11/28/06

Reflecting in East Texas

I drove home this past Monday to visit my parents for a few days. Well, actually, I wasn't driving to my "home" growing up, but to my parents' new home in a nearby town. However, as M slept in the backseat, I reflected upon memories of high school and even college as I headed into the piney woods. (The trees have changed colors along the road, and are gorgeous! I am reminded of how much pavement and shopping centers surround me in the city...and yes, strange that the leaves are just changing at the end of November) I thought about old relationships I had and with hindsight wondered what in the world I was possibly thinking. Or how insecure must I have been to date some of those particular guys. And how amazing it is to see God's hand of protection over me, keeping me until I met my perfect mate (and he is SO perfect for me). I reflected on old friendships, most of which I no longer keep up with. It made me really sad to think about my best friend from high school, in particular. We hardly talk and she just lives 45 minutes away (and with email, skype and cell phones, you hardly have an excuse even if you live thousands of miles away). I miss Summer. Maybe I should try to rekindle our friendship. I know why we began to grow distant. Maybe it's time to change that.
Sometimes I get so upset with God that he "takes my friends away" from me. I feel like I'm in a period of time where my friends are either highly mobile or are so busy with their changing (and growing) lives that not just physical distance begins to creep in and separate. And yet now as I have been thinking about my past and how God has been in control at every step...and has acted in my best interest at every point, I realize that He does indeed have a plan. He's not trying to make me miserable. He's trying to teach me, mold me, conform me. It's a lot to ponder on the drive from Fort Worth. Good think I'll have some more time when I head back tomorrow.

11/26/06

Book Review - The Most Important Place on Earth

Title: The Most Important Place on Earth: What a Christian Home looks like and how to Build One
Author: Robert Wolgemuth

Raising our children in a Christian home is an important part of our responsibilities as parents. However, sometimes it is difficult to know where to begin, especially when you might not have been raised in a Christian home yourself. Robert Wolgemuth lays out simple definitions, principles and ideas to help you be intentional and successful in creating a healthy, God-centered environment for your family.

One thing I love about Robert’s style is that he is not sharing the “10 Principles for creating a Christian Home” or “How to Create a Christian Home in 3 Easy Steps.” He shares key values - like the power of words and the importance of laugher – and then he shares practical ideas that have worked for him. He gives you some vital components of a Christian home and a starting point for implementing ideas that work for your family.

As we build our Christian home, we develop not only a ministry to our children, but to everyone who visits our home. As Robert notes, “God is exactly what a Christian home should smell like. The moment folks walk through the front door, there should be something – although completely invisible – that reminds them of the God of the universe. And when your kids show up at work or school, there shodl be a trace of secondhand smell that others can quickly detect.”

As parents, we cannot leave the responsibility of the spiritual development of our children to the children’s or youth ministry at church. We must begin at home. The Most Important Place on Earth is a great resource in helping us to do just that.

Tradition and Heritage

Here are some of the notes from a recent talk I gave on heritage and tradition. I think it is appropriate given the holiday season. What traditions do you implement in your home?

What is a tradition?
A tradition is a planned habit with significance.2 It’s a specific way you do something in particular – the way you dress, the way you celebrate holidays, etc.

Why do we have traditions? Psalm 78:1-72

1. We are commanded to teach our children: (v. 4-5)
The glorious deeds of the Lord – what God has done in our lives
The might of God – the nature of God
The wonders God ahs done – what God has done in history
The testimony and law of God – how God wants us to live
2. So our children should set their hope in God (v. 7)
3. So they will not forget the works of God, the basis of their trust (v. 7)
4. So they will keep his commandments – the life they will live because of their trust in God (v. 7)

Traditions must have a verbal component. How else will our children understand what we are trying to teach them?

We’re all so busy. How do we fit traditions in?

  • Evaluate them. Don’t feel like you have to adopt every tradition your family has or every good idea you hear. Figure out which ones teach what is important to you and scrap the rest.
  • Adapt them. Make your traditions fit your own family’s personality, learning style and schedule. You might also need to adapt them to create meaning and teachable moments.
  • Choose them. Be intentional about the traditions you implement. Don’t choose more than you can accomplish, just because they sound like good ideas. One or two done well will be better than many done half-heartedly. Try to limit traditions to those which serve a purpose and teach something.
  • Create them. All traditions got started somewhere. Don’t be afraid to start new traditions. It may be more enjoyable and energizing for your family to do something you create together.
Christmas:
Some wisdom from Carol Brazo:

Basically there are two main ingredients in our Christmases. One is planning. I plan the budget by January 1. I figure out how much Christmas is likely to cost us, add a hundred dollars to it and still come out wrong! But it helps to be that close and to have the money taken out all year long. We plan our December calendar as a family, agreeing on which events are keepers and which ones we will carefully omit. We also plan with our extended families in mind. The second ingredient…is the most important to me. We…select one aspect of the Christmas story on which to focus. Usually it changes from year to year. Often we think we are changing it only to find that the Lord has used new people in the story to reteach us last year’s truth. One year it was the Savior baby. The next year it was the mother of Jesus. It has been lights, shepherds, the star, the relationship between Joseph and his bride and Anna and Simeon. 3

Ideas for Christmas traditions:

  • As you approach the holiday season, read and meditate on the story of His birth. What story interests you most? What was it like to be in their shoes? How can you use the stories of these people or things to build your Christmas – as d├ęcor, in your devotions, in your gift-giving? How can you teach your children the truths found in their stories? What one aspect of their stories has a lesson for your own life? Spend time in prayer, committing yourself to learn the lessons their stories can teach you. Set aside specific time to teach your family the truths you are learning. 3
  • On November 15, sit down as a family and agree upon a December calendar of family events. Remember more is not better. Guard your time, lest you find yourself celebrating Christmas without worshipping Christ. 3
  • Incorporate the use of an advent calendar or advent candles. In our family, we have an advent tree where we open an ornament each day and read a Scripture associated with the aspect of the Christmas story that ornament represents.
  • Decide on whether or not Santa is appropriate for your family. 2
  • Set up a nativity scene and teach your children through the different pieces. Collect your gifts underneath. Use it as a gathering place for family devotions. 2
  • Create a Bethlehem branch or Jesus tree where you hang ornaments and items which picture or symbolize the Bethlehem event. 2
  • Give a gift to Jesus by making a special donation to a local family, ministry, missionary, etc. Offer children special “wages” that can be earned for Jesus’ gift. 2
  • Have a Shepherd’s Pouch, in which children collect money for Jesus’ gift through December. Lay it at the nativity scene on Christmas eve and talk about the gifts that were brought to Jesus when he was born. 2
  • Consider alternative gift giving. Donate to a missions organization in the place of buying one more gift for a family member.
  • Volunteer at a local missions organization to serve as a family.
  • Bake a birthday cake for Jesus and eat it on Christmas morning before opening presents.
  • Set aside a special day that you spend together every year as a family (and everyone in the family knows it). For example, make the first Saturday after Thanksgiving the day you go to a tree farm to cut down a tree or the Saturday before Christmas you all pile into the car and go to Starbucks for hot chocolate and then drive around looking at Christmas lights and listening to Christmas music.
  • Give only three gifts to your family members at Christmas. Three being significant because it’s the number that the wise men brought. The limited number helps your children (and you) focus on the meaning of the holiday, not on what they will be receiving. It also makes the gifts more meaningful.

1Jim Weidmann, http://www.crosswalk.com/family/parenting/1149364.html
2 adapted from Treasuring God in Our Traditions, Noel Piper
3 Carol Brazo, No Ordinary Home

11/25/06

Blogging

My friend Michelle (who is amazing at keeping up with writing blogs) happened to take note of the fact that I hadn't written a blog in a long time. True, true. I have been busy, but the real reason probably lies in the fact that I am a little intimidated by bloggers. I feel like I have to have something important to say, that I am intentionally trying to convey with words. And if I can't get the words together in my head, then I don't bother. Since I would love to be a professional writer one day, I feel like anything I post has to be really good (not trying to say my posts are that good, just explaining the mental obstacle I have).

But I started thinking about what I love about Michelle's blogs. She just writes what she's thinking about that day, what she's experiencing, what she's feeling. Many times she ends in a great point or application, but I'm not convinced she always starts out trying to make that point (and sometimes she doesn't really have a point at all...). So anyway, I'm going to try to follow her example and just write about where I am. I think it will be carthatic for me and will definitely help me with my writing skills to be more disciplined. And perhaps it will help me process my life and find more lessons and opportunity for growth than I am currently missing. So, thanks, Michelle. This one's for you.

The Perfect Girl's Night Out

So one of my best friends, Stephanie, was in town this past week and she and three other of my best friends went out for a long overdue girl's night out. Can I just say, it was perfect? We went to a fabulous, trendy sushi bar downtown (yum!) where the food was worth the extremely long wait. Even though we didn't have a table (yes, Michelle, my fault), our seats at the bar worked out just fine. We were at the very end of the bar where it curved around, so we could still all see each other, and we weren't in the middle of other people's conversations. We caught up with each other's lives and chatted as old friends do. I love how with your really close friends you can just pick up with your friendship as if no time has passed in between visits. Of course, what we discussed at girl's night stays with girl's night (but if you really want to know, go read Michelle's blog...). Then, we headed next door for dessert and coffee, which was awesome too. Our night was filled with laughter, encouragement and real conversation. It's amazing how being with people you love and who really know and love you lifts your spirits and makes you thankful that God created fellowship. No one really wanted to go home, but it was getting a little late...and nothing that fun is open past 10:30pm in Fort Worth anyway. Hopefully we will be able to all be together again sooner than later. But in the meantime, there is email, skype and the wonderful memories of the perfect girl's night out.