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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Some Thoughts On School


Yesterday at my 2yo's playgroup party, my friend Gina asked me a question about having the kids in school. "Is it more work?" she wanted to know. "I keep hearing it's just as much work having them in school."

I had heard the same thing. In fact, whenever I mentioned my kids being in school while I was homeschooling, someone would inevitably say, "Oh, you would hate it. It's just as much work-- you just do it in the afternoon instead." And I would think to myself-- oooh, that sounds bad.

So, when Gina asked me this question, it made me remember that fear of school that I had. And I had to answer her honestly. "Yes, it is just as much work. But I don't mind it." Take this week, for instance. We have had:

  • parent teacher conferences times four
  • a family tree project due for my kindergartner
  • a field trip slip due
  • book fair money to distribute
  • a myriad of forms to fill out
  • regular nightly homework
  • money for a fifth grade trip to turn in
  • baked goods to bring for a fundraising bake sale
  • a gallon of milk to bring for a breakfast
  • a man's white tee shirt to bring for a craft

And there is probably more, but I am blocking it out. So, it's a lot. To be sure. It's a lot to keep up with.

But I don't mind. Because, as I told my friend Gina, I feel like I am taking a vacation after ten years of homeschooling. Yes, I have to help with homework-- but it is homework I didn't have to plan for, run copies for, or in any way be responsible for thinking about. And also, it's not my fault the kids have to do it. So, while they might complain, it is not about me that they are complaining. I am their coach, their cheerleader-- coming alongside them to say encouraging things like, "You can do this!" And also, when it gets to be too much, my husband is generally there to help one or two of them in the evenings. When we were homeschooling, he would look at me like, "Couldn't you have already taken care of this?" Again, not my fault.

And so, even though school is a lot of work-- it still feels doable. And fun. I had fun walking around the bookfair and dropping off baked goods when I was there today. Fun talking to the ladies in the office and the other moms. When we were homeschooling, I would go days without seeing other people and I felt sort of isolated and cut off from the world. And most of all, I had fun having lunch with a friend today and then spending an hour in the Target with the same friend. (Both of us only needed one thing-- yet we still found enough stuff to look at to stay for an hour!) I had the freedom of knowing that while I ate salads at Panera and fiddled around in Target, someone else was taking care of my children's education. Not that I am not involved-- I am just not responsible. And that burden was something I needed a break from. I was so ready to stop being teacher and just start being mommy.

Thanks to this lovely little charter school, I am getting that chance.

Note to homeschoolers: Please know I am not condemning homeschooling in any way. I treasure the years we homeschooled and am grateful for the time we invested in it. I would not trade it for the world. Any time you can spend homeschooling your children is time well spent. I was just in desperate need of a break! I am not sure I won't go back to it in future years once I have some time to recharge. I would love to rediscover the passion I used to have for homeschooling. Just reading Dawn's blog makes me nostalgic for sweet moments spent with my kids. But the truth is, those moments were rarely (if ever) happening for us. So, I am just learning to be realistic about my expectations of myself and live with my limitations. And do what works for us. I guess that's the key.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

The Fall Y'all Blog Giveaway


Ok, so I wanted to do this in the summer, but found out about it too late to participate. So, I am going to join in this time! Shannon over at Rocks in my Dryer is hosting this giveaway where many bloggers offer various prizes. It is quite fun to jump around sites and see what's being offered-- but only if you have no life and nothing better to do like me. I will probably, sadly, sit at my computer tonight and do nothing but visit sites and leave comments. I don't know if that sounds fun or pathetic to you all. Just don't tell me if you think it's the latter!


But let's get to the important stuff! What am I giving away? Well, I wanted to give away something that represented the theme of my blog, Cheaper By The Half Dozen. So, I am giving away half a dozen gifts--


4 cd's of messages I've given, meant to encourage you:

  • Christmas JOY (are you ready?? I saw my first commercial last night!)

  • Becoming A Woman of Influence

  • I'd Be A Great Homeschooler (If It Weren't For These Kids!)

  • Cultivating Creativity at Home

I will also throw in a copy of The P31 Woman magazine and a copy of the fall issue of The Old Schoolhouse, making six gifts in all!

Just leave me a comment and I will randomly choose a winner from the comments on November the 5th! (Just to clarify, the gift package goes to one winner!) But in your comments, it would be fun to hear which one appeals to you!

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

We Interrupt This Blog...


For some most un-Christian thoughts.

On Friday night, my husband's car was robbed by a group of teenagers who went on a vandalization and stealing spree all through our neighborhood. They smashed pumpkins, tore down hanging baskets and smashed them in the street, slashed tires, and even stole the tires off one guy's car! They stole my husband's Ipod and his Blackberry. Because they were in his car, we can claim them on homeowner's-- but combined they were worth $500 and guess what our deductible is? You guessed it!

As I was running on Saturday morning, I found his Blackberry. From the looks of it, they had smashed it, run over it, and just destroyed it because it was of no use to them, then thrown it out on the side of the road. I held that Blackberry in my hand and wanted to cry. But I was too angry to cry. I ran home holding that mangled Blackberry the whole way, feeling the sharp point of broken metal pressing into my palm.

So, now because of some stupid (yes, I said stupid), bored, angry young punks, we have to come up with $500 we didn't have to replace something that we owned. And yes, he shouldn't have left valuables in his car-- but we live in a safe, quiet, peaceful neighborhood where these things (usually) don't happen. And so, we had a low degree of fear or caution where I guess we should have. And so, I am angry and definitely not filled with Christian love for these kids. Perhaps I will feel more inclined that way in a few days. I know that God has a lesson in here for me somewhere, but I am not wanting to learn it right now. I am choosing instead to feel the anger, to hold onto it and stroke it lovingly.

Contrary to my sin-filled, graceless response, my husband wrote a beautiful, eloquent post about how he has been able to pray for whoever these kids were. Not me. I would like to string them up by their hee-hees. And yes, I did say that here on the old blog.

Edited to add: Anonymous commenter gently reminded me that the items we lost were luxury items-- and I guess at face value that appears to be true. However, my husband uses the Blackberry for work, as he is in sales and that piece of equipment serves as his lifeline to the office when he is away. It will have to be replaced because of that, but his company will not pay for the replacement. And yes, the Ipod is a luxury. But he waited for two years to make that purchase-- because we can't afford luxuries seeing as how we have six kids who like to eat regularly. He put Christmas and birthday money together from various people so he could buy an Ipod-- and I so respect him for always putting his family's needs ahead of his own and foregoing his own desires. It speaks volumes about his character to me. So, I want him to have an Ipod, as he works hard for our family and he "deserves" (though I hate that word) an Ipod. To be able to purchase another one is not something we can just run out and do. We are not people who indulge in luxuries very often. So when what little we have is taken from us, it just feels like a huge injustice. And that is why I am good and angry. You all should pray for me.
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Anyone But Hillary


One thing I promised myself I would never do is to get political on this blog. So, if you can just take this as a one-time thing, I am going to post this link for anyone who would like to order one of these bumper stickers to display proudly on their car. You can just go here to order one and tell them Lindsey sent you!
Why don't I like her? She scares me. And her hair? Bless her heart, that's all I have to say.

And no, I do not wish to debate with anyone as to my choice in candidates. I will say I like a certain candidate solely because he was on Law and Order and he seems wise on the show. And yes, I am just that shallow and easily swayed.
Edited to add: Just to make her a little bit scarier, I found this (part I) and this (part II) through a comment on Lindsey's blog. If you have some time, watch it. It'll make you want to paper your whole car in those bumper stickers! And it definitely makes me want her nowhere near the White House!
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

An Opportunity to Be Published!


Hey, got this information from an online writing group I am on. This is being pulled together by Tricia Goyer-- who I just interviewed! Pretty cool, huh?

Here is the information for submitting one of your blog posts for consideration. Note that you must choose a particular post for consideration (not your blog as a whole) and you, the author, must nominate yourself. I know that might feel weird to do, but that's the way it's set up... so don't be shy!

Calling Bloggers!
Stories Needed for new book proposal(s):
Bloggable: Fifty of the best FRIENDSHIP chronicles found on-line
Bloggable: Fifty of the best HUMOR chronicles found on-line
Concept: The best blogs now in a book!
Submissions should be inspiring, faith-filled, and based on true experiences—no fiction, please. Think of comment-worthy blogs readers forward to their friends.
Blogs must be submitted by the author. If you have a favorite blog you've read, pass on these guidelines and encourage the blogger to submit!

1. Send submissions to tricia@thegoyers.com as an attached WORD document in 12-point Times new Roman font. (Up to three submission per blogger.)
2. Please include the author’s name, your blog address, and contact information on the first page of every submission.
3. Blog submissions should be non-fiction, ranging in length between 300-1200 words.
4. If your blog is published in this book, you will be paid $50 upon publication and two free copies of the book.
5. Please include a link to your story published on the Internet.
6. When you submit, you will be asked to sign a release form, giving me permission to use your blog. Submissions will not be considered until the release form is signed and returned.
Just think of all the new readers to YOUR blog!

Exciting, eh?
Tricia Goyer
http://www.triciagoyer.com/
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Puddle Dancing


We have not had rain in many, many days where I live. I do not know how large of an area this drought has affected in the US, but I know it is much larger than my immediate area. I heard on the radio that this drought is the worst we have had in 100 years. So, that gives you an idea of how serious it has been. As day after day of record heat combined with no rain waged on this summer, I caught myself scanning the skies for a stray cloud or any sign that rain was coming. Atlanta, GA was about 62 days from being out of water and Monroe, NC was about 111 days from being out of water. We don't think about it much, but can you imagine life without water? In short, things were getting desperate.

And then finally this week, the drops began to fall. I caught myself being literally worried that it would stop again. But it didn't. For two straight days, it fell. Hard. Drenching. Pouring down on us as God's answer to all of us who had prayed for rain. I have to say that as I drove in the rain the other day, I thought of all those who don't believe in God-- the humanists who believe we are our own gods and we evolved into who we are by mere magic. The folks who think that the essence of life lies in our own hands. And yet, we can't create rain. We can't make water-- that most basic of life-sustaining elements. We can't make it fall out of the sky when we need it most. For that, we must wait on God.

For about a day I was happy with the rain. I rejoiced in it. I thanked God for it. I even prayed that it would keep on raining. I had hope that this rain would begin to replenish the 14 inches of water level deficit we need. Come on, rain! As I loaded children and bags of groceries in the car, I tried not to be grumpy about the rain. I tried to smile even as my hair was getting wet; even as my son was splashing in puddles, soaking his shoes. Everytime I felt myself getting grumpy and wishing it would stop raining, I focused instead on how much we need the rain-- and how this rain was an answer to prayer. And yet, I must confess that after it went on for awhile, I was anxious for the rain to go away and dry weather to return. Even though I knew that God was giving us what we needed most. I started looking backwards.

And then this morning, God gave me a vision of how much I was like the Israelites as they wandered in the desert. The scripture tells us that they started looking backwards. Egypt was starting to look good to them again. They had prayed for deliverance from slavery and God had provided it. He had answered their prayers and given them what they needed. Yet as day after day of walking and wandering began to take its toll, they started to forget God's goodness and concentrate on their circumstances instead. Oh, to be back in Egypt! Acts 7:39, "But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt."

How often do we do this? We ask for deliverance from something, we are thankful for the deliverance, but then as we walk through the hard parts of actually being delivered, the flesh begins to cry out in opposition. We start drifting backwards in our spirits to a place of what was familiar, instead of walking obediently towards where God wants to take us. I know this has been true with our finances. We prayed for deliverance from debt and God began to show us a way out. Yet as we have walked through what it has taken to be debt free, I have often caught myself looking back at when I used to charge things freely, with no thought as to how we would pay for it. "Oh, how nice that was to just be able to go buy something without having to scrounge and save," I find myself thinking.

I don't want to look backwards or give into the comforts my flesh craves. I want to push forward, straining for the prize God has for me. I want to seek Him with all my heart-- no matter where my seeking may take me. I want to live in that uncomfortable place of walking in total obedience. When the rain comes pouring down, I want to choose to dance in the puddles instead of seeking the shelter of sunny days.
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Friday, October 26, 2007

Devotion at P31


I have a devotion up today at P31. If you came to visit today because you clicked on the link, welcome! And if you are one of my regular vistors and would like to read it, just go here.

Just a disclaimer, I used another Message version of the Bible as the key verse of the day. I know last time I did that, I got a lot of concerned mail. I realize that the Message is a paraphrase of the Bible-- but I like it when something explains something better to my addled, distracted, overwhelmed brain. And so, if it spoke to me, I share it in the form I received it. And that is why I used this verse. Just to put your mind at ease, I am going to post the Message version of the verse and then a few verses of that same passage from the NIV. I hope this will help others understand why I chose what I chose.

Here is the Message version:
“Somehow, though he moves right in front of me, I don’t see him; quietly but surely he’s active, and I miss it.” Job 9:11

And here is the NIV version:
Job 9:11, "When he passes me, I cannot see him; when he goes by, I cannot perceive him."

Which speaks to you more? If I read just the NIV version, I don't know that I would have picked up on the same sentiment (living life aware of God's activity around us-- the theme of this devotion) as when I read the MSG version. I love it when scripture jumps out at me and speaks to me right where I am at. When that happens, I am thinking a lot more about what message (ha, get it?) God has for me than what version I am reading.

To quote Forrest Gump, "And that's all I have to say about that."

Updated to add: ok, so that wasn't all I had to say about it! I am happy to report that so far I have not received any emails from people who are upset that I used the Message. So thanks to those of you who left me nice comments! One dear reader suggested I pray about the issue if it was bothering me-- that perhaps the Lord was looking to use it in my life. And I think He was. The last time was such a growth experience for me as I really struggled with it. During that time, I talked to several friends who are in ministry and learned a lot about taking criticism. Mostly I learned that I was going to have to deal with it and get through it. I guess my posting this today was a way for me to just go ahead and say out front to anyone who happened by that yes, I meant to use the Message and yes, I am aware that there are people who disagree with this version. And yes, I chose to use this verse on purpose. And so, I didn't want to get lots of emails with those type questions. Mostly because then I feel compelled to respond and I simply don't have time.
Thanks so much to those of you who have written me nice, affirming comments. I so appreciate your genuine concern, and I especially want to say that I respect every single person out there who is zealous for the validity and protection of the Word of God.
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Last Teen Week Interview!



Today we have our final guest, Shari Braendel. Shari is our resident wardrobe consultant and fashion expert at P31 and most importantly, she is one of my dearest friends! She loves me even though I am somewhat of a hopeless fashion case, as I choose comfort and quick over fashion and image most days! (But that is a post for another time...)

Hi Shari-- thanks for stopping by! Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

Thanks so much for having me! I am on the Proverbs 31 speaker team and I travel and speak to women and girls regarding the topics "What Not to Wear" and "Modesty" for girls and teens. I am the wife of an amazing servant hearted husband, Dave (he does all the cooking and grocery shopping!) and I am mom to son, Luke who will be 13 in December and is a middle-schooler at Hickory Grove Christian School and I also have triplet step-daughters, Carly, Kimmy, and Jessie...who are all graduated from college and in the working world now!

What led you to working with teen girls?

All God, for sure. When I first became a Christian in my late twenties, I felt God whisper to my heart to go to a teen shelter and volunteer to lead the girls in a bible study. All I knew was fashion, so I didn't think I'd be such a good volunteeer! But I went anyway! I had become part of a new bible study group and they bought student bibles for me to take to the girls (now remember, I was a BRAND NEW believer at this point...a few weeks old!) so I had something to give the girls and read from. The first week I went to the shelter, there were about 20 girls who just sat and stared at me. But I won them over when I told them I'd come back the next week and give them all makeovers! So this is how it went, one week I'd do a short bible study and have discussion time, the next week I'd do makeovers, the following week another bible study, the week after that I'd do an impromptu fashion show with them from clothes I'd get donated....and that's how God got me started working with teens! I just showed up and tried to be obedient. (Note to anyone feeling like God is whispering something to you for you to do, don't keep it to yourself...I had no idea what shelter, where one might be located or even how to lead a bible study. But I told the others in my bible study and the doors just started opening...I walked thru them one door at a time.)

What issues/concerns/questions do you hear most often from the girls?

The thing I hear most often is they don't feel good about how they look. They also don't know how to shop for clothes because everything out there is so low cut and tight fitting. They want to fit in but don't know how to do it. Lots of teens I meet have a pretty low self esteem because they are trying to compete with others, whether it's with their looks, their clothes, boys, etc. and they just don't feel like they will ever be good enough in any area.

What do the girls seem to think about being modest?

You know, it is either completely one way or the other. There are lots of Christian girls who want to be modest but didn't realize the effect they were having on the opposite sex by the way they were dressing. Then I see the exact opposite...Christian (or not) teens who think they HAVE to dress with low cut jeans and tight tops so the boys will notice them, I see this at every event I do. I just saw a girl yesterday at my son's school with low cut jeans and her tummy and back showing, walking and giggling with the guys. Now this is a Christian school. I wanted to get out of my car and say STOP.....you don't have to dress like that to get attention! I really think that when they hear they don't have to do this to get a guy's attention, they begin to think differently about themselves.

Do you think there is hope for teens to be modest and hottest? How?

YES! I see it every weekend....when girls come up to me after the Modest is Hottest fashion shows and say they just didn't realize how they were dressing affected the boys. I produced a video with 6 boys and asked them questions about what they think when they see girls dressed with low cut jeans, bellies showing, tight tops, low cut tops, etc. I show this at every Modest is Hottest event and you would not believe the response from the girls afterward. I also get lots of e-mails from Moms saying how differently their daughters are thinking now. Believe me, God gets all the credit for this because he knocked me over the head to get me to do these fashion shows! I am so grateful I get to be a participant in His plan...and lucky for me, God knew girls love a fashion show! Fashion doesn't have to be about showing your body parts. A girl (and her mom) can look fashionable, cute and in-style and on-trend without showing all!

What tips do you give moms who want to connect with their daughters over fashion, but are concerned about the way they dress?

First of all, if the way your daughter is dressing is not "sin" then let it go. In saying that, I want to be clear to say as long as they are following the 5 B's of modest dressing, then they are okay. But alot of moms want their daughters to dress to their standards and girls have their own idea of what makes them feel good in their clothes. It's a battle you don't want to fight cause you will lose one way or another. You may get your daughter to dress the way you want, but you'll lose something in the process...a breakdown will occur because your daughter won't think you understand. My best advice would be to go shopping with her, find out what she likes, if it isn't breaking any rules, (No bustline/cleaveage showing, No bellies, No bottoms (too tight or with words written on them), No bra straps showing, and No bubbling (as in too tight jeans and clothes), then tell her she looks beautiful and shop some more!

I have been to several of your events and I know they are fun, fun, fun! How can someone bring a Modest is Hottest fashion show to their church?

I truly LOVE doing these events...God is so good! All someone has to do is call my office (or Proverbs 31) and I will send out my CD and pricing info with available dates. I do these at not only churches but Christian schools, too! This event is usually done on a friday night but many of the churches are using this opportunity to combine the women's ministry area with the youth area and are hosting a great mother/daughter event for a weekend retreat whereas I do the Modest is Hottest event for the girls and their moms on Friday night and then Saturday is focused on all the other women in the church, including the moms...the weekend is called The Real Beauty Retreat! My website is www.ShariBraendel.com or feel free to call my office at 704 597-2619. Thanks for having me, MaryBeth...you know how much I adore you!

Girl, you know I adore you too!! Thanks so much for giving us some insight into how we can help our daughters be modest and hottest. I know the heart of every woman (young or old) is to feel treasured and beautiful. I am so blessed to know someone who spends her life helping women discover how to do just that, inside and out.

(Be sure to go to this page (scan down to about halfway down) to watch a video Shari uses to show girls that even the models they emulate are not what they seem to be! It's an eye-opening video, and one you ought to have your daughter watch!)
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Teen Week Interview with Rebecca Powell





Today we have Rebecca Powell joining us (shown above with her daughter and co-author, Danya). She is a dynamic speaker, a homeschooling mama and a prolific writer, with three books to her credit and a regular column for Parent Life magazine. Rebecca was one of my contributors to For The Write Reason and has been a great source of information and encouragement in my writing journey, so I am especially tickled to introduce you all to her!
Tell us a bit about yourself, Rebecca!

First and foremost, I’m a child of God. I was brought up in a Christian home and came to Christ at an early age. My identity rests in Him!
By His grace, I am a wife and a mom--so in telling you about myself, I have to tell you about my wonderful family! My husband Rich and I were college sweethearts, and we’ve been married for 19 years. He’s a bi-vocational missions pastor, working in outreach and teaching ministries at our church, but his day job is running a vending company with his dad. Rich is the greatest! God so blessed me with that man! We have three incredible children: Danya (15), David (13), and Derek (10). I’ve been a homeschooling mom since Danya was four.
I am a writer through and through! My heart flutters at the sight of a blank piece of paper. :) I began writing professionally in 2000, when Baby Boot Camp (a book of devotionals for new moms) was published. I’ve been a monthly columnist for ParentLife magazine since ’02, and I’ve written three Bible studies for teens, Wise Up! and Get Real! for girls and Dig Deep for guys. I speak, as well, like many authors, and now that my daughter is pursuing a music career, she and I often team up for girls’ conferences and women’s events. Also, something new that I started this fall has been really exciting—I’m teaching a writing class to homeschooled high school students and having a blast!

What prompted you to write for teen girls?
When my daughter was going into sixth grade, getting ready to begin that transition from child to young woman, I searched for a resource that would help her make that leap while keeping her feet firmly planted in the Word of God. I couldn’t find anything that fit her. Some of the resources highly touted by the homeschool community seemed too archaic for my taste, while some of today’s best-selling Christian resources seemed to dance around the Truth. I felt a bit like Goldilocks, searching for something that was just right! I wanted something that would shoot straight—no holds barred—about life, choices, and growing up, but maintain a Christian worldview and Christ-centered perspective. Although we homeschool, we serve in an inner city church. My children are not sheltered from the hard truths of life without Christ, and there is no way to sugar-coat the issues we often deal with. I needed something I just didn’t feel was available, so God led me to write it!

Why did you choose the Bible study format for your books?
It is absolutely crucial that we motivate our daughters (and sons) to study God’s Word on a daily basis, not because they have to, but because they want to. Its impact on our kids cannot be discounted. If, as parents, we truly believe that Scripture is: God-breathed, useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, and able to equip us for every good work (see 2 Timothy 3:16), if we say that it holds the key to every real success in life, then it should be something that we give our lives to, and that we lead our kids to give their lives to, as well.
Think of it this way: We can spoon feed our babies only for a limited time. Eventually, as they start grabbing things off our plate, we teach them how to eat on their own. We get them their own plate, with smaller portions of the same things we’re eating. We teach them how to chew! Remember that? As a new mom, I had no idea that my baby wouldn’t chew instinctively! I had to teach her everything, and she learned best by watching me. The same is true in mapping out our child’s relationship with God. We spoon feed, diligently teaching them the Scriptures through stories and memory verses. It’s important, too, that they see us reading the Bible and that they “catch” us stealing away for some quiet time in God’s Word. One day we realize they are grabbing things off our plate, asking for more of what we’ve got! So we get them their own plate: a Bible of their own, a study book, or a concordance, and eventually, they are feeding themselves. And now, with my teenagers, I find they are moving into new roles, often serving me spiritually, as I glean so much from what they’re learning in their relationships with God. I quite often “snatch” off my teens’ plates! But we all have to be in His Word, on daily basis. A Bible study format offers teens a chance to get into the Scriptures independently, seeking out God’s truths for themselves; it’s just giving them their own plates! :)

What made you do a sequel to your first Bible study?
That was the plan all the time! When I started this a few years ago, I wanted to do a series of four nine-week Bible studies for teen girls (enough to carry a teen through an entire school year). But after Wise Up! was released, mothers everywhere were asking me why I didn’t have anything for boys! So I “detoured” from my plan long enough to write Dig Deep for the guys. My older son was coming of age anyway, and I wanted him to have something, too!

What has the response been so far?
Girls love Wise Up! I get emails from teens who tell me they have heard from God like never before! Of course, that has nothing to do with me! It’s simply because they are studying His Word like never before! Get Real! was just released in August, but so far, girls are enjoying going even deeper into their study of His Word. Get Real! certainly evolved into what I prayed it would be throughout the writing process: the next step for girls who have completed Wise Up! It asks a little more of them, takes them a little deeper, and asks for more of a prayer commitment. If an older high school teen is looking for something and she is past the 6th-9th age range for Wise Up!, Get Real! is a perfect study for her. My daughter is a contributing author to Get Real!, and it was so much fun working with her! She has a heart for her generation, and that clearly shows through her writing. The girls we met at conferences over the summer loved the fact that Danya had a part in Get Real! One thing the Lord has shown me over and over is that there is a hunger for Him and His Word, and He is making Himself known to today’s teens. As for the boys, I don’t often get emails from them, LOL! but I hear from moms who tell me that their boys have loved the book!

How did your experience as a mom and a teen play into the writing? Did you have to silence that "mom" voice so you could write to the teens?
Does the mom voice ever turn off? LOL! Once that switch is flipped, I don’t know if it ever gets unflipped! You know, Marybeth, I had such a hard time through my middle school and teen years, and those are the experiences that flow out as I write. When I’m writing or speaking to teens, I don’t think I come from a “mom” perspective at all. I write from the heart of a hurt teen who feels like she is the only one who doesn’t have it all together—the only one feeling ugly, awkward, and left out. At the same time, I offer a voice of hope as one who made it through those years! There’s no doubt that I am a 40-year-old mom, and if a teen needs mothering (and many do), I’m available. :) But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the mom voice—if it is kind, compassionate, and really cares about the kids! I had a great relationship with my mom when I was growing up, and I pursue great relationships with my kids. I’ve been looking forward to these teen years, and so far, I’ve not been disappointed! I think my love for that age group comes through, and I pray that most of all, God’s love for them shines through what I write and wraps them from head to toe, like silver ribbons of His grace! I shoot straight with the teens God allows me to minister to, but always with love. I was there!!!! And I will never forget those days.

What do you hope teens take away from your books?
Oh, that’s an easy one! I hope they use my Bible studies as a springboard to establish and maintain a daily time spent focused on God, His Word, and conversation with Him. It is essential for life!

How do you balance family life, writing, speaking and homeschooling?
The truest part of finding balance for me is in my daily quiet time. It is a discipline and a priority that is re-evaluated every morning when my alarm clock goes off and I weigh the consequences of meeting with my Lord or hitting the snooze button. :) One of my favorite verses is from Ephesians 5:14—“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” That time spent with God each morning is the beginning of a conversation that lasts all day. I couldn’t live without it. I generally get up quite early to be sure that my quiet time happens.
After that, we have a definite schedule and rhythm to our day. I’ve been homeschooling for 11 years, and I learned early on that I wasn’t going to be able to do it flying by the seat of my pants! We get started with school between 8:30 and 9:00 and are usually finished by 1pm. I’ve learned that even if we have to eat a late lunch, it’s best to keep going until our work is finished for the day. After lunch, the kids work on the things they love: music, sports, and other hobbies. I usually write in the afternoons.
Writing and speaking, for me, is worked in around family life and homeschooling. It’s not the other way around. My family comes first, homeschooling is what we do around here each day, and writing is accomplished around that. For example, Get Real! was written mostly during our Christmas break last year. I usually write my columns on the weekends, squeezed in around ballgames. Speaking and traveling is where I draw the line most tightly. I accept only around six to eight traveling speaking dates a year. That is enough for me during this season of my life. So I guess there really isn’t a balance—the scale tips heavily on the side of my family! Perhaps when they are grown and gone, it will start tipping the other way!
But finding balance and keeping it is never easy. I had a really difficult time with balance during the months of August and September, and it was simply because I had just overbooked myself. There was way too much going on in my life with a couple of speaking dates that were scheduled two weeks in a row, several articles due with ParentLife, and getting school started with my kids and my new writing class. It was way too stressful, too busy, just too full. I knew my speaking schedule was going to be tricky, but I didn’t have to accept those extra writing assignments—I just find them so hard to resist! :) Anyway, I managed to live through it, by the grace of God, and hopefully, it won’t happen again!
(To hear more about Rebecca's writing journey, please visit her website at

www.rebeccapowell.com/writingstory.html)

What advice would you give a teen who desires to write?
Start now. Keep journals. Blog. Read the classics. And pay attention to your English teacher! You have got to have the fundamentals down in order for your writing to be readable and taken seriously.

Thanks so much Rebecca for dropping by! I loved hearing your heart for teens and am so grateful you took the time to produce these valuable resources for girls. My daughter is using Wise Up! right now for her quiet time and is really enjoying it. She will move right into Get Real! after she wraps up that one. To learn more about purchasing these resources for your daughter, go to http://www.rebeccapowell.com/. She even has a special welcome just for you guys! Also, be sure to check out her YouTube clip of her speaking on modesty-- too funny, but also too true!
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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Excellent Advice for Teens


This was submitted by Rachel, a college student in New Zealand who reads my blog. She and I email back and forth from time to time and I asked her to submit some thoughts on being a godly teenager-- since she was just there! Here is what she said-- some excellent advice!

I think a big thing for me has been learning not to compromise myself for others (morals and values etc), but to trust in God to bring about the right people at the right time. It isn't an easy world to live in these days. There are constant pressures from friends and those around you, that most of the time challenge your beliefs and values. Rather than submitting to the pressure from secular society, hold fast to the Word of God, the Bible, the word He has placed in you, and the word He passes down through those who really know you and what you believe in. I wish I had learned this earlier. I got hurt many many times because I didn't know what it was to value myself and the image I was made in.

Thanks Rachel for this great advice! May God bless you as you strive to be a godly college student. I know that isn't any easier than being a godly teen!
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A Teen Question Answered!


Because I am the first to admit that I am not one to answer questions on raising teens with any authority, I had to call in some big guns to answer these questions! I may not get them all answered-- as some were pretty heavy and I want to make sure that I only answer them in a way that would truly be helpful. I have sent every question out to some folks who are qualified to answer and I hope that they will all respond so that I can post the answers here. If you sent a question and you don't see it posted here, assume that either I was one, not able to find an answer or two, didn't get it. Feel free to email me privately with any concerns!

Here is question number one:

I have a 15 year old daughter who is a Christian. She is very sweet and obedient, kind and loving. However, she has no interest in going to youth group or even church most Sundays. We do make her go to church "because its a family thing and God wants us to" but I'm not sure how much to push youth group. She goes to public school, so she has limited contact with other Christians. She also is on the quiet, homebody side, so I know she really does prefer to be home. I feel that youth group is important for growth and socialization with other Christians, but I don't want her to be one of those kids whose parents forced church on them so when they turn 18 or go to college they want nothing to do with Christianity. How do you think we should handle this?

And here is a great answer, sent in by Wayne Theurer, Minister of Youth and Young Adults at Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church-- THANKS WAYNE!!

I think that a relationship with Youth Group begins with the youth leader—RELATIONAL MINISTRY!!! If I were the parent, I would ask the student’s youth leader to have lunch with her and begin building that relationship. I have seen a direct correlation between visitation and participation in the ministry.

The second thing, would be for the parent to ask how they can become involved in the ministry. When parents come up alongside of students, there are great strides in breaking down the barriers within families. Case in point: we have a family who has been struggling SO MUCH with the same things this parent describes. The whole family attends on Wednesday nights now. They have said that being at church together on Wednesday nights is so important, that everyone in the family is going to do it. The mother is one of my table leaders, the father is one of my Elective leaders, and the students are no longer griping about having to be here because it is a family thing.
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Teen Week Interview With Susie Shellenberger


Hi Susie, thanks for joining us today! Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I’m the editor of BRIO Magazine for teen girls published by Focus on the Family. Before that, I was a high school speech and drama teacher. And before that I was a fulltime youth pastor.


How did the Closer conferences get started?
As editor of BRIO, I receive about 1,200 letters and emails each month. Many are from teen girls who don’t have a great relationship with their mom but really desire that. I also hear from a few moms who want to be closer to their daughters but just don’t know how to do it. So I began thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great it we could set aside an entire day just for moms and their teen daughters? A day of fun, laughter, hugs and bonding! So that’s exactly what we’ve done! CLOSER: Moms & Daughters is a one-day Saturday event that truly does draw moms and their daughters closer together. It’s life-changing!


What is your goal for this conference?
We want moms and daughters to have fun; but we also want to provide a safe environment where they can deal with real issues that need to be dealt with. For example, if a mom is saying to her daughter, “Honey, you don’t need that piece of cake,” the daughter needs to be able to share with her mom in a respectful way that this hurts. And if a daughter is rolling her eyes and slamming her door, Mom needs to be able to let her daughter know how alienated that makes her feel.


What kind of feedback are you getting?
From moms: “Thanks for giving me my daughter back.”
From daughters: “I loved spending an entire uninterrupted day with my mom.”
From both: “This event was really life-changing.” “I had no idea it was going to be this much fun yet also this deep!”


I have a Closer conference coming to my area, but what about those folks who do not? How can they bring a Closer conference to their area?
By going directly to our Website. We give details on how to bring a CLOSER event to any area: www.CloserMomsAndDaughters.com


I know so many moms who desire to be closer to their teen daughters. What is your best piece of advice to those moms?
It WILL get better! Be patient. These days of eye-rolling and door-slamming are temporary. And don’t settle for simply praying FOR your daughter; pray WITH her.What have you learned from these conferences? Anything that surprises you? I’m surprised at the desperation moms and daughters BOTH have to truly unite. Both moms AND daughters really really REALLY want to experience a tight bond with each other; most just simply don’t know how to get there. We provide the tools that makes their dream a reality.


Thanks Susie for dropping by Teen Week this week and helping us learn about another resource to help us raise godly teen girls. I hope that many of you will take the initiative and go to one of these Closer conferences, if there is one in your area. And if not, pray about bringing one to your area!
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Teen Week-- An Interview with Tricia Goyer





Tell us a bit about yourself Tricia!

I'm a stay-at-home-writing-mom-who-loves-my-husband-and-is-addicted-to-email-but-more-addicted-to-God :-)

I also help my husband lead children's church (his passion) and I mentor teenage moms (been there done that).

What prompted you to write for teen girls?

I did everything my own way during my teen years. I lived DRAMA. I got hurt, hurt others, messed up, had regrets. I'm at a good place right now, living with a man I love, three kids, writing tons of books, and I wanted to offer hope for the teen years. Of course, I also wanted to be REAL with teens ... so I share my advice by first sharing my mistakes.

What has the response been so far?

It's been AMAZING. I've gotten tons of responses from teen girls who have said, "This book really made me think ... about God ... about myself ... about my future." I love it!

I've also gotten notes from youth leaders and parents who thank me for putting into words what they've been trying to say to teen girls.

How did your experience as a mom and a teen play into the writing? Did you have to silence that "mom" voice so you could write to the teens?

Yes, no mom voice here! Actually the scripts in this book are stories I first told to my daughter who is now 15. I didn't want to be one of those moms who say, "Just do what I say." I wanted to share with my daughter my mistakes and ideas for making better choices.

Nobody likes a lecture, but we all love to hear, "Let me tell you a story."

What do you hope teens take away from your book?

I hope they will stop and think about God, about themselves, and about their choices. I hope they start designing a script for their lives :-)

Tell me a bit about your overall publishing journey.

My writing journey began in 1994 when I attended my first writer’s conference with my friend, Cindy Martinusen. Cindy and I went to the same church and we both had dreams of become writers. Everything at Mt. Hermon was new to me. I just followed the instructor’s directions. It took two years of hard work, but I was soon writing magazine articles for publication. Over the next five years, I also worked on missions’ curriculum, a devotional book, and study notes for the Women of Faith Study Bible (Zondervan). (My friend, Cindy, is now a published author too of four novels!)

During those years, in addition to writing, I was also raising three small children. In 1999, I felt God asking me to start a crisis pregnancy center in our town. I didn’t want to do it. I was busy enough writing and taking care of kids. I also was working on novel projects—with no success. I had novels make it to committee many times, with no contract!

Finally, I relinquished my dreams to God. I knew I needed to be obedient, even if I never got a novel published. Instead of closing the writing doors for good, the opposite happened. God brought people into my life who shared these amazing stories from World War II. I knew those were the books I was meant to write. Two years after the pregnancy center was up and running, I had the contract for my first novel, “From Dust and Ashes” (Moody, 2003). I remember answering the phone and hearing a “smile” in my agent’s voice. As she told me, one of my favorite songs by Fernando Ortega was playing in the background, and I felt delighted that God granted me such a gift.


How do you balance family life, writing, speaking and homeschooling?

I spend the mornings homeschooling my three kids. I work with them until noon, and then I write in the afternoons. Of course, there’s also music lessons, sports practice, grocery shopping, etc. so I when I write, I HAVE TO produce words.

When I’m nearing a novel deadline I write 2,000 words a day. When I’m not on deadline, I’m usually writing articles, future book proposals, and research for the next novel-to-be.

I also volunteer at my church and I love to have people over. I’ve found, as a writer, getting out and connecting with people in the community is one of the best things I can do. It pumps me up to see God at work on a daily basis. Being a servant to others (outside of writing) feeds my soul in a way that only makes sense in God’s eternal way.

Overall, I balance by asking myself, "What's the most important thing I need to do today." I do that first, then I move on to the NEXT thing. Also, I spend the first hour of every day reading my Bible, working on a Bible Study, such as Experiencing God, and praying. He comes first. He gives me the wisdom and strength.

That is fabulous advice, Tricia! You make it sound possible and I like that. What advice would you give another mom who desires to write?

1. Just do it! 500 words a day adds up!

2. Here are some places to find help:

My blog to help writers:
www.mywritingmentor.blogspot.com

Articles on writing:
http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/cms_content?page=264&sp=72136
(There is a TON of articles down the right side.)

American Christian Fiction Writers.
www.acfw.com
It's $40 a year, but they have an AWESOME email loop.

Fellowship of Christian Writers ... a free group!
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FCW/

The Writers View ... Also free and recommended!
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TWV2/

And during the month of November I'll be writing about balancing kids and writing on my blog:
www.triciagoyer.blogspot.com

Finally, please check out Sally Stuarts Christian Market Guide. It's at the library. And check out other books on writing. There are wonderful ones out there!


What advice would you give a teen who desires to write?

The same!

I actually have a monthly writing class for teens ... and they ROCK.

Look at the magazines and books you like to read, and mimic the STYLE (not the words). How many paragraphs to each article? How does the article start? How does it end? Then submit your work to the publications you read. They LOVE teen writers.

Any other thoughts you would like to add, something I didn't cover?? Do tell!

God has wonderful dreams for what He longs to do in your life too. When it comes to my books , I depend on God to unfold the story as I research and write. I have faith that He sees the end of the story, even before I write one word. It's the same with our lives. God sees the end of the story. And He knows how to unfold each chapter before us--with His perfect end in mind. It's our job to stay tuned-in, ready to face the next plot twist with His guidance, wisdom and strength.

THANK YOU!!!


Thank you, Tricia, for dropping by today and telling us about your book-- My Life, Unscripted. Please hop over to Tricia's website to find out more about her. You can buy this book for your teenage daughter at Amazon or your local Christian bookstore. And be sure to check out all her other books as well!
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Monday, October 22, 2007

My Desire


Today has been a day for rejections. First I found out that a short story I submitted to Brain, Child was turned down. This is the third time that has happened. Should I give up? Is this a recurring theme? Am I just bad at writing short stories? These thoughts all popped into my head. The funny thing is, just last night at dinner with friends, I "confessed" that my most favorite thing to write is fiction! But I also said that fiction is one area I don't feel like God has confirmed I am supposed to be writing-- not that He has given me the word that I am not supposed to be doing it, but I just haven't had a lot of confirmations in that field of writing. And then this. You know, no matter how many rejections you get, they never stop feeling like a dagger to the heart.

Then I went over to P31 for a luncheon in honor of one of our out of town speaker team members who was in town. Her visit was just the excuse we needed to get together and gab and just laugh. It is always fun to be with those girls! After an afternoon of laughter and fun, everyone dispersed, I ran carpool and came home to find one of "those" letters in the mail. I have learned to recognize them by now. And so, I got another rejection for the proposal I submitted for a book idea I was working on this summer and submitted at both She Speaks and ICRS. So far, I have had no takers. I was semi hopeful that this house would take it, but no dice. It just never gets any easier-- and especially two in one day.

And also, while we are on the subject, I didn't win the Writer's Digest writing competition either. Didn't even place. Not that I was expecting to with over 17,000 entries. But still.

I made a promise when I started this blog that I would document my publishing journey-- the good, the bad, and the ugly. Not just the good stuff. Because that isn't realistic-- but does it have to take so long?? Does it have to hurt every time I hear no?? Even when I know that God is still in control and that this wasn't His timing-- or whatever.

And so, just as I was about to break into a chorus of "nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I'll go eat worms" (that was for you Lysa!) this song came on my Ipod. And I had to say, "Ok, God, yes. I need to keep my focus where it needs to be. Thanks for the reminder." The truth is, He is using me. The Truth is I just spent an afternoon with some awesome ladies I get to do life with because of my desire to be used by Him. The truth is, tonight I get to go spend some time with my Momtourage ladies-- and hopefully we will be used by Him to minister to each other and breathe some fresh wind in each other's sails.

My desire hasn't and will not change-- no matter how many rejections I get.

Here are the lyrics to that song, in case you want to see them:

"My Desire"
You want to be real
You want to be empty inside
You want to be someone laying down your pride
You want to be someone someday
Then lay it all down before the King
You want to be whole
You want to have purpose inside
You want to have virtue and purify your mind
You want to be set free today then lay it all down before the King
[Chorus:]
This is my desire
This is my return
This is my desire to be used by you

You want to be real
You want to be emptied inside
And I know my heart is to feel you near
And I know my life
It's to do your will
It's to do your will
[Chorus]
All my life I have seen where you've taken me
Beyond all I have hoped and there's more left unseen
There's not much I can do to repay all you've done so I give my hands to use
[Chorus]

Lyrics from: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/jeremycamp/mydesire.html
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Interview With LeAnn Rice of P31





Our first interview of the week is with LeAnn Rice, executive director or Proverbs 31 Ministries and the heart and soul behind the ministries' Next Generation division for teens and young women. LeAnn is one of my favorite people in the world, so it is my privilege to have her here on the blog today.

Thanks LeAnn for visiting with us today. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Uh… let’s see… There’s really not much to say. I am quite ordinary. The only thing special about me is my extraordinary God. But that’s not something that’s unique to me… we all have the same extraordinary God – THE Big Guy. THE Main Man. THE Dude of all Dudes! (The teens are starting to rub off on me!)

I know that you are heading up the P31 Next Generation division. Tell us a bit about what that is and how it came about.

The Next Generation is a new division of Proverbs 31 Ministries, specifically for teens and single young women. This new division is divided into two separate ministries. Living with Purpose: A Radical Revolution, for girls 12-17, was launched in September. She Seeks, for young women 18-24, will launch in January.

Trust me when I tell you that reaching out to the Next Generation was not my idea. This is all God! I am raising a teen BOY and I know nothing about teenage girls, except for the memories of my own teen years. There was nothing subtle about God’s request to reach out to the Next Generation. You and I have had conversations about how pointless it is to argue when God speaks… even when we’re thinking, “certainly He doesn’t mean me” so I just went ahead and gave in right away. It only took one peek at the very frightening teen statistics to understand God’s urgency. I quickly discovered that this was more of a universal call. God was speaking to women just like me all around the country. I know this because these women have been calling me and sharing how God whacked them in the head the same way He whacked me in the head. He gave each of us the same sense of urgency. If we don’t reach out to today’s teens, when they are our age, only 2% of them will be truth-believing Christians. The good news is that together, and with God’s help, we can equip, encourage, and empower today’s teens to make a real difference within their communities and beyond. How awesome is that
?!

What has been the most rewarding part of working with teen girls?

How hungry they are for more of God! Hearing their hearts just knocks my socks off!

What has been the most challenging?

Knowing what we are up against. I am horrified by the issues and challenges facing today’s teens. Did you see the story on the news this past week about the middle school that is giving contraceptives to girls as young as 11? I was stunned. All I could do was cry. My heart aches for those precious children who think so little of themselves, or who are so hurt and lonely that they are having sex at the age of 11. These girls clearly don’t know Who they belong to. They don’t know that they are daughters of THE King of Kings and deserve all that comes with the title, “Princess.”

What is your vision for Next Generation?

This isn’t about the Next Generation division of Proverbs 31 Ministries. This is about the next generation of young women, their futures, our futures, and the future of the Kingdom of God. As Christian women, we need to lock arms with one another and with these girls. “My” vision is that we all share the same vision… God’s vision, and we respond with radical obedience.

What would you say to a mom or girl who reads this and wants to get plugged into Next Generation?

Come on! Actually, we are already working on a new Radical Revolution website where you will find Christian event calendars, music and movie reviews, articles on the issues facing today’s teens, what teen boys are thinking about, and lots more. In the meantime, they can visit our devotion blog at www.radrevolution.blogspot.com.

Anything I didn't cover that you want to share??
In her book, “What Happens when Women Say Yes to God,” Lysa TerKeurst shares her sadness that Christ-like behavior is no longer the “norm” but radical. Her words came back to me as I realized that we were going to ask these girls to turn their backs on today’s cultural pull away from Godly principles and to radically live out loud for Christ. From there, God gave this ministry the name, Living with Purpose: A Radical Revolution. This is what He is calling each of us to do… to live a life of purpose for Him, and to radically revolt against what today’s culture tells us is acceptable. Eleven-year-old girls having sex is NOT acceptable.

Thanks for dropping by today LeAnn-- I can't wait to see what happens with Next Generation and the girls who are blessed because of it!

I can’t either! It’s clear that God has something amazing planned. I’m just thrilled that He is allowing us to come along for the ride!
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Teen Week Kickoff


Today begins teen week! Hooray!! For one week, we will be discussing teen girls primarily (but moms of boys, I know there will be stuff for you too)-- with people who are involved with producing resources to help us raise them to be godly young women. This is exciting to me and I am happy to have them all agree to join us! Thanks you guys!!

If you submitted a question, I will do my best to post them with the answers throughout the week. Some of them required me to get some "expert" help. Thanks for sending your questions and if you haven't yet, you still can. I will not post your last name, or any revealing information with your questions, so you will remain anonymous. So, in other words, if you still have a question, you can still send it in!

When I first became a parent, I thought that raising babies/toddlers was H-A-R-D! I thought that it couldn't get any harder. And in a way, that was true. Babies and toddlers are labor intensive-- physically. They exhaust you with all the watching and following and tending and cleaning up, etc. And so you set your sights on when they get older because it will get "easier." That's what you tell yourself. And in a way it does get much easier!

A few weeks ago I was talking to my prayer partner at our Momtourage group (hey Erin!) and she asked me what she could pray for. I unloaded all my concerns and issues we were having with our oldest (a teen boy). She has two kids-- the oldest is five. After I finished talking she looked at me and said, "Ok, now that you've scared me..." I felt so bad! I didn't mean to scare her! But the reality is, the stakes get higher-- instead of making messes in your house, they reach a stage where they can make messes of their lives! And you realize that your window of influence in their lives is slowly but surely closing. And so it becomes less physically exhausting and more emotionally exhausting. But just like the toddler years, you deal with it, you get through it, and you learn to rely on the Lord at a whole new level.

I used to go to parenting conferences where speakers would tell me that you didn't have to have a teenager, according to the world's definition of a teenager. That instead you could have a young adult and treat them as such. I believed this and subscribed fully to this mindset. I remember telling one poor woman this as she was lamenting about her teen at a Bible study years ago. (Now, at the time my oldest was all of, say seven?) After she was done talking about all they were going through, I suggested that she didn't need to see her child as a teen and perhaps if she just viewed him as a young adult all her troubles would vanish. That it was the world who had sold us on teenagers and all that goes with them. She looked at me like I was crazy. "Oh honey," she said sadly to me. "It seems you vacation at the same place I do." She paused for dramatic effect. "On the River of Denial." All the other moms who had teens in the room laughed and laughed. I was duly warned in that moment that all my plans about raising teens just might not turn out the way I had hoped! I often reflect on that moment and wish I could back to whoever that woman is with hat in hand and apologize for speaking about something I knew NOTHING about!! Ah, humility-- we all need a dose of it once in awhile.

Don't get me wrong, we still do talk to our teens about the choice to act like young adults or children. And I think that is a great point. And yet, there is also actual scientific proof that brain damage occurs in the brain of a child/teen between the ages of around 12-18. (This article made the front page of the paper about two years ago, but I couldn't find a link to post here-- sorry. If anybody does have that info, please share it.) As a parent you can see this happening. And you just start praying for them to come out okay on the other side!

We have certainly ventured through some "stuff" with our son, and know we have lots more "stuff" to wade through with all our kids. I was sharing with my friend Terri recently that at first as my son began to struggle that I felt that I had somehow fallen down on the job as a parent or he wouldn't be struggling. That all those parenting seminars were obviously right-- so what had I done wrong?? Terri confessed to having gone through those same questions. She has been a great person to just vent to, and ask questions of as she has already navigated through some of this rough terrain. She is a godly woman-- and the fact that she has had teens that have struggled with stuff only makes me feel better.

In short, it is hard to raise teens in this world. They are probably going to have struggles. I used to think that by homeschooling them, we could avoid all that. And there are people who will tell you that is possible. But that was not my experience. Just going to church and living in a neighborhood invites that other "stuff" in, unfortunately. My son didn't have to go to school to find the invitations to the world-- the world came right to our door!

Which is why I am doing this week. Because we just need to vent and cry on each other's shoulders. We need to celebrate those great moments when glimmers of hope appear, too.
As moms it is nice to just be honest about how hard we try and how much we feel like failures at times-- and how much we question: am I doing this right? Did I say the right thing? How much do I push? I am so glad there are folks out there who are willing to share what they have learned, and tips on how to connect with our teens. Resources to help us be better Christian parents-- and to have the opportunity and the privilege to raise these kids to be young people who hunger and thirst for God and offer themselves up to Him. That's my goal at least, in all of this. And I am sticking to it!
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Friday, October 19, 2007

Just Checking In


I am in a blah mood. We have not had rain around here for months-- so I was so happy to wake up this morning to the sound of rain, wonderful rain. But I guess I am just not used to overcast days, because it seems that the gloomy skies have caused my system to go into shock. This has caused an extreme case of the blahs. I am just not motivated to do much. And so today, I have taken it easy. While I have done a few household chores and had several phone conversations, I have not done much else-- although I did log in about an hour of quiet while my daughter napped to write in peace. Ah.

This afternoon I realized that I am not motivated to cook either. So when my daughter said, "Mom, you know what I am in the mood for? I am in the mood to eat some pizza!" I pounced on the idea and called my husband at work-- blaming her of course, and not my lack of motivation. He was a good sport and agreed to pick up pizzas on his way home. I still feel guilty when I don't cook dinner, though. Why is it that some women feel totally comfortable just announcing, "I don't cook?" I have met women who have told me this before and I simply don't understand how they get away with it. My husband would seriously take issue with me not cooking. I do enjoy cooking usually-- just not today.

Well, that's about all on my end. I am counting the hours until the kids are tucked away in bed and I can snuggle up with a book I am totally and completely enjoying-- Debbie Macomber's book "Knit Together: Discover God's Pattern For Your Life." I had read her book "The Shop on Blossom Street" and enjoyed it-- but I am enjoying this book so much more, as it is the story of how she got published and the many obstacles she overcame to see her dream of being a writer come true. She is, incidentally, going to be the keynote speaker at Mt. Hermon (the writer's conference I just won a trip to). I had already put her book on hold at the library before I knew that. Ah, serendipity! Now, I can't wait to meet her-- and I will try hard not to stalk her while I am at the writer's conference!
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Teen Week Update


Ok, next week is going to be teen week-- don't forget! We will spend time talking specifically about how to encourage those teen girls in our lives. I am going to interview the following folks, if all goes as planned.

Monday: Leann Rice, Executive Director of P31-- about the new RadRevolution blog for teen girls

Tuesday: Tricia Goyer, author of My Life Unscripted

Wednesday: Susie Shellenberger, editor of Brio magazine, and director of the Closer conferences

Thursday: Rebecca Powell, columnist for Parent Life and author of Wise Up! and Get Real!

Friday: Shari Braendel, speaker for the "What Not To Wear" and "Modest Is Hottest" fashion shows

All week: answers to YOUR questions-- don't forget to send them in so I will have something to get answers to!! You can submit questions from the teen girls themselves, or questions about raising a teen girl.

This is going to be fun so be sure to come back next week!
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A P31 Devotion


I've got a devotion up today at P31. You can go here to read it. I hope that it encourages someone out there who needs to hear this today.
I know I need to hear it often!
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What's Next on The Baking Agenda?


After a plethora of pumpkin dishes on Monday, I am still in the mood to bake. I have rice krispies and marshmallows on my grocery list, to make rice krispie treats of course-- but I don't want to go back to the store today.
A can of Hershey's syrup-- bought for some reason I can't remember-- sits on the shelf in my pantry, beckoning to me.
I go to www.allrecipes.com and type in under ingredient search "chocolate syrup." I love that they have reviews by people who have actually made the recipes. After a few who got bad reviews, I find this.
Sounds like a plan. I'll let you know what my review is.
And in the meantime, it sounds like big bowls of spaghetti for dinner-- and big slices of chocolate cake for dessert at our house tonight!
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What Is CBS?


I had a comment asking me what CBS is? Good question!
And no, it's not the tv network, just in case you were wondering!
CBS stands for Community Bible Study. They are not affiliated with any denomination, and really focus on coming together as a community to study God's word, laying aside denominational differences. Which means that Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, etc. are all there together studying the same Bible and focusing on the One thing necessary. It is a great study that goes through a single book or group of books each year. The choice of what books is up to the leadership of each individual group. My group is studying Acts this year-- and I am loving it! This is a book I have always wanted to study.
I have been involved with CBS for five years prior to the birth of my sixth child. When she was born, I sat out that year-- and lived to regret that decision, as it was tough to get back in. Childcare spots for our group are at a premium, so it is best to hold onto those spots, I learned! It took us two years to get back in, but we are finally back.
I am so grateful to be back studying God's word in depth with other Christian women, and to have that accountability is great too!
You can go here to see if there is one in your area. I highly recommend it!
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Muffin Report (and a recipe, too!)


Just to let you know, these were a hit! They passed the extremely critical palates of my children with flying colors-- and that is saying a lot. Because these guys are definitely honest about my cooking and would have told me if they didn't like them!

Yesterday I made the muffins and I also made pumpkin crisp-- which was also very yummy. We had it for dessert last night with Cool Whip on it. The kids loved that as well, and my son (who loves pumpkin pie) pronounced that the crisp is actually better than pie. So, I will post the recipe in case anyone wants to make it for a weeknight treat for their family like I did, or tuck it away to make for Thanksgiving! (Which is coming soon... how did that happen?)

Pumpkin Crisp
1 box yellow cake mix
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 can evaporated milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
whipped topping

Preheat oven to 350. Grease bottom of 9X13 pan. Combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Pour into 9X13 pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture. Top with pecans. Drizzle melted butter as evenly as you can over pecans. Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown all over. Cool. Serve warm with whipped topping.
(Note: this still looked a bit jiggly when I took it out, but it was golden brown on top, and in danger of getting too done, so I went ahead and got it out. It tasted fine and of the right consistency, so don't go by how jiggly it seems.)
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Teen Week!


I have decided that next week on this blog we are going to have a theme. This theme emerged because of a couple of blog book tours I have committed to falling at the same time. So I thought-- why not? Why not just commit to doing it all in one week-- and making it a theme. I have never done this before-- and might never again, but we will see how it goes. That does not mean I won't be posting regular stuff-- just that every day I will do at least one post on the theme of teen girls. I will have two authors who have written books for teen girls, and hopefully a few other surprise guests I am currently working on.

If you are a mom of a teen girl and have a question for our guests, send it to me via email (See "contact me" tab at top) and I will work to find some answers. I know my daughter just became an official teen and I am already full of questions as to how to raise her to be a godly young woman who is unswayed by this culture we live in! If your daughter is not a teen yet, don't think that this doesn't apply to you-- it pays to start learning now and equipping yourself for the future. And if you don't have girls-- or kids-- think about how this information could equip you to bless teens that God has in your life for maybe this exact purpose. In other words, there will be something here for everyone! Ü

And so, I pray that you guys will find some answers and maybe some good resources to direct those teen girls in your life to. Stay tuned!
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Monday, October 15, 2007

A Weekend Getaway


Well, I'm back! Didn't know I was gone? Yeah, I forgot to post that I was hightailing it outta here with my hubby for a weekend ALONE. Yep, we farmed out all six of our children (thanks grandparents plural) and snuck away for a weekend at Uncle Bob's beach house. (Thanks Uncle Bob!!) We had such a great time-- talked and talked and talked and he even watched Law and Order with me, which is a gift in the highest order-- and a sacrifice for him to be sure.


Can I just take a moment to recommend to all of you who are reading this to carve out some time away as spouses? Do it. Don't delay. Be creative if you don't have money to spend on hotels. We stayed in a free beach house. We didn't shop (except for a trip to my favoritest book store in the world, where I bought a used book) but we did eat out-- but we reasoned that we weren't feeding all the kids for the weekend, so we probably came out close to the same. Was it hard orchestrating all the plans for all the kids to be where they needed and have everything they needed? Sort of. (You can do a lot of things with a song in your heart if you have something to look forward to.) Has it been hard coming back to reality? Most definitely. But in the middle-- when we were away together just being Curt and Marybeth (not mom and dad). Now, that was worth it all.


And so, we had a great time of renewing our marriage and our perspective. On Saturday morning, I snuck out to spend some time alone on the dock with my Bible and my CBS homework. Just a cup of sweet, milky coffee, the birds singing and the water quietly lapping at the dock. Within just a few words, I could hear God speaking directly to me. He confirmed some things I had been thinking about, and comforted my heart. Through the course of about an hour, I was able to study God's word, but also to hear from Him specifically about a speaking engagement I have been praying about. I couldn't write down what He was showing me fast enough. My time with Him was rich-- and in a busy, hectic life filled with interruptions and noise, a time like this is very affirming to have once in awhile. In those times, I know that it is undeniably Him and it is undeniable that He cares about the details of our lives and does answer our requests. I love times like this that serve as reminders we can cling to. It filled me.

And now we are back, muddling through a busy week. Curt has a lot on his plate at work, and is feeling that stress. He warned me that it was going to be a rough week, but I didn't realize how rough-- or that he would be so stressed. I thought our weekend together would supercede all that. I ask you, is there ever going to be a time in our marriage where I get a realistic outlook instead of an idealistic one?? I don't think so!

And so, I am trying to look forward, but I can't help but sneak some backward glances at a weekend away, a time for finishing sentences and uninterrupted conversations. A time far away from the cries of children or the cell phone. I must confess, it looks as good in the rearview mirror as it did in real time.
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Friday, October 12, 2007

Be The Blessing


I have heard it said that to have a blessing you must be the blessing for someone else. Today I experienced that as I joined my dear friend Terri for lunch. She met me at the door with a big hug just for me. We both needed that hug! As she led me inside, it was clear that she had really put some thought and effort behind our time together. She had set the table with fresh fruit, croissants, homemade chicken salad, fresh brewed tea, and a plate of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for dessert. My mouth was watering at the sight of this gourmet spread! We sat on her comfortable couches and talked while my daughter played with the basket of toys she got out for her. We talked so much we almost forgot to eat!

As I sat down at my plate I discovered she had a little gift set out for me-- some lotion and a cranberry mandarin scented candle. She had also set out an index card with some scriptures just for me. On the card was written verses about persevering and being steadfast. I joked, "Oh, you must have read my blog this week."

"No," she said sheepishly, "I haven't had time."

I told her that that meant even more-- that God had led her to write me those verses even without knowing anything about what I had been facing this week. I praised God right then and there for His word for me through my dear friend!

And so, I thought I would share this story with you so that maybe you would be inspired to be the blessing in someone else's life. Who could you invite over to share a simple, yet festive fall lunch? Maybe you just need to make some hot chocolate or coffee and serve some slice and bake cookies-- it doesn't have to be homemade! The main thing is to make the person feel valued, fussed over and loved on. I know I did. I left Terri's house feeling special and treasured-- not just by my friend but by a God who loves me enough to share that love through His people.

Terri was my blessing today. Whose blessing is God asking you to be?
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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Today


Today I had to work in children's at CBS. Part of being in CBS means that you must do at least one volunteer day in the children's dept per semester. It might surprise you to know that I am not much of a kid person. Oh sure, I am a mom of six but I am not one to just want to be around kids all the time. I am crazy about mine, but I am pretty partial to mine and mine alone. So, working in children's is a stretch for me-- and I will admit that I was hesitant to work today-- I was bummed about missing my group time after a pretty hard week. But as I drove, I prayed that God would allow me to see why I was there for this day at this time. And, as always, He was faithful.

At one point in the morning, we headed to music, which basically means we went to another room and let the kids sing loudly to a cd of kids' songs. The songs were cute, but of course having never been there I didn't know all the words and motions, so mostly I watched and applauded. The last song they sang was a very simple but beautiful song. They sang, "God made me, God made me, When I look in the Bible I see that God made me." Then they sang the next verse, "God loves me. God loves me. When I look in the Bible I see that God loves me." As I watched them sing, I noticed that each of their shirts had a nametag pinned to it that designated some special job they each had been assigned for that day. One was "line leader." One was "table wiper." One was "floor sweeper." One was "snack helper." And one little fellow's nametag read "Caboose." His special job was to bring up the back of the line.

As I watched these precious little children sing about how God made them and how He loves them, I couldn't help but think about how they sort of represented us all. How some of us have the lowly jobs like sweeping floors and wiping down tables, and some of us get to give food away or watch over others. Some of us are like little Lily, who was designated the "Star Student." Some of us were created to be the line leaders-- and most of us can identify with that feeling of being the caboose. And yet, as they all stood so proudly and sang so loudly, God made each one of us and more importantly He loves each one of us.

And so, as little children are so prone to do, they reminded me of a simple but fundamental Truth today. He made me. He loves me.

He made you. He loves you. No matter who you are or what you do for a living. No matter whether you sing off key or poke your neighbor in the eye (as one child did). We are all God's star students and He holds us in the palm of His loving hand. I spent today thinking about that and remembering that. And I had a great day-- I know I learned just as much with those children as I would have in my group. I know I was right where God wanted me today.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Back To Normal?


With all the hubbub about the devotion and my numerous thoughts and posts on that subject, I am afraid I have diverged from my usual blogging subjects. Sorry about that! For those of you who stumbled across my blog because you connected through the devotion link, let me extend a proper welcome. I am truly glad you are here! And don't worry, I will get back to normal subject matter, whatever that is!

What's up around our house? Well, my oldest daughter stayed home "sick" from school today-- but not so sick that she wasn't up for a trip to CiCi's pizza for lunch, I will note. I think that the adjustment to school has been hard on her and she was just plain exhausted. She went to bed about 7 last night and slept all the way until about 10 this morning. The sleep did wonders. Doesn't it always?

She commented numbers of times how nice and quiet our house is during the day with all the other kids gone to school-- and how "lucky" I am to be able to stay home and enjoy it. Lucky? I thought that was pretty funny that that was how she sees it. She hinted around mightily that she would be extremely interested in coming home to homeschool again now that the others are in school. I told her not on her life. Not to be mean, but I can already see how that will work: she comes home, then they all start making noises about it not being "fair" for her to be home-- and before I know it, we're back where we started from! I am not saying never, I am just saying, let's finish what we started this year. And in the meantime, we'll take the occasional sick day/sanity break.

After our lunch at home, we headed to the library to pick up some holds I had. We also checked out an Elmo video for the two year old. She loves Elmo's World, and I love to hear her say Elmo's World in her little baby voice. I got this book, which is just so clever. I can't wait to dig into it tonight-- after I finish my CBS homework, of course!

When we got home, I quickly checked email, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, cleaned the downstairs bathroom, and folded a load of laundry before it was time to head to the school for carpool. This afternoon has been a whirlwind of homework, making dinner, going on a run, and baking some muffins for my pastor's family (they just had a baby). And no, I still didn't make the pumpkin chocolate chip ones-- maybe next week! I am supposed to meet a friend of mine next week in the morning, so perhaps I can make those for our visit. They sound like they would go perfectly with some coffee (and conversation)!

I will also note that I finally have a working Ipod again! (I know you were postively wringing your hands with worry over it.) My sweet husband made four, count them, four trips to the Apple store to get his wife's Ipod fixed-- that is going above and beyond the husband job description if you ask me-- but I'll take it! They ended up just giving me a new one. And so, I loaded my songs over the weekend and I am able to run again to the sound of some old and new favorites.

Tonight I ran to Nichole Nordeman singing "Lay it down a little, Lay it down a lot, everything I've carried on my own, Lay it down in pieces, lay it down in whole, I don't want to hold it anymore." Good stuff.
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An Elevation Invite


Ok, last Elevation post, but I just had to post this that I received this afternoon:

Hello Charlotte!

We’ve been talking about it for months, and the most anticipated Elevation sermon series of the year is finally upon us…

Here is a preview.

On top of kicking off one of the best sermon series yet, we’re doing something so big, so over-the-top, you’ll be trying to find a way to get to ALL 5 SERVICES! Trust me. It will be a high intensity “Can you believe they did that?” grand finale that will have people all over the city talking and you won’t want to miss out.

The greatest opportunity in the short history of Elevation Church is before us, and it’s time to risk it all again.
Don’t you dare miss out.
A revolutionary move of God demands a revolutionary sacrifice…
And guarantees a revolutionary reward.

It’s time to Dominate.

We’ll see you this Sunday, October 14th!


Pastor Steven
__________________________________________________________

Elevation Church now has 5 service times to choose from between two locations,
8:30, 10:00, 11:30 at Providence High School
9:45, 11:15 at Butler High School
Check out the web for details and directions, www.elevationchurch.org.
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One More Thing


After posting that long post about critics, I want to emphasize that that post was not written so that you all would feel sorry for me! I have gotten some concerned emails and I want to assure you all that I am fine-- it wasn't easy, per se, but it's also not enough to shut me up or make me quit either!! Ü

More than anything, I wanted to write that post because
1) Yes, I am frustrated that people lose sight of (as one of my commenters said) the main thing. At Community Bible Study, they focus on community-- corporate worship from all denominations without interjecting individual denominational beliefs/agendas into the mix. They say (and this is something I always think about) that we are supposed to "agree on the essentials and agree to disagree on the nonessentials." I like that.
2) More than being upset over my brief little situation (I can handle a few emails), I am burdened for those who are more in the public eye than I ever thought about being and definitely, therefore, more ripe for the pickin by the critical folks. I know this is true of my pastor and some other pastors who get regularly attacked by this group of folks via their blogs. They have called my pastor the Antichrist, for crying out loud!! I am righteously angry over these blogs and what they are stirring up within the Body just because they can. That is the main reason I wrote about taking the time it takes to be critical and using it for spreading the gospel and being Jesus' hands and feet. My thought is, why are they wasting their time and what are they afraid of? They don't even know my pastor and they certainly haven't spent any time around him! The ironic thing is, all they know of him is through watching his sermons and reading his blog. To my knowledge none of them even live in our city! Why? Why? Why?? Waste of time.
Additionally, I have a dear friend who is in ministry and speaks a whole lot. You should hear some of the things people have said to her as well. Ugh. What good does Christians sitting around flinging mud do for the Kingdom I ask you?

Ok, taking a moment to compose myself... Deep breath. Climbing down off my soapbox... for now.

And so, that's just a bit more of an explanation about why I wrote what I wrote. But I do thank you for your sweet emails and your concern!!
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Funny!


Ok, after that rather heavy last post, I had to lighten things up a bit with this:

How to tell if you're not mom's favorite:


I'll bet that a few of my children would tell you they have felt that little bird's pain before!!

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Bible Beaters


Dear Readers: the following is a bit of a rant. I do not normally do this, but as I sat down to write this morning, this is what came pouring out. For those of you who are right there with me: Yay, you! And for those of you who are squirming in your seats a bit after you read this, I pray that this post will be a seed God allows to sprout up in your thought life, changing you from the inside out. Early on in my walk, I was one of "those kinds of Christians" that I am writing about-- and God showed me that I wasn't making a difference like that. I had to come out from under that kind of thinking to truly reach out with the love my Savior intended.

After I wrote that last post about Elevation, I started thinking about the news about Elevation, and about the devotion I wrote, and unfortunately about the criticism I received for using the Message Bible. I had more "helpful" emails come in yesterday-- one gentleman even kindly informed me that he had decided that the Message was "from the pit of hell." (To quote Clayton King, "I could not make this stuff up.") I was thinking about the other emails (the ones I should be thinking about and praising God for) I got from women who were thinking of ending their marriages-- one said she was up all night the night before she got the devotion planning how she would end her 34 year marriage. And I was thinking about how many of the people that wrote said it was that verse, in that version, that captured their attention and got them thinking, repenting and changing their perspective.

And I was thinking about how I have only had to deal with this for a few days and it is exhausting and draining, and how there are others in ministry who have to deal with this stuff ALL THE TIME. Like my pastor and the staff of Elevation. There are so many people who want to help them see the light of tradition and doing things the way they have always been done, instead of just letting God lead. Christian people who have conveniently forgotten what Jesus stood for when He was here-- radical change and shaking up the religious establishment.

Folks, I am not saying you have to agree with me. But I am saying, really think before you pass judgment on any of God's servants. Unless they are doing something that you can tell me chapter and verse why it is against God's word, I don't wanna hear it. In the research I did on Eugene Peterson, his heart is to lead others to Christ by creating a current, applicable version of God's word through paraphrasing (from the Greek, I will add). I heard Jennifer Rothschild speak this weekend, and she is blind, so she couldn't stand before us and read from the Bible. She had to "paraphrase" the stories she was sharing. Now, she quoted some verses from memory, but many of it she just told like you tell a story. And it was quite interesting. And I didn't feel like any of the power or impact of those passages of Scripture were lost because she didn't stand and read them from the King James Bible. In fact, I rather enjoyed hearing them told the way she told them, if you want me to be honest about it.

And so I ask those folks who wrote to me to tell me they don't agree with the Message, or to all those critics of Peterson, or my pastor, or anyone else who does things differently than the establishment. What else could you do with the time you spent writing that email? Who could you call and encourage? Who could you share Christ's love with instead? How could you invest in building relationships with people who-- through trust and a commitment to loving them-- will see your Jesus in you?

And I am going to be so bold as to say this (and I might lose some readers over it, but it just has to be said): it is judgmental, self-righteous, condescending Christians who turn off unsaved people and send them running the other direction. They see that long list of do's and dont's and they think: no way, I am not having any of it.

Again, I know this firsthand because this is the reason some people I love very dearly want nothing to do with God-- because they have been burned by "religious" people who passed judgment on them. It is really downright dangerous what your words and actions can keep another person from. Last week at Bible study, my friend Tamery did the opening and she quoted her pastor, who said that if we could really grasp what spending eternity apart from God was like, we would crawl across glass to lead our worst enemy to Christ.

As I was thinking about all of this, I had my Ipod on and what should come on random shuffle but this song.

I will post the lyrics here:

Open up the book you beat me with again
Read it off one sentence at a time
I'm tired of all the lines, convictions and your lies
What right do you have to point at me?

Chorus:
Well I'm sitting alone thinking about it all over coffee
And still crowding my space are the things
You still hold against me
You cannot save me
It's not the time to breakdown
It's not the time to breakdown
It's not the time to break up this love
Keep it together now
Well it's not the time to break

Read it all no need for separating it
You see what you want and try to justify
All your little lines, convictions and your lies
What right do you have to point at me?
chorus

Open up the book you beat me with again
Read it off one sentence at a time
Well it's not the time to breakdown

I don't want to be a Bible beater. I want to encourage others to stop being Bible beaters. I don't want to send people running the other direction because I am so smug in my Christianity that I turn people away. I will leave you with this joke I heard at Bible study:

Jesus returned to Heaven after the ascension and was stopped by an angel, who asked about His plans now that He was back. He said, "Well, I have left my earthly ministry in the hands of twelve men back on earth. They are responsible for carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth until I return."
The angel looked at Jesus and replied, "Do you have a plan B?"

Yeah, funny but not funny. Jesus is counting on us to impact people's lives for eternity. It is a sobering task, and one we should try to honor with our lives, with our words, and with our actions. Most of all, we should remember what Chris says in his song, We cannot save them. Only Jesus can do that.
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