Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Moth and the Lamp

I found this quote on the bottom of a mug.

"The moth bathes in the false glory of the street lamp, and nobody bothers to tell her that she hasn't found God."

It really reminded me of how important it is to warn people before it is eternally too late and help them turn toward the glory of the father.

I also made a collection around it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thomas Sowell on Committees

When an organization has more of its decisions made by committees, that gives more influence to those who have more time available to attend committee meetings and to drag out each meeting longer. In other words, it reduces the influence of those who have work to do, and are doing it, while making those who are less productive more influential.

From his recent random thoughts article.  There are many more good things in it.  Go check it out.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Can't Believe that I Made the Front Page of Etsy Again!

Mine is the green and brown one made from an ink blot. You can see it here if you want.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Seizing the Center is Why We Lose

Thomas Sowell gives a great history lesson about what happens to candidates that try to move to the center.  Over and over they lose. 

Politicians need to have strong beliefs and stick with them unless their minds are changed by evidence and reason (as opposed to political climate or some other nitwittery).  We need people with integrity in office not a bunch of losers that are constantly shifting to the center.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thomas Sowell Talks Sense About Immigration

The purpose of American immigration laws and policies is not to be either humane or inhumane to illegal immigrants. The purpose of immigration laws and policies is to serve the national interest of this country.

There is no inherent right to come live in the United States, in disregard of whether the American people want you here. Nor does the passage of time confer any such right retroactively.

You should read the whole thing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Front Page of Etsy

I recently opened a little store on Etsy.  Today one of my items made the front page.  It is the rather freakish green butterfly (about number 6 on the slideshow).

I was totally amazed and very greatful to God and the person (Devi) that chose my work.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Parable Worth Reading

The Wild and Free Pigs of Okefenokee Swamp

by Steve Washam based on a telling by George Gordon

As school districts dangle more and more corn in front of homeschoolers in the form of vouchers and charter schools, please remember this parable. After all, government schooling is just educational welfare!

Some years ago, about 1900, an old trapper from North Dakota hitched up some horses to his Studebaker wagon, packed a few possessions–especially his traps–and drove south. Several weeks later he stopped in a small town just north of the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia.

It was a Saturday morning–a lazy day–when he walked into the general store. Sitting around the pot-bellied stove were seven or eight of the town's local citizens.

The traveler spoke, "Gentlemen, could you direct me to the Okefenokee Swamp?"

Some of the old timers looked at him like he was crazy. "You must be a stranger in these parts," they said.

"I am. I'm from North Dakota," said the stranger.

"In the Okefenokee Swamp are thousands of wild hogs," one old man explained.

"A man who goes into the swamp by himself asks to die!"

He lifted up his leg. "I lost half my leg here, to the pigs of the swamp. "

Another old fellow said, "Look at the cuts on me; look at my arm bit off!"

"Those pigs have been free since the Revolution, eating snakes and rooting out roots and fending for themselves for over a hundred years. They're wild and they're dangerous. You can't trap them. No man dare go into the swamp by himself. "Every man nodded his head in agreement.

The old trapper said, "Thank you so much for the warning. Now could you direct me to the swamp?"

They said, "Well, yeah, it's due south–straight down the road. "But they begged the stranger not to go, because they knew he'd meet a terrible fate.

He said, "Sell me ten sacks of corn, and help me load them into the wagon. "And they did.

Then the old trapper bid them farewell and drove on down the road. The townsfolk thought they'd never see him again.

Two weeks later the man came back. He pulled up to the general store, got down off the wagon, walked in and bought ten more sacks of corn.After loading it up he went back down the road toward the swamp.Two weeks later he returned and, again, bought ten sacks of corn. This went on for a month. And then two months, and three.

Every week or two the old trapper would come into town on a Saturday morning, load up ten sacks of corn and drive off south into the swamp.

The stranger soon became a legend in the little village and the subject of much speculation. People wondered what kind of devil had possessed this man, that he could go into the Okefenokee by himself and not be consumed by the wild and free hogs.

One morning the man came into town as usual. Everyone thought he wanted more corn.

He got off the wagon and went into the store where the usual group of men were gathered around the stove. He took off his gloves.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I need to hire about ten or fifteen wagons. I need twenty or thirty men. I have six thousand hogs out in the swamp, penned up,and they're all hungry. I've got to get them to market right away. "

"You've WHAT in the swamp?" asked the storekeeper, incredulously.

"I have six thousand hogs penned up. They haven't eaten for two or three days, and they'll starve if I don't get back there to feed and take care of them. "

One of the old timers said, "You mean you've captured the wild hogs of the Okefenokee?"

"That's right. "

"How did you do that? What did you do?" the men urged, breathlessly.

One of them exclaimed, "But I lost my arm!"

"I lost my brother!" cried another.

"I lost my leg to those wild boars!" chimed a third.

The trapper said, "Well, the first week I went in there they were wild all right. They hid in the undergrowth and wouldn't come out. I dared not get off the wagon. So I spread corn along behind the wagon. Every day I'd spread a sack of corn.

"The old pigs would have nothing to do with it. But the younger pigs decided that it was easier to eat free corn than it was to root out roots and catch snakes. So the very young began to eat the corn first.

"I did this every day. Pretty soon, even the old pigs decided that it was easier to eat free corn, after all, they were all free; they were not penned up. They could run off in any direction they wanted at any time.

"The next thing was to get them used to eating in the same place all the time. So, I selected a clearing, and I started putting the corn in the clearing.

"At first they wouldn't come to the clearing. It was too far. It was too open. It was a nuisance to them.

"But the very young decided that it was easier to take the corn in the clearing than it was to root out roots and catch their own snakes. And not long thereafter, the older pigs also decided that it was easier to come to the clearing every day.

"And so the pigs learned to come to the clearing every day to get their free corn. They could still subsidize their diet with roots and snakes and whatever else they wanted. After all, they were all free. They could run in any direction at any time. There were no bounds upon them.

"The next step was to get them used to fence posts. So I put fence posts all the way around the clearing. I put them in the underbrush so that they wouldn't get suspicious or upset, after all, they were just sticks sticking up out of the ground, like the trees and the brush. The corn was there everyday. It was easy to walk in between the posts, get the corn, and walk back out.

"This went on for a week or two. Shortly they became very used to walking into the clearing, getting the free corn, and walking back out through the fence posts.

"The next step was to put one rail down at the bottom. I also left a few openings, so that the older, fatter pigs could walk through the openings and the younger pigs could easily jump over just one rail, after all, it was no real threat to their freedom or independence–they could always jump over the rail and flee in any direction at any time.

"Now I decided that I wouldn't feed them every day. I began to feed them every other day. On the days I didn't feed them, the pigs still gathered in the clearing. They squealed, and they grunted, and they begged and pleaded with me to feed them– but I only fed them every other day. Then I put a second rail around the posts.

"Now the pigs became more and more desperate for food. Because now they were no longer used to going out and digging their own roots and finding their own food, they now needed me. They needed my corn every other day. "

"So I trained them that I would feed them every day if they came in through a gate and I put up a third rail around the fence.

"But it was still no great threat to their freedom, because there were several gates and they could run in and out at will. "Finally I put up the fourth rail. Then I closed all the gates but one, and I fed them very, very well. "

"Yesterday I closed the last gate and today I need you to help me take these pigs to market. "

The price of free corn was freedom.

The parable of the pigs has a serious moral lesson. This story is about federal money being used to bait, trap and enslave a once free and independent people.

Federal welfare, in its myriad forms, has reduced not only individuals to a state of dependency; state and local governments are also on the fast track to elimination, due to their functions being subverted by the command and control structures of federal "revenue sharing" programs.

Please copy this parable and send it to all of your state and local elected leaders and other concerned citizens. Tell them: "Just say NO to federal corn. " The bacon you save may be your own.

© 1997, The Idaho Observer. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reproduce for non commercial purposes in entirety including this notice.

Monday, October 17, 2011

2 Good Movies and a Good Book

We recently got back from a vacation in Houston (which I might post about later).  Right before we left last week, I went and saw two good movies and read a good book.  I didn't have time to post about them then so am just now getting around to it.

Good Movie #1- Courageous
If you haven't seen this movie yet and it is still in theaters, I highly recommend it.  The message about dad's standing up and being a man for their kids was really well told.  There were a couple of spots of rough acting, but the crew from Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof have come a long way.

Good Movie #2- Captain America
This is a good story about serving your country and self-sacrifice and looking at the heart of a person instead of the outside.  It may be rather scary for littler kids (the villain has a red skull face).  There is also quite a bit of violence because Captain America is a soldier during WWII.  The whole thing makes you want to do something big with your life.

Good Book- Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer
This is a Christian historical romance that I was given to review by Bethany House.  It is set during the influenza epidemic of 1918.  It is a great story about following the Lord's leading even when he is taking you where you don't think you want to go.  Ms. Mateer does a great job of creating a compelling set of characters.  The story revolves around Rebecca and her thirst for adventure.  She longs to get away from her boring life in a small town in Oklahoma and her overbearing mother.  She is sure that she can see the path that God has laid out for her.  But as with much of real life, God's way leads her to an altogether different adventure than she had in mind.

Even though I really enjoyed this book, I can't give it the full 5 stars.  The ending was too abrupt.  I would have enjoyed a little more of the loose ends tied up.  The book just ends at the climax without much thought to the aftermath of her big decision.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell

Another intelligent idea from Walter Williams:

I believe that a person who is 65 years old and has been forced into Social Security is owed something. But the question is, Who owes it to him? Congress has spent every penny of his Social Security "contribution." Young workers have no obligation to be fleeced in order to make up for the dishonesty and dereliction of Congress. The tragedy is that most seniors just want their money and couldn't care less about whom Congress takes it from.

Here's what might be a temporary fix: The federal government owns huge quantities of wasting assets -- assets that are not producing anything -- 650 million acres of land, almost 30 percent of the land area of the United States. In exchange for those who choose to opt out of Social Security and forsake any future claim, why not pay them off with 40 or so acres of land? Doing so would give us breathing room to develop a free choice method to finance retirement.

My husband and I would gladly get out of SS for 80 acres (even if it was in the middle of nowhere).  You can read the rest of the article here.

Another very excellent economist is Thomas Sowell.  I loved this quote from a recent article.

Depending on what criteria are used, you can have as much official poverty as you want, regardless of whether it bears any relationship to reality.

Those who believe in an expansive, nanny state government need a large number of people in "poverty" to justify their programs. They also need a large number of people dependent on government to provide the votes needed to keep the big nanny state going.

Think about this the next time you here poverty stats.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ahh, There's the Common Sense

I love the way that Walter Williams puts our economic situation in easy-to-understand no-bull terms.

If European governments and the U.S. Congress ceased the practice of giving people what they have not earned, budgets would be more than balanced. For government to guarantee a person a right to goods and services he has not earned, it must diminish someone else's right to what he has earned, simply because governments have no resources of their very own.

To read the whole article, go here.

So many people seem to think that the federal government (or other civil governments) has money (or something of value) of its own accord.  Granted, it can manufacture more at the factory right down the road from where I live (which is very interesting to tour if you ever have the chance).  But all that does is devalue the money you have in your bank and your future earnings.  All of the money given to various people by any form of government is taken by force from other people.  A possible exception might be rentier states.  In that case the money given out by the government still comes from other people, but the people are from outside the country who rent our buy something of value from the country and all the citizens get a share.

Anyway, Dr. Williams' quote reminds me of one from the Ten Commandments.   "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A River to Cross- a disappointment

A River to Cross by Yvonne Harris was a disappointment to me.  I love Christian historical romances, but this one fell flat.

The romance part was too modern.  While nothing immoral happens between Jake and Elizabeth, there is none of the old-fashioned propriety one expects in a love story set in the 1880's.  She even sleeps at his house unchaperoned.  Though this would not seem strange today, it seemed very out of place for the setting.

The romance was also to sappy.  The book made is seem as though everyone falls in love at first sight.  Elizabeth's first husband proposed in only a few days.  Jake proposed to a former fiance on the day he met her.  The two in the story seem "know" as soon as they look into each other's eyes, but at least wait some weeks to get engaged.  It seemed like the relationships were built solely on physical attraction. 

The story opens by introducing Elizabeth as a woman who has come to Texas to help care for her niece when the child's mother passed away.  Yet though the child is later orphaned she is barely mentioned throughout the rest of the story.  So why have the kid in the story at all?  Why not just say Elizabeth went to Texas to visit her brother?  It seemed like the whole niece/aunt angle was woefully underdeveloped.

The plot did not flow to me at all.  It seems like a whole section of the story (involving a beaver dam) served no purpose except to allow the couple to have another life threatening experience together.  The rest of the story seemed fairly disjointed as well.

Though I usually enjoy the books I am given to review by Bethany House, I can only give this book 2 stars.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Matthew 18 and Marriage

Many Christians are familiar with the following quote of Jesus' in Matthew 18.  But I have never heard of anyone using it in a marital situation.  My question is:  why not?

15"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector."

My mom's friend (I'll call her Veronica) from church is going through a very terrible divorce.  Veronica's husband (I'll call him Bob) had numerous affairs over the past 30+ years.  Two of the most recent affairs have been with a woman in foreign country while on a mission trip and with a woman young enough to be his granddaughter.  Veronica has been keeping all of this a secret for years because she wanted to save her marriage and help her husband.  While this is admirable, I think she might have had more success in those regards if she had told a couple of fellow Christians years ago and had them confront Bob.  If Bob did not listen to the friends, then taking the issue to the church does not seem uncalled for.  Then this sin could not have been hidden and who knows how many woman could have been saved from Bob's clutches. 

Yet I have never heard of anyone applying Matthew 18 to marriage problems.  But surely Bob sinned against Veronica.  So why do we never discuss following this plan with adultery problems or gambling problems or abusive situations or addiction problems?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Vigilante Left Me with a Heavy Feeling

The book Vigilante written by Robin Parrish reminded me something of a Christian batman.  I received this book from Bethany House for review.  I picked it because I generally like action books, super heroes, and don't mind a little violence.  So I thought I would love this book.  Yet as I finished the book, I just felt heavy.  Not sad, mind you.  Just weighed down. 

Maybe that is the point of the book.  Maybe it is supposed to make you think about heavy topics like when is violence as a Christian appropriate.  Maybe Robin Parrish wants the reader to consider the depths to which humanity can sink and ponder what to do about it.  But I read fiction for enjoyment.  I read for fun.  I did not find this book fun to read. 

Even though I didn't really end up liking this book, it will likely appeal to many.  It was well written.  The characters are solid.  And certainly the premise is not boring.  So I ended up giving it three stars. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Secret Stands

I have come to a realization about my church.  They refuse to take a public stand on many cultural issues, but sometimes take a stand behind the scenes.  For example, a new ministers first sermon is about it being a Christian duty to go green and shrink one's carbon footprint.  He disappears in less than a month.  One story is that he missed his home state too much.  But the other is that many people were alarmed at his sermon and he was given the opportunity to go back home.  Let's just say that the second reason is correct for the sake of this post.

The leadership refuses to take a stand on "issues" (I guess the green movement/creation stewardship is one of these) because it will "detract from our mission".  But the minister ends up gone.  And I feel wary of the leadership.  The level of transparency is rather disheartening.  Even the city government has more transparency. 

On a separate, but related topic. . .
We recently ordained 15 more elders. One of the comments made during the ceremony was that we should honor our leaders because we have no idea what they do (in reference to helping people).  But the comment really struck me.  A shepherd parable in the Bible says the shepherd knows each sheep by name and the sheep knew the sound of the shepherd's voice.  How can 40 or so men (including the new 15) know 5000+ people?  And obviously they don't expect us to really know them if it is accepted that we don't know what they do. 

Our church motto is Building followers of Christ through worship, community, and service.  But this just doesn't seem like a community to me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Too Many Criminals (and you are probably one of them)

Via: Overcriminalization

Evangelism without Community

We had a good lesson from the youth minister at our church on Wednesday night.  It was about evangelism and how it has an aura of distastefulness in American churches.  One of the main reasons he gave is that evangelism is often feels (or actually is) contrived. 

Now before I go any further, I have to say that one of the reasons that we chose the church we did is that evangelism actually occurs.  The leaders participate in sharing the Gospel with the lost.  Actual people from the world give their lives to Jesus and are baptized instead of just people from the youth group who have been going to church their whole lives.

Now back to the point of this post.  I believe that one of the biggest hindrances to the overwhelming spread of the Kingdom of God in America today is a lack of community.  As a member of the missions committee, I get to hear stories of how whole people groups are converted to the Lord.  All of peoples that I know about are societies where the people live in community. 

What do I mean by community?  I mean a group of people whose lives are woven together on a daily basis.  I mean a setting where friendships and work and religious ceremonies and family are all tangled together. For example, the shepherd and the weaver have a relationship because they rely on one another.  Everyone in town knows your worst mistake because they were their when you did it but they still hang out with you anyway.  People who have done some hard things together often form lifelong friendships.  We Americans hardly have any of that.  We are largely disconnected from people outside our immediate family.  What connection we have is often tempered by technology; we often interact without actually being near the person. 

Let me give an example from my own life.  My husband has something of a community at his work with a Christian ministry.  I am forming something of a community with the Christian homeschool co-op.  But my husband and I aren't really in community with anyone as a family except in some respects with our small group at church.  And the people we are in the most contact with have knowledge of and are trying to live for Jesus.

When we lived in Phoenix, it was somewhat different.  We had no kids.  I worked at a landscape architecture office, and my husband worked as a bill collector and then in financial services.  We had lots of friends that were searching for the truth about Jesus and we were happy to share what we knew.  Two people were even baptized in our swimming pool.

But if I want my kids to experience evangelism, I will have to contrive something.  It might be going on a short term mission trip or involved in a ministry at church .  Or I could try to form a deeper relationship with our old lawn mower man since I know that he and his family do not have a church home.  Now I am not saying that any of these ideas are wrong or bad.  I am saying that they do not flow from my normal life.

In places where the Good News of Jesus flows through the land like healing water, there are already relationship channels for it to flow through. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Intolerance of Kids

I heard recently on TV that Americans spend more time grooming that caring for kids.  Now as a homeschooling mom of 2 with a tiny sliver of my day given to grooming, that came as a surprise to me.  But really it shouldn't have.  With day cares and schools, fewer and fewer grown-ups are raising the fewer and fewer kids we are having.  Maybe that is why there is a growing amount of intolerance for kids in trendy society.

Instead of promoting family and kids, the trend seems to be to ban them.  Here are some examples:

McDain's restaurant banned kids under six in PA.

Some people want to ban babies from planes (or at least business class).

People are calling it "brat bans" and it may be the next big deal for vacation destinations.

At at least one movie theater, kids under six are no longer welcome except on "baby days".

Now I have been the parent with a melt-down kid and I have been the childless adult annoyed that a parent was allowing a tantrum in a theater.  But it still saddens me to read these things. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Spending on Education

I thought you might enjoy this video by Heritage Foundation. It does a great job of explaining why spending more tax dollars on education isn't the answer.

I think the whole education system would be better without the government at all. There is a great website about this point of view called the Alliance for the Separation of School and State.  I encourage you to go check it out.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Happy 4th of July (a little early)

I wanted to share with you an article by Thomas Sowell called "July 4th".  In it, he reminds us that July 4th is the day that the Declaration of Independence was first publicly read.  Here are some quotes from it to encourage you to read the whole thing.

Some clever people today ask whether the United States has really been "exceptional." You couldn't be more exceptional in the 18th century than to create your fundamental document -- the Constitution of the United States -- by opening with the momentous words, "We the people..."

More than a hundred years ago, so-called "Progressives" began a campaign to undermine the Constitution's strict limitations on government, which stood in the way of self-anointed political crusaders imposing their grand schemes on all the rest of us. That effort to discredit the Constitution continues to this day, and the arguments haven't really changed much in a hundred years.

I think that people who find the Bible irrelevant because it is old also find the Constitution irrelevant because it is old.  I also think that God never changes, human nature hasn't changed, and limited government is still a good idea. 

But we have gone far from our roots in this country.  We used to be a people governed by the Holy Spirit from within or at least by common sense rooted in His Word.  We used to know that God set up various governments (family, church, civil) and that each had its own authority.  I encourage us all to fall before the Lord and confess the sins of our nation.  If you would like to join others in doing this, you can go here to see congregations across the country that will be having a special time of prayer on July 3rd called Call2Fall.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Noah for Children

Since I was in the adult class, I can't say exactly what was taught to the kids at my church's Summer Spectacular about Noah.  All I can go on is the decorations and the play that everyone attends.  Even based only on that there several errors and a little PC blather.

There were no dinosaurs on any of the arks accept for the one my kids and I decorated in the toddler hall.  As I was working on this the 9-year-old son of one of the Sunday School teachers told me I was doing it all wrong because everyone knows that the dinosaurs were all extinct long before Noah.  I tried to explain politely that I believed they were alive and on the ark.

The animals that were on the big ark display in the atrium included Dalmatians, poodles, and fresh water fish. 

It seems to me that while our Senior Minister of the Word was on target for accuracy (he even mentioned that there were no fish or poodles on the ark) the Children's Director obviously didn't think it was important.  Or maybe she doesn't agree with a young earth.  Or maybe she is ill-informed about the details of Noah's ark having been around the cartoon version of a tiny craft with animals poking their heads out of windows for so long.

It seems to me when something is as scoffed at as Noah's flood that we need to fill our kids heads with realistic images not cartoony goofiness.  I really appreciate Answers in Genesis and their newest project:  building a life-size replica of the ark completely out of wood.  The project is called Ark Encounter

When I showed my kids the graphic from the website, they were amazed at how huge the ark was compared to people.  I would love to take them to Ark Encounter in a few years.  I am sure the enormity of the ark will have even more impact in person.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Literal world-wide flood

  Our Sr. Minister of the Word gave the Noah lessons all three days of our Summer Spectacular.  Several hundred adults were there many of them visitors.  I enjoyed it.  In part, I enjoyed it because I got an answer to one of my questions:  Does this church believe in a literal world-wide flood about 4500 years ago?

The short answer is yes, but we are not discussing the age of the earth or how long man has been on the earth.

He did a good job of sticking up for the fact that the genealogy is of real people who lived 900+ years (as opposed to clan leaders or other mumbo jumbo).  He did a good job explaining the local/universal debate and defending the universality of the flood.  These were the reasons he gave:
1.  It is the simplest reading of the text.
2.  Why else would God insist on a boat instead of migration?
3.  The year long duration of the flooding/drying process seems out of league with a smaller flood.
4.  God promised to never do this again, but there have been many catastrophic floods since then.
5.  Jesus and Peter use the flood of Noah's day as an example of God's ability to judge the whole world.
He also mentioned the flood traditions from around the world, and how there would have been plenty of space for all of the kinds of animals.  He also pointed out that there would have been only one doggish animal not coyotes, wolves, etc.

Here are some other nuggets of interest that I gleaned.
Enoch means dedication.  He started walking with God the year Methuselah was born.  Methuselah's name means when he dies judgement comes.  Methuselah long life shows God's grace.  (FYI, Methuselah died the year of the flood.) 

We must have a supernatural worldview not a purely natural one.  This is the most rational explanation of the marvels we see around us.

The source of trust is what you are trying to build.  What are you trying to build with your life?  What does it show that you trust?  Build something now that will survive when judgement comes.

Obey even when it doesn't make sense.  For example, how can being dunked under water have anything to do with my spiritual life?

Faithful move upstream in a downstream world.  Sometimes this might involve moving upstream against even religious people. 

God shows he remembers us with deeds (wind to recede the waters), signs (olive branch in the dove's mouth), and his Word (speaks to Noah, gives covenant).

True faith looks for a way to respond to grace.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Church like the co-op

What if Sunday school classes at my church were run like the homeschool co-op?

Let me give a little background to this question.

After the previous two posts, I started thinking about other systems that allow for variety and transparency under an  umbrella of essential truths.  Our homeschool co-op is an example of this.  There is a statement of faith that you have to agree to before joining.  This is pretty basic evangelical Christian type stuff.  Saved by grace not works.  Jesus was all man and all God.  Jesus lived a sinless life.  You get the idea. 

Within the families that attend, there is variety under this umbrella.  There are "quiver full" families and others that use birth control.  There are families that love Halloween and others that abhor it.  There are those that abstain from alcohol and those that enjoy a beer or glass of wine occasionally. 

When it comes time to decide what classes will be offered the next semester, everyone gets a chance to suggest classes/teachers.  Parents put tally marks next to the classes they would like to see offered in their kids' grade level.  The classes with teachers and lots of tally marks generally make it onto the schedule. 

The class teacher must write a class description before the time to sign up for classes.  The description tells which curriculum will be used and more detailed information on what will be covered in class.  This gives parents a chance to decide if the class fits with their family.  For example, last semester there was a class on movies and world views.  The teacher e-mailed out a list of the movies that would be viewed and discussed before the sign up day.  Parents that didn't want their kids to watch Avatar (one of the movies discussed) didn't sign their kids up for that class.

So what if my church's adult Sunday school worked this way?

We all have member accounts to log in to the church website.  New classes often start in September, so they could have the suggestion process start in April.  They could set up a page for suggestions, and each member could log in and leave the name of the class with a brief description and a suggested teacher (themselves or someone else) and class format type (lecture or discussion). 

After a couple of weeks of suggestions, that feature could be turned off and each member could vote on up to 5 classes they would like to see offered.  

It would take a group of coordinators (just like at the co-op) to figure out the logistics.  300 tallies gets the chapel.  50 tallies gets the library.  Questionable subject matter with lots of tallies could be approved or nixed by the elders.  Suggested teachers that hadn't taught before could be interviewed or something.

After the logistics process, list of upcoming classes and teachers could be published on the website with a more detailed description of what was going to be covered. 

I think there would be several advantages to this system.  First, we would get away from age/stage-of-life centric classes.  Second, it would be easier to get to know people with similar spiritual interests.  Third, you would know right up front what subject matter was going to be presented.  Fourth, everyone would have a chance to have some input into what we learn and the format.  Fifth, people with a gift for teaching could have a chance to actually teach.  There could be practical (parenting, divorce recovery, etc.), wold view (The Truth Project, Resisting the Green Dragon, etc.), and straight up Bible classes (I and II Peter or the miracles of Jesus).  Maybe there could even be a class called "Q and A with the elders" where I could ask all of my questions (see previous post). 

There would be a disadvantage to this system in one respect.  Some people would not want to leave the comfort of going to the same class that they have gone to for years.  So maybe this would be better implemented on the class level.  Then each class could publish their chosen topic and teacher for the semester.  Or maybe a class could suggest themselves in the congregation-wide suggestions by suggesting their teacher and their class perameters and all voting for what they know. 

Any thoughts?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Examples of unanswered questions

I thought I should clarify the last few sentences of my previous post.  "There is no platform to make concerns known. There is no platform for dialogue and debate. There is no platform to share new ideas gleaned from scripture. There is no fellowship in the Word only the dissemination of information and the acceptance of it by the masses."
In these sentences, I am referring to dialogue, debate, fellowship between the masses and the leaders.  In a church of 5000 people with about 50 leaders (elders, ministers, etc.), I realize that they can't all sit down and listen to each persons complaint, question, or concern as a group.  And I realize that on a one on one basis they are generally willing to listen to and study with individual members.  Our leaders are caring, god-fearing people as far as I can tell by my limited exposure to them.  The only one I have any kind of relationship with is the Missions Minister because I see him almost weekly as I'm on the missions committee. 

I have been thinking/praying about what would be a viable solution to this longing for open and frank discussion.  So far my best thought has been a congregational convention.  I know that several denominations have conventions.  Ours doesn't, but I thought that a congregational convention would be a breath of fresh air to me and would deepen the sense of body and community.  I would especially enjoy an open mic session where everyone could ask questions of all the elders/ministers and everyone could hear the response and follow up with questions of their own.  I think that this would increase the transparency of our church 100 fold.  It would allow members with similar questions to know that they are not alone. 

Here are some of the questions I would ask:

Why are we not allowed to actively promote 40 Days for Life as part of our pro-life ministry?  (I help found the ministry and I am still fuzzy on the answer to this question.)

How much of our $10,000,000 auditorium renovation is repair and how much of it is upgrade?  (In a financial responsibility small group study that was sponsored by the church in the run up to the fund-raising drive, this was one of the guidelines for spending in your family.  For example, are we getting a new TV because ours broke or because we want a trendy upgrade?)

How will the Christian university we are starting in Africa be different than a secular university in the areas of science, economics, history, government, etc.?

In the missions committee, we often discuss the "felt need" of a people group as a springboard to a ministry that gives our missionaries an easier tie to the people.  I think that one of the "felt needs" of Americans is weight loss.  Are we willing to look into being of service to our community in this way?
What are other felt needs of the residents of Tarrant County and how do you see us reaching out to people who feel these needs?

Why is the biggest celebration that goes on at this building on Halloween and called "Fall Festival" instead of at Christmas or Easter?  Why are the decorations at Christmas entirely secular with 6 trees and no nativity scene?

When the Wednesday night kids classes were moved to the chapel so the teachers could get their rooms decorated for Summer Spectacular (our VBS), why was Evan Almighty chosen as the movie for elementary students?   Is playing a movie that doesn't uphold the Bible as accurate really a wise thing to show impressionable kids?  Does this church uphold that a literal world-wide flood happened 4500 years ago?  (Our Summer Spectacular theme this year is Noah.)

Why doesn't our church take a stand against evolution by hosting creation science speakers especially when the Institute for Creation Research is only a few miles away?

In a recent sermon, the new minister mentioned that it was a Christian's responsibility to fight global warming, eat organic, recycle, etc.  This seems a dangerous road to be going down.  Much of the green movement is more concerned about "Mother Earth" than about people especially the poor.  Global warming (if it is occurring at all) is not likely caused by people.  Can you please explain further what this church's view is of these issues?  Would some of the leaders be willing to watch the DVD series Resisting the Green Dragon by the Cornwall Alliance and give your collective opinion in a future meeting? 

What are common lies taught to our kids by the public school system and what are some ways that parents can combat them?

I am sure I would have more as the answer to these came in.  Some of these questions are recent, but others I have been trying to get a solid answer on for months or years. 

Thanks again for your input.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How important are beliefs?

I am not sure how to go about describing my dilemma so you may have to be patient with me as you read.  In  the churches I attended growing up, there was much emphasis on believing biblical truth especially when it came to how assemblies are conducted and the basics of turning to Jesus for salvation.  But there was little emphasis on reaching out beyond the walls of the building.  There was little emphasis on life transformation.  Someone was considered a "faithful Christian" (as opposed to someone who had fallen away) if they attended the assembly regularly (preferably 3 times a week) and if they agreed with the aforementioned truths.

Of course, there was much fighting over some of the "truths".  The most ridiculous one I can remember was when we lived in a small town in Iowa.  One tiny congregation refused to meet with the bigger (but still small) congregation because the bigger congregation refused to agree to stop wearing gold based on I Peter 3:3.  "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes."

Then a shift occurred.  A movement started that was in many ways a breath of fresh air.  It started emphasizing "salvation issues" as the truths and basically shucked all others in an attempt to create more unity.  With this movement there came a realization that some verses (truths) could be interpreted different ways by rational people (like I Peter 3:3) and there could still be unity among them (you don't have to agree  on everything in the Bible to get along). Without common belief in other truths (Jesus died a literal death and rose again in 3 days), unity would be pointless.

Yet, to most people that I know, unity simply means sitting in the same auditorium listening to the same sermons, giving money to the same collection, and possibly supporting the same missionaries.  If I start talking about unity, I will get off the main point of this post, but I believe there is more to it than that.

 The church I currently attend is the best church I have ever been to.  There is an emphasis on letting God transform your life.  The congregants are encouraged to get out of the church building and go on mission trips or help tutor kids in low income neighborhoods.  These things are sadly missing from most churches I am familiar with.  This church also tries to allow for freedom in the small truths.  They call it being grace centered.  I do not think you would be ridiculed for not wearing gold, but insisting that everyone do so would not be tolerated.

When we first started attending (5 years ago), I had little knowledge and gave little thought to world views.  I had never thought about what the Bible had to say about economics or civil government.  I never thought much about the dangers of the postmodern idea that people get to decide what is true.  I never realized the depth of evil that springs from replacing God the Creator with billions of years of evolution.  My own worldview has become stronger over the years.  I can see more clearly the destructive fruit of an unbiblical worldview. 

So now I am growing more and more concerned that the leaders of my congregation do not share my worldview on many issues (evolution, economics, civil government, etc.).  Now my dilemma is:  How much does their worldview on these issues matter?  How far should one go along to get along?  And what about other issues.  There is no platform to make concerns known.  There is no platform for dialogue and debate.  There is no platform to share new ideas gleaned from scripture.  There is no fellowship in the Word only the dissemination of information and the acceptance of it by the masses. 

So I would love to hear your thoughts (and the scriptures to back them up).  Thanks so much.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Unlikely Suitor by Nancy Moser

I really enjoyed Unlikely Suitor by Nancy Moser.  From the moment I got my review copy from Bethany House yesterday, I couldn’t put it down. 

Before I go on, I really encourage you not to read the back cover.  It gives too much away.  I think you will enjoy the book much more if you just let the story unfold without being really sure of where it is going.  I will attempt to not give too much away either in this review.

This book gives the reader an excellent glimpse into New York City and environs during the late 1800’s.  It takes you from the lowly seamstress to the upper crust in Newport.  The author shows that despite one’s social station there are common threads running through all humanity.  She shows the need to rely on God and yet take the opportunities he gives us. 

This book is very well written and well researched.  There are even fashion plates in the back that fit the descriptions in the book. 

The characters draw you in and make you want to know more about them.  Each brings something to the story.  The epilogue was especially gratifying with a good amount of closure.

 I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Christian historical fiction.  5 stars

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Great New Book

I recently received Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer from Bethany House to review. It was one of the best books I have read in a while. I chose it as a book I would like to review because I really respect the Amish. This book is based on events in the 1920’s when the state of Ohio jailed some Amish dad’s for not sending their kids to the government run consolidated school. As a result, some of the Ohio Amish community seek freedom to raise their kids in the Amish way by moving to Mexico. Mr. Cramer shows how they stick to their beliefs and are willing to sacrifice for them. He shows their love of family and their willingness to work hard. After reading this book, I respect the Amish even more.

The story is focused on one family- The Benders. The Benders have been blessed with 13 children (one dead and one mentally challenged) but not all are equally fleshed out in the story. It focuses on the father, Caleb, and his 15-year-old daughter, Rachel. Though these two are the focus of the story you get glimpses in to the thoughts of many of the other characters.

One thing that I liked about the writing was Mr. Cramer’s truthful style. Strengths and weaknesses are given to all of the characters. He doesn’t sugar coat the harsh realities of the struggles the Benders face, yet this isn’t a heavy book that weighs down the soul. It is almost as though he has opened a window to Paradise Valley as it really was.

This is a first book in a new series about Caleb Bender’s daughters. I read the whole thing in a couple of days. I cared about the characters and wanted to see what happened to them. I also wanted to learn why they made the choices they made. I am really looking forward to the next one!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Filling in Transcripts

I have noticed a trend that is obvious in public schools, but is also lapping over into homeschools.  This is what I call transcript filling.  It seems to me that many homeschooling families give up the freedom of education that they once enjoyed in elementary and junior high when they get to high school.  They stop thinking about what they think is important for their kids to learn and start worrying about what the state requires.  They begin the process of what I've dubbed transcript filling.  By this I mean they start trying to check off the list of classes mandated at public schools for a "recommended" or "advanced" high school diploma.  They often do this with little regard for any level of mastery.  They also do this with little regard for the importance of the subject in the student's future life.  It is all about checking off stuff so that the kid can get into college.  That is the point that is so sad to me.  You can still get into college (good ones even) regardless of what is on your high school transcript.  I will give you an example. 

Let's say that my kids and I choose freedom.  Let's say that my son's transcript looks something like this.

4 English credits
3 Math credits (taken as dual credit at Tarrant County Community College)
2 Spanish credits
3 Science credits
1 US Constitution credit
1 World History credit (maybe related to ancient civilizations and the Bible)
1 US history credit
1 Biblical economics credit
5 Electives like cake decorating and marksmanship

With this transcript he would only be eligible for the "minimum" degree in Texas and would therefor not be able to get automatic admission to a state university like say Texas Tech.  But wait. . . He'll already have 9 college credits.  If he takes one more class and has a 2.5 GPA (that's 2 B's and 2 C's), then presto he is back into the automatic admission category. 

From Texas Tech's website for transfer students
ASSURED ADMISSION. If you present the required combination of transferable hours and GPA below, you are assured admission. GPA is cumulative for all transferable courses from all schools attended, and courses taken for grade replacement are used for GPA calculation only if the same course is repeated at the same institution where it was originally taken.
Transferable Hours GPA Requirements
12 - 23 hours
2.50 cumulative
24 or more hours
2.25 cumulative

So it wouldn't have mattered if all we studied in high school was underwater basket weaving and the Bible, as long as he had a diploma and could take 4 community college classes with decent grades.

But let's say that your kid is bound for bigger and better things than Texas Tech.  Let's say that he is going to a private Christian college like Patrick Henry University.

The College requires that a minimum of 18 high school level courses be completed. The following courses should be completed prior to admission to Patrick Henry College:
  • English: Minimum of four courses. To be well-prepared, students should pursue a well-rounded, college preparatory English program that emphasizes literature, grammar, and composition. Examples: grammar, literature, composition, speech, and debate. Please note: Competitive speech and debate may count for one English course.
  • Mathematics: Minimum of three college preparatory courses, which must include: algebra I, algebra II, and geometry. Examples: algebra (I & II), geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, and calculus. To be well-prepared, students should take courses at least through trigonometry.
  • Science: Minimum of two different college preparatory courses. Examples: biology, chemistry, and physics. It is preferred that students complete three courses and that those courses include labs.
  • History: Minimum of two courses, which must include at least one comprehensive course in U. S. history and one comprehensive course in world history.
  • Government: Minimum of one course. The course should cover material on local, state, and federal government.
  • Foreign Language: Minimum of one course. Examples: French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Italian, Latin, or Greek. It is preferred that students complete two consecutive courses.
  • Electives: Minimum of 5 courses. Examples include Bible, fine arts, logic, rhetoric, music, economics, geography, and computer courses, as well as courses in areas such as biblical worldview and apologetics.
It looks as though that my son's "minimum" diploma is just fine for them.

There are all kinds of alternatives for ways to get into college and there are all kinds of colleges to get into.  There is even one Christian college doesn't have any academic requirements and selects students based on other criteria.  It is called Rivendell Sanctuary.  Its students graduate with an AA degree.  Every university I have heard of, accepts AAs without question regardless of where the are from. 

So I don't understand why more homeschooling families with high school students don't pursue freedom.  Why not follow what interests your child?  Why not fill their days with subjects you actually think are important to their future?  Why just check off some list given to you by the government?  Maybe I will understand it more when my kids get to high school, but I certainly hope not.