Monday, July 27, 2020

Maintaining Continual Peace in a Broken World, Part 2

Psalm 91 says it all. 

To whom does a believer turn to for security and peace? 

Security of the One Who Trusts in the Lord.

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
For you have made the Lord, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
10 No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.

11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
12 They will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

14 “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
15 “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 “With a long life I will satisfy him
And let him see My salvation.”

(Source here)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Maintaining Continual Peace in a Broken World, Part 1

Believers, every day we need a head check and we need a heart check because what we think governs our emotions. God holds His children to a high standard of holiness and that standard is largely shaped by our mental state. What we think governs our actions and our words. Our thoughts are governed by what we allow to enter our thoughts.
We continue to live in a very unique and challenging time. There has always been divisiveness within our world, but it has crept within the body of Christ. There are differing views on the coronavirus and how the Church should be responding to this viral outbreak. Open Churches or keep them closed, wear a mask or stay unmasked, stay at home and keep your distance or stay close to the ones you love.
And, then there’s the spirit of fear that seems to be an underlying issue.
Fear of getting sick.
Fear of getting close to others.
Fear of loved ones succumbing to the virus.
Fear of dying.
The reality is everyday there is the possibility that today will be our last day, that we’ll take our last breathe.
The chance of someone dying in a car accident is 1 in 103 and 1 in 9,821 for death in a plane crash.
The chances of dying from heart disease are 1 in 6 and the chance of death from cancer is 1 in 7.
The probability of flu death is 0.02% and the chances of dying from the coronavirus infection are 0.5% to 1%.
Let’s face it, death is imminent.
While I don’t know of many people who desire to face death today, even for believers that long to be with Jesus, God calls us to live our days on earth with hope, joy, and peace and not in fear.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Fear is so immensely crippling and if the adversary can’t take our salvation (which can never happen because salvation is eternal and always secure in Christ), he can surely make strides to cause us to live in fear and disrupt our mental and spiritual state.
What troubles me in this day and time that we’re living in, God's children, who should serve as beckons of light to the world of faith, courage, and strength, are instead hiding in the shadows of darkness in a state of worry, fear, and dismay.
Instead of having thoughts of victory in Christ, knowing that God has numbered our days and He is sovereign over our life, we can be tempted to mirror the world in a state of panic and worry. If we stay tuned into the media 24/7, we can feed into the narrative that death is creeping not just outside our doors, but right underneath our noses in the form of unseen viral particles in the local markets, stores, and we could be infected and walk right into death’s door just from the simple embrace of a friend, a neighbor, or a loved one.
Surely, the onslaught of this message would cause even the most courageous and faithful Christian to fear.
I will be the first one to say that I’m guilty of the temptation of fear and worry and I’ve had to repent of the sinful pattern of allowing discouraging thoughts to plague me. This is such a slippery slope for a Christian because left unattended, it can lead believers into depression, sickness, stress, and bad decision making because your actions are not based on truth.
My favorite bible verse tells us exactly where we should keep our minds,
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and anything worthy of praise, think on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:6-9)
We should be constantly seeking the Lord for wisdom and discernment. God calls us to be in the world, but not of the world. The world should not be our source for guidance and wisdom. It's so interesting that we're living in a time where the Church is having to question and reason whether or not it should open its doors, if the congregation should openly sing worship songs because of viral particles in the air, or if people should meet for Bible study and fellowship.
These challenging discussions should really bring us to our knees in prayer, asking the Lord for discernment as we know that Satan relishes in being able to thwart the work of the Church.
“We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19)
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."  (Ephesians 6:12)
God has all wisdom and all knowledge. We may never understand why these things are happening this side of Heaven, but God is sovereign and as Jehovah-Sabaoth He reigns above and over all forces both in Heaven and Earth.
Christian brother and sister, don’t allow external circumstances draw you away from your Heavenly Father, His promises for you, and the PEACE that He promises to His children. The news and state of this broken world will continue to fluctuate and change, from one day to the next. God’s Word, the security, and hope that we have in Christ are the only things that will remain the same. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on our Savior and experience mental and spiritual peace even in the midst of trying times. 
May these truths bring your heart and mind joy!
“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My right hand. “ (Isaiah 41:10)

“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. “ (Psalm 94:19)
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” (Psalms 42:11)
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, not let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Books That Point You to the Truth

I wanted to pop my head out from my latest book long enough to share some insights before delving head first back into my next book.

Lynn Austin’s series, “Chronicles of the Kings”, is so immensely gripping! I love God’s Word and it’s even sweeter when an author creates a fictional story based on biblical history that makes you want to grab your Bible. 

With each book in this series I have found myself crawling up on my bed with my Bible reading the true account of the stories that Lynn Austin has so beautifully authored in this series. She paints beautiful pictures of these biblical characters in each story and intertwines the truth of God’s Word in with fictional characters and amazing plots that paints a movie in your mind of how their lives may have been lived out. 

Direct quotes from scripture are weaved into the story to provide the skeleton from which Lynn could use her imagination to develop a gripping story. 

Each book so far has been a page turner.

As I've read Books 1-3 so far, chronicling through Kings in the Old Testament, I’ve been reminded in these stories about God’s expectation of His children to remain faithful to Him, regardless of the difficult circumstances that we may find ourselves in. God’s grace is sufficient, come what may. 

I look forward to the continuing story of Kings as I peek into the life of King Manasseh, a man who did evil in the sight of the Lord and the life lessons that I can gain from his mistakes and God's ultimate victory in the life of His people. 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Accountability Groups & Goal Setting

The last time that I wrote about fitness I was working out using my own personal library of fitness VHS tapes and DVDs. Many would have said that my fitness source was outdated (who uses a VHS tape player anymore?), but the medium that you use to workout isn't as important as the workout itself and whether or not you're actually using it to workout.

Since that last post, I've become a part of an accountability group that checks in with each other on a daily basis to share their workouts using an automated system that makes working out actually entertaining! I've written before about how being accountable to someone in your fitness regiment is paramount to being successful with maintaining a regular routine of  physical activity and it's still true.

This very key aspect is the reason that I joined the group in 2019 and have been extremely pleased with how this commitment has further encouraged me to workout on a consistent basis. Whether it is on vacation, cold seasons or hot seasons, knowing that someone is expecting me to workout helps me set personal goals and work to attain them.

As part of this group, I also now have access to an extremely large library of fitness programs that have their own set of fitness challenges that you can take on within a specific period of time. One might think, What's the big deal with setting a goal or fitness challenge? 

When it comes to fitness, goal setting challenges a person to push themselves beyond what they would normally accomplish or even desire to do. Without a goal in front of us, many of us would either do nothing or do whatever is minimally required.

Before joining the accountability group in 2019 I had never taken on a challenge set to a specific set of days and when I was presented with my first one, my first response was hesitation about doing one that would last for 21 days. It's something about being responsible for working out on each day and then having to report to someone that you've done the work that made me a little nervous.

What if I don't feel like working out on a certain day?
What if I have a scheduling conflict that gets in the way?
What if my body hurts too much and I don't feel like finishing the challenge?
What if I have trouble making the time and sticking with the schedule?

These questions and many others crossed my mind before signing up for my first challenge, but I took it on. By day 21, I realized that every answer to the questions that loomed in my head were only excuses.

People fulfill their responsibilities to the things that are important to them.

Everyday most people brush their teeth, they take showers, they cook their food, and they go to work. People do these things because the result of not doing them is unacceptable. Most people don't want dirty teeth, body odor, a growling stomach, or an empty bank account.

So, they do the work necessary in these areas.

I find that it is the same with fitness.
If living life as the best version of yourself is important to you, then doing the work to stay in shape becomes nonoptional. And if fitness isn't that important to you at this point in life right now then I encourage you to change your focus and consider joining a group of other people in the journey of making fitness a priority and then start setting goals to keep you motivated.

If you're interested in learning more about the accountability group and goal setting that I've found extremely useful, please message me!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Book Series Suggestion

Being in the house has fueled my love for reading and led me to take in some great books. Lynn Austin has been most recent, favorite author.

A few months ago I finished a series of her books centered around the time of the Civil War. I gobbled up the entire series of books in a few short months because they were so well written. Lynn does a beautiful job in all of her books making the characters come alive and she has a way of drawing out the emotions and personalities of the characters to the point that as the reader you feel as if you either know them or want to get to know them.

The Refiner's Fire series is definitely also one that will inspire a heart for the Lord and His Word. I found myself crying at some point in all three of the books in this series, Candle in the Darkness, A Fire By Night, and A Light to My Path and folding over pages where such poignant messages are shared so that I can go back and re-read to be inspired again and again. I've been reading many of Lynn Austin books this year and I'm amazed that each one is uniquely different and uniquely captivating.

I usually go to the library as my primary source for my personal reads, but with them being closed I've been using online used bookstores like ThriftBooks and AbeBooks.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Creative Minds Want to Know

Who would have guessed that we'd all be spending an exorbitant amount of time indoors with our families, rotating between reading books, playing board games, and for many searching for family-friendly Netflix shows in order to pass the time? I say "searching" instead of watching because if your family is anything like mines, you spend more time searching and reading about shows that are family-friendly than you do actually watching the shows.

I really wanted to like the network Pure Flix, but after signing up for the free offer and checking out the network, we decided not to continue into a paid membership with Pure Flix. Many of the Christian shows on this network are available on Netflix and the shows that are specific to Pure Flix did not have high caliber acting in our family's opinion and the connectivity seemed to be very sketchy. The shows and movies that we watched kept having to pause while they tried to load and it had nothing to do with our internet connectivity. On some shows the people's mouth movements were delayed behind the actual sound. Altogether we just didn't think that the network was worth the monthly investment, which was sad because I was really hoping that there would be shows that we could pick from in this network without having to worry about investigating ahead of time to be safe for our family to watch. 

I will say that the productions that they had available by Ken Ham and the Creation People, as I like to call them, were very engaging and interesting. We watched Ken Ham's debate with Bill Nye the Science Guy as they toured the Ark Encounter. 

In addition to our search for something family-friendly to watch together, my hubby was inspired by Trey's latest hobby of Legos. We've started
holding our own Lego races in the living room after dinner. We each craft our very own Lego race car, name them, and then race them. 

We started out our race night with a cardboard race track and it didn't take long for Leon and Trey to head to the basement and design and build a much more studier track that would last many races.  Trey and Leon are Lego building naturals. The girls and I have to work a little harder to craft vehicles from our own creativity, without any easy to follow instructions. 

It's just amazing to me the creative things our minds can be entertained by when your options are limited! 

Many of our races were very close calls!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Just Different.

School with this little guy is nothing but interesting! I had no idea what I was in for when I started homeschooling Trey. For starters there was a level of fear within me as I wasn't sure how I was going to teach him to read.

When we started our homeschool journey almost seven years ago, Love and Lea were entering the home as readers as they had learned to read in private school. Lea was a new reader, but a strong, new reader. In many ways as I look back I can see how God blessed our homeschool beginnings with kids that could already read.

We could jump right into 2nd and 4th grade with simply learning and enjoying the experience while having a little infant by our sides. Fast forward to Trey's beginnings as a student and I wasn't sure what to expect.

I decided to use the same curriculum, ABeka, that my girls had in private school and that put me a little at ease with starting to teach Trey. What was beautiful in the whole experience was how naturally Trey gained an interest in learning. I remember setting him outside our school room door with his little movie player to keep him occupied when he was about 3 years old and as I worked with his sisters he would creep in the school and say, "Mommy, I wanna do school".

Just a few moments out of each school day I'd get on the floor and go over the letters of the alphabet or he'd sit up in my lap and want to trace his letters. That interest in learning seemed to grow everyday that by the time he seemed ready to do Preschool level material, he was so excited to "do school" like his big sisters. His face would light up when he saw all the brightly school colored pages that were all his.

Eventually though, I came to the realization that educating a little boy is a totally different ball game from little girls. About 3 or 4 months into his first grade year of school, the excitement of the brightly colored school pages seem to wane and I found myself bargaining with him on how many pages I could get him to read before lunch time. After doing some research and consulting with several Moms of boys I realized that there were some critical components of school that I had to ensure that I was integrating into Trey's day:

Games, rewards, and competition.

Game time created a stark difference in by boy's school day compared to his sisters' school days. As youngsters, Love and Lea could have cared less if we played a game during the school day. As long as they could freely sing and dance whenever they wanted, they were happy reading, writing, doing math, science, and anything else I threw at them for school.
At first it seemed a bit annoying to my conscience to have to go through the rigmarole of incorporating these things, but once I began to slowly do this our school days turned from a nightmare to a beautiful dream. It was literally a night and day difference.

I knew boys were active creatures, but I just didn't realize that incorporating activity was a necessity for learning for my son. Practicing phonics sounds went from completing worksheets to "Phonics Flashcard Baseball" in our basement. Math drills were ALL timed for increased competition and we started keeping a log of his times so that he could see how he could beat his best time each day. I created a reward chart and logged a smiley face for each day that was a "good" day without any whining about school work. When he obtained a lengthy, consecutive number of "good" days, his Dad would reward him with a treat.

Math and Science are definitely Trey's favorite subjects and it seems he could do endless sessions of both subjects. While Trey has always loved trips to the library, as he's become a reader himself, he gets frustrated when he has to pause and apply phonics rules to read. To increase his interest and ignite excitement in his reading time, I started incorporating Chapter book read alouds. These read aloud books are at a reading level progressively higher than what he could do on his own, but the storylines are very engaging, many times humorous, and maintain his attention.

While I read aloud, Trey finds enjoyment in building with his Legos and I will pause after a page or two to ask him reading comprehension questions to ensure that he's following along and understanding the storyline. 

We've read some awesome stories and even tuned into the movie that goes with the books as a reward when we finish it.

These things culminated together have really orchestrated a sweet time of teaching Trey in his initial years of school. With much prayer and following the cues of this growing little boy, we're finding that doing school with a boy is different, but just as enjoyable as it has been with girls.

I will post a book list soon of the Read Alouds that we've enjoyed thus far! (Go here for that list)