Saturday, July 31, 2010

July Rural Beauty

Virginia Creeper growing on the fence.




If you think it is pretty now, you should see it in the fall! (Come back in a few months for a picture of fiery red vine!)

Rebecca and Josiah.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Food Inc - A Documentary Review

WARNING: If you like eating at McDonald's, if you like eating processed food, and you don't want to know anything about where you food comes from - STOP reading now!

Our whole family watched the documentary Food Inc this past week. This film is based on the book by the same title. The author of the book asks the question, "Where does our food come from?" And, the answer is about enough to make you consider becoming vegetarian!

First, he looks at the meat chicken industry. Viewers get to see the horrid confinement conditions that these poor chickens live in. I cried. The chickens have been grown manufactured in such a way that they are so top-heavy that they cannot hardly walk! That is not the worst of it... but I can't tell you everything.

On next to other animals:
- Hogs - don't even ask... the way the animals are treated is bad, but the way the illegal immigrants who work in the meat-packing plants is worse! I cried. I question whether or not I should have allowed my children to watch this film, because it is truly hard core. And, there are parts within the meat-packing plants that I am glad that the children did not understand.
- Cattle - This industry just about made me heave! From start to finish... it is just so industrialized! Our world is in such a sorry state, that we can turn life into an industry.

And, speaking of putting a patent on life... the next portion of the film took a look at Monsanto. (I write from central MO, and there are a lot of Monsanto employees around me. If you feel that I have been misinformed, you are welcome to leave me a comment or send me a personal email.) I was truly saddened by some of the practices of the seed industry. But, after watching this film, I am even more certain that we will be purchasing heirloom seed in the future. AND, I am SO glad that we are not going to be large scale farmers that have to worry about law suits. ("What kind of law suits," you ask? WATCH the film!)

Overall, I was just saddened by the way our world works (well, at least the way America works. The film focuses on our country). The film talks a lot about buying organic and locally grown foods, and I am all for that! However, we are a poor family. So, even after watching this film there is very little we can do to "change the world."

That brings me to my next point - This film contains some spiritual, political, and social content that might need to be explained to young children. There is a LOT of talk about evolution. Also there is one organic farmer who does not appreciate capitalism - some how he thinks it to be part of the problem. And, as for socio-political issues, the illegal immigrant situation looks a whole lot like modern day slavery!

One last personal thought - When I say that I cried over the treatment of the animals, I do not want you thinking that I am on board with animal rights (you know, where they have more rights than humans - especially more rights than the unborn humans!). I was upset because we humans were put in authority over the animals, it is part of our being made in the likeness of God!
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 NASB)
I cry, because we have so marred what it means to be in authority! Yes, I eat meat. Yes, I want to grow my own meat. And, yes, I understand that some animal will die for my meal. I get that. But, I think we can find a balance of eating the animals and taking care of them!

But, more important than the treatment of animals is the treatment of humans. And, this film documented some horrible treatment of immigrants from Mexico. What hurts me is that these folks are being bribed to come across illegally by a company who later sells them out! We are treating these humans, (who are created equal - yes - but should not be given equal access to our "system") worse than the animals who they are hired to process... and that is saying a lot!

I don't want a debate to break out over illegal aliens, whether or not Christians should eat pork, whether or not we should eat GMOs, etc. I will erase comments that use inappropriate language. Keep it clean. Keep it kind.

Contemplation

I can remember it like it was yesterday.

I was at a music concert for my college. The choir was singing very well. But, what really caught my attention was the conductor. She was gorgeous and expressive, though her feet moved very little. I was amazed by they way she could lead such an assembly by merely moving her arms. I was struck by the beauty of it, and I cried.

That was the day I first knew that I wanted to be a choir conductor.

Not long after that, God gave me my first opportunity to lead a small church choir. Paul was the associate pastor at a medium-sized church in Quincy, IL. I spent hours every day preparing for the next week's rehearsal. It was sheer joy for me to sit at my piano (an enormous, old upright) and pick out one line at a time until I could sing them all in my sleep. And, trust me, I did hear them in my sleep. I always looked forward to Wednesday night rehearsal, when I would get to hear my guinea pigs faithful choir practice!

I will never forget our Easter Cantata! That first year, they did not allot any money in the budget for me. So, I went through the annuls of cantatas buried in the youth building. We practiced about a dozen songs until I decided which six we did best. Then, I wrote a narration to compliment those six songs. (The others would be used as "special music.") To say that I had butterflies in my stomach that day would be the understatement of the year! It did not help that my lead soprano pulled a no-call-no-show. My fiend, Kori, came over from my home town just to support me.

It was worship. It was pleasure. It was exhilarating.

My friend Kori said that she enjoyed watching me leading the choir more than anything else. She told me that she could see joy in my eyes. Not everyone shared her sentiment. One old, cantankerous gentleman said, "I've never seen a choir director dance before." To be sure, I blushed from such a verbal blow. But, in Baptist church if you shuffle your feet from side-to-side, and it just happens to be in rhythm to the music, you are guilty of dance. But, while I remember his sharp comment, it did not bother me. Because, I knew that my energy, enthusiasm, and joy helped to lead the choir as they led the congregation in worship.

The last time I led a choir was at our small, rural church in IL - where Paul had his last pastorate. It was a small choir. But, we had a great time. We worshiped together. We prayed together. And, just as before, I spent all week waiting for, planning for, and looking forward to rehearsal. It was so neat to see how God took a small assembly and brought forth such a big sound.

As I write today, my heart is breaking with the thought (fear?) that I might never again lead a choir. I have to labor to keep my hands planted at my side during corporate worship. My instinct is to throw my arms in the air and keep time. My heart wants to lead a choir. But my head is still confused. I cannot make sense of the arguments for or against a woman taking part in leading worship. My feelings might be leading me astray. But, maybe God is working in me - causing the turmoil I am feeling, to show me that I am not using my gifts to serve Him.

I have turned off comments just for this post, because it is not my intention to start a debate on the role of women in the church.... or, whether or not we ought to have choirs in church....or, whether or not the institutional model church is biblical at all.... etc.

Music Appreciation with Miss Bethany

Part of our school "curriculum," if you will, is watching videos on YouTube! I sit with the children the entire time, because sometimes there are images on the page that are very inappropriate. I would hate to have them click on another video of their own choosing! {{shudders}}

Today's music appreciation lesson is to listen to/watch both of these videos and compare them. The same song, "The Flight of the Bumblebee", is played in each video. What instruments do you see/hear? Which video do you like best?

Nelson just loves Ms. Wang, the pianist! We have watched many of her videos. Nelson says that her hands move "faster than the sewing machine!"



The Backyard Homestead - A Book Review

"WOW!"

That is a great one-word description for the book The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan. This book contains a wealth of information about gardening, canning, cooking, keeping chickens, keeping livestock, and MUCH more.

What I love about this book:
- broad range of topics!
- charming illustrations on nearly every page
- it inspires me!
- very, very practical!
- it has suggestions for how to make a very small yard into a productive "homestead" (which makes it good for anyone, not just someone who wants to be considered a homesteader)
- offers good suggestions for growing fruit and nut trees
- it has directions for making yoghurt and several kinds of cheeses
- very thorough annotated bibliography!, so I know where to go for more information on specific topics! 

There was so much helpful information in this book, that I am actually struggling to put it into words for a review. I do not recall any spiritual elements within this book, and NO mentions of "Mother Nature."

This is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Everything Old is New Again - Part Five

To understand this post, you really need to begin by reading the other posts of this series in order:
Everything Old is New Again - Part One
Everything Old is New Again - Part Two
Everything Old is New Again - Part Three
Everything Old is New Again - Part Four

I entitled this series "Everything Old is New Again," because there is such a drive, such momentum within the Hebrew roots movement at this time. But, this "movement" as I keep calling it is nothing new! As I have shown through the previous posts, the Apostle Paul has been addressing this issue since his own conversion. It is part of our human nature to try to be righteous through our own good works - rather than faith in The Work of Jesus Christ. The Father of Lies, Satan, is at work too. He is laboring to deceive as many people as he can, to convince them that they cannot have assurance of their salvation unless they are fulfilling the Law correctly.

But, as we read in the previous posts, salvation cannot be acquired through the keeping of the Law. If it could, we would not need Jesus' death on the cross. If the Law could justify, then the death of Jesus would be useless (see Gal 2:21).

Some of you might object to this whole series, saying "I do not believe the Law saves me, I believe that Jesus saves me." But, where is your emphasis in your law keeping? Is it in loving Christ and His people?
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.(Gal 5:6)
Faith working through love is of the utmost importance. Circumcision (which is the keeping of the Law) accomplishes nothing.

If you have been boasting in your own works and deeds, or hoping in a righteousness that comes from the work you have done, then you need to repent. You need to change your heart and re-center yourself on what really matters - Jesus, His death on the cross and His resurrection. The best way to get re-acquainted with the True Gospel is by reading the Bible... a lot. The Bible will become a joy again. You will enjoy reading it, because it is a consolation to you - much like those gentiles who rejoiced when hearing the reading of the decision of the Jerusalem Council (see Acts 15:30-31). And, you will find that the joy of your salvation is renewed, because you have a small idea of the bondage you have been saved from.

You do not have to remain in bondage to the Law. Christ Jesus came to fulfill the Law. As hard as we might try, we can never be made righteous through keeping the Law.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1 emphasis added)
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phil 3:7-11 emphasis added)


For more information on how to be saved, or how a person is made righteous, I will refer you to another series I wrote, beginning with Justification Part One.

Everything Old is New Again - Part Four

It is necessary that you begin this series at the beginning
Everything Old is New again - Part One
Everything Old is New Again - Part Two
Everything Old is New Again - Part Three

In bondage to the Sabbath and Feast Days - 
The most common verse that the average Christian uses to correct Saturday Sabbath keepers is this:
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (Colossians 2:16)
I cannot begin to tell you how tired I got of hearing people quote me this verse, because - honestly- I believed that I understood the Apostle Paul better than they did. People in the Hebrew roots movement translate this verse to mean that we should not let anyone judge us if we do keep Sabbaths and feasts. But, the Lord has been merciful to open my eyes to better understanding this verse by the whole context, especially verse immediately following:
Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Col 2:17)
The Apostle Paul is stating that Sabbaths and feasts are a shadow of things to come. These are just a few of the many shadows in Scripture, are they not?
Think of the passover lamb. The lamb had to be sacrificed and its blood painted on the doorposts, so that the Angel of Death would pass over. This is the shadow of the ultimate pass-over, that of Christ's blood being poured out on the cross, so that God would pass-over our sin and death sentence!
But, back to the specific issue of Sabbaths and feast days. Have you read this verse by the Apostle Paul?
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. (Gal 4:9-11 emphasis added)
I am personally able to make more sense of this from the New American Standard version, which says:
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.(Gal 4:9-11 NASB)
It seems that the Apostle Paul is referring to the observation of days, months, and times as "beggarly elements" ("worthless elements" NASB), that are enslaving them! In fact, he says that when the Galatians are worried about these days, they are making his ministry and teaching unto them "in vain." Those are strong words. But, not as strong as the language here:
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.(Gal 2:21 - emphasis added)
If a Christian is living a life of Torah Keeping, always concerned with eating the right foods, keeping the Sabbath correctly, etc., then he is most likely trying to find his righteousness in the Law, and has rendered the death of Christ meaningless. Trust me, when I say that I know that this is not at all your intent! I know that you are striving to please God and live your life as holy before Him. I have a lot of respect for the lengths to which you are willing to go to show your love for the Lord. BUT, at some point this love for God often turns into trying to earn salvation!
Think about this - when you are contemplating your salvation, and that you can be assured of it because of your Torah Keeping - consider these verses:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
We have salvation because God looks upon Christ's sinless perfection as ours, because we are hidden in Christ.
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.(2 Cor 5:21)

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Col 2:2-4 emphasis added)

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.(Gal 3:27-19)

Some more strong language from the Apostle Paul:
Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Gal 5:2-3)
So, you see, if you are trying to keep the law, you become a slave to (in bondage to) the whole law! And, no one (other than the Messiah Himself) has ever kept the law perfectly. So, where then is salvation to come from?

Salvation is in Christ alone, through faith alone.
See the last post of this series Everything Old is New Again -Part Five

Everything Old is New Again - Part Three

To understand what I am speaking about, you really need to start by reading
Everything Old is New Again -Part One, and
Everything Old is New Again -Part Two

First and foremost -
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage (Gal 5:1)
The NASB translates the same verse in this manner:
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
When you read the context of this verse, you will see that Paul is addressing the need for circumcision (which, can be understood as Torah Keeping) among gentile believers. (Actually, the whole book is written as a rebuttal to those who have been taken in by teaching that says you must be circumcised to be a Christian, see Gal 1:1-6)

Let us start by looking specifically at eating clean foods:
I know that you are already familiar with the account of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). We all know that a letter was written to pass around among the new gentile believers regarding what laws they need to be keeping. But, I want to point out just a few verses that - coming from my experience in Torah Keeping - really catch my attention!
For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. (Acts 15:28-29 - emphasis added)
Do you see that? Paul is acknowledging that, to these new gentile believers, trying to keep the Law is a burden! And, they made a collective decision regarding which portions of the law are most important. The biblical rules for eating, therefore, become much less strict and complex! And, what is more - the gentiles rejoiced greatly upon the receiving and reading of this letter!
So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.  (Acts 15:30-31 - emphasis added)
I don't think that the average Christian understands the impact of these verses!!! Unless you have actually tried to keep a diet of only biblical foods in our culture of pre-packaged foods which all contain some form of "unclean" food or another, you cannot know what a relief this edict from the Jerusalem Council brings!!!

Now, I want to move to another portion of Acts, the account of Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10-11). This story is of course very common, and Christians often (sometimes ignorantly) use these verses to bash Torah Keepers upside the head. I say "sometimes ignorantly" because Paul and I were rebuked by a number of people who were walking contradictions, choosing to keep some Old Testament Laws, but completely ignoring others. But, today, I want to look at something that I had perhaps overlooked before. My eyes were just recently opened to these verses in while re-reading Acts.

But first, let me say that I do not deny that Peter's own stated interpretation of his vision was that no man should be called unclean.
God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Acts 10:29 (emphasis added)
But, I contend that the vision had a double meaning, and that Peter himself understood this. Look in this same story in chapter 11. See specifically verses 2-3:
And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. (Acts 11:2-3 emphasis added)
Not only did Peter go into Cornelius' house, he ate with him! Do you think Cornelius ate "clean" foods? I doubt it. But, if this text is not proof enough that Peter now believes that he can dine with gentiles, see also Galatians 2 (understanding that Cephas is Peter).
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy (Gal 2:11-13 emphasis added)
I cut off that portion halfway through, we will come back to it later. I believe the Bible teaches that our salvation is not dependent upon eating the right foods. Our salvation is not purchased by our deeds, but through the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah - Jesus.

More to come in Everything Old is New Again - Part Four.

Everything Old in New Again - Part Two

To understand this post, you have to read Everything Old is New Again - Part One first!

Picking up where I left off:
I was spending the majority of my time reading the Old Testament, after all, I was very afraid of breaking Laws (even unknowingly breaking laws). Our family used daily worship times to read and re-read the Torah. I was developing a terrible fear of God! I just knew that He would strike me dead if I did not keep the Law completely. I had completely lost sight of what the New Testament calls "Grace!" We had talked some about how to begin keeping feasts, but I was terrified of doing it incorrectly! We wondered aloud if modern day Passover keepers still kill and eat a lamb. (Again, to the "normal" Christians reading this blog, who cannot possible fathom such confusion and ignorance on my part - instead of judging me and writing me off forever - thank God that He has not allowed you to be taken in by such thoughts! Because it is not merely your own self, but God who keeps you from error.)
Again, in case you think that I am attacking those who are currently Torah Keeping Christians, be reminded that in writing this series of posts I am opening myself up to a whole lot of criticism and attack (from both sides!), and I would not care to do that at all, except that I want to help God's people out of bondage.

Bondage:
Yes, I believe that the Hebrew Roots Movement and Torah Keeping is Bondage! My dear Torah Keeping Friends, do you not feel this bondage yourself? Do you not feel the agony of being separated from all other believers? Do you not feel that constantly keeping the Law is not a joy, but a drudgery? I expect that you are recalling this verse, right about now:
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (I John 5:2-3 KJV)
I do not dispute that we are told to keep God's commandments. BUT, after having read and re-read this book many times (and many other New Testament books many times, and many Old Testament passages many times), I believe that the commandments that are most important - the commandments John is telling us to keep, are regarding love for God and love for one another! The whole book of First John is replete with the message that love for God is shown in our love for others! Consider these verses (I am using the King James Version, knowing that most in the Hebrew Roots movement will allow for no other English translation) :
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.  (I John 2:3-7)

For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. (I John 3:11)


And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us (I John 3:23-24)

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (I John 4:7-8)

So, I agree that we are supposed to keep the Commandments of God, but I believe that these commandments for us are all about love! See also theses passages:
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Gal 5:14)

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:35-40 - emphasis added)
Also, consider the produce of the Spirit filled life (that is, the life of a believer).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance:  (Gal 5:22 KJV)
The law is summed up in those commandments about loving God and loving one another! So, what about clean foods, Sabbath keeping, and feast days? How should we consider these? For the answer I refer mainly to the Apostle Paul. And, I have done enough reading of Hebrew Roots authors to know that many try to discount Paul's letters in one way or another, some resorting to questioning whether or not we can even have a true translation of his writings. But, I encourage you to reconsider these claims! If our English Bible does not correctly translate and record the words of Paul, how can we trust it to properly record the Words of Christ, or even the Law itself!? Trying to pick and choose which texts of the Bible are trustworthy is a slippery slope!

I will look more in-depth at these key verses for understanding the Law for gentiles in Part Three of the Series - Everything Old is New Again.

Everything Old is New Again - Part One

THIS IS THE INTRODUCTION OF A FIVE PART SERIES, THE OTHER POSTS ARE A MORE IN-DEPTH LOOK AT SCRIPTURE

I read the book of Galatians this morning, and my heart was broken again for those who are in the "Hebrew Roots Movement," and those who are Torah-Keeping Christians. Paul and I have read quite a few books and articles written by Messianic Jews and Hebrew Roots proponents, so we understand well where they base their claims. It can be easy to be taken in, if you are not constantly filling your head with the whole council of Scripture (meaning reading the Bible cover to cover). I am writing this post with a particular audience in mind - those who are already Torah Keepers. (Though my prayer is that this post will bless all my readers, because chances are that you know at least one person - or read at least one blog - written by someone who is involved in the Hebrew Roots Movement, it is no small thing!) Please consider what I have to say. I have been down the road you are on, and I completely understand where you are coming from. Please know that this is not meant to be an attack, but a loving letter. I would not be putting myself under the scrutiny of all my blog readers, many of whom will not understand, were it not for my deep love and concern for you!

A prayer as I begin:
Father, please help me state things in a clear, concise way that will educate and encourage all those who read this post. If there be any trapped in any form of bondage, I ask that you will bind the Strong Man, Satan, away from their minds that Your Holy Spirit might work to transform their hearts. Use Your servant to show people Your Way. And, show me where I am in error or bondage as well.
I ask this in the Name of Your Son, the Christ, Amen.

A Brief Personal History:
Paul and I started looking into Torah Keeping in the Spring of 2009, after reading a few health books. These healthy living books were written from the perspective that if you keep the Law of God you will be healthy. One book in particular, which was written by a Messianic Jew, made a seemingly solid case that all Christians ought to be keeping the Law. I was persuaded and began sharing my findings with Paul. Together, we pursued this new-to-us idea that modern day Christians are to be Torah Keepers.

The first change we made was our diet, we began eating biblically clean foods - to the best of our knowledge. We read every label scrupulously. We threw out nearly every pre-packaged food item that was in my cupboards. We acquired a special cookbook, from the author of one of the books alluded to above. Just by taking this stance (eating only clean foods) we were cut off from nearly every family member and acquaintance we had! No one understood why we could not share a meal with them (without furnishing our own foods), and Christians were by far the least understanding - and typically, the most cruel.

Throughout our whole journey, it was the Christians who were hurtful to us, rebuking us with knowledge, but not always love. I am very grateful to the believers who loved us and prayed for us, without treating us like we were stupid! So, when I say I am writing this post "in love," you can be assured that I have felt the pain that well-intending Christians can produce!

Our second lifestyle change was to begin keeping a Saturday Sabbath. We kept our Sabbath from Friday night (sunset) to Saturday night (sunset). During that time we did not get on the computer, prepare meals, wash laundry, or do any other kind of work. Our Fridays became "preparation day" as we had so much to do to get the house and food ready for the next day without cooking or cleaning.

Paul's family could not understand our new way of doing things. And, at first they had no respect for our attempts to keep the Sabbath day holy. They would call or arrange for family get togethers on days that we could not participate. They were terribly hurt by our seeming lack of care or love for them. We did not mean to appear so un-loving, as that was not at all what was in our hearts. We truly believed that we were honoring the Lord above all, and that this was part of Christ's admonition that you have to love God more than family.

The last and biggest change that we made was a changing of the name of our Lord. Knowing that by One Name we would be saved, and that by One Name God would answer prayers and petitions, we became very concerned that we used the correct name. We began to be further separated from all the people we know and love, because we could not even pray together... because, who were they praying to? We were convinced that the name "Jesus" was an attack on the Son of God, the Messiah. We were disgusted by that name, because we believed that it was calling the Christ a pig - an unclean thing. (To my readers who have never heard any such teaching - please do not judge too harshly. It is by God's Grace that you have not ever been persuaded by such teaching yourself, and you ought to praise God and not boast at all in your own merits. You too can fall!)

Overall, we were in a position where we were keeping as much of the Law as we knew how. All the while, we were beginning to look down upon those who called themselves Christians, but did not keep the Law. We lost sight of the Gospel we once believed - for a time - and started focusing on our own deeds. How we kept the Law was far more important than the atoning work of God's Son on the cross.

I think that, for me, the breaking point was the name change. I felt like I truly lost Jesus. I did not know Him anymore. I was miserable. I began to hate preparation days and Sabbath. I was lonely and had no family or friends to turn to. I was cut off from all other believers, and in some cases doubted the salvation of all "so-called Christians" except for those who were Torah Keepers.

I was miserable. I felt like I was in bondage. I certainly would not have called this new life we had found "freedom!" I was trapped.

Read more in Everything Old is New Again - Part Two

Monday, July 26, 2010

New Crib

We bought a new crib Saturday night... mostly with the money from the refund of our recalled crib. We used the old crib seven years and then got a full refund - not a bad deal!!! We found this lovely crib at Wal-Mart for $158.

And here is a little bit of cuteness - Josiah in his old crib. (No need to send me lectures about babies using blankets. I know the danger.)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Simplicity Crib Recall

WOW! ALL SIMPLICITY CRIBS have been recalled - a TOTAL recall!

We called our local Wal-Mart, and we will be taking ours in tonight. Our crib is seven years old, and we do not have a receipt. But, they said they would give us cash for the value of it.

Looks like I need to buy a new crib. Maybe I will look for one of these.

An Update on Nelson's Spiritual Condition

Friends,

My heart is breaking daily for my Nelson. We are all praying daily for his salvation. And, we have seen some progress, but Nelson's heart is still hard.

He knows that he is not a Christian. He knows that he is not born of God. While he does freely admit that he is a sinner, and he does admit that Jesus has saved Mommy, Daddy, and Rebecca of our sins - he does not want to ask God to forgive him of his sins. He cannot say why, beyond that he is "scared." Obviously, we have done all we can to encourage him. But, he is not yet ready to pray that prayer of desperation, humility, repentance that God loves to hear from his children.  We are waiting upon God to change his heart and bring him to salvation!
Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.  (James 4:10 NASB)
Please, pray for Nelson. He is under great conviction. And, he says he wants to be saved... he just does not want to ask God to forgive him to acquire that salvation. This is so much the picture of the lost man! He is hungry for eternal life, but he wants to find it on his own!
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God (I John 5:1)
Nelson does believe that Jesus is the Son of God... but he does not believe that Jesus can free him of his sins. So, he does not truly believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Because, if he knew that, he would be running with tear-stained eyes to the One who forgives sins!

Bethany

Friday, July 23, 2010

Savvy Eating for the Whole Family - A Book Review

The book Savvy Eating for the Whole Family, by Margaret McCullers Kocsis, is a good introduction to eating whole foods. Kocsis is a pediatrician who wrote this book to better educate parents who wanted more information about whole foods. This books is not terribly in-depth or complex. I found the recipes to be the most helpful section of the entire book. (For me, the book was mostly review. But, if someone was to read this as an introduction to healthy eating, they would find it very helpful.)

This book was good for reminding me that I am weird... that my family is abnormal. You see, we eat every meal together - at the kitchen table. And, in the circles we run in (Christian, homeschooling, etc) dinner at the table is a normal event. But, this book frequently mentions the need to sit at the table to eat together.

So often, I forget that I am not the average human. I read a very few blogs, I have very few friends, I rarely leave the house (except to get more groceries). I am shut off from most of the world. In reading this book, my heart was broken for the "normal" family. The family that rarely eats together, and when they do eat together it is in front of the television. This breaks me heart!

My family is far from perfect. And, all too often, I am too hard on myself - comparing myself to my friend Super Mom with 8 kids. Her kids have immaculate clothes and hair. They use proper English, and are always very polite. Super Mom has every meal planned, every day planned, and every household event well-ordered. When I compare myself to SuperMom, I feel really, really, really awful.

But, you know what, I am not doing so badly! My family is eating around the table 3 meals a day! And, I cooked them! We worship together daily. We play together. We have taught the older children to read and write (mostly). The children are aware of the exciting uses of the internet (webkinz, blogs, and email). The children leave every meal full. They have clean clothes every day. And, they  play in a somewhat clean house.

I am not doing so bad! Praise the Lord, that He used something as small as a book on healthy eating to remind me that I am not doing to badly as I sometimes think I am.

My constant prayer is that I will stop comparing myself to Super Mom, and instead compare myself only to His Son! Am I striving to be holy, as He is holy? Am I loving, as he is loving? Am I compassionate and merciful, as He is?
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:26-30 ESV - emphasis mine)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Money Does NOT Grow on Trees

I know that parents often tell their children that "money does not grow on trees." But, I fear that we often live in a way that belies this fact!

When Paul and I first got married, we made the same mistake that most folks in our generation do - we attempted to live to the same degree of "comfort" that we grew up to expect... only, we wanted it right then!

Enter credit card debt.

We spent all of our wedding money and maxed out my credit card to buy things to make our house "homey." In addition we ate out quite often, because we had both come from families who ate out often. And, well, I did not know how to cook. So, it was only natural to go out nearly every day.
BIG. MISTAKE.

First of all, if you ARE going to use a credit card, do NOT use it on something so consumable as a meal out!

In those first two years of marriage we acquired more credit cards. We wanted to be able to dress as well as we did while we were single. My parents dressed me very well, buying most of my clothes on clearance racks at upscale stores (Famous Barr end of the season sales - how I miss those!). In order for Paul and I to finance such a lifestyle we had to get credit cards.
We were very foolish.  
If anyone had told me that in two years of maxing out credit cards that I would completely ruin my chances of buying a house for another 10 years - I might have listened. But, you see, I thought money grew on trees. I just knew that somewhere down the line we would have all the money we wanted to pay back these items (and buy more!).


There were other immature decisions made, that would negatively effect our future, but I do not care to rehash that here. I just want to make this point-

Dear Christian parents, please impress this upon your children (and direct them to this blog post if you like):

The decisions you make about your spending early on will affect the rest of your life!

Paul and I joke now that every banking institution, auto plaza, and student financial aid office should be required by law to post a plaque that say this: 
The rich rules over the poor,
 and the borrower is the slave of the lender. 
(Prov 22:7 ESV - emphasis mine)
I have to point out that the verse immediately preceeding this is:
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Prov. 22:6 ESV
Hmmm... do you think that wise old Solomon might have been trying to tell us something?

Paul and I are still young parents. And, admittedly, our children are very young. But, we are intent on teaching them early and often about the dangers of debt! We do not want to see them in a position where they cannot do as they want or go where they want, because of the debt they are in. We pray that we will be a good example to them that God can repair the ruins! BUT, we still hope and pray that they never find themselves in such a position. I do hope they choose for themselves humble homes and modest cars, but not out of necessity.

Back to my original sentence: What we, as parents do often belies what we say (about money not growing on trees.)
1 - Are you making every purchase with a credit card? Do your children see that? If so, do you tell them your plan for paying that credit card off?
2- Are you buying them all the clothes and toys they want, and never making them show a little patience (or gratitude) for such a gift?
3- Do you give your children money without any guidance how to spend it? And, do they get an "allowance" without having to earn it? Because, rarely does it work like that in the real world.
4 - Are you talking to your children about college expenses? Or, are they taking for granted that they can get a loan for that? Or, that you will pay for that? (For those of you who do pay for your children's college, I am not condemning you. I think it is great that your kids won't have to start out with thousands of dollars in debt. But, do they really know what it is costing you? Do they know all the cut backs you have had to make to pay for them? My parents paid for my first two years - books and all. I don't think that I even said thank you... because I thought money grew on trees.)

I know I have a lot to learn. And, I hope our readers know that I am speaking this from a heart of love and compassion. I am writing this out of my own experience! If you have specific ideas of training children in the way they should go in regards to finances, please feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Primary Sources for Florence Nightingale

Here is what I have found so far:

Collected Works of Florence Nightingale

Selection of Letters by Florence Nightingale

I do not have time/energy to read anything tonight. I just wanted to let you know of these primary, first-hand sources, in case I piqued your interest with my previous post.

Florence Nightingale - Two Book Reviews

Rebecca's new hero is Florence Nightingale, so we have been reading (children's) books about her. These books are similar in facts, but VERY different in presentation.

The first book was Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Lamp, from the Young Reader's Christian Library. This book paints a very lovely picture of Miss Nightingale. In this book, Florence is portrayed as a humble Christian who wants to do nothing more than serve the God who made her. And, when she receives high honors for her work, she is embarrassed by the credit given her. Rebecca read this book first, and as a result, Florence Nightingale became her new hero. A Christian nurse who changes the world... what a great role model for my daughter.

...OR IS SHE?

 The other book we read was Florence Nightingale, by Lucy Lethbridge. This book contains some of the same information, but in a very different format. In this book, Florence is "defiant," in pursuing her nursing dreams. She is not portrayed as humble, but as a woman who knows her way in the world and is set to change the course of history. She is not content to be "just a wife and mother." And, when pressed by her mother she says "I only want to be free" (and the implication is that she will be free from the role of wife/mother that is expected of her). The point of this book seems to be to cause young ladies to expect and want more from their lives than motherhood, and that saddens me.
I wish I had not read this book, and I do not recommend it for young girls.

BUT, who do we believe?


The only way we can really know the truth is through first-hand sources, books/diaries written by Nightingale herself and other books/articles written at that time about her (acknowledging that what she writes about herself is probably more accurate than what others write about her). So, I am on a hunt for first hand sources for the true history of Florence Nightingale. Is she the feminist that wikipedia and the Lethbridge book make her out to be? Or, is she a humble servant of God?

Joshua Turned Three

Yesterday (the 18th) was Joshua's third birthday. My parents came for a visit last week, so we celebrated a little early. We had a great time!

Presents from Grandpa and Grandma S


Nelson takes a few pictures with my camera.

This is one of the pictures that Nelson took. Grandpa and Rebecca

Grandpa with Joshua and Lydia... just before bed

Baby Josiah enjoyed Joshua's new toys too.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Finding the Good in the Bad

Reposted 11-04-2011

Sometimes you really gotta work to find the good hidden amongst the bad. Some days it hits you in the head.

Well, I did not whine about it mention it earlier, but our kitchen faucet broke this past week. We have been turning the hot water on and off at the valve below the sink. It has been frustrating, but I realize that in the grand scheme of things - this was nothing! I have a friend in Africa who probably does not have running water (do you?). There are folks all over the world who have to boil water, rather than find it coming easily from the tap.

So, firstly, I am grateful to be reminded that hot water/indoor plumbing is a luxury that we should praise God for!

Secondly, when Paul replaced the faucet he found something. Under the sink was a metal plate. The plate was supposed to be covering a large hole, but had been dislodged. Paul said, "This is where the rat probably came in." And, in typical hero fashion, he nailed the metal plate down over the hole.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me cause to appreciate running water. And, thank you for showing us a very large how where rodent and potentially snakes could come in.

Homesteading - A Book Review

If you are interested in homesteading, as our family is, then you will want to get the book Homesteading, edited by Abigail R. Gehring.

This is a very thorough collection of materials for anyone who wants an introduction into some of the how to's of running a homestead ("living off the land").

What I like most about the book:
- fantastic photography
- covered a wide variety of material; raising poultry to making a windmill, wild edibles to building your own composting toilet, how to shear a sheep to when to plant tomato seeds indoors
- it inspires me 
- most of the book is helpful, but not too complicated (though I will admit that the engineering portions were a little above my understanding, without being able to put my hands on the items being described)
- it is very practical

The only element that I did not like:
The last chapters of the book introduced a few New Age ideas (meditation, and Feng Shui). I do not see what purpose these serve in a book about homesteading, but maybe I am not "broad minded" enough.

Still, even with that one element that I disapprove of, I still highly recommend this book. Whether you are completely new to the idea of modern homesteading, whether you are a master gardener, or whether you have been living off grid for years - I think there will still be something in the book for you.

I am very inspired and very excited about what our family could do in the future! Paul is not so fond of the idea of the composting toilet... but he is all for me getting a llama (though he would prefer an alpaca). It is fun to have dreams, so long as they do not become obsessions. If at any point my dream for an agrarian lifestyle conflicts with the work I am here to do for the Lord, then my dream takes a backseat. This is an important point for me to consider right now, as we are praying and waiting to see where the Lord will take us.

I hope you will get your hands on this book and let your imagination run wild!

Farm Photos

My FIL's farm:

The horse's wind break. Dad keeps the hay in this barn.


The hay rake - a day off!


Josey, Rebecca's favorite horse.



Organized chaos! My father in law's work bench.

What? Don't you store once fancy chandeliers in the barn? No? Well, my father in law does.

How does this help?

Hahaha! Just found this photo from July 2010! Hysterical! How did this help keep mice out? Oh, that's right..it didn't!

When Doctors Ignore the Obvious

Reposted 11-04-2011

I thank God for doctors. I truly think that doctors and nurses are amazing people! This post is not meant as an attack on doctors and nurses, so much as it is a vent against the health-care industry which looks for complex diagnoses while ignoring obvious signs. (All the health problems below are real problems, I just disagree with the solutions.)

Cases in point:

1 - My Father in law was recently diagnosed with "restless legs," and put on a pill to help the condition. My first question, "Did he advise you to stop drinking caffeine before going to bed?" The answer: "No, that stuff does not affect me at all."

OK. So we have a man (who is diabetic, as well), drinking regular Pepsi with a late dinner. And, the solution to his restless leg problem is - pills. Lovely.

2 - In the past, I have terrible heartburn. None of my doctors have ever advised a change in diet. I am always put on pills. And, formerly, I have been content with this solution.

All the while, I refused to give up my soda and coffee. I would eat right up to the minute I laid down. I think with many cases of indigestion, diet is a HUGE factor. Drinking water in place of soft drinks is a fabulous way to cut back on heartburn and indigestion! Neither Paul nor myself is taking Tums during the night for occasional heartburn.

3 - My mother in law has been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. And, I will grant you that she is always tired. But, I do not think a label is sufficient for dealing with the problem. And, I see some clear connections. For example, she lives in a house with more exposed black mold than my own. As a result, she takes Benadryl around the clock! Not only does Benadryl make people tired, but it dehydrates. And, my MIL drinks only tea and soda all day long. And, she also drinks caffeine right before bed.

Do you see all the red flags here? I think she would listen to the doctor... if he only knew to ask the right questions.

This is just a small sampling. I am frustrated when I see my loved ones suffering, but the doctor does not seem to be offer (what I think is) real help. I know - who am I to criticize?  I have no formal training in the field of medicine... all I have is a head crammed full of everything I read in books.

I am just thinking out loud, wishing that I could offer help to my family. But, they think I am crazy. What do you think?

Baby Josiah is Crawling - Take 2

video

Baby Josiah is Crawling

video

Gatorade

I have said before that Paul's UPS job is hard work. And he used to drink gatorade every morning. He thought he needed it.

But, I started weaning him off Gatorade, because of its sugar content. I kept making it weaker and weaker, until he eventually said, "You might as well give me plain water, I can't stand this watered down stuff." Success! He has been drinking plain water for about two months. And, he has lost a lot of pounds.

Are you a product of advertising like we were? Let me encourage you to try to cut out the Gatorade. If Paul can drink only water doing hard work at UPS, and if we can drink only water while loading square hay bales... I think that water is sufficient! I just think our media propaganda has convinced us otherwise.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Extracurricular Activities?

I had a realization this morning.


When you are a homeschool family - there is no such thing as extra-curricular activities!

Everything we do is in the curriculum: read a book, ride a bike, learn math, bake a cake, science experiments, gardening, hosting a dinner, petting kittens, running, playing soccer, writing a blog post, writing a letter, washing the dishes, folding the laundry. Everything is learning. Everything is school.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I LOVE MY GARDEN!

I am so happy that our garden is actually producing!!! Praise the Lord!!!

I never told the blog world this before, in case nothing grew - but we spent a grand total of $25 on our garden plants! (My FIL gave us our cherry tomato plants, because he did not mean to buy them.) Lord willing, by the end of this month, that we have easily gotten back more than we put in! Praise the Lord!

We have loads of peppers: sweet green bells, jalepenos, red chili peppers, banana peppers, and orange bells! We LOVE peppers. Today I will be looking for stuffed jalepeno recipes, as ours are mature and ready to harvest! Next, I am going to learn how to store peppers. I know that green bells can be frozen (just cut out the seeds, slice, and freeze!), but can I freeze other peppers? I am off to do research, but I welcome your comments and expeience.

As for the rest of the garden - the cherry tomatoes are giving us just enough to fill our tummies every day, and the full size tomatoes are slooowwwly ripening. (Unfortunately, we already lost our one and only ripe tomato to worms... guess I planted my marigolds too far away.)
Yesterday, I actually went out in a downpour to get fresh cherry tomatoes for my dinner! (It was worth it!)

The cauliflower did not turn out. I guess we planted it too late, oh well. It was worth a try.

The onions are useable, but not full grown.

The potato plants are huge, but I have not yet dug a potato up - we planted them a little late.

I will let you know how my cooking experiments turn out!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Ultimate Makeover

Our society is caught up in external transformations! Most people love watching television programs where someone goes through an "extreme makeover." We like to see people who are physically unattractive become beautiful. We live in a culture that is obsessed with external beauty.

But, what I want to see is far more extreme! I want to see everyone I know have The Ultimate Makeover. That is where God takes a person who is DEAD in their sins and gives them new life in Christ!
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins... But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-7 ESV - emphasis mine)

Not only that, but He gives us His Holy Spirit to give us power to live our new life!
In [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-14 ESV - emphasis mine)

Praise God for this, the only "makeover" that really matters!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Josiah's 6 Month Check-Up

Josiah looked great at his 6-month check up the other day. He was 17 1/2 pounds. He is 50th percentile for both height and weight. He is where he needs to be developmentally. He is rolling, starting to crawl, standing with support, sitting up (so long as we place him in that position) grabbing at things, putting everything he grabs in his mouth, "talking" using consonants (mamama, dadadad, gagagaga), and I think he signed "milk" the other day.


I told the Dr about Josiah's trip to the hospital a few weeks ago. And, the Dr agreed that we made the right decision to keep Josiah off the seizure medication.

He was quick to point out Baby Josiah's partially cleft lip (which is the first thing that all docs point out!) He asked, "Did you know that he almost had a cleft lip and palette?" I said "yes." Well, since Josiah's nose is somewhat misshapen, he may have trouble with sinus infections as an older boy. (Just like his Daddy. Paul had a cleft lip and palette, and his nose and lip look just like Josiah's.) I praise God that He spared us the trial of a fully cleft lip/palette.

Josiah is doing great!