30 September 2008

Such a Difference......

I've spent a bit of time over this last month, praying through Ramadan, praying for precious friends here who still don't know the Lord - many of whom insist that the Allah they worship really isn't that different from the Gracious Creator and Redeemer I serve...

And then I heard this song again for the first time in a long time.

Mighty God
The great I Am
Immovable Rock
Omnipotent powerful, awesome Lord
Victorious Warrior
Commanding King of Kings
Mighty Conqueror

And the only time
The only time I ever saw Him run...

Was when He ran to me
Took me in His arms,
Held my head to His chest,
Said, My son's come home again
Looked in my face
Wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice
He said, Son, Do you know I still love you?
He caught me my surprise
When God ran

The day I left home
I know I'd broken His heart
I wondered if
Things could ever be the same
Then one night...
I remembered His love for me
And down that dusty road
Ahead I could see...

It's the only time
The only time I ever saw Him run

When He ran to me
Took me in His arms,
Held my head to His chest,
Said, My son's come home again
Looked in my face
Wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice
He said, Son,
Do you know I still love you?
He caught me my surprise
He brought me to my knees
When God ran

I saw Him run to me...
And then I ran to Him

Holy One
Righteous Judge
He turned my way
Now I know He's been waiting for this day

And then He ran to me
Took me in His arms,
Held my head to His chest,
Said, My son's come home again
Looked in my face
Wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice
I felt His love for me again

He ran to me
Took me in His arms,
Held my head to His chest,
Said, My son's come home again
Looked in my face
Wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice
He said, Son
He said, Son
My Son, Do you know I still love you?

Ohhh, He ran to me
When God ran

Allah may be the god they seek to serve - but he would never run; he would never undignify himself (as it would be seen in this mindset) to run to welcome back one who had rebelled against or turned their back on him.

Could there be a more striking difference? The God of the Bible isn't ashamed, in His extravagant and gracious love, to reach out to those He loves in ways that than might deem "undignified...," drawing them to Himself. But the Bible teaches over and over that this is who God is: "But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men..." This month of Ramadan has been a good reminder to pray diligently that our friends and neighbors will see a glimpse of our God who longs to run to them... if they will but lift their heads and take a simple step in His direction...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"The Return of the Prodigal Son"
by English painter James Tissot, 1862

Septemer 30, 2008 - Prayer for the Thirtieth Day of Ramadan

For today's Prayer Starters, please follow this link to our ministry blog page.

You can also go directly to the following web page:

27 September 2008

Some "Good Reads" I've Read On-line Recently

I don't often have lots of time to spend on line, reading blogs, etc., but when I get an evening - usually when the kids are in bed, I'm too tired to "work" and Tim is busy fighting aliens on one of his computer games, I'll spend some time surfing, browsing and reading. I'd like to share two links I've read recently.

Probably my favorite blog to check out is Holy Experience by Ann Voskamp. I continually find myself challenged by the thoughts she shares, and I just really appreciate her writing style. In a recent post, she linked to a previous post she had written about laundry - and I found myself crying as I read it. Myself, I love laundry. Everything to do with it. It is my favorite house hold chore, hands down. (But don't get me wrong - there are days when the mountain is so high that it seems a bit discouraging, but in general, it is something I enjoy doing.) Tim jokes that it is acutally a "hobby" of mine. And I smile! But I've not ever spoken with another mother who has this same perspective of laundry - that enjoys laundry so much, for the very same reason that I do, until I read "Clothes of our Lives."

And I just recently started checking out a blog called Keeper at Home. On my birthday she had a guest poster who shared her struggle with a battle I continually fight as I "multi-task" my way through the day, feeling pulled in so many directions: wife tasks, mother jobs, teaching and keeping the school kids' homework & school communication folders verified and signed, taxi/carpool responsiblities, ministry work, school administration, teaching Bible studies, translating and writing radio programs... unfortunately, there are many days when I fall so short of the mark, so I appreciated this post - what I need to remember to help me at least fly in the general direction of the target for which I'm aiming - a crucial reminder that without Him, I can do nothing, but that with Him, nothing that He has called you to do is impossible... Hope you appreciate and are challenged by reading and "Come unto Me," as much as I did/was.

September 27, 2008 - Prayer for the Twenty-seventh Day of Ramadan

For today's Prayer Starters, please follow this link to our ministry blog page.

You can also go directly to the following web page:

26 September 2008

The Things "WE" Do...

You know, sometimes we missionaries get asked to do some pretty surprising, even unbelievable things... I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to be the doctor or the nurse and other than basic first aid/CPR training, I am totally NOT qualified. Our Nigerien friends and acquaintances just assume that we are dispensaries for fever and malaria meds, automatically know the cause and cure for every sore throat... and since we'd be much cheaper than a doctor or clinic visit, they can be quite persistant in requesting help.

This year, we've not only bought school supplies for our children - but also for some of our neighborhood friends: backpacks, notebooks, pens and pencils, etc. Requests for hand-me-down clothes are almost daily. I always have a box of things that I notice the kids just don't like wearing, things I'm getting tired of seeing because I'm now seeing it on our fifth girl (or seventh child - you know those things that either boys or girls can wear), or in the midst of those weeks when I'm so far behind in laundry because life has been so full that I impulsively decide that I'm going to decrease each person's wardrobe by 2 outfits... We take that box and distribute it around the neighborhood once every month to 6 weeks.

And please don't think I'm complaining - we ourselves are the recipients of such extravagant generosity - from the Lord, from our churches and supporters in the States, from our friends and missionary family here, from our Nigerien brothers and sisters... we are happy to share that with those around us. It is just sometimes, I have to wonder: "Why in the world is that person asking me to help/to do that?" And, it usually turns into a source of laughter...

Now you are probably thinking - that is all interesting, but why in the world does this blog entry start with a photo of a turtle, right? Well, not too long ago, a friend jotted me a quick email telling me about a totally unexpected and hilarious request she had received: she had been asked to arrange a plane ride for two small turtles/tortoises - from one end of Niger to the other.... And I thought flight arrangements for our family were crazy!

! I can't remember now if they were actually turtles or desert tortoises - but we have had a bit of experience with the tortoises. Those creatures start out small - but they become massive, and they eat nonstop. The one we had at our house until about a year ago was big enough that the kids would stand on his back and "surf" as he walked around scrounging for anything green to eat. And some of them get so big that the kids can sit, 2-3 at a time, and go for a ride. I bet my friend was thankful she wasn't asked to arrange transport for one of those 200 lb "monsters!" They probably exceed the recommended weight allowance.

Hope you enjoyed the photos!

September 26, 2008 - Prayer for the Twenty-sixth Day of Ramadan

For today's prayer starters, please follow this link to our ministry blog page.

You can also go directly to the following web page:

21 September 2008

Encountering Jesus - The Capernaum Nobleman

This month (the last month I'll be able to teach Bible study to the ladies until after I return to Niger in January :-( ), we looked at another "rendez-vous" with the Lord. So far, we've considered the Lord's meetings with:

  • His mother Mary and the servants at the wedding feast in Cana,
  • Nicodemus,
  • and the Samaritan woman at the well.
This particular study focused on the encounter between Jesus and the nobleman from Capernaum, also found in John 4.

So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee. (John 4.46-54, KJV)

Jesus had returned to Cana, where he had performed his first miracle. Since this was an encounter that we had already studied, and because I believe that every word written in the Bible is there for a reason and to help us better know and have confidence in our God and Savior (and is a big part of the purpose of the whole book of John - see John 20.31), I was intrigued by the fact that John reminds us that Cana was where he performed his first miracle, changing the water into wine. So we reviewed the things we had learned during that first lesson:
  1. Mary, Jesus' mother, knew that she could approach the Lord with whatever her need, big or small. So can we, for He is the same Lord now that He was then.
  2. Jesus responded to her, and will also respond to us. It is not always the response that we desire, for which we are looking, or what we want to hear. But, He does and will respond.
  3. We can have confidence in Him, just as Mary did, that whatever His response, whatever He chooses to do, it will be very good.
  4. Jesus performs extravagant miracles - things far and above what we could imagine or dream up on our own. He loves to bring pleasure to those He loves.
  5. The servants, those in the position of unquestioning and immediate obedience, where the first to see and recognize this miracle of Jesus. To see God working, we too must be found in the position of obedience.
These are important points to remember as we look at this passage about the nobleman's experience with the Savior.

I bolded in the Bible passage above some of the key phrases that we considered. The first one was that this man was not just "any 'ole man." He was a nobleman. Translated back from the French, he was a high ranking dignitary... but he still had a difficult and serious problem. For the people who live here, in admittedly difficult and challenging poverty and heat, it is very easy for them to think that "the grass is greener" elsewhere. If only I had an education (or a better one)... If only I had money... If only I had "______" job... If only people respected me.... If only I had.... Yet these sorts of things do not function as immunizations against trouble. Education, health, money, position or power, possessions - none of these will guarantee a life of ease, trouble free. It is easy to presume that those with these things live life on "Easy Street," but the truth is that no one who has ever lived, is alive or will live can be exempt from trouble, difficulty and hard times.

This nobleman had a very serious problem. His son was gravely ill. Reading back through the passage and taking note of the words that describe how sick he was as well as the words that talk about to what lengths the father was willing to go just to have some hope that his boy might survive. It was these difficult circumstances that drove this father to a meeting with Jesus. The father didn't know where else to turn. Discouraged, he was pushed to his very limits - leading to an encounter with the Savior.

Just how far did this daddy go to meet up with the Lord, a man he had never met, but of whom he'd heard others speak? The distance between Capernaum, the nobleman's home and Cana, where Jesus was reputedly located, was 42 kilometers (i.e. around 20 miles). That is a good two day's journey on foot. This father was literally grasping at straws - even with the best of information, he could have no guarantee that Jesus would still be in Cana when he arrived there himself. But he was desperate to seek out the only hope he had - that this man who could perform miracles might be able to touch and heal his son. There is a saying we hear often in Niger: "Inch Allah" (I'm not sure of the spelling... sorry.). It essentially means "Whatever God wills..." and can be a sign of acceptance of the sovereignty of God. More often than not, however, it usually signifies a person's refusal to commit... a way of avoiding dealing with some of the realities and difficulties of this life... and is an excuse. "My child was just run over by a car? Inch Allah." I can drive however I want, because "Que sera sera... whatever will be will be." and we carry no responsiblity for our actions because God has already predetermined everything. That sort of belief totally ignores the reality of a Savior who is intimately connected with our day to day lives, of a God who is always ready to offer His grace and mercy, of the One who says, "If you seek me, you will find me if you search with all your heart..."

The nobleman "besought" Jesus. The sense of the word besought is that the father did not come to Jesus once to make his request. It contains more the idea that he followed the Lord around, asking repeatedly and persistantly, perhaps even throwing himself at the feet of Jesus as he put forth his petition.

The first response of Jesus always surprises me. As I read it, polite and sympathetic are not the immediate descriptions that come to my mind. I feel sorry for the father - and can imagine him thinking, "What did I do to deserve that sort of an answer? Why is he angry with me?" It probably was not what he was expecting to hear... certainly not what he was hoping to hear. However, as I prayed about that response and asked the Lord, "Why?" it was as though the Holy Spirit gave me a glimpse of Jesus' eyes as he responded to the man. I picture them filled with love and compassion, because Jesus was pointing out to this man something very important. The father came to him with what he thought was a serious, desperate need - a divine touch to heal his son's dying body. Jesus, in His gracious mercy, pointed out that there was another, even more grave ailment that needed to be dealt with, an illness that would most certainly result in eternal death - a lack of belief in Himself. I'm so thankful that the father persisted - and asked one more time for the Savior's help.

Jesus' response this time was what I had expected. One sentence. Six small words. His first response was directed to the father and the crowd of people surrounding Him. This second response was for the nobleman. I wonder if the nobleman sensed the power that was contained in those 6 words? We know that the words of God are powerful. He calmed the wind and the waves with mere words. He used words to create from nothing all that is. He resurrected Lazarus with a single sentence. And with His final cry on the cross, "It is finished!" tore the curtain in the temple, opening the path of grace for us to approach the Almighty God directly. Isaiah 55.11 says "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." God's Word - spoken or written - is powerful, giving and changing life.

The Bible doesn't tell us if the nobleman sensed that incredible power; it says he believed and demonstrated that belief by his obedience. He left for home immediately. And I think this following was my favorite thing that I pulled from studying this encounter. Who were the first ones to recognize that Jesus had performed this miracle? It was the servants and the nobleman who met each other en route, 1 1/2 days after the nobleman had left the Lord's presence. Both the servants and the nobleman had demonstrated a believing faith - without seeing the whole miracle. The father never saw the Savior touch his son, nor had he already seen his son healed. The servants knew that the boy was well, but had not heard the words of the Lord, neither had the experienced the presence of God. But both the servants and the father were in the place of obedience. And there, on that road of compliance, they both realized the greatness of the miracle that the Lord had performed. As servants, they were the first to know all that the Lord had done.

So, to summarize the key points:
  1. Nothing protects us from problems during this life. If we are alive, we can expect trouble and difficulties.
  2. It is often those troubles and difficulties that push us to seek and search for the Lord.
  3. Jesus is approachable, and longs to see our persistance as we seek Him.
  4. Jesus responds, not just as we expect or want, but often in a manner that is even more magnificent, extravagent and far beyond what we were actually asking Him to do.
  5. Faith and belief are best demonstrated by obedience.
  6. God's Word is infinitely powerful.
  7. Those in the position of a servant, those set on obeying the Lord, are the ones who first recognize His hand and His miracles.

Did you notice that several of these key points are repeated from the water into wine encounter earlier in John? The ladies at Bible study did!

There was one other thing that the Lord so impressed upon my heart as I prepared for this Bible study: the father's dedication and engagement in the life of his child. Most parents will tell you that they love their children and would do anything for them - but one priority that I need to make even more of a priority is to truly pray for my children, to spend time before the throne of grace truly interceding on their behalf. Do I pray? Of course. Could I pray more fervently. Definitely! And prayer according to the will of God is an investment into the lives of our children (or the children who the Lord has placed into our lives) is an investment with eternal dividends. Several years ago, just before Nadia was born, I attended a baby shower where I was given a bookmark titled: "16 Things to Pray for Your Children." I've carried that bookmark around in my Bible ever since - trying to frequently pray through that list for each individual child. I decided to translate that list and share it with the ladies at Bible Study. They loved it - and the ladies who can read asked me to make a bookmarks for them to carry around in their Bibles. They also committed to pray for their own children along these lines - several were ideas they had never considered before - as well as to pray for the youth and children who attend the church or who they have the potential to influence in their homes and neighborhoods. It is wonderful to see them get excited about an opportunity for ministry such as this!

16 Things to Pray for Your Children
1. Their salvation.
2. Their mate.
3. That they would fall in love with God's Word.
4. That God would keep them from evil.
5. That they would have a conscience void of offense before God and man.
6. That character would be more valuable to them than credentials.
7. That they would stand up for what is right even if it means standing alone.
8. That they would be kept from the love of money.
9. That they would be kept morally pure.
10. That they would have the heart of a servant.
11. That eternity would burn in their hearts.
12. That sin would always be distasteful to them and that they would not be broken easily over sin.
13. That they would love each other.
14. That they would trust God with their parents and not allow rebellion to set in.
15. Regardless the hardship, that they may never become bitter against God.
16. That our boys would be glad to be boys, and our girls glad to be girls.

--------------------------------
Open Bible photo found at www.bible-truth.org .
"16 Things..." bookmark was made by Tom Harmon and Faithful Men of Michigan.

September 21, 2008 - Prayer for the Twenty-first Day of Ramadan

For today's Prayer Starters, please follow this link to our ministry blog page.

You can also go directly to the following web page:

19 September 2008

Riding Lessons

Rebekah seems to be enjoying her riding lessons - she actually felt comfortable at a gallop yesterday! Galloping was most definitely out of her "comfort zone" at first. She says riding English style is so very different than riding on a western saddle, with a horn you can hold on to. English style, you hang on by squeezing the horse with your legs and balancing/moving with the animal. And it looked so easy in the equestrian competitions we saw at the Olympics!

Next week, she starts group lessons that last an hour instead of the "trial" individual 1/2 hour lessons she has had the past two weeks... if I understood everything her instructor was saying to her! And just in case you were curious, the name of the horse she has been riding is Mistral. We have no idea who she will be riding next week... so stay tuned!

September 19, 2008 - Prayer for the Nineteenth Day of Ramadan

For today's Prayer Starters, please follow this link to our ministry blog page.

You can also go directly to the following web page:

17 September 2008

September 17, 2008 - Prayer for the Seventeenth Day of Ramadan

For today's Prayer Starters, follow this link to our ministry blog page.

You can also go directly to the following web page:

Almost Wordless Wednesday - A Baby Swing

I actually did use a baby swing like this some with Victoria... maybe I'll dig it out (if the termites haven't eaten it) and use it with the one that is coming...???

16 September 2008

La Tortue

It only took Anna and I 1.5 hours to memorize her poem for school tomorrow... And that was about all I got accomplished. Oh well...

Chameleons REALLY are Cool!

These photos and the video were taken early in the summer... the baby chameleons that hatched in our garden earlier in the spring.

Rebekah found one of them before we left for church Sunday morning. Look how it has grown!

This last photo was one Rebekah took of her "pet."

September 16, 2008 - Prayer for the Sixteenth Day of Ramadan

For today's Prayer Starters, follow this link to our ministry blog page.

You can also go directly to the following web page:

15 September 2008

Birthday Picnic on the Plateau

The Plateau, just a bit northwest of town and overlooking the river, is one of our favorite places to go. It is out of the city, away from the noise, the sunset is usually beautiful... when you throw in great friends - it all makes for a wonderful evening.

The evenings activities included a meal, birthday cupcakes, little red wagon rides, fencing, donkey rides, a bonfire, lots of clouds but no rain, fun conversation and kangaroo rat hunting. What more could you want?

Didn't snap many photos, but here are a few...

The flash didn't go off on this one - so we have the blurry, photo by firelight look... the wind was blowing just enough and the matches here are poor enough quality that Tim actually had to stick the candle into our bonfire to get it to light. Jonathan was worried he was going to burn up the candle before Elsie Mae got to blow it out.

Elsie Mae was all ready to blow her candle out - but Jonathan beat her to it! I think she liked the pink lemonade frosting on her cupcake - since she ate that and left the cake!

Nadia and one of Elsie Mae's friends who joined us for the picnic. You can also read about our evening from their perspective at their blog page.

Isn't she a cutie-pie? Not only were we glad for the opportunity for a family outing - we were delighted to be able to celebrate our Elsie Mae!

September 15, 2008 - Prayer for the Fifteenth Day of Ramadan

For today's Prayer Starters, follow this link to our ministry blog page.

You can also go directly to the following web page:

14 September 2008

Rainy Season Joys...

... yes, it is true that we enjoy the cool, cloudy weather. It is also true that we are thankful for the abundance of rain (at least for this part of the world) that we have received this year. But, rainy season also brings with it some irritations and some more than irritations. Wet sand that is tracked in the house, ends up in your bed and even sometimes in your bread - that is an irritation that becomes wearying by the end of the rains. We frequently have colds/sinus issues - sneezes and runny noses abound. More seriously, diseases like malaria, typhoid and dysentery are also more common - malaria and dysentery being two of the top causes of death for children under the age of 5. And then, there are all the parasites that live in the soil, that our children love to dig and play in as well as skin maladies like infantigo/impetigo - whichever you choose to call it...

We are battling three of these things right now. Rebekah was in to the clinic the Thursday night after having run a temp every night for 4 nights. When her temp went up to 103 (it was 104'F/40'C by the time we saw the dr. at the clinic), I decided we needed to have her checked out. Turns out she has malaria and her blood work also indicated some type of infection somewhere... I'm figuring that is a result of infantigo that we've been treating with topical ointments for a couple of weeks now. So, she is now also following a treatment of oral antibiotics and one for malaria. So far tonight, she is fever free for the first time since last Monday night - YEAH!!!

We've also since discovered that she has hookworm, as does Elsie Mae. No, this picture is not an actual picture of one of "their" worms - this whole worm thing really turns my tummy, especially when pregnant, so it is all I can do to treat it - but thought some of you might find it interesting. :-) So far, we've just been treating the symptoms - but will head to the pharmacy some time tomorrow to see if we can get a real treatment that should clear it up, as I finally now know the name of what I need to buy and the dosage appropriate for a little one. That should take care of things pretty quickly then!

There is a positive to this minor hookworm epidemic we are currently experiencing, however. Apparently they are researching using hookworms to prevent allergies??? Check out the this article, if you are curious to know more.

On a totally different note - I'm hoping to post some this week about Elsie Mae's birthday picnic, Rebekah's horseback riding lessons and Ladies' Bible study on Saturday... so many ideas, so little time.

September 14, 2008 - Prayer for the Fourteenth Day of Ramadan

For today's Prayer Starters, follow this link to our ministry blog page.

You can also go directly to the following web page:

12 September 2008

EMBARKING YET ONCE AGAIN ON THOSE TREMENDOUSLY TERRIFIC TWOS!!!

Today is Elsie Mae's 2nd birthday. We are planning a picnic celebration... if it doesn't rain... with several good friends. And she doesn't have a clue that all the fuss getting ready for today is about her, but that's OK! We are so thankful for our precious, two year old blessing, who loves life and loves people!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ELSIE MAE!

September 12, 2008 - Prayer for the Twelth Day of Ramadan

For today's Prayer Starters, follow this link to our ministry blog page.

You can also go directly to the following web page:

10 September 2008

Pondering Parenting

Parenting is one of those things I want to do well... and I think I can finally, honestly say that this is not primarily true because I want to look good in the eyes of others, but because I want my children to be a sweet smelling offering to the Lord. This is a change God has brought about. As a younger mom, on the road from church to church as we sought financial and prayer support to come to the mission field, I often based parenting decisions on what I thought those around me expected. I'm slowly learning to base my decisions on what the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right for that particular child in that particular instance - though this certainly isn't something I've mastered. I don't tend to pick up the standard "parenting manuals" often recomended in evangelical circles any more. My two favorites are actually Proverbs and James. But I just finished reading a book that has appealed to and intrigued me, primarily as a confirmation of how God has been changing my parenting perspectives. This has been a very up and down journey for me, one that began as we left for language school, with my first "trial" being the day I took my 4 year old boy to a French maternelle class. I could only speak enough of the language myself to just barely get along. That was not my plan. I wanted to homeschool and keep my children in an environment where I had the control over what influenced and came into their lives... God was not in agreement then, just as now He clearly has us sending our children to school in what many might consider "less than ideal" circumstances.

Our first school experience turned out to be a fabulous one. If I could have "designed" the perfect teacher for my son that year, I don't think I would have been able to come up with the compassionate, gentle and godly woman who spoke almost no English that the Lord provided for Brendan. And that experience grew my trust in the Lord, that even when His will wasn't matching with my plan - His will would be the best.

As we have lived in Niger, I've been so blessed to observe a dear friend here who is one of the most authentic parents I know - not perfect, but so very real. This different parenting style scared me at first, but intrigues me now... and I find myself wanting to imitate it. It goes contrary to my nature - because it is so God-dependant and takes me out of the driver's seat. When I was handed the book Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture by Mary E. DeMuth, and I read the back, I couldn't wait to dive into it, because she discusses some of those same things I've been observing. I just finished the book tonight, while waiting for Tim to get home from a late night of studio work.

My ideas about parenting are being challenged by the thought provoking and I believe biblical ideas presented in the book. God had already been directing our parenting much more in this way. The book discusses things like (from the back of the book):

  • engagning your kids in conversations instead of issuing ultimatums;
  • seeing your children's behaviors as windows into your won spiritual life;
  • coaching your children instead of lecturing them;
  • modeling the transparent, authentic lifestyle you want for your kids;
  • demonstrating a life of thankfulness, creativity and service."

One of my favorite sections, titled "The Beauty of Wrestling," was, I felt, particularly true. DeMuth writes:
"We often approach the Bible with our children - and ourselves - trying to solve all its mysteries. when our children ask about God's Old testament wrath upon entire nations, we pull out slick theological arguments to that God won't appear mean to them. Or we'll share, 'That was the Old Testament. We are in a New Covenant relationship with Jesus now,' as if God has changed magically between the Testaments. We don't welcome the wrestling. It makes us uncomfortable. We'd rather have it all figured out and if we teach our children our own pet theologies, we think we have adequately completed the task of bringing them up in the Lord...

We've lost the beauty of wrestling. We've forgotten how to welcome it into our homes....It's not an easy task. It's much easier to choose a set of beliefs and then defend them to the death, making sure our children mimic the proper tenets. We have a harder time saying, 'You know what? I don't know why God took out entire generations of people. I could give you some theological explanations if you're interested, but to be honest, it rubs me the wrong way. I don't understand how a loving God could do that. I know he's just and righteous and can see everything, but it's hard for me to reconcile all that killing with Jesus.' By saying that, we invite our children into our own wrestling, our own questions.

Unfortunately, we have reduced God and His Word to that which is manageable, nice and agreeable. We've sanitized the Bible so that we don't have to grapple with its ambiguity. We don't want to be Jacob, wrestling hour upon hour with the living, breathing, wild God, only to walk the rest of our lives with a limp. It's messy. It doesn't perpetuate formulaic biblical interpretation...

If we were really honest with ourselves, we'd admit that we do wrestle with the sticky issues of the Bible, but we don't often give ourselves permission to show that struggle. Instead of hiding what is inside or adopting everyone else's airtight explanations for the difficulties of the Bible, why not dialogue? Why not bring our concerns to the family table? Why not show our disappointment when God doesn't answer a prayer in the way we hoped? By doing this, we train children to recognize that asking questions is all right, that God's shoulders are big enough to hold our doubts. When our children leave home, they will leave knowing that the Bible is a difficult but life-filled book."

Another section that I really appreciated had to do with growing a spirit of thankfulness in our children. Here, DeMuth says,
"We forget sometimes. We roll our eyes. We say 'bo-ring' under our breath. We treat life as if it were all about us. But the essence of life is gratitude. Thankfulness. How do we instill gratefulness in our children while the world around them is spinning on the axis of selfishness?...So much of what we try to teach our children is demonstrated, not preached. Perhaps our children are grateful because we are grateful. Or maybe they've seen other be selfish, and it rubs them the wrong way. Or maybe they've gotten to know the gentleness of Jesus a little more each day.

Teaching kids that life is a gift isn't easy.... God is the one who elevates us. He lifts our heads above circumstances. In Psalm 3.3, the psalmist says, 'But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.' Why does He lift our heads? So we can see the vista beyond our belly buttons. Above us is heaven, where the Triune God reigns in glory....

Gracious followers of Jesus will entice the world. Self-serving, prideful Pharisees merely shake their finger and push others away.

What kind of faith do we want our children to bring to this postmodern world? A stoic, stuffy religion that beckons people to rules and regulations? Or a vibrant, life-giving, grace-abounding relationship with Jesus that infects and affects the people around them? What will attract a shifting culture to Jesus? It will be our invigorated, grateful hearts -- authentic, broken hearts that dare to thank God in the midst of life's mess. That's what this world hungers for: a unique expression of the reality of Jesus on the field of postmodernity. As we dare to love and challenge our children in this world, teaching them to follow the path of the scarred Carpenter, we will begin to see how Jesus can infuse culture through them. They are missionaries, sent out to a culture we may not understand. To prepare them is our duty and joy."

If you are definitely interested in a thought-provoking read, especially one that applies to parenting preteen/teen children, go ahead and give this book a try.

Wordless Wednesday

Photo taken by an embassy friend.

September 10, 2008 - Prayer for the Tenth Day of Ramadan

For today's Prayer Starters, follow this link to our ministry blog page.
You can also go directly to the following web page:

09 September 2008

And the last two are finally officially "in school..."

Brendan started back to school the 2nd week of August at Sahel Academy. Nadia, Anna and Victoria returned to Ecole Alliance last week. And as of yesterday, Rebekah and Jonathan are officially home schooling - and we are loving it!

When I home school, I don't even try to approximate or imitate a regular school setting. We curl up on our waterbed - Elsie Mae is right in the thick of things, usually on my lap and she thinks this is all for her benefit - Rebekah and I go through whatever subject we are working on, she starts to work on her assignment, and then I do something with Jonathan. I really debated if I was going to do any formal schooling with Jonathan this year as he doesn't turn 4 until December. However, because of some of his speech and language challenges, I figured some phonics work would be beneficial and he was begging to do something. And the little bugger has totally shocked me. His eye-hand coordination is much better than I dreamed, as coloring is not one of his preferred activities (he prefers chasing chickens, building with legos and sword-fighting with his big brother), so he's not done a whole lot of that. We had been playing math games with him over the summer - and so I pulled out the K5 math book - and he is verbally answering the questions correctly with little hesitation or obvious thought. In two days, he has Romans 3.23 fairly well memorized (albeit not everyone would be able to understand him), and if we could just convince him that 9 comes after 8 and not after 4 - he'd be counting to 12. I'm just not sure if he's clowing around with us or if he's having a hard time hearing the difference between 9 and 5? He loves Bible stories and reading time and thinks it is hilarious when Elsie tries to repeat key phonics words (although she says Adam - for the short a sound - more clearly than her big bro!). The smile never leaves his face the entire time we are working together, unless Elsie decides to plop onto his lap instead of mine or tries to steal his special writing markers.

Rebekah's school is a little different this year. She enjoys listening as I read to the little ones, and they enjoy coloring and cutting and harassing each other as I work on algebra, grammar and French with her. But our focus is not so much on academics as it is on relationship building and discipleship this year. Brendan went from CM2 at Ecole Alliance directly into 7th grade. Rebekah is not quite old enough for 7th grade yet although she is academically ready. So this gives us some time to work through a more in depth Bible study, spend time cooking, baking bread, sewing - by hand and using the machine, and also gives her a chance to try her hand at teaching her younger siblings just a bit.

All in all, I think it will be a delightful year of home schooling - I love teaching my children and if it wasn't for the fact that we are convinced it is God's will and plan for them to be in their present schooling situations, I'd be tickled pink to have them all here with me, all year long. We also love the fact that they are becoming fluent in French and learning to love and relate to their African friends, as well as the missionary and expatriate communities.

And, speaking of kids in school, I'd better wind this up and go pick up the other girls from their afternoon classes at Alliance...

September 09, 2008 - Prayer for the Ninth Day of Ramadan

For today's Prayer Starters, follow this link to our ministry blog page.

You can also go directly to the following web page:

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