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Archive for August, 2013

Main-Street-Baptist-Church-image-1-129656914499250000This year, the church my hubby grew up attending celebrates it’s 250th anniversary. The building, itself is well over one hundred years (and hubby says there may still be a few original members 😉 ). It was a place of great learning, of inspiration and of feeling loved and accepted by hubby from birth to adulthood.

This anniversary makes me think of other ‘old’ churches.

I am not sure of the age of my grandmother’s little county church, but there are tombstones in the cemetery behind which date back to the late 1800’s. I remember, as a little girl, staring at the beautiful stained glass window image of Jesus cradling a lamb in His arms (while the pastor preached of the need of salvation, living ‘rightly’, and loving your neighbor … and probably a bit of fire and brimstone). . The window stories solidified my flannel-graph Sunday School lessons.161

I remember visiting the beautiful St. Dunstan’s Basilica in Charlottetown, PEI, a number of years ago with our young children. It was build in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s (a fire of the original structure delayed it’s completed construction). There is something about a place so old, so ornate in it’s use of dark wood, and colorful window story-telling that ‘oos and awes’ emanated from even the youngest among us.

114982872_e311f849e7One of my favorite churches, because of it’s setting, is the Saint Thomas de Memramcook Church (in New Brunswick). With it’s tall center spire, and perfectly balanced stained windows below. It sits atop a hill, overlooking flat lands that the Bay of Fundy flow into. It always takes my breath away when I look at where it sits … like a beacon, a lighthouse, for weary travelers.

When I was younger I scoffed at the wasted money that went into the maintaining of these aging structures. That money could be used to meet the needs of people today, rather than to do upkeep on history.

I am starting to see, now, the benefits of these still-standing, brick and mortar, structures.

You see, these physical structures are evidence of God’s faithfulness, evidence of hundreds and thousands of people who put their trust in God to see them through to the completion. Not just of a church building, but of living a very real, skin on, life. Life with illness, and death, and abandonment, and struggle, and heartache … and joy, and celebration, and redemption, and saving, and love.

These buildings are memorials to faith.

After the Israelites followed the art of the covenant through to the center of the Jordan River, Joshua was told told (by God) to have one man of each of the twelve tribes, to pick up a rock from the middle of the Jordan and bring it to the other side. Later on God explained the significance of these rocks:

“He (God) said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4:21-24)

When I look at, and think of, old churches (and there are certainly more in the world that are much older) now, I find myself paraphrasing the words from the book of Joshua:

In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stone and wood buildings mean?’ tell them, 

“People …

simple, hard-working, fallible, messed up, people …

they lived, they loved, they gave, they ached, they got sick, they suffered …

they didn’t have all the answers, couldn’t see the big picture …

they didn’t have the strength to go on, didn’t have the funds to go on, didn’t have the support to go on …

but, they had God.

The one, true, living God …

and they trusted Him …

with EVERYTHING!

And, He carried them through to dry land (carried means that He never left them … ever).

He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.

And another stone of faith that was written in 1837 …

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I have to say, I fully understand the feeling of speechlessness when speaking to a parent who has a child with a disability. I also have to admit that in my lack of ability to know what to say, I have fallen back into the use of trite, thoughtless responses.

When I read this post, by a lady I do not know, and whose blog I had never read, I heard the heart cry of many parents I have known, over the years, who have been forced to be captive audience to the things we have said to them. The things that, although not intended to be hurtful, they echo in the hearts of those mere human parents for days, weeks, and even years to come.

Adrienne Jones and hubby Brian, live with their family of three sons and one daughter, in Albuquerque, NM. Their youngest child, Carter, lives with special needs that keep their family on their toes.

It is the raising of Carter that, I feel, gives her the right to speak to us today, in her post Dear People Who Do Not Have a Child With Disabilities. Please click on the link, and read her story at her blog site.

 

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I have to say, I am not, nor ever have been, a celebrity follower. I feel that every word they say, every thing they do in public cannot be taken as reality for those of us observing and hearing, for (I feel) the media ‘creates’ them to be what the media chooses. My feeling is that the fishbowl that a celebrity lives in is an impossible one … and they are to be prayed for, not on.

The other night my daughter, knowing my views on celebrities, asked me to watch a video. It was a video from the Teen Choice Awards that were handed out on Sunday night. It was a video of the recipient of the Ultimate Choice Award winner, Ashton Kutcher.

I rolled my eyes.

She set up the video.

When I saw the the recipient was Ashton Kutcher (of Two and a Half Men fame … a female-degrading, inappropriate, finger-down-my-throat sort of TV program … just sayin’), I rolled my eyes again.

ashton-kutcher-teen-choice-awards

She adjusted the video to full screen, and upped the volume.

It started as I would have predicted, with ‘simple’ self-deprecating humor … I rolled my eyes.

Then, about 1:40 into the video, Mr. Kutcher’s words, and message became uncharacteristic for celebrities. His words, his message, seemed to ooze sincerity. He shares three things he learned up until he was nineteen and changed his name from Chris to Ashton:

1. opportunity

2. being sexy

3. living life

I am not sure if working on the Steve Jobs movie (opening today in theatres) has given Mr. Kutcher these epiphanies or if the depth of his character has been hiding in the shadows when the bright lights are shining on him. What I do know is that he presented a fantastic message to the group in society who needs most to be encouraged in this way.

After listening to his speech, I too would have to say he was a wise choice.

In case you missed it, or do not have the time to watch, here are the three things he shared”

1. “opportunity looks alot like hard work”

2. “the sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart, and being thoughtful, and being generous. Everything else is crap … I promise you”

3. “build a life, don’t live one”

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coffee-beans-and-womans-handsYesterday I wrote about the struggle to make coffee before having had that first cup of morning coffee, in my post Making Coffee.

There are many tasks that are difficult to accomplish without first having gotten to the main event.

It can be difficult to get a job without having experience.

It can be difficult to make a recipe when you have never tasted the food it makes.

It can be difficult to play football against a team you have no prior experience competing against.

Such is the same when it comes to faith in a living God.

To believe in the existence of, in the power of, the living God, one needs to have faith in what is unseen, not experienced.

Many people say, “if I could only see God, or see Him perform a miracle, then I would have faith in Him.”

Faith does not work that way!

Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “faith is the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists.” We cannot have that assurance, that certainty in God without first going through the leap of faith to believe what we can only hope for, what we cannot even see.

It would be so much easier to believe in God if He would just simply show Himself to us first. But we must believe first (faith), and then we will get to see. The apostle Paul said, “for we live by believing and not by seeing” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

faith first

sight second

Paul continues his focus on faith and sight in Romans (8:24) “for in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

Faith breeds hope … faith breeds trust …

… faith before sight …

Coffee would be easier to prepare in the morning if only we could have a cup first.

But …

make coffee before taste

Faith would be easier if we only got to see God, face to face.

But …

faith before sight.

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One of the things I love about summer break is that I do not need to ‘prepare’ anything the night before the next day.

I do not have to choose and lay out what I am planning to wear.

I do not have to ensure that there are clean socks and underwear.

I do not have to make my lunch.

I do not have to set the alarm at my bed.

I do not have to prepare the coffee and program it to come on the next morning.

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What I have learned this summer, though, is that one of those ‘night before’ preparations are imperative … no matter what is happening the following day.

You see, trying to make coffee in the morning (even for a self-confessed morning person, such as myself) before having had a cup of coffee is … near impossible!

I stumble into the kitchen saying over and over:
“I need coffee”
“The coffee will soon be ready”
“Just a few more minutes””It’s not that difficult a task”

“I think I can, I think I can …”

Then I talk to myself, replaying in my mind the process needed to achieve that most desired brew. I open the wrong canister in search of the beans. I lose count of scoops, have to dump them back into their container, and recommence my numbering. I bang my shin into the dishwasher, left opened the night before to allow the dishes to fully dry. I trip, beans flying across the floor, the cupboards, under the appliances. Finally, after re-counting beans, they are safely into their compartment, ready to be ground into a fine powder.

Then there is the water. The entire time I am running water into the glass carafe, I am saying over and over to myself just how many cups I am to brew. Then I pray, over and over, that I do not drop or slam the pot into anything that might cause it to smash into a billion pieces. All that is needed now is to push the ‘on’ button (unless I press the only other button on the machine first).

Then, the waiting!

There is something worse than making coffee in the morning, before having had a cup of coffee. It is having to drive somewhere to get coffee before having had that first cup of coffee!

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influence-sean-macentee

in-flu-ence (noun)
A power affecting a person, thing, or course of events, especially one that operates without any direct or apparent effort:

What influences you?

Every day there are influencers (persons, places, things) that have an impact on how we think, how we act.

As young children, our parents or caregivers are the central influencers in our days. As we grow older we are faced with a much wider circle of people, places and things that grab our attention, make us think differently, and change how we decide, think and plan.

My summer has been one of recognizing the benefits of good influences on my days.

I spent the month of July working on renovations. First was the transformation of a small bedroom, previously occupied by our International student, into a cozy office for hubby. The next renovation was the transformation of a larger bedroom and bathroom. previously occupied by another International (and male) student, into a feminine space for our adult daughter.

The process of renovations meant that I was ‘stuck’ in one space for days at a time, as cleaning, patching, sanding, painting, and installing took place. To break the silence, I sought music.

Since I knew that my renovations were going to take many days (and, of course, they ended up taking many more days than I had planned) I was intentional with my choice of music … I chose a Christian music radio station to blast over the internet and into my ears.

There was a very real reason I chose as I did … I knew that what I would be hearing, for hours on end, would influence my thoughts.

Now I know that there are many (Christians) who would argue that Christian music is really bad quality (musically), and certainly is true some times. That said, anyone who has listened to any other genre of music would also have to admit that there are duds on every music channel (ever heard of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” song? Over 56million YouTube views, and critics have called it the worst song in music history).

Years ago, while driving kids here and there, I realized that I was returning home feeling differently about hubby than I had when I left the house hours earlier. Then the words of a song (I do not remember the song, but it’s theme was similar to “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore”) playing on the radio came into my conscious state, and I realized that they were creating a dissatisfaction within me, in my relationship with my guy.

All of a sudden a little ‘ditty’  from my childhood started to play in my memory …

“Be careful little ears what you hear …”

It does not mean that I only listen to Christian or spiritual music, nor does it mean that I shun other music genres (although when it comes to country music … 😉 ). I love a great variety of music and artists. But, when I know I am going to be listening for a significant amount of time, I want to be careful what I hear … because it can be a powerful influencer on my days, and relationships, and thoughts.

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Since I often write about different hymns and other worship music, this guest post by Tsh Oxenreider, who writes at http://simplemom.net, seemed a natural addition.

I received this, by Tsh, through my subscription to (in)courage.me (http://www.incourage.me/2013/08/11-of-the-greatest-hymns-in-church-history.html), in a post called “11 Greatest Hymns in Church History.”

As I started reading, statements kept coming to mind, such as:

“she better not miss …”

“I bet she forgot …”

“… better be there”

And when I got to the end of her list of the “11 Greatest Hymns in Church History” I was in agreement with her choices. And, other than a few seasonal songs of faith (ie. “Silent Night” or “The Old Rugged Cross”) I think her list was complete …

… of course she did miss “Jesus Loves Me” … and if you have been reading my posts you will know how near and dear that one is to my heart. heck, I would make that one #1!

Nonetheless, she has a great assortment of hymns that have stood the test of time! I wonder what will be sung a hundred years from now …

“Plato once said, “Music is… wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” God has created music similar to certain extravagant parts of creation, like the redwoods and the turquoise Mediterranean waters and the northern lights: it begs us to stop everything and pay attention.

And when truly excellent music angles our attention heavenward? It changes you. And when enough lovers of God collectively listen to the words and the music—it can cause a shift in the Body, the Church. It changes us.

There are many, many hymns in thousands of languages throughout the history of the Church (all of which began first as poetry). But there are a few select hymns that have stood the test of time and are with us today because they have changed us as a Body. Their birth shifted our collective trajectory for the better.

Here are some of the greatest hymns to have changed the Church. I’ve included certain versions I love, plus a final playlist at the end.

(Note: I am a native English speaker, so my list of faves falls in that category—but there are countless hymns full of truth in languages all over the world.)

8th century

1. Be Thou My Vision

This humble prayer began as a medieval Celtic poem in the eighth century, but it wasn’t translated into English and put to music until 1905, by Mary Byrne.

Recording by Abigail Zsiga

1225

2. All Creatures of Our God and King

A bubbling brook in a thick forest

St. Francis of Assisi was known as a lover of nature and animals, and he also loved music. He wrote over 60 hymns, including this one in 1225 reflecting his compassion for creation. It caused the Church to stop and recognize the power and significance of nature, and not just human nature.

Recording by Patty Griffin

1674

3. Doxology

Thomas Ken was born in 1637 and orphaned soon after. Raised by his sister and her husband, he became an Oxford scholar and eventually became chaplain to members of royalty before becoming a bishop in the Anglican church. He wrote a manual of prayers in 1674, including a three-verse one simply named Morning Hymn. The doxology (which is simply a combination of two Greek words to mean ‘word of glory’) as we know today is the final verse of this poem, and it’s often sung without music.

Recording by Gungor

1758

4. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Robert Robinson was a rather difficult, headstrong boy, so when he turned 14 in 1749, his mother sent him to London for an apprenticeship (his dad died several years prior). He got in to even more trouble in London, and when he was 17, went with some of his friends to a meeting to make fun of Christians where George Whitfield would be preaching. It moved him deeply, and began his search for God where he finally became a Christian three years later.

He became a pastor, and at age 23, he wrote this poem to accompany one of his sermons, its words full of admittance to his own fleshly nature compared to God’s divine. It was set to music in 1813.

Recording by Sufjan Stevens

1773

5. Amazing Grace

Considered a folk hymn, it was first published in 1779 but originally written for a New Year’s Day sermon in 1773 by John Newton, an English poet. Its focus is on the redemption found only in Jesus—a simple but profound truth during a lot of Church division.

The song actually wasn’t too popular until the American 2nd Great Awakening in the early 19th century, and it then became widely known as an African American spiritual.

Recording by Jadon Lavik

Waterfall dripping off the side of a mountain

1835

6. Just As I Am

When poet Charlotte Elliott was at a dinner party in the early 19th century, an elderly man asked her if she was a Christian. She considered his question inappropriate, but later asked him what he meant. Charlotte eventually decided to follow Christ after talking with him, and wrote Just As I Am in 1835 soon after, remembering his words that she could come to Jesus “just as she was.”

This later became a popular song during Billy Graham’s crusades in the 20th century.

Recording by Nichole Nordeman

1861

7. Holy, Holy, Holy

Reginald Heber’s widow found the words to his poem written in private (we’re not sure when), but it was years later, in 1861, when a publisher found it and asked John Dykes to compose the music. He wrote it in 30 minutes and first named it Nicea, in honor of the First Council of Nicea in 325, the first effort to attain consensus in the Church.

Recording by Sufjan Stevens

1863

8. Before The Throne

Charitie Lees Smith was the daughter of an Irish pastor and his wife, and in 1863, at age 22, she wrote a poem called The Advocate to accompany one of his sermons. She continued to write other poems and eventually had them published in 1867 in a book titled Within The Veil.

Almost every line of her poem is taken directly from different parts of Scripture, making it rich with theology—useful for sermons. We’re unsure when its name was changed and music was written for accompaniment.

Recording by Shane & Shane

1873

9. It Is Well

Abolitionist activist Horatio Spafford had a nice life in the Chicago suburbs with his wife and five children and always welcomed guests in their home. Then in 1870, his 4-year-old died of scarlet fever, and in 1871 the Great Chicago Fire destroyed most of his investments (which were in Chicago real estate).

In 1873, the family wanted to sail to Europe for much-needed time away from their tragedy and to help in a revival, but on the day of departure, Horatio had a last-minute business emergency. He sent the family on ahead and planned to follow on another ship in a few days. But their ship was struck by another ship and sank in 12 minutes—the remainder of his four children died and only his wife was saved and brought to England. He immediately set sail to be with his wife, and as his ship passed the place where his daughters drowned, he penned It Is Well, and music was composed to accompany it in 1876.

Recording by Sara Groves

Wildflowers in a field of green grass

1885

10. How Great Thou Art

Carl Bobert was a Swede was walking home from church and listening to the church’s bells in 1885. A sudden, awe-inspiring storm gripped his attention, and then just as suddenly as it arrived, it subsided to a calm. After watching this display of nature, he went home and penned this poem. He published it in 1886, then it was matched to a Swedish folk tune in 1888, and then translated in to German in 1907, Russian in 1912, and finally English in 1925.

Recording by Martina McBride

1923

11. Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Thomas Chisolm spent most of his life sick, but in a rare bout of health, he went on a missions trip. While traveling, he corresponded with William Runyan, a good friend of his, and they often exchanged poems they had written. Runyan found this poem of Thomas’ so moving that he composed music to accompany it, publishing it in 1923. It wasn’t noticed until several years later by a Moody Bible Institute professor, who requested it be sung in their chapel services.

Recording by Sarah Macintosh

11 great hymns that changed the Church | incourage.me

There are many, many more hymns (heck, I didn’t even touch any of the 6,000 hymns written by Charles Wesley!). They are poetry of our history, and I think it’s important to keep teaching these words and melodies to the next generation, so that we can keep these doctrinally-rich hymns in the Church.

Here’s the playlist, so that you can pipe each of these hymns throughout your home or in your ears today. They’ll help keep your focus heavenward.

Which hymn is your all-time favorite?

{Photos by Tsh}

 

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It was through a social networking site that I was made aware of this event and the guest post about it.

A friend from high school (now that was a while ago) ‘shared’ the post (which was about an event her own daughter participated in), and I smiled through each and every word.

As a person who works with students in both Special Needs and Learning Assistance, and as a believer that we are all given life for a reason, I am drawn to stories of those who struggle with life, due to disabilities and disorders. I am also drawn to stories of predictions of what a particular child might accomplish in life, verses the abilities that they actually can accomplish.

Such is the case in the story that Pascale LeBrasseur has told on her blog Lessons From My Daughter. I encourage you to not just read what I have shared here from her post, but also check out her story, alluded to in this post, in her pilgrimage to provide the best life she can for her daughter, Emily.

For those who do not work with students, children, and adults who have challenges, know that what they want is what we all want … to be known (acquaintances), to be cared for (family) and to be liked (friendship).

Yesterday afternoon was magical!

It was magical for Emily, for her team mates from the Field of Dreams, for all the parents standing there and taking pictures and making videos, for the volunteers, for the Hub City Brewers and for the Blue Jays organization and former players!

Yesterday was something money can’t buy for our kids with various ability levels.

Look at this video of Emily!

http://youtu.be/UyDdPl_QgLA

If you are new to my blog, you are probably thinking that Emily is a pretty poor baseball player.
:)

That’s ok! I get it….

The guy pitching was close to her, he pretty much gave her the ball before she kinda ran to first base…

Allow me to help you see the magic in that short video.

Emily was diagnosed with Cri du chat syndrome in October 1999 when she was 15 months old.

At the time, we were told (amongst other things) that she would never walk, understand us, recognize us, communicate with us, her brain & body would never function properly.

Now… remember that video!

She is exactly where she needs to be, standing on her own, swinging that bat around to warm-up, keeping her eyes on the pitcher and on the ball. Her eyes are telling her brain that the ball is coming and her brain is telling her arms and hands to move at the exact time required to hit that ball. Once she’s made contact with the ball, she puts the bat down and runs to first base. At first base, she high fives…. Roberto Alomar!

Who’s Roberto Alomar? Come on… really? You don’t know???

Here’s his Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto_Alomar

So… now that you know all the things Emily would never do and that not only she’s awesome on that video, she’s also playing baseball with former Blue Jays player and Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar….

Let me ask you again, how is that video?

I admit that my voice is annoying but overall that video is amazing!!!

The afternoon was beyond anything I could have imagined.

Look at Emily’s team!

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Look at those smiles!

We made first page of the local newspaper

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I wished the newspaper would still let you read it on-line for free, I would have love to give you the link to the article because it’s great. They talk about the Blue Jays players but they mostly talk about our players.

See these guys with Emily?

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She was chatting with them while the “Blue” were at the bat!

The guy on the left is Sandy Alomar Sr. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy_Alomar,_Sr.

Later on when he was signing Emily’s new Blue Jays t-shirt, I asked him what they were talking about earlier…

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Turns out Emily was telling him about hockey and Justin Bieber….

LOL…. she talked to a former MLB player about her favorite sport to watch….. Hockey!!!

How awesome is that? Talk about full honesty, no pretenses, no BS… just 100% Emily truth.

In the newspaper article, they mentioned how one of our player asked Duane Ward if he plays Super Mario. :) The guy won 2 world series but our player wanted to talk about video games … and apparently, Duane is not really good at video games.

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3 years ago, Emily lasted 15 to 20 minutes a week at baseball than wanted to go home, Now she stays for the hour and a half. She gets there, says hi to Lexie, Jacob, Pascale, Taylor and so many more… She gives Brent a hug, says hello to Pat (the field of dream pitcher) than look for Mikey. He’s number 7 for the Hub City Brewers and he is Emily’s favorite guy. Not sure why she picked him… but over the last 3 years, that guy has allowed her to talk about Justin Bieber as much as she wants. He is helping her learn to catch the ball… that’s a work in progress and he is not giving up. In previous years, when Mikey was not there, Emily used to be completely lost but now she can go see another player and manages just fine.

When people look at our kids they see their differences, they see their disabilities.

Yesterday on that baseball field, I only saw abilities…. abilities of various levels. Everybody at the same level, it’s easy when the game is just a game. Everybody went to bat and went around all the bases. Nobody counted points, not because they are all winners but because it was a game! It was fun!

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Grey or Blue team didn’t matter, they all cheered for each other, they all high fived each other, they all laughed and ran and played!

Yesterday was the kind of day you can’t buy for our kids, this is the kind of day that happens only when a group of amazing people get together and believe in a common cause…

…..

Thank you to all that made that day possible!

Yesterday, Emily’s baseball team was invited to participate in a 90 minutes baseball game with some former Blue Jays that were in town as part of Blue Jays Honda Super camp

http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/tor/baseball_academy/honda_super_camps_en.jsp

Emily’s field of Dreams team exist because of the Hub City Brewers, their wifes and girlfriends, their friends and some other great volunteers…

Those guys, all have jobs, they train with their team, they play games from Spring to Fall and spend 1.5 hour per week with our kids, playing baseball. Making each and every single one of them feel like a pro baseball player.

http://www.hubcitybrewers.com/field/

The opportunity to play with the Blue Jays was made possible by an alignment of stars and the contribution of not only the Blue Jays and the Hub City Brewers but also the involvement of Baseball Canada’s challenger program.

http://www.baseball.ca/eng_doc.cfm?DocID=521

Thank you to all of you!”

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graphic-1-150x215I have said in the past that I so respect the job of at home mom (The Most Important Job In The World).

The guest post I am offering today comes from a writer who I have just started to follow. Her ‘about’ page says of herself:

Australian. In America. Sister. Friend. Daughter. Wife. Mother. Writer. Teacher. Pastor. Artist. Traveler. Coffee-lover. GF DF SF Foodie. Inept but happy homemaker.”

Today, in her post Oikouros: Keeper Of The Home, the author touched my heart, and brought back the memories of being that tired mom of preschoolers..

If you are reading today, and you are feeling that fatigue, that sense of being under appreciated in today’s society, please accept this as my verbal encouragement and support.

“It’s not that I’m ungrateful. It’s not that I want anything to change. It’s just that this is a different life than I expected.

It’s noon and so far I have sorted two loads of clean laundry, tidied rooms, done dishes, changed a pee diaper, changed a poop diaper, vacuumed, made breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, put in more laundry, tended to a crying pox-covered child, disciplined the non-poxed one, hovered over the poxed one to get her to pick up her toys, processed medical paperwork, worked on our August budget, angrily picked up my husband’s socks and assorted other abandoned clothes of his, turned a blind eye to the bathrooms that have needed cleaning for far too long, worked out a meal plan for the week using only what we have on hand because this month’s budget is $500 short, researched MRSA because the doctor’s office called with positive culture results from the pox (“We are running additional tests”), and felt frustrated at every turn.  Mad, even.  Except I’m too tired to maintain being mad.

Today I feel like a tattered remnant of myself.  This is the weirdest job I’ve ever had. And it’s not a job. It’s what I am: mother of small children.

Mothers of small children are a people group unto themselves.  This season of motherhood shapes a female human in very specific ways.  And regardless of occupational circumstances, whether she be full-time at-home or full-time work-and-home, mothers of small children are stretched thin.

Oh so thin.

A few years ago my friend, who at the time was pregnant with their first-born, said she was worried that she’d feel stuck at home after baby was born.  My response, as a mother of one toddler, had been so confident: “The answer is easy. If you feel that way, let’s get in the car and go somewhere fun!”

Nothing wrong with positive thinking. Right?  But today I’m feeling so deeply what my friend had feared.  It’s as she described: stuck. Stuck at home. Stuck in my heart. Stuck in a rut. Stuck in the hamster wheel of day after day sameness.  Like I’m living in my own version of the movie “Groundhog Day.” I’m desperate to find a way out of this loop.  Today the thinly stretched me is asking:  Am I living in the fullness of God’s creation of me?

Today I felt led to Titus 2.  And by “led” I mean… it came to mind and it made me angry.  And I see His familiar presence in the stirring of my heart.  The Holy Spirit is taking me to a passage to mentor me.  He whispered, “keeper of the home” to my heart to get my attention.  And, as He knew I would, my reaction was to rise up and revolt.  Those words, “keeper of the home,” feel like a cage.  Like a punishment.  Like I’ve been benched from real life.  And put in a place of bland resignation.  Yes, Holy Spirit, you have my attention.

Ok friends, please… hear me.  Of course I know the call of our Faith is to sacrifice.  Yes, there is a beautiful blessing in laying down our gifts, skills, education, passions, and dreams before the cross of Jesus.  There is a much-needed dying to self in our walk with Yahweh.  Yes. And amen.

But I have a hiccup in my heart.  And, thank God, it’s not my job to sanctify myself.  It’s the work of the Holy Spirit to transform me.  And today He’s exposing a fear and a feeling of rebellion in my heart:  I feel pressed into a cookie-cutter that demands I become a laundry-loving, seasonal-décor-using, smiling-always, sweet as sugar, house-cleaning aficionado.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I have a friend who fits that description.  She’s great.  But what brings her joy, brings me depression.  Sure, I hear you.  It could be that she simply has a better attitude and heart than I do.  And that I just need to fix my attitude.  Yes, I agree.  But I can’t do that on my own.  Or rather, I refuse to do that on my own.  Because a few weeks ago I taught about the temptation to be the source of our own solutions (Luke 4:1-4.)  And I do not want to make my own bread.  And so, I’m glad the Holy Spirit is drawing me to Titus today.  As we work through this together, He will change me and I will be changed.

Older women likewise are to live in a way that is appropriate for someone serving the Lord, not malicious gossips nor drunkards (enslaved to much wine) but models of goodness. They are to give good counsel and be teachers of what is right and noble. By looking at them, the younger women will know to be sane and sober of mind (temperate, disciplined), to love their husbands, to love their children, to be virtuous (sensible, self-controlled), pure, keepers of the home, good-natured (kindhearted), being subject (adapting and subordinating themselves) to their own husbands, so that the word of God may not be exposed to reproach (blasphemed, discredited, dishonored). Likewise urge the young men to… (Titus 2:3-6a NAS, AMP, NLT, ESV, MSG)

There is a LOT of amazing stuff in this passage.  So many good and wise words.  We could sit in this passage for weeks… or possibly our whole lives.  This is a good path: walking out these things with the power of the Holy Spirit.

But today I’m solely captivated by the words that are irritating my heart: “Keepers of the home.”  These words seem so different from the others in the list.  A seemingly highly practical item in a list of quests of ministry and heart.  Or is it?

Oikouros is the Greek word translated to the phrase “keeper of the home.”  The definition given by the NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon are:
1. caring for the house, working at home

2. the (watch or) keeper of the house
3. keeping at home and taking care of household affairs
4. a domestic

Yes, as I expected.  “At home.”  “A domestic.” “Household affairs.” But there is something else in that list.  “The (watch or) keeper of the house.”  The watch?  What?

The root words that form Oikouros are “Oikos” and “Ouros.”  And in these root words my heart has felt the whisper reminder of God’s vision for my season as a mother of little ones.

Ouros: A guard, Be “ware”
– Guard: to protect, to shield, to watch over, to maintain control over, to determine and supervise entry and exit to.

– Be “ware”: to watch, be wary, be aware, be wise.

Oikos: a house, home, a palace, the house of God, the tabernacle, a dwelling place, a human body, one’s settled abode, a household, all the persons forming one family, the family of God, the Christian Church.

As I read these words today, I felt my vision adjust.  Like a chiropractor for my heart.  And things clicked back to a good and right place.  Stepping back from my tree, and now able to see the forest again.

My call as keeper of our home as very little to do with laundry and housework and all the required mundane details.  Yet, I have allowed them to become a tyrant in my life.  I have let them consume my energy.  I have let them become a god.  Because there is always so much of that stuff to do!  But “keeping my home” is NOT keeping my home clean, or keeping my home tidy, or keeping my home orderly, or keeping my kids orderly, or keeping my family clean and “appropriate.”  Or whatever oppressive ideal I inflict on myself.  Or the enemy tricks me with.

My call as keeper of our home is about being a watcher.  A guard.  A defender of these people of this household.  A defender of the entryway to our family.  A shield.  A wise overseer.  For all of these things I would be utterly dependent on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  I would have to empty myself and be full of His Truth.  Sacrifice my fears and weaknesses and self-sufficiency. And throw myself on Him for direction, strength, and wisdom.

Regardless of a mother of small children’s unique circumstances, God has invited her to be the spiritual, emotional, and relational Keeper of the home.  This role isn’t affected by her passions or abilities for housework.  Or her occupation.  Or culinary skills.  Or time for Pinterest.  This role isn’t defined by culture, or generation, or clever marketing.  This role is given to us from Yahweh.  It’s an invitation from Him to be part of something so much bigger than ourselves.  To become more like Him, our King and Guard.

Keeper of the home is an invitation to rise above the concerns of our days and to step into a role that transcends all the culturally defined gender-roles of a woman.  Getting to be a Keeper of the home is a position of high honor and deep service.  It’s a place of prayer, of wisdom, of life with Him.

How could we ever have made it about clean carpets, meal planning, and having our households in order?  Oh God.  What a ditch we have fallen in.  Restore to me Your beautiful design for womanhood.  Lift my eyes up from the temporal and keep me fixed on the eternal.

Today I am a Keeper of the home for my man and our two small children.  But I am sensing a much wider concept that stretches into my lifelong womanhood.  The word Oikos also means the family of God, the Christian Church.  I feel the Holy Spirit rekindling my heart for my role as a woman in His Kingdom: a Keeper of His household.  A watcher, a guard, a shield, a defender, a minister to, a servant of His household: the Church.  For His family: the Body of Christ.  To stand for her.  To cover her.  To shield her.

As a mother of young children, I’ve been struggling to find my place to serve and invest in our church.  I’ve felt frustrated about my lack of time, and lack of energy.  I’ve felt torn between my passions for ministry and my passions for my family.  Today I feel like my heart has been stitched back together.  Of course I have some more praying and meditating on the Word to do, but I can see a beautiful hope growing in my heart.  Just as a mother’s role as Keeper is unaltered by her unique circumstances, a woman’s role as Keeper in God’s family is unaltered by her unique circumstances… like time and energy constraints when you’re a mother of small children. ;-)

Keeper of the home is a role that happens amidst life.  It’s a role that unfolds in each moment of life.  It is like the others in that list in Titus 2.  A quest of ministry and heart.”

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This is a most beautiful video … a real life couple, dealing with the changes and challenges of Alzheimer’s disease. In a sense, they have their own version of the beautiful movie, “The Notebook.”

http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com/article/8623153/for-better-or-worse

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