% own their homes.


We own a dog that we paid entirely too much money for, but which we love anyway.
In the US:
  • 47 percent—Percentage of households (in the US) that own at least one dog
"Pet ownership in the U.S. has more than tripled from the 1970s, when approximately 67 million households had pets, to 2012, when there were 164 million owned pets.
In other words, in 2012, 62 percent of American households included at least one pet.
That same year, according to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent more than $50 billion on their beloved cats, dogs, and other animal companions." (link)
We have clean running water inside our house. 
We have reliable waste disposal.  
"783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. 
6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases." (link)

We have reliable electricity in our house.
  • 18% of global population lack access to electricity, despite modest improvements (link)

We have air-conditioning in our house.
84% of homes in the US have air conditioning.

We have hot water in our house.  The combination of running water and electricity makes this possible.
"The World Water Commission reports that over one billion people have no access to running water. That's about 1/6 of the world." (link)

We have good pantries and freezers filled with good food, and when we run low on food, there are 2 well-stocked grocery stores within a mile of our house.
"A 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 23.5 million people lack access to a supermarket within a mile of their home." (link)
In the US, "In 2012, 49.0 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children." (link)

Every single person in our house has too many clothes and shoes.

We have a library-worth of books stacked all over our house.
In the US, Over 60% of low-income families have no children’s books in the home. (link)

We live in a country where we can worship without fear of persecution.
"...nearly 70 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities." (link)

We own more Bibles than there are people in our home.
88% of Americans own at least one Bible.  (link)

We don't fear fine or imprisonment for disagreeing publicly with our government.
In 2012, 195 countries showed:
90 were free (46%)
58 were partly free (30%)
47 were NOT free (24%) (link)

We have access to adequate health care.
According to the World Health Organization, Americans have access to 24.5 doctors per 10,000 population.  (link)


- The 1-10% richest of in any country account for 50% of the country’s wealth (in terms of ownership of capital). 

- In poorer countries, inequalities are even worse - i.e. the rich represent much less than 1%. In fact at the world level, in 2000, the top 10% represented 85% of global capital.

- Hunger and malnutrition affect over 850m people, even though the global food production could accommodate a few billions more on earth (some estimates say up to 12-15 billions). The problem is either with the distribution and diffusion of resources (e.g. lack of roads and infrastructure) or insufficient income.

- Bad sanitation threatens the lives of more than 2.5 billion people, while another billion lacks access to clean water. Water-related problems affect half of humanity.

- About 1 billion people can’t read, or even sign their names. At a time when more and more experts talk about investing in computer literacy, achieving basic literacy in some parts of the world is still the priority for so many governments. Lack of education is a major cause of unemployment worldwide.

- As far as women are concerned, the usual view is that “women produce half of the world's food, work two-thirds of the world's working hours, earn only 10 percent of the world's income, and own less than 1 percent of the world's property” (hopeinternational.org). These numbers count altogether paid and unpaid work (or work that would be paid in developed countries) like child-care and elder-care as well as helping in the fields or small family farming.

- More than 350 of the richest people on earth have more money than some 50% of the rest of humanity. This is not even about redistributing resources. This is an issue with the system at large. (link)

It is terribly humbling to me to think about where we sit socio-economically, just because of when and where we were born.  When I hear from friends residing in other countries about the very real persecution, the abject poverty, the health and other needs that are easily treatable in our country, I am again reminded that I had nothing to do with the good position in which I find myself.  

As I researched to write this post, I was convicted over and over again about my propensity to complain about what are really inconveniences...
...the flat tires on my car are reminders of my ease of transportation.
...the sore mouth after tooth extraction reminds me that I DO have access to great dental care. 
...the work that I need to do to sell this place that has been home for 4 years reminds me of the blessing of a roof over our heads. 
...my excess weight that tells me we have more than enough to eat.  

So, I have seen all of these "Thankfulness Challenges" going around on Facebook, and a couple of years ago I did a Thankfulness Month series.  This year, I am going to spend the next while praying for those who have less than me, while being more thankful for what I DO have.  

How about you?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Counting Down....

While we don't have any specific dates (as if!), we DO know that a very important part of our family will be home sometime in the next month.

So, what does that mean, exactly?








Cleaning.  Seriously.  You would never know that I have spent practically the whole time he's been gone cleaning this stupid house.  Maybe because there are a bjillion children through this house on a regular basis?






Cooking.  Have you seen what it takes to feed a bjillion teenagers and pre-teens?!?







Projects.  You know those things that we plan to do while the Significant Other Person is gone, so we can distract ourselves from missing them?  Yeah.









Instead we went to South Carolina for July 4th, shopped for school supplies, endured band camps, enjoyed fun visits with the eldest child and friends, prepared for school, started school, graduated from my Masters Program, sent a child to Florida for Prom with a friend, and then to West Virginia for a week, sent kids on two different Venturing camp-outs, dealt with a parking ticket, an impounded car, a lost cell phone, a visit to the ER for a bloody nose, an abscessed tooth, broken glasses, countless Skype calls, and planning for remodeling and selling the house.  We got to go to the beach, have spent time with our AMAZING military ministry group at church, seen friends from out of town, gone to two weddings, and had friends to the house for cook-outs twice.

While he was gone, Jason was able to visit Japan, and also went to Seoul, South Korea, to see the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).  He has had the opportunity to be involved with a GREAT little church in Korea, and was able to preach four times so far, as well as help the church move to their new quarters, and has repeatedly cooked for the church's Sunday morning breakfasts.  He was also able to lead a Bible study for a while, before the command interfered and changed his schedule, making that difficult.  He got to play softball on base, and helped with several community events the command took part in.

But now the countdown is ON, and it's time for the motivation to kick in...any time now.  As soon as I can get these teenagers to go to bed....

Saturday, September 6, 2014

What I'm currently reading

Now that I am no longer a student, my reading choices have expanded to the HUGE pile of books I have been saving for such a time as this.....






...which has grown since this picture was taken.










So, for a little more accountability to actually continue working my way through this pile, here is a sampling of what I am reading right now.

499724

From the Goodreads site, " This was written to help adult children of dysfunctional families, especially adult children of alcoholics, cope with the problems caused from their unhappy upbringing." 

I have a hard copy of this book...my favorite way to read books!!


17131049
Also from the Goodreads site:  "Amanda is a raging perfectionist. She begins each day with a long list. "Keep the house picked up; limit myself to two Diet Cokes; spend special time with each of the kids; work out; pray; avoid sugar; read a chapter in a book about something very important; read my Bible; call my mom." She determines each day's worth, and ultimately her own, by keeping track of her stats--pounds gained or lost, stuff accomplished. That is, until God spoke into her life, waking her up to the true costs of her addiction to perfection. "Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist" is more than Amanda's confession; it's a journey of letting go of the subtle but destructive idols of her overactive inner voice and replacing them with God's truth. Amanda hopes her journey can inspire others to let God dig in to their own lives, uncovering the subtle lies we unconsciously live by.

This book was a free download from Amazon on my Kindle app.  


1236402
Finally, also from Goodreads: "A look at churches that practice authoritarian leadership, manipulation, excessive discipline, and spiritual intimidation warns and informs readers about such organizations, naming names and offering advice on identifying a fringe church."
This book is available for a free download here.
I am part-way through each of these books.  If you join me on Goodreads, you can follow my progress, as well as reading great book reviews.  


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Back to School, 2014 Edition

This year we have reduced the number of schools represented by our crowd.

Jason is in Grad School, yet again, through Liberty University Online.










Frances is a Junior at Columbia International University.












Jonathan is a Senior in High School.














Heather is a Junior in a different High School.










Justin is a Freshman at the same High School Jon attends.










Leah is in 7th grade, in Middle School.











Katherine is in 5th grade.









For a change, I am NOT in school!!



Happy First Day of School, 2014-2015!!