Category Archives: Household Gems

Letters and night-lights

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It’s not often that someone openly, boldly, unashamedly asks me to lie – to commit fraud.  Normally the temptations to sin are subtle, sly, subconscious even.  But not this one.

We are selling a house.  We have people renting it currently.  They’ve been very accommodating to realtors showing the property at all times of the day.  We’ve told them the truth through the whole process for two reasons:  it’s what we’d want, and it seemed like the right thing to do.

Imagine our surprise, in this economy, when we received an offer for a little more than our asking price!  Woo-hoo!

But there’s a catch.  In order for the buyer to get a mortgage, we’d have to ask our renters to write a letter stating that they’d move out in 60 days.

Our response was simple.  “What?”

“It’s just a letter – it doesn’t mean anything.  Just ask them to write the letter so the mortgage company will give the buyer a mortgage.  We’ll all know that the renters can stay there until the end of their lease.”

Shocked just feels like an understatement.

So many things came to mind as these words penetrated my understanding.

“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies,” Ps 34:13

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thoughts to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” Pr 14:8

“How then could I do this wicked thing and sin against God?” Gen 9:9(b)

“So whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”  1 Cor 10:31

The answer was easy but not because we argued from a position of strength (in human terms, anyway).  The buyer was dangling a greater than full-price offer before us – all we had to do was ask our tenants to write a little letter that no one had any intention of holding them to.

It was easy to give them an answer because we knew that this had nothing to do with a letter, but had everything to do with understanding that God cared more about our hearts and actions than the buyer or his real estate agent did.

We heard a sermon on Matthew 5 yesterday.  In particular, we heard preached that salt that isn’t salty is useless – pointless.  You don’t season the salt for it to be useful – you throw it out.  The only purpose of light is to illuminate – no one needs a “flash dark”.  You don’t turn on a light to cover it up – that’s just stupid.

God has called us to be salt and light – His salt and His light.  We exist as salt and light.  It’s not that sometimes we’re salty and sometimes we illuminate.  It has become our defining characteristics – we are salt and light.

Verse 16 says, “so then, let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.”

We often think of the big things when applying scripture to our lives.  Missionaries.  Martyrs.  Evangelists.  They know how to do these things so that people can look at their lives and know that God was directing their paths.  They lead multitudes to the Lord, they remain faithful through persecution, they never waiver.  All that may be true, but even they deal with the ordinary things in life.

Even they have to file taxes honestly, pay for things the cashier undercharged for, apologize to children, and leave the office supplies at work.

It was easy to say no to this offer, because we knew that no amount of money was worth dishonoring God.  It wasn’t just a letter – it was God’s reputation on the line.  God may not provide another full-price offer, but we’re confident He can work things out without asking us to lie.  But this episode has caused me to think about the many opportunities we have in the course of normal, everyday, ordinary life that even our little lives can season and shine.

Walking from moment to moment with integrity matters, even if you’ll never be a missionary or martyr or evangelist.  Sprinkling the salt and lighting the way in the smallest and seemingly most mundane parts of our days glorifies God – even if the only ones who see it are our kids or coworkers.

Like our pastor said yesterday, even a night-light in the middle of the night makes a profound difference to the one who’s path has been illuminated.

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Do you have a plan?

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We were asked by our pastor Chris McGarvey this week if we have a plan.  A plan for reading?  A plan for praying?  A plan for purposeful growth.

He has a variety of Bible reading plans listed on his blog, they’re all good – any one of them will be profitable.

But I saw this plan for praying for our children today and wanted to link to it.

How encouraging to read of a man and his wife praying for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in the same, faithful way – week in and week out, month in and month out, year in and year out.  So often I’m tempted to look to some new, creative way to talk to God, but He is not the one growing bored with our conversation – I am.  Ouch.

How refreshing to read that it is good and proper and right to simply and yet faithfully bring our little flock before the Good Shepherd.  He delights in the details of each of their lives – he does not grow tired or complacent because we pray, again, for our children to be faithful.  He is pleased with that prayer every single time.

Here is the list – again, any one of them will be profitable.  But can you imagine the godly legacy you will establish for generations to come if your children are covered with and exposed to this kind of consistent, faithful prayer?

(FYI… there is more to this list!!  Please click on the link above and visit Andy Naselli’s blog to read the rest – you won’t regret it!)

by J. D. and Kim Crowley

[The Crowleys have six children, and J. D. is a pioneer missionary-linguist in Cambodia.]

Faith

  1. Grant them a heart of repentance from sin.
  2. Give them faith in Christ from an early age.
  3. Fill them with your Holy Spirit, and may they bear the fruit of the Spirit.
  4. Lead them to be baptized into your church.
  5. Make them members of a strong church with godly elders.
  6. Give them spiritual gifts for use in the church, and help them faithfully use them.
  7. Lead them always to increase in holiness.
  8. Keep them within the orthodox faith of Christ and the apostles.
  9. Protect them from false teachers and false teaching.
  10. Make them fruitful proclaimers of the gospel, filled with love for all.
  11. Make them humbly committed to daily prayer.
  12. Give them hunger for daily Bible reading.
  13. Fill them with love and forbearance toward others.
  14. Help them endure trials with faith and joy.
  15. Help them guard their conscience.
  16. May their lives be like the sun that rises stronger and stronger until the full of day.

Wisdom

  1. Give them hearts that constantly overflow with thankfulness.
  2. Make them peacemakers.
  3. Give them a vocation/skill/work that provides for their family and is useful to society.
  4. Give them a sense of purpose and joy in their life work.
  5. Rescue them from the fear of man.
  6. Provide for them a good education.
  7. Help them apply themselves diligently to their studies and other work.
  8. Rescue them from laziness and dishonesty.

Influences and Relationships…

The Gospel through the dishes…

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My kids help with the chores around the house.  They have alternated between rotating the various household chores among themselves daily, weekly and monthly.  I’m flexible, as long as the chores are getting done in reasonable fashion.

But sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes, believe it or not, my kids are wicked and sinful.  They rebel against simple requests like taking the trash out or vacuuming a room, but the worst one lately has been the dishes.

Actually, it’s not just lately – it’s been for months.  And truthfully, it’s really only been one child.

So, in order to help this child learn the valuable lesson of responsibly doing what he’s called to do, whether he “feels” like doing it or not, we gave him the gift of doing dishes – all of them.  Every day.

The deal was that if he could keep up with the dishes in a reasonably responsible way, then we’d go back to rotating the job between kids.  At first we said a month.  That was torture.  Then we said two weeks.  That was torture, too.  Additionally, he then deteriorated into such horrific whining and complaining that we felt we had a new problem on our hands in addition to the old one.

We brought out the big guns.  “Son,” we said, “since you have been both irresponsible AND complaining about all of this here’s the deal: you have to clean the entire kitchen on your own.  You have to keep it clean for one week straight and then you’re done.  BUT, every time you either do a bad job, need to be told to do it, or complain about doing it, your week gets extended.  The choice is yours.  If this gets extended, you are choosing to have it extended.”

That was about 2 or 3 months ago.

Sigh.  Heavy, heavy, sigh.

I’m no shrinking violet, but even I couldn’t stand this arrangement any more.  We shortened his prison sentence, but I let him know with absolutely clarity that it was grace, and grace alone, that was getting him out of paying his debt to society.  He hadn’t earned it and he knew it.

That was last week.

One happy, blissful week later, another child and I were having a discussion about salvation.  We were talking about how we can’t do a hundred good things to make God happy with us.  We can’t do a million good things to make God happy with us.  There is no way for us to make God happy with us!  We can’t pray enough, read the Bible enough, go to church enough – nothing we do can be enough to make God happy with us.  Even the ability to have faith to believe all that Jesus has done on our behalf is really God’s gift to us, not our gift to him.

And the clouds parted and the angels sang, because then this child looked at me and said, “Like ______ getting off of kitchen duty!  He tried and tried but he just couldn’t do it himself – you had to show him grace!”

Yes, child.  Grace.  Unmerited reward.  The Gospel is clear even through the dishes.

Glimmers of hope through the haze of immaturity

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I have a 13-year old son.

For those of you who have ever had one of those, you know how loaded that statement truly is.

For those of you who have not, be compassionate and kind in how you respond to those of us who do – please.

I love my son, as you would probably imagine.  But there are days when I could seriously consider options such as military school, residential care, long-term overseas assignments… you get the picture.  My sweet boy isn’t always, well, sweet.

But the other day, a glimmer of hope searched out a crack and shone through like sunbeams through the clouds.

Here’s what happened.

We were all furiously getting ready for a 4-day trip which required nice clothes (always a challenge for 13-year old boys), nice shoes (will he ever learn to keep the right one with the left one?), personal hygiene products (for that wonderful “man smell”) and the like.  All of the other kids were scrambling around getting their things together as well as helping to take care of the multitude of other details that needed to be attended to before we left.  But, sweet 13-year old boy was messing around, being his usual distracted self.

In my frustration I prayed.  “Lord.  Please help me to know how to parent this child this morning.  It seems like nothing I do or say works to get him to pay attention!  I’m about to lose my patience with him, which I know won’t help anything.  Give me wisdom, Lord, I need it desperately.  I know you have plans for him, but right now, he needs to find his shoes.  Amen.”

I then took his face (which I noticed is starting to get a few pimples) into my hands and calmly, but firmly said, “Son, there are jobs that need to get done this morning and you’re not doing any of them.  I’m going to give you one job at a time.  I expect that you will QUICKLY go and get the job done and then QUICKLY come back to me for your next assignment.  I don’t want to be upset with you this morning and I’m pretty sure you’re in agreement.”

While my hands were still embracing his cheeks, he nodded vigorously up and down in hearty agreement.

I sent him on his first task – to clean up the breakfast dishes.  He started well.  And then it happened – another boy entered into the room.

If you have only girls, this may come as a shock to you, but if you have more than one son, you can attest to the truth of this statement:   Two boys can almost never be in the same room without coming into physical contact with each other!  It’s as if they’re magnetized or something.

Older brothers are especially guilty, I might add, and it was an older brother that I thought would end my son’s one-minute streak of obedient concentration.

But God is a God of 13 year old boys, too.

What happened next stopped me dead in my tracks.

Instead of the usual tussle that normally occurs between two boys in the same room, I heard this come out of my 13 year old’s mouth:  “STOP DISTRACTING ME!  I’m gonna get in trouble!  I have a JOB TO DO!!!”

I almost fainted.

I could not believe my ears.  I cried.  Those were the most beautiful words I could have heard in that moment.

Not wanting to distract from his focus I didn’t go into the kitchen and let him finish the dishes (which he did), but my heart sang out in thankful praise!

You see, I prayed out of desperation.  I needed to know that this daily, grinding, toilsome discipline of this particularly challenging child was accomplishing SOMETHING in his life.

What I didn’t know, was that my son had also sent a prayer up to God as well.  He told me later that he prayed, “God, please help me not get distracted so that I can finish the jobs my mom wants me to do without getting into any trouble.  Amen.”

And he prayed out of desperation, too.  He needed to know that God could help him focus on something that he didn’t particularly want to do long enough to get it done.  He knew that he had tried, but had failed.  He needed to know that God could succeed where he could not.

And in one fell swoop God answered both of us.  And it broke through the cracks of immaturity like my son’s voice through his growing vocal chords – loud and startling and definitely noticeable!

Later in the day, while I was still basking in the warmth of the knowledge of answered prayers, this scripture came to mind and it seems especially appropriate at we disciple our kids:

“And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”  Galatians 6:9-10

Never give up.  Never give in.  When you grow weary, take your cares to Him and in the ordinary parts of your day, He will not disappoint you, but rather will continue to surprise you with His faithful loving-kindness – even when you’re trying to parent a 13-year old.

It all depends on your perspective

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“The story is told of three women washing clothes.  A passerby asked each what she was doing.

“Washing clothes” was the first answer.

“A bit of household drudgery” was the second.

“I’m mothering three young children who some day will fill important and useful spheres in life, and wash-day is a part of my grand task in caring for these souls who shall live forever” was the third.

from, The Shaping of a Christian Family, by Elisabeth Elliot

I love this story.  I made a cross-stitch of it once.  It has reframed many days filled with what might otherwise be seen as hum-drum and ordinary… boring is word I never use about my life.

You see, if we can see that even the most menial, mindless, repetitive tasks that we are called to do have an eternal purpose, we become happier to do them.

Colossians 3:17 reminds us: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

And then verses 23-24 go further: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ.”

So let me ask you – what is your perspective on those dull, seemingly endless tasks of your day-to-day life?  Can you look at them as part of a much bigger, much more important work?  Can you see how cleaning bathrooms, or washing clothes, or filing, or scanning columns of numbers, or reading, or writing – or whatever it is that you find dull and menial – is actually part of preparing the way for you or someone else to “fill important and useful spheres in life”?

As mothers, we are discipling the next generation of mothers, fathers, church members, community members, leaders, pastors, workers, business owners… you get the idea.  We’re raising men and women, who will hopefully influence the next generation to do everything they do “heartily, as unto the Lord” as well.  And we have a lot of influence on how well that will go.

When we grumble and complain about the things God gives us to do, we communicate to those around us that we don’t see the purpose in what we’re doing.  And what THAT communicates is that we don’t believe that this stuff HAS a purpose.  But it does.

It all depends on your perspective.

Loads of care

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When I was expecting our fourth child and was (yet again) weakened to the point of being an invalid with sickness, my sweet husband took up the task of laundry.  One day he came into our room with another load of clothes that needed to be folded, flopped it on the bed and said, (as if this thought had never occurred to anyone else), “This laundry NEVER ends!”

It still makes me smile.

Some things you have to see for yourself before they really break into your thinking as really and undeniably true.

And so it is with a simple, but practical thing that I have done for years, that has, I believe, changed the dynamics of our family… and the laundry.

First of all, I divide and conquer.  I realized early on that it was always easier to do the baby’s laundry because for some months I kept it separated from the rest of the family’s laundry.  It made folding, sorting, and putting it all away so much easier to deal with one child’s laundry at a time that I decided to do it for all of them.  At first we used boxes because I couldn’t afford to go out and buy a bunch of hampers.  Later we graduated to “tubs” (those plastic storage tubs sold everywhere) and we still use them 20+ years later.

They’re magic.  They hold about a week’s worth of laundry for each person – about a load of lights and a load of darks.  You can put folded clothes right back in them and carry them to the dresser where they belong, unload and stick it back in place to collect the dirty clothes again.  So beautiful.

Little bitty kids can put their dirty clothes in their tubs – we always started when they started walking.  Later then can learn to put their clothes away.  (This does, I admit, take a much longer time for some reason – 18 years on average is my experience.)

Everyone has an assigned laundry day, but since we’ve been many, I’ve had to do more than one person per day.  Occasionally if there aren’t enough clothes in one person’s light or dark load, I’ll put them together.  But to avoid looking at a million t-shirt and underwear tags I wash a big kid’s clothes on the same day as a little kid’s clothes, or a boy’s clothes on the same day as a girl’s clothes – this way it’s obvious whose things are whose and I don’t have to wear glasses to do the laundry.  I’m lazy that way.

It works.  It’s simple.  It makes laundry in my house of many manageable and easy.

BUT, that’s not all.

It has also provided an amazing benefit that I never would have believed if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

Now that I found myself doing laundry for one person at a time, I’ve been able to use that time to pray for each member of the family in a concerted and purposeful way.  Now I see each tub that the kids bring to the laundry room as a load of prayer requests.  They know that each load of care will be taken to the throne of grace.  Sometimes they don’t know what to ask for, but they know I’ll pray for them.  Sometimes they don’t want to ask for anything, but they know I’ll pray for them then, too.

So, while doing laundry this way may not be a profound household tip – praying for your family members while you do it could bring about profound changes in your household.  Because while the laundry never ends, neither do the loads of care that you will be able to carry to a Mighty God through prayer!