Archives For May 2011

By Beth Groh

What amazing times we live in...

The daily, 24-hour swirl of dramatic news around the world and Washington, D.C., can almost make us want to “check out.”

After all, we muse to ourselves, do those stories REALLY make a difference in my everyday life?

I still have children to feed, clothes to wash, beds to make and other work to complete. The world will do just fine without me watching every twist and turn. Right?

Wrong.  As Christians, we must resist the temptation to disengage. Being “in the world, but not of the world” doesn’t give us a pass to ignore events around us. (Read John 17:14-22 for context of that phrase.)

Take the growing controversy over the role of the United States in the affairs of Israel. We might be tempted to say, “It doesn’t impact me. After all, haven’t they been fighting in the Middle East since I can remember?”

Yes. Now grab your Bible and see if that fighting doesn’t date back even longer.

As we hear debate about the future of Israel, we must resist the urge to dismiss it merely as something “political.”

Sure, politics plays a part. And we’ll hear more and more about the political football called Israel as the presidential elections heat up before 2012.

But we must listen to the debate—and participate, as we’re called—with a biblical worldview.

How? Start by asking questions. And look for answers from the Bible—God’s true and authoritative Word—and not from pundits on the news channels, writers like me, or even other friends or relatives who may, or may not, be fully informed.

Let’s start with a two fundamental questions:

As a nation, does our American friendship towards Israel matter?  See Genesis 12:3 as a starting point: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Does God speak to the disputed land in Israel? (Genesis 12: 5-7 and Genesis 13: 14-17)

Also ask yourself these questions—and be careful and discerning as you look for answers while you do your homework.

--What would happen to the precious sites of Christ’s physical life on this earth if Israel returned to pre-1967 borders?

-- Was the Middle East more or less stable prior to 1967, when Israel had little to no buffer from invading neighbors?

--If Israeli leaders concluded that the United States government would not back them if they were attacked, do you think the Israeli military would be more or less aggressive towards countries that threaten them?

--Has upheaval in surrounding countries, like Egypt, made Israel more or less secure?

--Are Israel’s enemies more or less likely to provoke a military action if they believe the United States will not back Israel?

--Regardless of U.S. actions or policy decisions, can the mere words of American government leaders destabilize the region? Is proper care and wisdom being demonstrated?

--Should we take seriously the words of the radical Muslim group, Hamas, and the rulers in Iran, who have promised a return of the Jewish Holocaust (even though many of those same rulers deny the Holocaust during World War II even happened)?

--Would those who truly despise Jews for their religious beliefs really like them—or become less hostile towards them--if they gave up more land? (In other words, is land their only reason for hating Jews?)

--Was there peace when the Israelis negotiated the return of some disputed lands a few years ago?

--If Israel was overrun by Palestinians, would the United States be more or less secure?

--Has history—and Old Testament prophecy—shown any examples of the Jewish people truly living in peace, without facing resentment from those with opposing religious or personal beliefs?

Please ask questions. Avoid the temptation to ignore the questions of the day. Pray for wisdom as you seek answers. And, most of all, pray for protection and restraint for all who live in this powder keg of clashing religions and worldviews.

Image courtesy of Shlomit Wolf

By Lisa Cherry

We did it!  As a family, we covered 32 cities in the last eight months, including two trips to Canada.  Wow, was it ever exciting to watch God open doors for ministry to parents and teens all over the nation.  This year’s Acquire the Fire tour is done, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.  Truly, it was a dream of a lifetime.

But looking back, I can see a few places we could have made some improvements.  Oh well, in most sports they give you a rookie year to work out some of the nervous kinks.  Maybe we can retire these travel no-nos with ours.  What do you think?

1.  If you buy your luggage at a yard sale and the former owner did not provide a key, do not forget to disable the lock.  Unless you can also find a way to pack a box knife in your carry-on to cut your suitcase open after the TSA official helpfully locks your case during the inspection!

2.  Correction on that last idea. Do not bring along anything that the TSA considers dangerous.  Leave ALL knives, even the bread knife used to spread peanut butter on the way to the airport, in your car.

3.  Never overstuff your carry-on with so many heavy books that you nearly knock out the passenger under the overhead bin, and cause other passengers to leave their seats to help you heave your bag up.

4.  Don’t book your ticket in a name different than the one on your passport, even if you have a legitimate reason to do so, such as getting married.  Even if you get out of the country, you may find yourself enjoying an extra layover in while the border officials debate whether you can come back to America.

5.  When traveling to Canada with books you are planning to sell, don’t leave home without a typed, itemized invoice and nerves of steel.

6.  Never fail to check in for your flight the night before, unless you don't mind getting a "seat request" instead of a boarding pass and spending an extra night waiting for your new flight since yours was overbooked.

7.  Even when you are trying to convince a ticket agent that you need the last seat on the plane more than the other folks, never forget that you are always representing the Lord.  

8.  Avoid visiting an airport "Religious” Meditation Room unless you are prepared to do spiritual warfare over the strange spirits lurking in there.

9.  Don’t forget to remove last week's hotel key card from your bag.  Telling the desk clerk in Richmond that a key card from Houston will not work in your room door can really make you look stupid!

10.  Try not to walk through the lobby at peak shuttle pick up time while dressed in your swimsuit and wrapped in a towel.  It can ruin your image with fellow tour members.

11.  If you need a luggage cart, don’t ask the bellhop if you can borrow his.  He most assuredly comes with his cart, and will expect a tip.

12.  Never pack a zillion little bags and a cooler if your hotel has valet parking.  Heaving that cooler up through the main lobby is just not cool.

OK.  We may do some of these again, just not with the same naive innocence.

plane nose down 2039872775_d449b71fc6

I’ve flown quite a bit in this past year, but one thing I’ve never had to do is to take over the controls and land the plane. I am so glad that each time I was aloft, the pilot had the skills needed to bring us back safely back to the ground.

I am about to make a different kind of landing, one that I’ve made many times before. This month I will celebrate my 22nd end-of-school-year as a homeschooling mom. Soon we will close the textbooks for the last time and take a break from lessons for a few months. I am not one of those who runs her curriculum through the summer. Some of my friends do this beautifully, but that just doesn't seem to be my style.

We are approaching summertime.  We’ve begun our descent, and the landing gear is in place. The atmosphere is clear and we’ve got plenty of visibility.  Our estimated time of arrival is late May, just before the Memorial Day weekend.

One factor that’s critical in aviation is attitude.  The pilot must check the attitudinal indicator on his control panel to see if the plane is lined up correctly with the horizon.  If the plane’s pitching or rolling, he needs to know so he can make the necessary adjustments.

A bad attitude can set you on a dangerous course in homeschooling, just as in all of life.  Ignore that indicator and you will be headed for a fiery end.  I have to confess that some of my past end-of-year seasons have not looked very pretty.

Burn out, spring fever, grouchiness, and procrastination have sometimes threatened to wipe out any pleasant memories of the year. Those nasty problems seemed to have originated with our children's teacher. And yes, that would be me.

IF I sent my children to school, there would be somebody else to call and complain to. I have learned the hard way that the attitude of my home hinges on me. (OUCH!) I have noticed that if I can make a few adjustments, we can all end the year celebrating. But, if I let my attitude have its own way...well, you really don't want to know what that looks like.

One year when Nathan and Kalyn were young, our school year was about to end with a crash landing that was endangering the peace of the neighborhood!   My husband, Doug, stepped in and officially ended my school year for me. I will spare you the details!  I can laugh about it now, but not back then!

I’ve been through my own school of hard knocks, and learned a few things along the way.  I’ve made this checklist in hopes that it will help you get through the next couple weeks with smiles instead of tears, and with shouts of Hallelujah instead of Mayday! Mayday!

1. Make a big deal out of each little book the children finish up the last few weeks. Hug, laugh, and congratulate them...before you remind them that NOW they will have more time for the subjects they are behind on!

2. Remind yourself that almost no textbook is finished in public or private school settings. Curriculum is a tool to move the student toward a destination. Finishing every page is not the destination itself. My older three children have proven to be honor students in college, so I chuckle at all the sleep I have lost over not finishing the last 25 pages of some of our textbooks!

3. Remember that "cramming" rarely works for long-term retention. Asking a child to finish six lessons of science in one day may make you feel better as you mark them off your to-do list, but it’s likely those lessons will not stick.

4. When you reflect on point 3, recognize it MIGHT be appropriate anyway to make somebody do those six lessons in one day. Not for the sake of science, but for the sake of character. If a child has disobeyed instructions or been slothful, they may need to face the music…which means mom has to suffer, too! This is one of those experiences when a mom sows in tears but later reaps in joy!

5. If you are facing the painful truth that you have failed in some aspect of your child's education, take that convicting truth on your knees to the Lord—not to your child. Repent sincerely. Ask Him for new grace, and then remember that you are in a distance race and not a sprint.

6. Have the courage to finish the grading NOW! Do not put it off! Figure the grades. Fill out the forms. JUST DO IT!

7. Remind yourself that Susie or Jane or Mary (or whoever your homeschooling friends are) are going through the same humbling experience. There are no perfect families.

8. Set a firm last day and then stick to it. I find this to be critical to my credibility with the kids and my peace of mind.

9. Consider making notes to yourself of adjustments and plans for next year's schooling. If you are like me, you can easily forget! When I make adjustments in May, I am a lot more realistic. By August the memories will have faded and my perfectionist notions kick in.

10. Plan an end of year party! Have fun! And pack those books away for a while knowing that God is the ultimate schoolmaster…and in His kingdom, school is always in session!

  ---By Lisa Cherry

Image: Umang Dutt "Falling Skyward" via Flickr Creative Commons
License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Lisa Cherry

I was sitting in my bedroom when my little boy came barging in with the most horrifying news.  It seems his brother had hit him and taken his favorite toy forcefully and hidden it in his room.  The tears were flowing angrily down his cheeks, and the brutality of his sibling made my own mama's heart burn.  "SON!" I found myself shouting upstairs, "GET DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW!"

The "bully" came running down the hall calling out, "Mama, what did he tell you?"

How often has that scene played out in my house in the last 26 years?  So many times, you would think I would have learned my lesson by now.  I often find a little investigative work turns up a few more facts to the story. 

Like the detail that the weeping child "victim" actually started the problem by hitting his brother WITH the favorite toy first.  Or that the whole game was hide and seek, until somebody wanted to change the rules, take his toy, and go to his room.  Details!  Details!  Makes us realize why we have a court of law before anyone is sentenced to jail.

I think that is why we are warned in Proverbs 18:17, "The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him."

Always listen for the rest of the story.  This works for parents as well as husbands and wives, bosses and employees, friends and neighbors, and newscasters and listeners.  Hasty judgments have cost me a lot of needless conflict and confusion. 

If a story seems a little too strange to be true, stand by for the adjustment!  Pray for the wisdom and discernment to see the whole truth before you accidentally take hasty action. 

That little bible verse can keep us out of a heap of trouble.  As you use it today, will you write me back with how it worked to save you from the wrong action?

Wisdom Wednesday posts are inspired by a verse from the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds to the posting date.

Image courtesy of Domagoj T.

Image courtesy of barunpatro

By Beth Groh

You’ve seen me use the word “worldview” time and again if you’ve read any prior blog posts.

And, if you’re like me, you might sometimes wonder why understanding your worldview—or, more importantly, the worldview you’re helping instill in your children—really matters.
Isn’t it all, really, kind of “academic”? Something you might write about in a school essay?

Shame on me for ever doubting its importance—because understanding worldview issues helped reveal a serious spiritual battle facing a young mom I know.

Here’s how it all began.

I posted something on Facebook a few weeks ago about a paper my son brought home from school around Earth Day. The teacher handed out an EPA-produced cartoon sheet showing kids ways they could protect the environment—seemed rather benign at first.

This cartoon calendar offered specific earth-protecting suggestions for each month. And, for the month of February, the suggestion was to write a “love letter” to the earth. It even showed a cartoon example of what a child might write, “Dear Earth,” the cartoon began. “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”

Call me old-fashioned, but I would rather someday (and I mean a long, l-o-n-g time from now) have my children write a love letter to a sweetheart, not the earth.

So I made a joke about this on Facebook. And I was stunned by one response.

This young mother of two thought it was a great idea and couldn’t understand why I would object.

My first instinct? Post a sharp rebuttal.

But I resisted.

Instead I sent a private message, probing her reasons for loving the idea and further explaining my concerns as a parent (saying the love letter idea came near—or crossed over—a line into encouraging a pagan earth worship).

Her next reply stunned me. She said that she could appreciate my view, since she knew I was a Christian. She said that she’s an atheist so it didn’t bother her at all.

Whoa. I didn’t see that coming.

Sometimes, when we learn about our friends or relatives’ views on social issues, political debates, spiritual matters or even parenting philosophies, we can have profound insights into their worldviews.

Those opinions give us insights into how our loved ones view the world. And that’s like having a powerful window into their souls.  An example?

Let’s say you know someone who believes the earth is billions of years old. It was formed by chance. And the planet, including all living creatures (man, too), evolved over time by random mutations and natural processes.

In that person’s worldview, life is random…void of a Creator’s hand. Why would that person think that there would be a code of absolute “right” or “wrong”? Nature governs. And nature is neutral. Wouldn’t it seem logical, in that worldview, to believe that everyone is entitled to his or her own idea of morality or truth, even if such a thing as truth actually exists?

If nature governs—not a Creator God—then there’s not much need in that person’s worldview for faith in God.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying everyone who believes in a billions-of-years, nature-driven creation is void of a Christian faith. But I am suggesting that someone’s view on this core faith issue—and many others—can give insights into that person’s worldview.

Hot button issues provide worldview clues. And if you would like to explore this idea more, I would encourage you to study this chart from David Noebel's Summit Ministries suggested by my sister, Lisa Cherry, who has incorporated worldview discernment in her children’s homeschool curriculum.

This visual image helps you take an issue, such as economics, and see how people with differing worldviews tend to stand. While not foolproof, the chart offers a useful tool for assessing the mindset of others based on their belief systems.

Knowing someone’s worldview can help you become a more effective witness—because then you can truly understand the blinders they may have to the one true faith in Christ. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:4)
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So what happened with my friend?

After I recovered from the shock of her revelation, I sent her a private message saying how much I appreciated her honestly sharing her faith (and, yes, even a faith in “nothing” is a faith in something).

I offered to be her sounding board on this important issue, encouraging her to test her beliefs with questions…if not for her own sake, then for the sake of her children whom she adores. I told her my hunch was that someone who professed a Christian faith may have hurt her, let her down or painted a picture of a “god” that was in no way reflective of the one true loving God who still cherishes her today. I admitted that sometimes the “god” I hear people describe is no one I would want to submit to or worship either.

So I offered truth about Jesus, my love and an open door. She hasn’t taken me up on that offer yet, but I’m encouraging her, supporting her and praying for her (and, my hunch is now that there are many others praying, too).