It's not as odd as it sounds...

Prayer happens everywhere, even in the tanning bed.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Blood, sweat, and tears.

I have been putting the finishing touches a women's Bible study I teach on Friday mornings. I am using Elizabeth George's Woman After God's Own Heart loosely as a guide. The chapters I am teaching on this week are about "making a home", and "watching over our home". In the middle of reviewing I became convicted about the clutter that was coming close to getting out of control. Michael has been away all week and will be home on Saturday. Knowing what I want the house to look like when he arrives, I knew if I didn't do even a little picking up it would get out of control and I'd spend my entire Saturday morning cleaning house before he arrives.

So, I started with our bathroom, picking up the things Kate got out while bathing in our big tub last night. I saw my shaver there and a memory flashed from long ago. You see, Kate came out of the bathroom, towel dried with her arm cut and bleeding. The fact that she didn't scream for me (girls plus blood equal screams) from the tub meant that she got cut doing something she thought I'd not approve of. It had to have hurt, I've sliced myself like that many times and it was really bleeding. She told me that she used "that thing that I use to shave my hair" on her arm and it cut her. I bandaged her up and explained what it was for, why it cut her, and when she most likely would choose to start using it. But, I told her, whenever she felt that she needed to shave, she needed to come to me and I'd show her how to use it.

My memory flashed to the day my cousin Barbara and I decided to start shaving our legs. Barbara and I are only 2 months apart in age. She was one of 5, the youngest child, who's dad was killed by a drunk driver when she was 5 and her oldest sibling was 12. Her mom, my dad's oldest sibling brought her family to our town where we lived within blocks of my dad's parents and his youngest sibling and her family. We cousins, there were 10 of us, would spend time together constantly. Even in school, the Andersons were together and occupied every grade and every school. As Barbara and I grew older we often watched, no stalked, her older sister Linda. We pretty much got our cues from her. I even chose to play the clarinet in band many years after we moved away because Linda played it. That's another blog post...

So the day came when we discovered that Linda shaved her legs. I can't remember the details, just that Barbara handed me a shaver and away we went. It wasn't long before Linda caught us and told us that we were too young. I didn't know why we were too young and don't remember if I even asked her why she thought that, I only knew that I wanted to appear to be "older" so I kept shaving my legs. It wasn't until my father started to complain to my mother that she was ruining his shavers by using them on her legs that my mom deduced the truth. She came to me and asked me if I was shaving my legs.

Honestly, the whole thing wasn't a big deal and she really didn't care, she just didn't want me to use dad's shaver anymore. She told me that it never dawned on her that she needed to talk to me about shaving my legs and told me that her mother never talked to her about anything and the first time she shaved her legs she thought she had to remove the whole top layer of skin in order to get rid of the hair. OUCH! Mom really never talked to me about much of anything. Her mother didn't and I guess she just thought I'd figure it out. Mom and I are great friends but I think about the things that she and I missed out on because she allowed me to discover them on my own.

That's not what I want for Kate. I want her to realize that if she wonders about anything she can come to me without me "freaking out". I have learned to pick my battles and am comfortable with the battles I've chosen to pick and those I've chosen to let go. Others may battle things that I wouldn't. It's OK because the Holy Spirit speaks to us in different ways and every family is different. I work hard to make sure Kate, and the boys, know that asking me about things doesn't indict them. And I work hard, sometimes REALLY hard, at masking any emotions that may make me appear less then confident. I want them to come to me, to us, for answers, opinions, even to vent. Of course, ultimately I want them to go to God's word for those things too but we are the first step in that process and my confidence in the answers I give from His word convince them of the confidence that they too can have there.

I want a relationship with Kate and my boys that far exceeds the one I have with my mom. I want it based on the foundation provided by God and it doesn't happen without a lot of work. Blood, sweat, and tears is an understatement but when we have the conversations that really matter because they wouldn't consider discussing those issues with anyone else - THAT's when it will all be worth it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

All the bells and whistles

So, I'm reading Tim Challies blog (linked on this site to the left) and his latest post is talking about all the choices we have and if we really need all those choices in everything from food to cell phones. He made me think, a lot. And I had several flashbacks - almost like in the movies but with not as much make up.

I remembered an economics professor (remember now, I was in college before Reagan brought the Iron Curtain down) discussing the USSR. He talked about a young man who was able to escape to the United States only to feel like he was losing his mind just going into the grocery store. To his dismay, when he went to choose a can of beans he was completely befuddled. There were baked beans, green beans, french cut green beans, waxed yellow beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, on and on they went. There was an entire section in the store with hundreds of canned beans. He left in tears because he wasn't capable of making that decision. Whew, I was floored. I had never known a time in life when I wasn't able to make a decision. Not all my decisions were good ones (mom finally had to give me only three choices of outfits daily because left to myself, I'd have not made good clothing choices)but because I was raised with the practice of decision making daily and parents who had the presence of mind to teach me how to make good decisions, I usually did pretty well. And most of the time, when I didn't, I knew full well that they weren't good decisions but did them anyway...

Another flashback reminded me of a huge revelation I had in my life when I was only 30. I say only because I am far from that now. Michael and I owned our first house. It was modest but in some ways not so much when you considered others in the same age category. He made pretty good money and we got a good deal on the house. We weren't living above our means but we did have debt and I was thinking that it'd be a good idea to get rid of it. I didn't know how to go about that. (I'd never heard of Dave Ramsey at that point, actually he was probably neck deep in debt at that time anyway). I found myself at my friend Ginger's house. She lived down the street from me and her house was more modest than mine, she and her husband were older than Michael and I, and they had their house furnished much more sparingly than we did. Until that day, I sort of felt bad for them. But on that day, she revealed (I'm convinced led by the Holy Spirit just for my benefit) what their mortgage payment was and that they were debt free. I felt like I was hit in the head with a baseball bat. I looked around at her house. Sure, I thought that mine, overall was prettier, maybe "fancier", maybe more "decorator-looking" but it served them well. They had plenty of room, they lived in the same nice subdivision we did AND they knew exactly how much money on any given day they had to spend if they wanted to go out to dinner. They had money in a savings account to take a vacation - actually 3 if they wanted to. It dawned on me that maybe, less IS more!

Then I thought about my sister-in-law and a conversation she and I had several years ago when she was building her house. She and my brother-in-law were building quite a nice house, on a beautiful lot and to be honest, they could have purchased the highest end appliances that they desired. Although I assumed money was no object to them, in their minds, it probably was, maybe a little. But she is reasonable and she knows where their money comes from and to her, being stewardly was and still is important regardless of how much money is in her bank account. So she told me that she chose one refrigerator over another because the price difference was astronomical and because the cheaper one looked the same, performed the same, it just didn't have all the bells and whistles and to be honest, she didn't need the bells and whistles.

I just got off of the site. Do you know you can save 500 dollars just choosing a decent stainless dishwasher over a top of the line maxed out dishwasher? I had no idea you could spend over 1000 dollars on a dishwasher period. Of course, stewardship includes buying wisely, not all brands are equal, but you know what I am getting at. Why do we buy what we do? And should we not look at our purchases more wisely?

I say this because if I had budgeted 1000 dollars for a dishwasher and chose to be more reasonable and bought one for 500 dollars, I could give that extra to the church building fund, to an organization like Samaritan's Purse, or to a youth in my church trying to afford to take a mission trip to Peru. (More on that later since that is where Drew is headed in June) The point is that these times are hard times and hard times call for us to examine ourselves. What or Who are we living for? It's wonderful to drive a nice new car but if you had one that was used and performed just as well but cut your payments in half, wouldn't it be worth it to do that if by tithing the left over you provided space for 5 more babies in the nursery? Or if sending that boy to Peru meant confirming his call to missions which over his lifetime meant he had the chance to lead hundreds to Christ? What if being committed to a building program instead of Ruth's Chris's on a regular basis meant expansion of the worship center which allowed for hundred's of family's who wanted to hear the pure word of God preached to sit comfortably and grow in their Christian walk?

I went last weekend to a thrift store in Alabama with a friend who's husband makes more money in a week then we see in months. She is a thrift store freak. She is always dressed beautifully and looks like she stepped off of a magazine cover. The other day - she found a black sequined gown for a formal gathering she had to attend, at a thrift store, for 15 bucks. I can tell you that the extra couple hundred she could have paid went to sending someone on a mission trip.

I guess our emphasis on tithing last Sunday has me focused on how we, Michael and I, and we, the body of Christ view our money, our possessions, and our talents. I guess I am remembering that they come from our Heavenly Father and I know so much about Him that my life is different than it was 25 years ago when I first met Him. And most of my growth has come from church or Bible Studies attended at church. I want that for a whole lot of other people. But if I think that having all the bells and whistles, the best of everything, the most state-of-the-art electronic device is the most important thing then I am going to have to come to terms with the fact that I may not hear God say the one thing to me that I long to hear Him say. That is "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Can't afford NOT to tithe...

Please forgive me for not writing recently. It's been a hectic week and I've been scattered. My brain that is, not so much my house. Actually, it's been a blessing the way my house has been in order (thanks to the refi and flylady). It's funny how keeping my house in order has made my kids want to help make sure it stays that way. I think that they have found the peace that comes from an uncluttered home, bedroom, kitchen, etc. and aren't willing to cause it to return to chaos. It's been an interesting lesson in being an example. I haven't added anything to my occasional rants of "pick up your closet", or "make your bed", or "put those (add whatever is to your liking) away". And yet, just the other day the two little kids came to me and asked if they could clean their bathroom. Since that is their job anyway, I was delighted they WANTED to do that. Then they took my "control journal" (flybabies will understand what I mean) and looked up my routines for that day and started DOING MY JOBS! After I picked myself up off the hard, cold, tile floor, I gazed through my glassy eyes as they maneuvered around the furniture with the vacuum and swiffer duster. If only time could have been frozen.

Fast forward to tonight. In church tonight we celebrated a 95% success rate at the end of our capital (more like debt reduction) campaign at church. That is often unheard of and it deserved a celebration. But much was said about what our responsibilities are. I was aghast to find out that 57% of our congregation tithes nothing or what would be acceptable for poverty level giving. We aren't even close to being a poverty level congregation. And less than 20% of the congregation give more than 80% of the money to the church. As a deacon, Michael knew these figures and to say he was disappointed is an understatement.

We have been tithers almost from the beginning of our Christian walk. We understood quickly that everything we have is God's and He asks for almost nothing in return. Ultimately, how can we expect to be blessed when we don't obey? Of course, there are other areas of obedience but He asks for obedience in all areas of our walk. I have found it interesting that we are so secure in our eternal life, confidently believing that God's promise of heaven is ours because He says so when we commit our lives to Christ and accept Him as our Lord and Savior. That is HUGE! That is FOREVER we are talking about - that is the difference between heaven and hell. BUT we are soooo not believing that He really means what He says about our finances when we obey Him regarding tithes and offerings. I can't get my mind around that at all.

But as I wrestled with the figures I was hearing I looked over at the youth section, curious at how many of them were really listening. They needed to be because our biggest problem right now are the young marrieds that "just can't afford to tithe". (And it won't be long before the youth of today are the young marrieds of tomorrow.) That terrifies me. If they don't trust Him with their money how can they REALLY be trusting Him with their eternal life?

So, do my 18 and 15 year olds get this? They know we are faithful tithers and understand that we have parachurch organizations that we also give to monthly. We also support 3 little girls from different organizations overseas. But do they get how all this fits into their life? I am not sure. What I do know is they see us put that money into the plate every week. They are old enough to understand the figures being presented and have lived long enough to see their parent's commitment to tithing and more. They have their own envelopes and I remind them weekly to bring their tithes with them. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't but ultimately they have to choose to obey because the Holy Spirit convicts them not because their parents did it.

Here I would like to add that Megan was able to be released from the hospital in time to leave today for her Disney trip. Please pray that she stays well this week in order to enjoy fully her time there and that her time with her brothers and daddy are precious memories for them all.
Thanks for your prayers for her.