the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat

 

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“For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain,  but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.”  ~ 1 Thessalonians 2: 1-2

 

“Paul’s past experiences had prepared him well to minister to the Thessalonian church. He had traveled from Philippi where, even though a Roman citizen, he had been stripped naked, publicly beaten, humiliated, and thrown into the darkest chambers of the local prison where he was kept in stocks. As he arrived in Thessalonica, the wounds on his back were still fresh and his scars, both on the inside and out, were tender. Yet Paul was ready and willing to take on this next season of his missionary work, in part because he had experienced the power of God at work even in the face of adversity.

Remembering how the Philippian jailer had come to Christ for salvation as a result of God bearing witness through something as simple as an earthquake, he recognized that the boldness needed to present the Gospel and make disciples did not come from within himself but from God. In fact, he immediately declared this truth as he reminded the Thessalonians of his past trials. Paul struggled with both outward persecutions and inward doubts as he came to those the Lord gave him to mentor; yet he recognized that his faith in God was his only sure hope.

As we take on the task of mentoring our children, we, like Paul, must realize that ministry often means pain and suffering, heartache and opposition. Too often we are criticized by family members, ostracized by our neighbors and mocked by fellow believers. Even our children are often resistant to us, balking at learning the basic subjects and many times even the Gospel message itself. Combined with the stress of everyday life as a homemaker and teacher, we can easily become discouraged when we see little to no fruit for our efforts.

The Greek word Paul chooses to use for “opposition” is interesting. “Agon” literally means “putting forth intense exertion in the face of conflict” and was typically used in the context of a sporting event where opponents fought to the death. We get our word “agony” from this word, hence the popular phrase from ABC’s Wide World of Sports: “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.” How often do we fall into bed at night, knowing all too well the agony of defeat?

Paul reminded his beloved Thessalonians that he was willing to do spiritual battle on their behalf, assuring them that being a Christian is not easy. He was transparent with them as he shared his past experiences and painted no picture of a perfect Christian life. Just imagine Paul showing his scars to the wide-eyed believers, making sure they understood what embracing Christ could look like up close and personal!

This is the model Scripture places before us.”

from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling  ~  when the one anothers come home

 

 

household strength

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“Many years ago I sat in a church service and watched as a homeschooling father corralled his lineup of sweet boys in the pew across the aisle from me. The spunky one who was about three caught my eye and I winked at him, eliciting a shy grin. Not realizing I was tempting this small boy to “sin,” the father saw our exchange and inflicted a long, tight pinch to the child’s inner thigh and gave him a contorted facial expression we both knew meant “You are in trouble now!” The little one’s lower lip trembled as the man’s grip of skin between his fingers held fast for what seemed like an eternity, and tears flowed down the small pink cheeks. He sat perfectly still and faced forward through the rest of the service and, regrettably, so did I.

After that experience, I often watched this family, sometimes getting a bird’s eye view from the front of the sanctuary where I sat on the piano bench. Not once did I see the dad smile at his children or put his arm around them in a loving manner. “Worship” for this man was rigid and controlled and demanded perfection from the oldest to the youngest in his household. I have often wondered what happened to the children in this home as they grew older. Obviously this father was in charge but most likely his home was one of spiritual weakness. We are instructed that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) and the absence of that joy zaps believers of any real strength in their personal lives and in their relationships with others.” ~ from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

you’re never too old to need your dad

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One of my favorite pictures of my parents and my grandma.

 

My house is quiet. The guys have gone to get Clay a new charcoal grill for Father’s Day and I am baking a carrot-craisin-pecan cake to celebrate tomorrow. Along with burgers, our favorite baked beans, a couple striped polo shirts and a Three Stooges DVD he doesn’t already own, it looks like Clay’s day is shaping up nicely.

I have been thinking about my own dad all day; I can’t believe he has been gone more than 20 years. I remember seeing him for the last time in the hospital as we thought he was recovering from a stroke; he was leafing through the Burpee Seed Catalog and jotting down gardening plans in the small lined notebook by his bed.  He looked small and old and just plain tired of living. I remember thinking that I didn’t think I could go on when he died, that I didn’t want to be without my dad. I couldn’t bear to think about it. And now, both he and my mom are gone and I am still here and God is still good.

My dad was not a great man in the way people usually think of greatness but he was a great dad. A carpenter by trade, my earliest memories are of staying up late at night, watching him as he built cabinets in our garage, his ever-patient face smiling and nodding as I chatted nonstop. I cannot smell sawdust without being taken back to those nights, falling asleep in the lawn chair to the sound of the saw and hammer, being carried into the house and tucked into bed by his scratchy but gentle hands.

My dad loved gardening, dogs, poetry, and me; he was the kindest person I have ever known. I can only remember being spanked by him one time, though I am sure I was a pretty naughty little girl. My mom once told me that when the adoption agency called to say I had been born, he fretted because he hadn’t finished the terrace and worried it wouldn’t be done by the time I could ride a tricycle.  One of my best memories is of the rings he would make for me from old earrings soldered to twisted wire. Oh, how elegant I felt and how easily charmed by me he was!

My dad was a deacon in the church for many years and there wasn’t a widow who hadn’t seen him walk in her door with his toolbox or paintbrush. He took me to Sunday school and church and always let me drink the leftover grape juice from communion. He walked me down the aisle and loved Clay almost as much as I did. And when the grandchildren came along, he walked a bit taller and smiled all the time.

Certainly, of all the gifts God has ever given to me, my dad was one of the best. Heaven is a bit sweeter and beckons to me a bit more because he is there.

 

 

unless you become like children

 

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As my dad eased into retirement, he ran an appliance repair business from his home.  It was always a beehive of activity, especially when my children were there, rooting through his parts bins and hovering at his elbows as he dissected one project after another. I can’t ever remember him being angry with them for their exuberance, or even very annoyed for that matter, and usually he tried to include them in whatever he was doing.

The UPS man stopped at the door nearly every day with some part or another, a fact that intrigued our 4 year old, Sam. Hearing the delivery truck pull into the driveway, Sam always made a dash to greet the man at the door, his face belying his admiration, his dancing eyes revealing ever-turning wheels inside his cute, round head.

Initially, I thought Sam was intrigued by the truck, itself, then I thought it was simply the delight of another friendly face who enjoyed his little boy exuberance as much as the rest of us did. And then one day he told me, “Mom, that man in the brown truck saw Jesus!”

Now this puzzled me. None of us had seen any interaction with this man other than a shout out from the other side of the screen door. “What do you mean?” I asked him.

“Mom, that man saw Jesus!” he insisted, his little face, so sincere and awestruck. “You know, that is the ‘Nited Apostle Service!  He had remembered that Clay had explained to him what an apostle was and he figured out that this driver must certainly have been part of a select few in Bible history!

I often think of that story when faced with times of doubt and uncertainty, when following Christ brings hardships and criticisms.

Jesus told his disciples: “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)

We are not meant to have it all figured out, to count on our intellect or esteemed education or knowledge to understand the simple truth that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Rather, we are called to have the simple faith of a child, believing with pure hearts, taking God at His word.

Lord, help me today to trust you with a simple, child-like faith.  Amen.

 

Presbytery of the Dakotas rules Kevin Swanson’s church must remove name from NCFIC confession

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At the ruling of its presbytery, Reformation Church OPC in Elizabeth, Colorado, whose pastor is well-known family integrated church apologist, Kevin Swanson, has removed its name from the National Center for Family Integrated Churches confession. Reformation OPC has removed all references to the NCFIC on their website which means that Reformation is no longer willing to be publicly identified with the NCFIC as it has done since at least 2006. 

At the April, 2014 meeting of the Presbytery of the Dakotas of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a complaint was upheld against Reformation OPC for signing an NCFIC family integrated church confession that has “the effect of charging our own congregations, and many others of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, of error without employing the process prescribed in our Book of Discipline and thereby introducing schism into our broader Church.”

The Presbytery’s decision meant that Reformation OPC was required to remove their name from the list and within a week after the ruling, their name was quietly removed from the NCFIC confession. Specifically, it stated that “The Presbytery requested the Reformation session to act expeditiously to remove its name from the NCFIC website until the problems in the NCFIC ‘Biblical Confession for Uniting Church and Family’ are corrected.” That confession included two articles that were offered as evidence:

Article VII: “We deny/reject the modern trend embraced by many churches to undermine the purpose and government of both family and church, by substituting family-fragmenting, age-segregated, peer-oriented, youth driven, and special-interest programs, which may prevent rather than promote family unity, church unity and inter-generational relationships.”

Article XI, comprised of these statements: “We afrm that there is no scriptural pattern for comprehensive age segregated discipleship, and that age segregated practices are based on unbiblical, evolutionary and secular thinking which have invaded the church (Deut. 16:9-14; Josh. 8:34-35; Ezra 10:1; 2 Chr.20:13; Nehemiah 12:43; Joel 2:15-16; Acts 20:7; Eph. 6:1-4). We deny/reject that corporate worship, discipleship and evangelism should be systematically segregated by age, and that it has been an effective method for making disciples.”

The complaint itself was made by a sister church from the Presbytery, a judicial and ecclesiastical body of regional churches in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. Another church had also brought similar concerns to their attention. Initially, the sister church, over a reasonable amount of time, tried to convince Reformation OPC to remove their name from the confession. Eventually, the church brought a complaint, which is similar to a charge or accusation. Reformation denied the complaint as legitimate, thus, it went to the Presbytery to decide upon a pressing issue between sister churches.

Both sides were given 30 minutes to defend their respective positions with their pastors as spokespersons. The church that brought the complaint highlighted the negative affects of the NCFIC position, offering prima facia evidence of the wording of the confession.The body of ruling elders and pastors of the Presbytery were then given time to ask questions and debate the complaint.

Reformation’s denial of the complaint rested on various grounds including the existence of other Reformed churches on the list, the fact that 80-90% of the confession is agreeable, the equivocal nature of the points of contention, and that using the confession has helped them contact families as an outreach. Surprisingly, part of the evidence brought forward by Reformation was from the NCFIC itself. Scott Brown told Reformation in a meeting that they polled the churches on their directory and discovered that 25% of them use Sunday schools. (It is unknown if the Sunday schools are age-segregated or not.)

Reformation also had a long-standing statement on the church and family that was offered as evidence of having exceptions to the NCFIC but that has since been removed. This statement never had an explicit and unequivocal denial of the two NCFIC articles in question.

During the hearing, Swanson was asked directly if he had both feet planted in the OPC or if his allegiance was divided–would he leave the OPC over this issue? He responded in no uncertain terms that he has both feet firmly planted in the OPC and “one little finger” in the NCFIC. He was also asked if he believed practicing age-segregated Sunday school was a sin. He unequivocally denied it was sin. Later, he was asked if such Sunday schools were “unwise or in error” as opposed to being in sin. He responded with an unclear answer to the effect that he could not answer the questions without knowing the particular churches in question.

The NCFIC confession also had other offensive elements that had been brought to the attention of Reformation OPC by other sister churches. The opening introduction declares:

“Our fervent prayer is that our God will raise up Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, family-integrated assemblies from the ashes of our man-centered, family fragmenting churches.” And the last article asserts: “We deny that the church should continue as she has and delay dramatic reformations, or that she will escape the wrath of God for the disintegration and destruction of the family by ignoring or taking lightly biblical roles and responsibilities.”

Supposedly, churches that signed this confession agree with these statements. The issue was not about signing confessions but specifically signing this confession given its de facto effect of “charging [sister] congregations…of error” without confronting them in accordance to Matthew 18.

Although Reformation removed its name under a vote from a higher judicatory body, other churches have removed their names for various other reasons, some after the concern was first brought to their attention. Still others were convinced after listening to Pastor Shawn Mathis’ well-received lecture at the Presbytery of the Midwest,  A Pastoral Perspective on the Family Integrated Church Movement. 

Though Swanson’s views on family integrated churches were not properly the issue before the Presbytery, the extent of his involvement with FIC movement is seen in his public defense of it, his endorsement of the NCFIC’s flagship book, endorsement of the movie, multiple interviews with NCFIC president Scott Brown, as well as intimate participation in and endorsement of many NCFIC conferences over many years. In a 2012 interview with Brown, Swanson declared:

“Scott, your [NCFIC] conferences are busting out…This thing is growing. This movement is growing. I mean I see this thing expanding. God may be reforming His church even as we speak…It’s exciting. It’s a reformed experience…they are asking the right question, they are looking to the right words for the solutions…getting back to the sufficiency of scripture. And certainly rooting themselves in a Reformed way of looking at the Word of God. That it is the only sole authority…in church, youth ministry.”

For those unfamiliar with Swanson’s FIC teachings, here is some more information:

 

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/26105073[/vimeo]

 

You can also watch the entire movie Divided to see what Kevin Swanson has said about the FIC movement.

 

What is my take away from this turn of events?

 

~ The fact that a well-respected denomination would challenge the NCFIC’s doctrinal positions is monumental and, I believe, signals a crack in the dike of the FIC separatist movement.  Until now, to my recollection, no other denomination or church has taken a public stand in a way that actually challenges the faulty doctrines coming from the NCFIC.

~ Kevin Swanson’s turn about on at least his level of support for the NCFIC itself is pretty amazing. It appears that his church website has undergone a good scrubbing and right on the heels of some statements he has recently made regarding the patriarchy movement itself. I am still waiting for a podcast or two explaining this to his minions.

~ I am now watching and wondering if any others who have insisted the family integrated church is the only biblical way of church life will also acquiesce. Perhaps other denominations will now see the doctrinal error and follow suit. I don’t expect anything similar from those churches who see the FIC model as one of their pillars. But it does make you wonder if the same relationships will continue, i.e., via family camps, conferences, their speaking engagements, etc.

~ It is so encouraging to see an example of a church court functioning properly, a rarity in my experience. I so appreciate the work of those who have pursued this with integrity. I have no doubt that Pastor Shawn Mathis, who has been our podcast guest on this very subject, was instrumental in introducing this difficult subject to his peers to lay the groundwork.

~ I have long contended that the entire body of Christ needs homeschooling families and we need them. Perhaps this will be a start in bringing that awareness to more congregations.

 

 

first book signing

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What a fun weekend I had as I shared my first book signing with my friend, Deon Lock Maas! Deon’s brother, Dale, and I graduated from high school together after attending schools in Farmington, Illinois all our lives. Years later, I got to know Deon all over again through her husband, Tom, who was my Toastmasters friend and also a mentor to our son as he went through law school. Tom passed away last year after suffering from brain cancer and I had the privilege of giving a eulogy at his funeral, which was quite an honor for me since Tom was such a highly respected Toastmaster and a good friend to our family.

Deon’s first book, The Beagle and the Brain Tumor, is the story of how their rescue beagle, Hoover, became part of their family as Tom’s health diminished and Deon cared for him at home. In many wonderful ways, Hoover really rescued them! I think you would enjoy reading their story!

On Saturday, Deon premiered her second book called Trouble Met me Half Way: Memories, observations, and youthful indiscretions from one man’s upbringing, 1950-1971.  A delightful collection of essays written by Tom that tells about growing up during the 1950s in Milwaukee, Tom’s wit and gift for storytelling shine through in every essay. I heard many of these stories during the years as speeches for our local Toastmasters Club and it is fun to see them in print for others to enjoy as much as we did!

The day was a bit surreal for me, sitting at a table and signing books in my childhood library! When I first walked in the front door and inhaled, that same delightful smell of old wood and old books came flooding back to me! I closed my eyes and I was 8 again, lost in the racks, transported to other worlds.

“When I was a little girl, I loved going to the library. Housed in an old building with wall-to-wall oak bookcases, a cozy fireplace with inviting chairs in front of it, and a 90-year-old librarian named Minta who fascinated me, the library was my home away from home. I could spend hours curled up in one of the old chairs, reading Nancy Drew or books where the heroine was a horse trainer, a nurse, or a flight attendant. I would get so involved in the story lines that I often went through a period of real grieving at the close of the book because I hated to see it end. It was like saying goodbye to old friends and it would break my heart. Sometimes I would just finish the last chapter and go right back to the beginning of a book and start reading all over again! Best of all was when there was a sequel to the book on the shelf just waiting for me to take it home! ~ from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling

If you haven’t yet gotten your copy of The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home, it is available on Amazon in print or Kindle version and will also be available in the new release of the wonderful Rainbow Resource Center Catalog. If you need multiple copies for a book study(Hint: there are questions for reflection and discussion at the end of each chapter) or want an autographed copy, send me a note and I can mail them directly to you!  And, if you have read the book, please give me a review on Amazon! I would so appreciate it!!!

righteousness and peace must kiss

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“Over the years I have heard the lament of many parents who are struggling with broken relationships with their adult children. I have also witnessed the grief of children who long for the grown-up, peer interaction with their parents they are meant to enjoy. I believe this passage in Hebrews gives us the warnings and admonitions we need to heed if there is to be healing within these relationships, if we are to prevent bitterness from taking root and destroying our lives.

We are told to “pursue peace with all people.” The word used for “peace” in this passage comes from a root word that literally means “the wholeness that you experience when all the essential parts are tied together!” It conveys the completeness of a relationship, the joining together of separate parts. We are to actively work toward bringing about this type of harmony.

However, this pursuit must go hand in hand with holiness. In other words, while this is to be our goal, peace is not to be embraced at all costs; declaring that there are no problems for the sake of a worldly type of unity is really no peace at all. Psalm 85:8-10 tells us that in God’s restoration process, “mercy and truth have met together….righteousness and peace will kiss.” Holiness and righteousness require truthfulness in discerning the problems that caused the broken relationship in the first place. It means we must agree with God as to what sin actually is.” ~  from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling

addressing sexual abuse of children

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“We must call sexual abuse by its real name. Abuse is not limited to just rape or molestation. Here is an official definition from a reputable Christian book on the topic:

“Sexual abuse is any contact or interaction (visual, verbal, or psychological) between a child/adolescent and an adult (or older teen) when the child/adolescent is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or another person.” (Dan Allender, The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse)

Let’s face it: the term sexual abuse is loaded and ugly. So often people try to mislabel abuse as “inappropriate behavior” or an “indiscretion” or “immorality” to help remove its stigma.  But renaming something just confuses the issue at hand and prevents us from dealing with the reality of its dangers. Children and youth who have been damaged by abuse—even if the abuse seems “minor” to us—will often live their lives through the lens of that experience; and frequently make poor relationship and spiritual choices as they mature. They need our help for recovery.”   To read the entire article, go here…..

 

Another great resource for becoming more informed about sexual predators, which is who typically commits sexual abuse of children, is this book, Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders by Anna Salter. It is a painful read and if you have experienced sexual abuse, be warned. I would like to see this book in the hands of every parent.

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homeschooling success

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How will you know if your homeschooling has been a success?

Such an important question with multiple answers.

Our own goals have been to raise children who are life-long learners who follow their passions while using the gifts God has given to them, wallowing in joy and happiness along the way!  True success, I believe, is obedience to the known, revealed will of God and central to that is using God’s good gifts to each of us for His glory!

The following article challenges us to consider what it really means to be educated and at how success in our homeschooling endeavors should truly be measured. Would love to hear your thoughts.

 

“The problem is that the indicators society typically uses to measure accomplishment are not very useful for predicting true success in life. Things like grades, test scores, contests, and college admission are only useful for comparing students to standards picked by society.

But if you think about the people in this world who are truly happy, or who have made the greatest contributions to society, you’ll realize that those people did not do what everybody else expected them to do.

They were not conformists, but innovators.

As a four year old, Alexander Graham Bell used to sit in a field to try to hear the wheat grow. He was fascinated by sound and voice. But his father wanted him to learn Latin and Greek so he could go to college and “be successful.” Where was the future in studying sound?

No one could have predicted that someday Alexander would invent the telephone. It had never been done. Fortunately, circumstances allowed Alexander to continue his studies and experiments until he earned the success that only authentic passion can achieve.”


Read the rest of this good article here.