Tuesday, May 24, 2011

God in the Yard :: Group Project and Giveaway!

I have a copy of this book to give away! Read all the way to the bottom for details.


Earlier this year I began blogging my way through a lovely drink of cool soul water. God in the Yard promised to gently lead me through some core spiritual disciplines to help me more fully grasp the substance of my Christian faith. Below I have included links to my beginning posts, in case you missed them.

Chapter 1: Invitation
Chapter 2: The Way
Chapter 3: Contemplation
Chapter 4: Celebration
Chapter 5: Gratitude

And about the time I hit Chapter 6, on Prayer, I also landed in 2 small groups reading through Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life and Stasi Eldredge's Captivating; I committed to memorize Colossians; and I received Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts in the mail as a prize from a blog giveaway. About that same time, I began getting up earlier to spend time reading through the Bible again; I began writing a book proposal that turned into a discipleship class to be taught through my church; and THEN I decided to withdraw my 3rd grader from public school and homeschool the remainder of the year.

If it's not one thing, it's another.

I also got hung up on prayer because, well, I did. I think I understand the value of Bible study pretty well, but sometimes I wonder why prayer comes so hard. The believing in its power part. The remembering to actually do it part. The craving it part.

But apparently Someone wanted to kick me in the pants to stop avoiding the prayer chapter, because somehow I got myself signed up for a group blogging project and somehow I got assigned the chapter on prayer!

I have posted over at Bibledude.net today, and it worked out to be an explanation of how prayer is like good sex. Oh yes, you know you have to read it now.

Be nice to me, it's my first time posting on someone else's site and I've got a little stage fright.

So here's how I'm going to work it. Contest runs from today until June 10. I received a free copy of this book to review, but I already had my own. So I'm going to give away the free one to one of my readers. I really want you to have it. To enter, please do any of the following:

  • Comment on my May 25 Pray post at Bibledude.net
  • Comment on my June 8 Hospitality post at the same location
  • Comment on this post
  • Comment on my upcoming God in the Yard June 8 post
  • Comment on the Facebook Fan Page.
  • Or tweet me and tell me you'd like to be entered to win. Include hashtag #godintheyard

Straightforward enough for you? As a non-detail person, that was a challenge for me to outline for you. I hope you feel it's fair, and I hope to have many entries!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Throw another Bucket on the Bonfire

Last fall, I read through the entire Bible in 90 days. Cover to cover, every word.

This experience liberated me. As a lifelong Bible student, I had never read the whole thing in one go. I enjoyed the overarching narrative; the proportion of Old Testament history to New Testament instructions for living; the multitude of times certain topics and ideas come up. But most of all, it broke my hangup with reading the Bible as a book.

When I finished in January, I started over the next day. Just a few chapters a day this time, but enough to keep me drinking from the well a little bit at a time. Sometimes I miss for a couple weeks here and there, but thanks to having YouVersion installed on my phone, I can just pick right up where I left off.

Now I can always answer the question, "What have you been reading lately?" with a Scripture passage. God speaks to me in amazing ways as I work my way through the history of Israel. Mostly because it seems the bulk of Scripture covers little else.

Today I picked up in 1Kings (I get bogged down in the Samuel/Kings/Chronicles area EVERY. BLESSED. TIME.) and came upon chapter 18, In Which God Shows Off.

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal
It seems the Lord Almighty got fed up with wicked King Ahab being an idiot. The rest of Israel was suffering due to a 3 year drought brought on as punishment for King Ahab following the god Baal, and the time had come to end it. So God sent Elijah to challenge Ahab's 450 prophets to a Sacrifice Showdown: Whichever god could light his own sacrifice on fire, he was the true powerful god that the people should follow.

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." And the people did not answer him a word. (v 21)

This passage contains some of the best comedy in Scripture. Elijah gave the Baal prophets every advantage. They got to go first, and they had all day.

All morning they danced around the altar, but got no answer. At noon, Elijah taunted them that Baal must be sleeping or on a trip, or hard of hearing. So they danced harder all afternoon, even cutting themselves and letting the blood flow in order to get their god to hear them.

Finally, Elijah left them to their ceremonies and called the people to come watch his sacrifice on the altar of the Lord.

First he rebuilt it. He used 12 stones to symbolize the whole of God's people (the nation had been broken by civil discord for 2 generations by this point). He dug a trench around the stones. He put wood on the stones of the altar, and laid the pieces of the offering on top of the wood. Then he had someone pour four giant jars of water over the entire thing.

"Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. (v 34)

Elijah totally stacked the deck against himself and against his God. I sometimes wonder what the people thought at this point. Did they hang around simply to see Elijah play the fool once and for all?

Finally, the moment of truth arrived. Elijah stepped forward and addressed God simply, yet with confidence.

"Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." (v 36-37)

And immediately, fire came from heaven and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil and even the water in the trench. The whole shebang.

What's left to doubt, about who is the true and powerful God?

When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The Lord - he is God! The Lord - he is God!" (v 39)

Do I Trust Him?
A few years ago I faced a difficult situation. As I shared it with my friend Diane, she responded, "Throw another bucket on!"


She explained what she sees and hears every time she reads this passage of Elijah and the Baal prophets. The comedy of Elijah taunting the prophets; the ludicrous way he has buckets and buckets and buckets of water poured on the sacrifice, so it runs off and makes a soggy moat around the altar; and the immediate, undeniable way God sends fire to consume the WHOLE thing: it's cinematic gold.

Then she sang me a line, to the tune of, "I love rock and roll. Put another dime in the jukebox, baby."

I have an awesome God. Throw another bucket on the bonfire, baby!

And I can't get it out of my head. This phrase has come to mean to me: Hey, so this looks impossible. So what? Nothing is impossible with God. So let's keep letting the ridiculous situation add up, knowing God's power can only shine more brightly as the situation grows more dim.

I needed to remember this story today. I've got my own uphill battle to fight, and I think God is asking me, "Do you trust me?" I think it's time I get my assumed limitations out of the way, and watch to see how He will work. So that He gets the glory, and so that someone else can see Him working to turn their hearts to Him.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When Pigs Fly: Cleaning House

Never thought I would write this next sentence, but here it is: On Mother's Day, I cleaned house. Yep, that's right, pigs have flown.

Photo Credit
Crazy, right? But also freeing.

The Team Captain left at 9am on a weeklong business trip, and I didn't feel like braving the sympathetic small talk in the church lobby, so I took everyone straight home from the airport. I set them up with their own entertainment, and set to work organizing my kitchen cabinets. Culling, really. By the end of the day I had filled the back of my Explorer with donation boxes for the local mission.

You see, I am clearing out life clutter.

Do your possessions weigh you down? Mine tend to, especially when I can't keep them ordered and put away. To be honest, the state of my stuff reflects my mental state. And when the effort of managing my things makes me tired, it's time to take charge.

As a naturally disorganized person, I have found I need to set a few structures in place to assist me with pruning this weighty matter so I can get to the business of living. Perhaps some of these structures might help you, too.

The Accountability Factor

Homemakers Challenge - 31 Days to Clean

I found an amazing ebook, 31 Days to Clean, by Sarah Mae. And I found a blog sponsoring a Homemaker's Challenge, complete with a supporting Twitter community, going through the days of the cleaning project together. Community helps so much in attempting something new like developing housekeeping skills.

The first 9 days of the challenge walked me through cleaning out my kitchen, step by step. All I have left is the pantry, and I had just organized that a month ago. I am content to move on to day 10, in which I begin to declutter two living areas (we're not even talking upstairs yet. Baby steps here, folks).

Here's a link to another project to get you started cleaning, if you need a little kick in the pants. The community aspect of the project already happened, but it's great direction. I'm going through these five hot spots just as soon as I finish the 31 Days to Clean Project.

Simple Mom: Project Simplify

The Fantasy Motivator

Photo Credit
Lately we have started a running fantasy of someday selling our house, buying an RV, and traveling the nation for a year. Wouldn't that be fabulous?

We chronically have multiple crazy fantasies running, this is just the dream du jour. Another involves selling our suburban home and moving to the country to set up a homestead.

Whichever fantasy we ultimately choose to pursue, I have found I better enjoy cleaning house with that goal in mind. It provides me with motivation. I am calling it mock downsizing: pretending I have less space, and sharing my stuff I don't use with the local mission.

Pretty much the clutter-busting fantasy boils down to the fact that I don't want my stuff to own me. I want to be prepared and free to pursue whatever opportunity comes to me, whenever it comes.

The Survival Factor
I also think clutter-busting clarity will prove a critical factor to my success in homeschooling.  Between the Captain's work-from-home job, and me bringing all the kids home to school, we will be all on top of each other starting the end of next week. If we are all home all the time then we need order. All of us do.

And whether or not I relish the role, I am the key coordinator of the team. My job responsibility is to plan, organize, and implement consistency for the mental health of the entire family. And I can't do that until the chaff, the clutter, the chaos--whatever you want to call it--is whittled down to size.

I read this super inspiring post from Ann Voskamp yesterday, about homeschooling and living a one-piece life, and the importance of providing consistency to the kids in the 10-and-under years:

A Holy Experience: Why Would Anyone Be Crazy Enough to Homeschool?

So I'm on a clutter-busting bender. Make no mistake, it does not come naturally. But I'm so tired of being overwhelmed, and I am in a clutter-monster-butt-kicking frame of mind.

I am here to tell you, pigs can fly.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Angels Are Singing

I'll put today's big news up front so you don't miss it:

A week shy of his sixth birthday, my man-cub prayed last night to ask Jesus in his heart and invite him to direct his life!

The Back Story
My 2011 Colossians "memory" project has turned into a "meditation" project. It's not sticking, mostly because I'm spending the time to review verses only a few days a week. But I am continuing to meditate on each week's verses in my morning stupor, hoping to at least familiarize my brain with the words.

And it seems to be all about discipleship of believers; what's not to like? I've spent a lot of time promoting discipleship. Lately I have realized it starts closer to home than a published book. It even starts closer than my local church. Discipleship starts in my home. The rest may follow, but my children are job #1.

Part of the result of that awareness has included pulling my independent firstborn out of public school to homeschool. Also, for the past week I've been working extra hard to build routine with the kids. We have begun to incorporate Morning Meditation time as well as Bedtime Routine into our day.

Morning Meditation
Morning meditation time paid off first, in the most surprising way. I have a list of "31 Virtues to Pray for your Kids" which gives a verse each day to claim a given attribute for your child. On the 12th, the verse for the day was  Deuteronomy 31:6, about Courage. Miss Boo and I read through this together, discussed its meaning, and prayed through it for ourselves:

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." 

An hour later, a friend texted me that her husband was experiencing a physical spiritual attack. (This was follow up to something shared in small group the previous evening) So I stopped our school lesson and told Boo we were about to pray for our friend. We prayed that verse together; and I was able to respond to my friend not only that we had prayed that scripture, but that God had used the incident to give me a teachable moment with my disciple.

Incidentally, in Latin this week we learned that the word for student is discipulus. Fascinating.

Yesterday the morning meditation time paid off a second time, after we reviewed and prayed through a verse for peace. When another friend texted asking for prayer for a difficult decision she didn't want to make, I called Boo over, looked up and prayed through Isaiah 26:3 with her.

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."

This unmistakable connection between making the smallest effort to disciple my child, and receiving the opportunity to apply the lesson in real life, has profoundly moved me. I think I struggle with actually doing this because the enemy pours molasses on my efforts to train my children. But God rewards those who earnestly seek him.

And I am humbled--astonished, really--to see how He has multiplied my feeble efforts, immediately.

Bedtime Routine
Last week I went to visit a friend for two nights. Her attention to order and structure within the home inspired me. For some reason, seeing their dinner-thru-bedtime routine in action suddenly helped me imagine such a thing for myself.

Since we returned home last Wednesday, I have worked diligently from dinner onward to get the kitchen cleaned up, get the family outside for exercise, bathe all the children, and read stories together before bed. We started reading Little Pilgrim's Progress in installments.

Last night, I was 6 paragraphs into chapter 4 when Rooster stopped me to ask, "What is heaven?" And the Team Captain had the presence of mind to follow up with him. Five minutes later, we were all curled up in the bed with him, except Boo who hung in from the top bunk, and I got to help him say the words:

"Jesus, I love you. Thank you for dying on the cross so I could be forgiven. Please forgive all the sins I have ever done, and all the sins I will ever do. Please live in my heart and be in charge of my whole life. Amen."

What a privilege.

I don't know what's left, or what to attempt next. Well, I do, but this now marks 2 of my 3 kids making the ultimate commitment to be Christ disciples. Now I just keep on with the discipleship, one faltering step at a time. I am feeling the blessing of understanding that when I simply obey, God works. It's a wild ride.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Clearing Fog

Ahh, a month has passed since I last posted. Sometimes you have to walk away from good things in your life for a season, in order to focus on things of higher priority.

Becoming a homeschool mom seems to have taken about the same amount of start up energy as adding a new member to our family: ten weeks of fog and a gradual approach to a new normal.

Today technically marks the end of our seventh homeschool week. Three more weeks until the end of the local district school year, meaning the ten week mark will coincide with my kindergarten son coming home to join us. Three more weeks to "get the hang of it" in an experimental-type setting. Then our June road trip, a July break including science camp, and an August dive in to the new paradigm.

And I think we are well on our way to success with this adventure, although the sacrifice so far amounts to exactly what I thought: less time and energy for writing and discipleship outside the home. Practically none, in fact.

Yesterday, upon finding me stretched out on the floor, putting every ounce of my pathetic brainpower into deciding which of three options to make for dinner, the Captain rightly assessed I had nothing left to offer the day and shooed me out of the family circle. So I took to bed at 7pm last evening, full of migraine and mental fatigue.

Sure enough, I awoke at 3am full of anticipation for a new day. And here I am, blogging in the blessedly quiet wee hours. This needs to become habit. If only I could do something about my need for sleep...