Staff of Faith

The choir sang this hymn at church today and I enjoyed it so much I wanted to post the uplifting words for you.

My faith, it is an oaken staff,
The traveler’s well loved aid;
My faith, it is a weapon stout,
The soldier’s trusty blade,
I’ll travel on, and still be stirred,
By silent thought or social word;
By all my perils undeterred,
A soldier pilgrim staid.

I have a Guide, and in His steps
When travelers have trod,
Whether beneath was flinty rock
Or yielding grassy sod,
They cared not, with force unspent,
Unmoved by pain, they onward went,
Unstayed by pleasures, still they bent
Their zealous course to God.

My faith, it is an oaken staff,
O let me on it lean!
My faith, it is a trusty sword,
May falsehood find it keen!
Thy Spirit, Lord, to me impart,
O make me what Thou ever art,
Of patient and courageous heart,
As all true saints have been.

Thomas T. Lynch, 1855

For a short and well done bio on Mr. Lynch click here.

 

Bible reading plans aplenty

With the start of the new year I always determine to read through the Bible in a year. This is definitely doable and definitely challenging–at least for me. Of course it always helps to have a plan, so here are some links to Bible reading plans. Did you know people have gone to the trouble to make plans for 30,60, 90 days? chronological ones? topical ones? ones from several books at once or just straight through? One on the list here is sure to fit your needs and your life.

If you have Logos (like me)–or another computer program– then you can customize your plan how you choose with a keystroke. There are so many plans to choose from! When you live in a country with such free and easy access to God’s word I believe it’s all the more reason to read it daily. I pray you will dedicate yourself to reading God’s word daily this year.

What plan fits you best? Have you ever completed reading through the entire Bible?

 

Charity brings: kingdom

This is part three in my series on charity. (Here are posts one and two.)

Webster defines kingdom as “In Scripture, the government or universal dominion of God.” This is the kingdom I am referring to–God’s kingdom.

I’ve heard it said that love is the currency of heaven. I think it’s more like the air. Where God is, love is there. God chooses not to exist without love. We cannot live without His love.

Your kingdom is built on what is right and fair. Love and truth are in all you do. Ps. 89:14 NCV

When we extend our hands to the poor we bring God’s love to earth. We bring His kingdom here.

You will be doing the right thing if you obey the law of the Kingdom, which is found in the scripture, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” James 2:8 GNT

Charity, or love, enables God’s kingdom, His government, His way of doing and being right to exist right here with us. Charity opens the door to Heaven on earth.

Sell what you own. Give to those who are poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out. Put away riches in heaven that will not be used up. There, no thief can come near it. There, no moth can destroy it. Luke 12:33 NIrV

That’s where we belong–in heaven. That’s where our true possessions should lie. Charity brings His kingdom to us and us to His Kingdom. We are moved by what moves Him. His agenda is ours. We strive to please the King, even to our own discomfort. Love begins to motivate us to do more, to reach higher and to advance His kingdom.

Government is, in a nutshell, “who or what is in control.” I want to always choose God’s government over my own. My own government is lazy and self-serving. His is generous and full of unselfish love (charity). He is patiently waiting for us to prefer His government, His kingdom, so heaven can visit us here in the everyday.

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Mt 6:9–10 NKJV

Charity brings: emancipation

This is Part Two in my small series on charity. In installment 1 I provided a definition of “charity” from Webster. Charity is used in the King James as a word for love.  As we practice charity a beautiful thing begins to happen in our own lives: emancipation.

EMANCIPA’TION, n. The act of setting free from slavery, servitude, subjection or dependence; deliverance from bondage or controlling influence; liberation; as the emancipation of slaves by their proprietors; the emancipation of a son among the Romans; the emancipation of a person from prejudices, or from a servile subjection to authority.

  • We are free from fleshly desires. Setting aside our desires is difficult. Maybe a reason bigger than ourselves helps us do that.
  • We are free from sin’s hold. When we love God with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves, as the two Great Commandments say, there is little room for sin in our own lives.

For charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 KJV

  • We are free from trappings of the world.  Be warned: charity can cause a loss of personal possessions. Stuff is not as important as people. Meeting the needs of others is important, even if it means meeting them with your own stuff. People know love by meeting basic needs first.

Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God, your God’s, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. 11 There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors. Deut 15:10-11 The Message

  • Seeing others through the lenses of charity we are free to see others for who they are (Webster notes freedom from prejudices).   And we are free to do the same for ourselves. But most of all we get a new perspective on who God is. If we can be charitable, how much more charitable is He? (see John 3:16) We stop picking and choosing who we will help. We seek out the unlovely—in all forms—because that’s where the hurt is.

Add…to brotherly kindness charity. 2 Peter 1:7 KJV

  • We are free to hope. It’s wonderful to have the hope you give others offered to you in return. When you see freedom in action you cannot help but be filled with hope.

For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.    Galatians 5:14 The Message

I am not saying that we love so we can get something. These are simply a sacred by-product of charity. God set it up that way and I’m so glad He did. It’s beautifully summed up in this passage:

Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that. “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never – I promise – regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back – given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” Luke 6:31b-38 The Message

Charity brings: healing

I have been meditating on charity and this is the first in a short series about my thoughts.

According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, Charity is:

CHARITY, n.

1. In a general sense, love, benevolence, good will; that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good. In a theological sense, it includes supreme love to God, and universal good will to men.

It brings healing to the giver. It’s a wonderful way God made it to work. Somehow when we give love and give out of love we receive love in return. Maybe not from the source we expect, but it does happen. When we give out of our need our need is met.

It also brings healing to the receiver. The warm salve of love heals. It binds up broken hearts. It creates a soft place to fall. It restores and nurtures and blesses.

The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love – love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God. 1 Tim 1:8 The Message

Charity invites healing to all involved. When we prefer one another, “thinking favorably” about our fellow man, the door is opened to restoration. Allow God’s love to flow to another person through your actions and through your deeds. Love without strings shows others that we belong to Him and points others to Him.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. Col. 3:14b, 15a NIV

Seven Deadly homeschool sins and the Christian response

The seven deadly sins, as the Catholics have labeled them, are a great picture of sins that home educators often struggle with. I believe God can keep these sins far from our doors if we turn to Him.

Lust

Lust is a general lack of self-control. Whether it is the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh or the pride of life, this sin is a challenging one. We can lust after food, other people’s lives, material possessions and recognition. We can want things that are not for us, are not part of God’s plan. Wanting something we should not have is lusting.

Self-control is the antidote: control in your time, talents, resources, energy, emotions. Christian self control, that is being independently dependent upon Christ, will prevent lust from getting a grip on your heart.

courtesy ryk_kneethling

Gluttony

Doing too much in a lesson can be a form of gluttony. Stuffing ourselves full until we no longer enjoy what we are consuming is not God’s best for us. You can tell when your child has had enough lesson. When we keep shoveling it into their heads the joy leaves and a tsunami of frustration wells up to knock them over.

Temperance: Keep your portions small. Small bites are nice. Keep them wanting just a little more. (And it will help keep you from burning out too!)

Greed

Not willing to share time or resources is just plain greedy. I don’t mean that in a “redistribution of wealth” kind of way, where I decide how much is enough for you and take the rest. What I am talking about is a heart attitude of stinginess, of “Us four and no more,” stuffing your home full of supplies you don’t need, refusing to share your time with others, or imparting knowledge and skills to those that can benefit from your expertise.

Thrift is a good antidote. Only buy what you need/will use and then stop. But also be generous with yourself. Offer to teach a co-op class or help a home educating family with your experiences. You will never be sorry you gave of yourself when you allow God to repay you.

Sloth

Laziness in planning or execution and spiritual laziness is a sin sometimes of omission rather than commission. Before we know it we have let things slip and just got lazy in grading papers or planning lessons. It can even be a failure to realize or utilize your gifts and talents.

Diligence will knock sloth right out, and it’s not at all complicated to do: Plan. Work the plan. Evaluate the plan. Simple enough, right?

Wrath

Anger toward your children, inward toward yourself or toward a “system” is toxic. It is not something you want to play around with. Anger, when it festers, can turn to bitterness and eventually hopelessness. It is a deadly downward spiral

Gratitude can keep your anger at bay. Focusing on what you have and who you have keeps your heart thankful, not angry.

Envy

Wanting what others have, in life or learning, thinking you deserve it more is sinful. Grass is always greener…not. Don’t ever envy what others have. You only see what others want you to see, a snapshot in time. God alone knows what is best for you. Prayerfully ask Him to help you with any envy you may have. He’s just waiting for you to ask.

Contentment–enjoying your situation, your home, your family, your life–brings a smile to God’s face. We are happiest when we take the apostle Paul’s advice and be content, whatever state we are in.

Pride

Pride is simply thinking your have it all together or your materials/methods are superior, thinking you are more important than you are. that sounds harsh but it’s the truth. We don’t want to admit it because that is this sin’s nature. Pride doesn’t recognize its own reflection.

Humility helps us keep a proper perspective of the world and our place in it. Humility and her cousin meekness can transform a heart puffed full of self into one that is broken with what breaks God’s heart.

I hope this has given you some food for thought. God bless you on your journey as a woman, wife and mother teacher. Christ makes a way in the desert and streams in the wilderness. He will make a way for us out of any sin we may notice in our lives, intentional or accidental.

He makes all things beautiful in His time

The author of Ecclesiastes makes this statement in chapter 3. There are seasons of life. Some overlap and some are consecutive. Some are short and some long. Some are busy and others not so much.

Photo courtesy Swami Stream

Photo courtesy Swami Stream

When my pastor was preaching on this passage a few weeks ago something resonated with me. God’s time is beautiful. His seasons for us are beautiful. If your life is messy and frustrating, maybe it’s time to check and see if God is in the middle of what you are doing.

When your actions are lined up with God’s will, it will be beautiful. He has a prefect plan and He’s working it perfectly. When we get on board with that, the results are lovely. They are something others can see and enjoy. And maybe even want to have in their own lives.

I would also go so far as to say that He can make things beautiful that we have royally messed up. He can give beauty for ashes. Our little heap of ashes can become something to treasure. I don’t at all mean that struggles mean that you are doing something wrong. Life is hard. And messy sometimes too. It’s just that God has this amazing way to making it lovely. And sometimes things can seem messy at the time because all we can see are the details. When you step back and look you can see that God was working all things together for your good.

Enjoying a good word study

Word studies are hard. And dry. And time-consuming. At least that’s how some people see it. Even the title makes me chortle. Who ever heard of such a thing as actually being fun? Well, everything we do for our kids’ education can be something we enjoy. If not all of it, then at least some part.

You may not know what a word study is. Or you may avoid them. Or you may do them and not know them by that name. Whatever category you fit in, I think you can see word studies not as a necessary evil, but as an important tool in your home educating process. Any home educator can implement word studies, no matter what approach or curriculum is in use. It’s a powerful way to bring a subject alive for teacher and student.

…Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom,  and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach…   Daniel 1:4 KJV

A word study is simple and straightforward. One way to do one is as follows:

  1. Choose a key word from your study in any subject.
  2. Define the word from Webster’s 1828 dictionary.
  3. Underline key words in the definition and look those up in the 1828.
  4. When you feel you have defined it sufficiently, begin to find the words you underlined in a Bible concordance. Write down any scripture you deem relevant to the words and definitions.
  5. Using all this information, write your own definition of the word.
  6. Using the information you have gathered, deduce the Biblical principle from the study.

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty. Jer. 15:16 NIV

Now who wouldn’t like to do that? Seriously, there is something really exciting about learning something new about a word you assumed you knew the definition of. And it’s even more exciting to see what God has to say about that word. Or with that word.  Why do I want to do a word study?

  • To understand the English language better.
  • To have mastery over a topic/subject so I can teach it better.
  • To deepen my understanding.
  • To learn God’s thoughts on a matter.
  • To improve my scholarship.
  • To increase in wisdom.
  • To discover the Biblical principles on a matter.
  • As a springboard for a new/deeper study (AKA “rabbit trail”).

Some tips to enjoy your word study more:

  • Don’t do it when you are tired. Nothing is fun then.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. Do it in chunks even.
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment. Then expect amazing things to happen because God will show up right in the middle of your study.
  • Get your kids involved. Let them be your research assistants. Make it a family affair. (read: don’t be a martyr, studying alone for hours on end with frequent sighing and complaining.)
  • Don’t do them all the time. They are not necessary every week.
  • Don’t give independent word study assignments to young kids. This is a bad idea. When your kids are younger the word studies are for you to digest and give to them on their level. As they get older you can introduce the idea and start walking them through the process in small doses.
  • If you don’t like them, ask God to change your heart. Things you hate to do can actually become joyful times with the Lord. It is always delightful to spend time in His word.
  • Share what you learn with your spouse and anyone else who will listen. Don’t become obnoxious, but share what you learn liberally with others. They probably can use something you learned.
  • Reward yourself when you are done. (Ooooh, I hear M&M’s and a bubble bath calling me, but I digress…)
  • Invest in quality tools. A nice pen, clean paper, a Strong’s concordance will make you more willing to get the job done. And who doesn’t enjoy a nice writing pen?
  • Be willing to stop and enjoy what you are learning. Take a breath, sit back and Selah–think on these things.

The other side of the encouragement coin

In my post on the encouragement addiction I tried to make the case that sometimes we can be a little too quick to let others be our Holy Spirit, seeking validation and affirmation from others when we should be looking to the Lord. I stand by my argument but I want to add something.

There is a place, not for empty platitudes, but for true encouragement. It is right and scriptural and compassionate. Who, while traveling the often difficult road of life, would not stop to comfort and strengthen a struggling soul along the way? Sometimes our dry and thirsty hearts long for the refreshing touch of another person.We may understand the idea that God is with us but sometimes we need a tangible sense of His presence in the form of a hug or an encouraging word.

A word spoken in season can be like a gentle rain, softening the ground for God’s Word to sprout forth. And hopefully this little sprout will become a tree of Life, offering fruit of the Spirit to another weary traveler on life’s highway. This is the Power of One, this life-giving relay race that depends on the generous love of one person for another.

Never think for a moment that someone may not need your kind words. You could be the difference in a bad day and a good day, between frusatration with life and a little peace. Be liberal with your kindness and stingy with your criticism and you will be surprised how even your own burden has become a little lighter.

The encouragement addiction

As a home educating mom with a few years under my belt I’ve been around the block a few times. And in the way of home education resources there aren’t too many things I haven’t read or seen out there. When I feel I am struggling with a situation in my little homeschool I’m glad I know where to go to find some instant (or at least pretty quick) answers. After many years of this it got me thinking. I’m not so sure this is a good thing.

When writing to a friend a few months ago I asked a question in passing that has haunted me ever since: why are home educators in need of so much encouragement? We are probably the only segment of the American population that has so many resources and materials devoted to making us comfortable with our choices. Who else gets constant reassurance that they are okay, that they are doing the right thing, using the right materials, doing it the right way? Don’t get me wrong we all need encouragement. It’s scriptural to encourage one another, but I think it has replaced faith to some degree.

Why am I so reluctant to trade my life of faith for the quick affirmations of well-meaning friends? Why do I look to those around me for answers and not to God Who has all wisdom?  I shortchange myself with a quick satisfaction and once again deny myself the contentment of God’s answers in God’s time. Instead of laying my worries and concerns at His feet I pick up a magazine or visit a web site for a dose of peace. But it never lasts for long and I’m right back where I started.

So the cycle goes on and on. We feel the need for constant intermittent encouragement to satisfy the doubts and fears. This we pass on to our children without realizing it. Now we may be training another generation to require the same reassurances. They are not left with questions to wrestle or self-esteem in doubt. Soothing words flow in a stream of consciousness we probably don’t even realize we are perpetuating.

We should look for encouragement to God’s Word. In difficult times David encouraged himself in the Lord (1 Sam. 30:6, Ps. 42:11). Jude admonished his readers to build themselves up in their most holy faith through prayer (Jude 20). Today’s Christians who are persecuted and languish in prison rely on their scripture memory and their faith to encourage themselves through perilous circumstances. Encouragement has its place, but I want to lean on the Lord and take the pressure off my friends. They are not my Holy Spirit and I never want to put them in such a place.

In closing, if I may offer you a bit of encouragement inspiration, I leave you with my new favorite song, by Sara Groves. And the lyrics to another song that I think fits this post.

You are my strength
Strength like no other
Strength like no other
Reaches to me

You are my hope
Hope like no other
Hope like no other
Reaches to me

In the fullness of Your grace
In the power of Your Name
You lift me up
You lift me up

Unfailing love
Stronger than mountains
Deeper than oceans
Reaches to me

Your love O Lord
Reaches to the heavens
Your faithfulness
Reaches to the skies

You Are My Strength by Reuben Morgan