Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Our Booth"

Today, my son and I had a mother/son lunch together. The topics of conversation? Among other things: the Rebelution website and blog, modesty, dating, his thoughts about going overseas for cross-cultural missions work, and his general impressions about life as a middle school boy in the year 2008.

It was delightful. I am often so delightfully surprised, especially when I get to spend some social "down time" with one of my kids, at how enjoyable they are. They are just so engaging, and mature, and generally interested and lively and profound... and I am extremely humbled. As my missionary friend Karen said of her own children, "I was nothing like they are when I was their ages." And it is true for me, too. By the time I was in my teens, I was very invested in caring deeply about what my peers thought of me, above all else.

I do believe that it is part of the blessing of homeschooling that kids are freed from the oppressive pressure to conform to immature, ungodly, foolish standards just to "fit in" and "be cool." They actually are able to stand outside of them, as we adults are, and see them for what they are.

I'm so grateful and thankful to the Lord for allowing us the blessing of this lifestyle. It is unspeakably wonderful.

Especially over ice-cold salad and warm soup and breadsticks at Olive Garden, seated by happenstance in the same place as last month, in what your son referred to as "our booth, Mom."

Indelible memories for sale... $5.95, all-you-can-eat.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Modesty Petition

Oh, how I have longed for a grace-filled, non-legalistic, love-based call to modesty... especially from the segment of contemporary Christendom that tends to be so concerned with being "heart based" - and not being behavioristic and moralistic - that it sometimes misses the forest for the trees. Or throws the baby out with the bathwater. Or whatever cutesy slogan applies when the "salt loses its saltiness, and is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men" (Matthew 5:13).

Perhaps it might be coming sooner than I thought. I hope so.

TheRebelution.com: The Modesty Survey

From C. J. Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries:
"We must face the reality that teaching on modesty alone is not sufficient. Someone must address specifics--without fear of legalism, motivated by grace, for the purpose of godliness--and I believe that The Modesty Survey does just that."

From Joshua Harris, best-selling author, I Kissed Dating Goodbye:
"My brothers, Alex and Brett have accomplished something very unique with The Modesty Survey. In an appropriate and tactful way they've facilitated a conversation between men and women on a most delicate issue: modesty in dress. To be honest, I wasn't sure what to think of it when I first saw it. Some of the statements on the survey struck me as really funny, even odd. I kept waiting for a statement like, "It's a stumbling block for a girl to be pretty" -- 95% of men agree! But this is where it's really important to understand the concept. Alex and Brett are not editing the real questions of girls or the real opinions of guys -- they're just giving them to you straight without commentary. So you may or may not be able to relate to the statements made or the majority opinions in response to certain statements. That's okay. Alex and Brett aren't telling you what to think. But they are asking you to think for yourself and prayerfully consider before God how your life and actions effect other people around you. And that's what a thoughtful perusal of The Modesty Survey should lead you to do -- evaluate your own heart and life.

I wish we didn't need this survey. I wish that fathers and brothers in local churches could serve their daughters and sisters and that each home could provide loving direction on its own. But obviously that's not possible for everyone. And for those who lack that kind of godly counsel and input this Survey is a useful tool. As you review it, don't forget to pray for your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Ask that God would help others around the world to honor Him and love each other sincerely. And remember that ultimately the most important survey is the Survey of One -- what God thinks of your heart, motivations and actions. I pray that this survey will remind you that regardless of what others think, pleasing Him in all you do is your highest priority."

From Nancy Leigh DeMoss, author, Revive Our Hearts radio host:
"As women, clothing and appearance are some of the most powerful and important means we have of sending a message about our hearts and our values. The Modesty Survey educates and equips Christian women to avoid sending a mixed message through their clothing, and serves as a much-needed window into the male mind."
From Shannon Ethridge, best-selling author, Every Woman's Battle series:
"It's an indisputable spiritual law: A godly girl will attract godly guys, and a worldly girl will attract worldly guys. Ladies, if you want to attract a healthy, God-glorifying relationship with a decent, respectable guy who will love, honor, and cherish you like crazy, then let The Modesty Survey serve as your wake up call on how to attract your prince... without kissing a lot of toads!"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Rebelution

Today I found this website, and I am blown away.
TheRebelution.com: Enlist Today

Desiring God ministries put out a newsletter (view it online) showcasing the fact that Alex and Brett Harris, the twin younger brothers of pastor and author Joshua Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye), just published their book, Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. They started The Rebelution when they were sixteen. Now at nineteen they are doing conferences on the theme.

This has been going on for three years now, and I've known nothing about it until now.

They begin their book to teenagers like this:

Most people don’t expect you to understand what we’re going to tell you in this book. And even if you understand, they don’t expect you to care. And even if you care, they don’t expect you to do anything about it. And even if you do something about it, they don’t expect it to last. Well, we do. (p. 3)

As the Desiring God newsletter said, "The point is, the usual adult expectations for youth are too low. And these twins are out to raise them. We believe that is the right direction to move."

I couldn't agree more!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lost Nerve

A friend of mine literally spoke the words to me today, "Maybe you should do a blog." Little does she know. Little does anyone know. I am not even fully able to be fully free in what I say even now, when I know that NO ONE will ever read the thing except my husband. I can't imagine if I knew there were people--especially people who actually know me--reading it.

My friend was saying to me--rather out of nowhere--that she and her husband were discussing the fact that they think I'm "a bit of a prophetic type personality." Further, she was suggesting that I should be willing to share those "prophetic insights" because the church needs those who are willing to challenge and confront and stir up and make people think.

I'm reminded of Jo's question to her husband Bill in the movie Twister. "Have you lost your nerve?!"

Yes, Jo, I have. I've been burned by one too many "offended" friends who weren't up for the "let's dialogue and wrestle and banter and vent regarding all the dimensions of life and the questions that arise as we seek to live it in Christ" kind of relationship.

In fact, I am currently having a bit of a questioning time in my life regarding friendship, relationship in the Body, the contemporary Evangelical church in America, and “redemptive relationship” in general. Basically, I think that the kind of relationships that are truly beneficial and redemptive and sanctifying don’t happen much because people aren’t much interested in having that kind of relationship.

In general, it seems that people don’t want you to “cross them” in any way, and that means not dialoging together about life in Christ and what it all looks like. (Forget challenging each other... doing the difficult work of prayerfully agonizing over sharing with one another regarding possible “sin” areas observed in each others’ lives!)

I’m not even talking about bemoaning the loss of that kind of relationship, because it is still my sweet and precious experience with a very few faithful treasured friends. I just mean that now, in general, in the contemporary Evangelical church at large, one can’t even try to talk together about normal life things without stepping into someone’s zone of offense. The general mantra is “grace = don’t cross me in any way whatsoever.” Further, almost anything one says might be construed as judgmental, offensive, implying something, or whatever.

In practice, I can't even discuss my own life experience with others. (I'm choosing to _____, after all, so that must mean that I think anyone doing anything differently from me is wrong.) Fill in that first blank with whatever you like... used to be breastfeed; spank; be a stay-at-home-mom; avoid too much sugar, packaged food, television, computer games, vaccines, even fever-reducers... now it is stuff like homeschool; not do the sleepover thing, or - get this - not have naked ("Christian" porn) pictures of myself made to give to my husband. No, I'm not making that up. I actually did recently deal with that last one. I have not, however, chosen to express my opinion that perhaps the practice isn't wise, or that perhaps it doesn't reflect what sex is supposed to be about. I know there's a good chance that I'd be accused of being "judgmental" if I were to do so, so I have said nothing.

I could go on and on about my confusion and frustration in this arena. Suffice it to say that relationships that faithfully exhort one another... women with whom to wrestle and wrangle and grapple and support and challenge and love and help and share... these treasured friends are few and far between and... as a dear friend called me the other day... "rare." ("You are so rare," she told me. "Beautiful and rare and a treasure." I have never felt more special in my life than in that moment. But I digress.)

I have wonderful friendship with my husband, and we talk about everything. And I am developing a really neat friendship with each of my children, which is especially sweet as they get older. But the kind of friends who will listen faithfully and then share faithfully are hard to come by... those who will "think out loud" with me, using all the wisdom, discernment, and biblical support they can muster... who will help me think through the issues... who will wrestle and wrangle and give and take and help me see things from all kinds of angles that I might often miss in my fleshly, self-consumed blindness... who are faithful to listen, and really hear, and then really share...

I call for friends in the Body who will step out of themselves, and take the risk, to share both truth and opinion with me. Who will trust me - and our relationship with each other - enough to risk that. And then who will trust my relationship with the Lord enough to leave me with it, whatever "it" is, and pray for me in it. I want friends who want any and all "think out loud together" feedback I can come up with, and who are willing to give it to me right back. I want to open the Scriptures together and talk about whatever applications I might think I see in whatever the issue is... and I want to hear whatever applications you might think you see, too. I want to walk together, share together, find agreement, find disagreement... all with the respect and freedom and security of biblical love, which "always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres... never fails" (I Cor. 13).

"Better is open rebuke than hidden love. The kisses of an enemy may be profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend," (Proverbs 27:5-6).

Maybe I should blog, huh?! I don't know if folks are ready for the musings inside my head to move outside of it...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Markside Pusings

Oh, God, how I love this man!!

Yesterday, apparently, my husband created his own blog, to parallel mine. He's a better writer, a better thinker, a deeper muser. I have saved every word he ever wrote me, because they challenge me and comfort me and shake me up and generally exhilarate me in all deep and good ways. It isn't always coherent or clear, but it is always raw and real and astonishingly honest. You can see for yourself.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sixteen Years

Sixteen years ago yesterday, "I promise(d), with God's help, to be your faithful husband, to love and to serve you as Christ commands, as long as we both shall live." There are only a few moments in life that you remember forever, as if they were yesterday, but that is one of them.

And, astonishingly, as the years go by, it only gets better. I never knew that it could, or would, be like that. I used to fear that life would get boring with the same person forever. Or that sex would get routine and dull. Little did I know.

And who knew that "playing house" with a bunch of kids would be so great, either?! It is totally fitting that - in this stage of life - we spent our anniversary today with them. We embarked upon our seventeenth year together in what has been voted "the world's most beautiful theme park" for seventeen consecutive years. And it was beautiful. The perfect breeze blew across the perfect sky. And we ate the perfect picnic lunch which my husband had packed for us... bread, cheese, grapes, carrot sticks, banana bread and homemade "Olivia's Best" cookies... all served with some sparkling Pellegrino and grape juice.

All of this he had gotten up early to prepare, so that I could sleep in.

How did I fall into this merciful union, with this glorious man?! Thank You, Lord, for this wonderful treasure!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Silent Song

From Amy Carmichael's "I Come Quietly to Meet You... An Intimate Journey in God's Presence." These are devotional readings arranged by David Hazard. The book was a precious gift from a precious friend who stayed in our home last year. It continues to bless me on a daily basis. Today...

Psalm 42:5, 7-8
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?... Deep calls to deep... By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me - a prayer to the God of my life.

The son greatly wished to make a "Song of Lovely Things" to sing to his Beloved - but he could not find singing-words.

He heard the voice of his Beloved saying, "You are walking on the road where all who love Me walk. Some of them walked this way singing, and they've left their songs behind them. Find their songs. Sing their words. They will be your song to Me."

But the son became full of grief, because there came a day when he could find no words to sing - neither his own, nor those of others. And yet he wanted with all his heart and soul and mind to ascend to higher places, to stand in the presence of His beloved...

And He who is love eternal whispered, "Then I, too, will approach you, silent in my love."

And the son entered into this silence, to meet the eternal Beloved there...

After a while there was a sound in the gentle stillness, a voice that whispered, "Even your silence is, to Me, a song of lovely things..."

My Father, there are reasons why I could feel downcast. When I think about some parts of my life, it's hard to pray - even harder to worship in freedom...
... relationships that are difficult...
... dreams and goals that are crumbling...
... old hurts that wound me over and over...
Some parts of me feel cold and wordless.
Is the problem that I've buried some things deep inside? Are You patiently calling - through days and months - for me to open up to You at some deeper level?
Today, Father, I trust You to go deeper.

Amy Carmichael, I Come Quietly to Meet You, ed. David Hazard (Minnesota: Bethany House, 2005) 31-32. See it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spring Green

Today, as we drove to Costco, EL commented, "Mom, I love the trees in spring. The green in the leaves is so fresh and new."

Oh, to never miss the glory in the common miracles!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Nate, Tricia, and Gwyneth

This morning I found this Blog, through a local newspaper article (CFHusbandBlog). Like my friend Heidi's, mentioned earlier (See it here), it gives powerful testimony to the goodness of our Lord in the midst of the pain of walking through the sometimes painful parts of His will for our lives.

I was tempted to feel petty and silly about things like posts about a new VW Jetta, but I'm resisting. My sweet friend Tiffanee who lost her four-year-old Noble last week... my dear friend Heidi who lost her six-day-old Sully a few months ago... this stranger Nate whose wife and premature child struggle against the odds for life... Darla, who struggles through chemotherapy for breast cancer... Dot, who's blood pressure is inexplicably up and won't come under control... Pam, whose daughter took her own life... For all of these, and the hundreds more you and I both know, the Lord is providing. In the midst of the pain, and in the midst of the joy, He is faithful. And we come to know Him a little more, a little better, each day, through it all.

And He loves to give us miracle babies, and miracle playgrounds, and miracle moments of profound beauty even as the hair falls out... and yes, even miracle cars that are far below market value and still filled with luxury.

"The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). God, may I know it all of my days, and may I ever trust You!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Farewell to pine nuts...

Today we bought a new (to us) car. I've been praying for the past few weeks for the Lord to provide a car for us, and I believe this 2003 Volkswagen Jetta is the answer to that request.

We can't really afford it, even though it is a great deal, but it is a long time coming, and we're biting the bullet to try to make the payment work. Iivo has been driving my 2-door (grrrrr!) 1992 Honda Accord since our first child was born. Although it has only(!) 125K miles on it (Hondas are known to go to easily to over 200K miles), it is getting to the point that it has some pretty expensive repairs on it a couple of times a year.

So, how did this come to pass? Well, a few weeks ago, my van went into the shop for routine maintenance, but had to stay for a couple of days. The kids and I took the Honda, and Iivo got a ride to work. I was shocked. The car is a yukky ride. It has been a few years since I've had to drive it. It is quite old. It isn't very clean inside or out. The radio doesn't work. (He poured coffee in the original one, years ago, and this is an after-market multi-disc-changer-thing he put in, back in pre-MP3-player days. It sucks.) The windshield wipers create an impenetrable blur on the windshield. (Don't ask why he hasn't had them replaced yet, because I don't know.) It was generally just unpleasant.

Also, it has been dumping about half a quart of oil per week on our driveway for weeks now, so the taste in my mouth - as far as an assumption about how the car is doing - both cosmetically and mechanically - is rather sour. I told him we should probably think about starting to make financial provision for another car for him sometime soon. He assured me that he is fine driving this thing with the big fender dent in the back until it dies. (Don't ask me about the time he put our twelve-year-old daughter behind the wheel in our suburban neighborhood, and she freaked out trying to pull into our driveway without so much as a single braking, crashing BOTH of our cars simultaneously!)

I am pleased that I have a husband so willing to sacrifice, and not at all caught up in "image" and stuff. It makes our life as a single-income family trying to pay for homeschooling that much easier.

But I am also so pleased that the Lord has chosen this time around to give him a little luxury. This Jetta has heated leather seats, and sport wheels, and a sunroof. The stereo system plays cassettes and CDs, and will easily accommodate his ipod. It has a 1.8L turbo engine and looks pretty great, too.

When we were considering whether or not to buy the car, Iivo said, "I don't need all those bells and whistles... just something simple that gets me to and from work... we're paying for fanciness." But I reminded him that - at the price they were asking - we WEREN'T paying for fanciness. The Lord was just throwing it in to bless Him.

God is so good to us! Now we just have to figure out how to sacrifice what we need to to make the payments work. Iivo's comment to the kids was simply, "Well, kids. No more pine nuts in our salads for five years."

We've been here before. Early in our marriage, after we bought our house and I was home with our first child, he was bringing home around $1600 a month, and our mortgage payment was about $800 a month. That left $800, and we had to pay about $300 a month for health insurance. (This was just major catastrophic coverage, too, so our deductible - even at that price - was $5K.) So there was $500 to pay for everything else... power, phone, water, sewer treatment, etc. After all the bills were paid, I had $200/mo. left to buy anything I bought. ANYTHING. We're talking food, clothes, gas, diapers, haircuts, tampons, EVERYTHING else each month. It was pretty tight, needless to say. There was nothing like cell phones or cable TV. We bought our clothes at thrift stores. (still do...) We had dial-up Internet for years after everyone we knew was online broadband. We furnished our home with things from yard sales. (Literally. If we wanted something, I'd put it on the "yard sale prayer list," and - if we actually needed it - it would always come.) I resisted the urge at the Pampered Chef parties, and said no to the jewelry or clothing ones.

We ate a lot of beans. We didn't eat a lot of pine nuts. And we made it.

So here we are... three more kids later, with gas three dollars more per gallon! And we're stepping back into the "austerity program." After the pine nuts, the next thing to go? Eating out. Our family spends a relative fortune when we all eat out together. It is easily our largest budgetary sinkhole. It will be hard to give up, as it is such a social part of our lives as a family, and with most of those around us. (Even those around us we know who are lamenting how much they're financially struggling are always going out to eat after church.) It also is often the result of just not having gotten the meal together, given the craziness of the homeschooling day. But we're committed to trying to make it work. I'll keep you posted how it is going...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Goodbye, Noble

Today, the kids and I attended a funeral for the four-year-old son of a friend of ours. We are not in the same church, we live in different cities, and my girls no longer take ballet from her, so we don't see them very often anymore. But they are precious to us. And their four-year-old son Noble's two-year old transplanted heart finally succumbed to his body's rejection last week. They are grieving. We are grieving. And yet this funeral was unbelievable.

Though it was stylistically very different from baby Sully's last month, it was very similar in its amazing power to glorify and praise the Lord in the midst of the pain. As we sang the Matt Redmond song, "Blessed Be the Name," I looked up to see Tiffanee... face tear-stained but turned upward, like the hands she'd raised in praise and surrender, literally bouncing in worshipful praise. I am undone. There is such depth of faith and trust and hope.

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Good bye, little Noble Samuel Anthony. We will meet you again one day in heaven, and there will be so much to tell you!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"I'm happy, oh-oh..."

I'm teaching some free guitar lessons to a little gathering of twelve adults and kids (three of whom are mine), and they have just learned their first two chords... D & A7. Having been sent home with such boring fare as "Rock-A My Soul" and "Good News" (the pickings are slim for only two chords!), my ten-year-old daughter took matters into her own hands and wrote her own song. Here it is:

I'm happy, oh-oh
I'm happy, oh-oh
I'm happy, oh-oh
I'm happ--pppy
Oh, oh
I'm happy, oh-oh
I'm happy,
I'm happy today.

Well, is there any more to say? Me, too, OG, me, too.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

"My feelings are not God."

From a John Piper sermon April 6, 2008:

"This is the way I live my life every day. My feelings are not God. God is God. My feelings do not define truth. God's word defines truth. My feelings are echoes and responses to what my mind perceives. And sometimes - many times - my feelings are out of sync with the truth. When that happens - and it happens every day in some measure - I try not to bend the truth to justify my imperfect feelings, but rather, I plead with God: Purify my perceptions of His truth and transform my feelings so that they are in sync with the truth.

That's the way I live my life every day. I hope you are with me in that battle...

I hope you are learning with me how to avail yourself of the power of the Holy Spirit to put to death feelings that are out of sync with the truth, and how to lay hold on God for the transformation of your feelings so that they match the truth of God's word."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

It's about time...

Last night there was a special on TV regarding the vaccination link to autism. (Nothing new there, but this time there is a spunky, vocal, well-known face behind the "kook" who's making the claim!)

Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey are apparently shouting from the rooftops that her son, who was once lost in the world of autism, is now recovered. "The way I treated Evan, and the way a lot of these parents are treating their kids... we are not treating autism, we are treating vaccine injury... and the kids are getting better."

Check it out for yourself. I do believe that current vaccination practice will be revealed in my lifetime as one of the worst medical mistakes in history.

Check out the lively interview for yourself!
Larry King Live