Behold

Fear not for I bring you good tidings, of great joy, which shall be for ALL people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:10,11
A saviour. Born for ALL. Every one who believes is welcome. No exclusions based on race or Creed. No exceptions for the moms, like me, who have “lost their religion” way more than once this week. No secret pass word. No social requirements. Just salvation for ALL who will believe.

Thank you, Jesus.  

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Mental Ramblings on Abortion

I just read an article about abortion; and as I always do after reading such things I began to ponder the entire situation surrounding abortion.

I’m pro-life, and have a hard time wrapping my head around the thought of killing an unborn child. It turns my stomach to think of a woman volunteering to have her own baby cut out of her body and thrown away as trash. But that is an all too common practice, both here in the U.S. and around the world. I wish it weren’t. I wish I could make every mother and father love the life that they created together. But I cannot.

So, tonight as I washed dishes and thought about abortion I let my mind wonder over reasons women may choose abortion. And reasons so many feel it is their only choice at all.

Statistically, it is much easier to go about finding information on abortion, than information or resources to help a mother raise an unexpected child, or finding an adoption agency. I won’t bore you with numbers but suffice it to say, I have read many articles where people have researched or taken polls on the streets to learn what it is like to choose between life, and abortion. It is very much easier to google “abortion” and find a clinic, than it is to google “pregnancy help,” or something similar, and get a good outreach program or adoption agency. So, that is probably a huge reason women (particularly young women, and teenagers, I would guess) choose abortion. If there is so much information available so quickly for one choice, and the other choices take so much more digging; then panic kicks in and you go with the first choice — abortion.

Second, I would guess nerves probably get the best of many women (and men, because we don’t need to leave them out of this equation.) Raising a child is a HUGE undertaking. Perhaps these women look back at their own childhood and see pain, instead of a steady, guiding hand. They don’t know how to be a parent because they realize they were dealt a pretty crappy example in their own parents. Perhaps the reason for late term abortion is simply nerves on overdrive. “I thought I could raise a child, but I have a dead end job, my family has disowned me, I don’t know who the father is, the costs are going to cripple me…” Until abortion seems like the only way to survive. (Remember, self preservation is a hard-core instinct in all of us. We all worry about our own survival.)

As a society, and particularly as Christians, we have largely dropped the ball on caring for women at “risk” of abortion. Think about it for a minute. If a new family comes to church and they have a 16 year old, very pregnant daughter, how is that family welcomed? They aren’t. They are stared at. People whisper as they walk by. Nobody goes up and shakes hands with them all and then offers to help. Oh sure, they may pass the dad a brochure on family counseling. Maybe they even give mom sympathetic smiles. They may welcome the other children. But the one girl feels like the elephant in the room. And heaven forbid she walk into church alone. Things would only feel a million times more stressful for her. Even a young woman, pregnant, in her twenties that might try to attend a singles group would be judged in many churches. I don’t feel like we have any concept of how hard we make it on women when we act this way toward them for carrying a baby, and then we preach long and hard on the evils of abortion. We can not lean both ways! We can not.

To just step back a minute, all mothers need to ask themselves, honestly, if they have always felt “ready” to have and raise a baby. I know I sure as heck have questioned my judgment! I’m expecting baby number 3 and I still question “how on earth am I going to survive this? How can we afford this? Is this even the right thing for our family?” Having a baby is a BIG DEAL. Bringing a baby home is a BIG DEAL. Not only are there expenses to prepare for baby (and I’m talking minimal preparation — a few clothes, diapers, car seat, crib… expenses $$$.) There are doctor visits; how many of us want to go alone to find out what we are having, because mom and dad won’t talk to us, don’t know who the dad is… whatever? Not easy. There are medical bills, hospital bills, insurance questions, on and on, and on. I think most of us, who are currently moms, can all agree that we could not have survived even 9 months of pregnancy, let alone the first week or so at home, without some support. Not all of these women who seek an abortion have any such support. In fact, many do not. Instead they have a boy friend threatening to leave, a husband mad because he never wanted kids, maybe angry parents… Abortion seems like the only option.

I don’t have the answers to all of this. I really do not. There is one wonderful program that has really learned to stand behind women. Save the Storks is doing things right. They are offering real help, and real support. Showing women real options to these real questions. I love what they do, and encourage you to check them out here https://savethestorks.com/

I also think we, pro-life-ers, need to stand behind pregnancy outreach centers. I volunteered some at such a center when my husband and I were newly wed, and broke did not even begin to describe our financial situation. I wanted children but there was no way that it was the right time for us. We lived in an RV (cheap rent, by the way) I had a crappy babysitting job that barely paid $5 an hour, he worked part time and was going to school full time… broke. But I’d go volunteer when I could. And now I encourage others to give to pregnancy outreaches whenever possible. These places pretty much have to survive on grants because, obviously, they don’t charge for their services; and people aren’t just lining up to volunteer, or give money. Even donations of items — diapers, wipes, formula, clothes, toys, blankets, etc — are a huge help most of the time. And this is one way to get behind these women who may otherwise choose abortion.

We need to also remember our own resources and use them too. I have a great desire to help women through unexpected pregnancy. Some day I hope to be able to find these women and help them financially, either with a cash gift, or by taking them to buy things to prepare for a baby. Right now I am not able to do that, because money is tight. Just like it isn’t smart to jump in the water to save a drowning person, it’s much safer and more effective to rescue them with your own feet planted on the ground; now is not the time for me to try to “rescue” other mothers. I wish I could but right now all I can do is help a little, instead of a lot. I don’t say all this for a pat on the back, I just want others to catch the vision and look for ways they can help too. Maybe you are done having kids and could give your crib, swing, and other “gear” to a young mom. Maybe your kids are grown and gone but you could mentor and “grandmother” a new mother and child. Find a way to be a part of the solution.

My final thought before I go is a sad one. This is at the very end because I don’t have a solution for it. It breaks my heart, and I hope others can see how it is truly an issue and together we can work to correct the damage. Think of the children. The unborn children. The unwanted children. Where would they be, if they had not been aborted? We like to proclaim the great things these lost lives would have done…but who would have raised them to do those great things? If millions of babies have been aborted since abortion became legal; how many of those millions would have been foster care system statistics? This hurts to write, but we can not ignore that we have thousands of “unwanted” children already in the system. Where would thousands more go? What will we do to fix that broken system so that babies can be raised in homes with loving families, instead of in group homes, or tossed around between foster homes until they age out of the system? Think of the children.

 

Pastor Appreciation Month: From a PK

I’m a PK — Preacher’s kid — and October is pastor appreciation month. Seems logical for me to write something about it. My dad has been a preacher all my life, and a pastor for most of that time. I’ve seen church ministry from the inside out for a long time. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. So believe me when I write to say thank you, I really do see what pastors, and their families have sacrificed.

For my family, it wasn’t just “dad is a preacher, and we tag along.” Ministry was a whole family deal. Sure, dad did the pastoring jobs, but none of us were allowed to just sit and watch. I’ve been 30 minutes to an hour early, to church, nearly every Sunday of my life. There was no option to be too tired or busy for church. There was no “that is someone else’ job” either. I’ve seen my dad vacuuming church halls in his suit and tie right up until people began to arrive. I’ve seen him emptying trash cans, picking up gum wrappers, and sweeping the same way. My mom, siblings, and I have all done the same. Your pastor’s family does so much, that you may never see. His wife is probably playing piano, singing, teaching Sunday School, keeping nursery, or some combination of all of those things. His children are likely mowing the church lawn, or being asked last minute to keep nursery or teach a class to children during revival. He is spending his own money on small church repairs that need to be done ASAP. So this month, thank your pastor’s family.

And of all the things you do see your pastor doing there are dozens more going on behind the scenes. He spends hours a week studying and preparing to teach and preach. He prays for you and the other members of your church. He worries about things for you. He takes calls late at night or early in the morning, when he would rather be sleeping. He prays with you over the phone, or drops everything to drive to the hospital. He counsels and marries your children. He buries your aunts, uncles, parents, and friends who had no church home. He sucks countless cough drops to squeak through preaching while he should be home in bed. He fights back pain, kidney stones, family worries, and stress to stay focused on delivering God’s word to you and the congregation every week. So this month, thank your pastor.

When you do see your pastor he smiles, hugs your neck or shakes your hand. He asks about you. About the new job.  About your children. He has his own concerns. His weekday job is rocky right now. His truck is broken down. His dad is sick. But he knows most people he speaks to on Sunday morning will unload on him, and then walk away without asking how he is doing. So this month, thank your pastor.

Then he stands up in front of the church. Maybe he leads music too. Maybe he just taught Sunday School. But now he comes to deliver the Message. He can see you are distracted. He knows that isn’t a Bible app you have pulled up. He hears you whisper to your friends, and he sees you get up for 3 bathroom breaks. He knows you keep checking your watch. All of these things are a huge distraction. But he keeps giving the sermon. He continues to do his job. Then he gets in the car, and turns to his wife… “did that make any sense? I struggled with that so much this week, and I don’t know if anyone heard it.” So this month, thank your pastor.

After all of this, he wonders. He loves you. Your pastor really does love you and your family. He wants the best for you. He wishes he could cast off your pain. He hates to see you suffer. But his job as your pastor, and thus roll as your friend, is always on the line. If he preaches too strongly on a subject will the church reject God’s word, and fire him? If he points out new ministry opportunities will people balk and leave the church? What if clearly false rumors begin to spread about him, or his family and the church kicks him out. After-all, he is human too. So this month, thank your pastor.

Really, having one month for pastor appreciation is such a huge down play of all that your pastor does for you. Thank him. Thank his wife. Thank his children. Thank the lady who makes coffee (or maybe your pastor does that too). Thank the nursery workers. Thank the Sunday School Director. Thank the sound team. Thank the guy taking out the trash. Ministry is hard work. It’s taxing. It can be stressful. Your pastor loves to serve, or he wouldn’t be there. So this month, thank your pastor.

Not the Preacher’s Job

I’ve been thinking lately. Mostly my mind just wonders here and there. Yesterday it wondered toward seeing children saved and baptized. Always such an awesome experience! But then I thought of the times I have heard Sunday School teachers, or parents say their children had to talk to the preacher. I’ve heard mothers tell their kids this for months; saying the child has to approach the preacher herself, supposedly, to show they are really “ready to be saved.” I have a few objections to this approach.

These are personal objects and maybe some pastors won’t agree; but here they are anyway. First, I believe once a child reaches a point where they know they are not good, no matter how narrow that understanding; they have already reached the “age of accountability.” In other words, if your 6 year old asks about being baptized because they “don’t want to die in hell.” Then that child already understands the beginnings of salvation. He may not fully grasp all aspects of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, but he knows enough that God will hold him accountable. I know it sounds absolutely horrifying to think of a 6 year old going to hell; but I do believe knowing he needs Christ, and not actually accepting Him, would merit separation from the Father in Heaven. Again, maybe a stronger Bible scholar would argue with that; however, that is MY understanding.

Which brings me to my second objection with asking kids to go to their pastor to accept Christ. If, once a child begins to see the need for Jesus in her life, she is accountable for her sins; then is time not important in that situation? Let’s suppose your 9 year old is asking questions about asking Jesus into her heart. Now let’s say that you don’t feel “qualified” to answer those questions so you tell her to wait and ask the preacher on Sunday. Sunday comes and the pastor has to rush after church for another obligation. You try again to speak on Wednesday but your child is shy and doesn’t want to interrupt the preacher chatting. This goes on for a couple of weeks before you are in a car wreck…… What if your child were to die not having professed Jesus as her savior? What if that were the case, and you had simply ignored her questions because “that’s the preacher’s job?”

That last statement brings me to my final objection to making children wait to talk to a pastor. If you can not even explain Salvation through Faith in Christ to your own child, to whom CAN you explain it?! If we are to be leading others to Christ, shouldn’t we know what that means?  If you can’t tell your very own child that when they do bad things, like lie or disobey you, that it makes God sad. If you can’t continue by telling them God knew we would do bad things, so He gave something even more special than toys or money just for us. That God loved us so much that He let His Son be killed; and then His Son, Jesus, didn’t stay dead. He rose again so that We can still know Him. We can pray and tell Jesus “thank You for dying so I don’t have to. Please forgive me for doing bad things; I want to do things that make You happy.” …. If we can’t find SOME words to explain it to a child, how can we ever explain it to a coworker, a stranger, a friend, or anyone else?

Jesus said “let the children come to Me.” He didn’t say let them talk to the preacher and let him decide if they are ready to come. He said “let them come.”

May Operation Christmas Child Ideas

I’m running a little late posting this, but here it is!

The month of May is dedicated to collecting things for 10-14 year old girls. This can be a tricky age to shop for. It’s hard to know what a 14 year old girl we have never met, might want as a gift. The truth is, most of the children who receive gifts through Operations Christmas Child need so many things, that almost any gift will be a blessing. Like the months before I have shopped and found some things I recommend for the shoe boxes.

Clothes

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The shoe boxes that can be ordered from Samaritans purse are pretty small. That makes shopping for older kids tough, because the clothes need to be bigger. I recommend something like this shirt, leggings set. Both are soft and can be rolled fairly small. A simple dress, or skirt would also be appropriate. This set is size 8 and was $8.74 at Wal-Mart. Socks and panties are also great to put in each box. This package of size 10 briefs is perfect. And the package of size M socks is also a great buy. (Sorry, some of my prices are missing… I misplaced my receipt.)

Shoes and Accessories

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Unfortunately, shoes are really hard for this age group. They are just too big to fit in the box with many other gifts. $.98 flip-flops are good compromise over nicer shoes, unless you are using larger boxes. The set of 4 bright colored necklaces make fun “filler” gifts for this age. They were only $4.88. Bright colored bandanas can be very useful; and they are only $1! This neat little purse is sure to bring a smile to a young lady across the globe. This one was in the girls clothing department for $5.47.

Fun Gifts

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Gifts for this age can be more along the line of small tools or other useful items. I read in Franklin Graham’s book Operation Christmas Child, how a young boy was ecstatic to find his own “towel” in his box. He was in a orphanage and all the children shared just 1 or 2 towels. He said he was later told what he had was actually a wash cloth.Can you imagine even one child drying off with a rag? But we can assume from his story that the towels they all shared could not have been too much bigger than a rag. With that in mind, I think hand towels (around $2); or even bright, fun kitchen towels will make super gifts for this age group! I also suggest a small sewing kit (around $1) and some fabric (around $5-7). Any box with a sewing kit should also receive a pair of school scissors, for cutting fabric.

These are all simple gifts, and none of them are expensive, but they may very well change the course of a child’s life by bringing them to knowledge of the Love of God.

A place for Everything

Here is some food for thought on this Monday morning!

Ladies, there is a place for everything. And everything should be in it’s place. This goes for your boobs too. I’m so sick of being flashed in public — even at church of all places! Put ’em away. Please.

Before you start thinking I’m just jealous of other women’s figures. I’m not. I’m only 26. After nursing 2 babies, the girls are still pretty perky. My husband says they look great. But that’s for him to say. And not for you to see. No, I’m not jealous at all. Disgusted maybe? Okay, that’s a pretty strong word. Offended for sure. I don’t care if you are young, or old; married, dating, or single. Quit sharing them.

Here’s the deal. We all know you have boobs. We don’t have to see them for proof. When you try on clothes, or get dressed in the morning; do us the favor of looking in the mirror. I’m not saying wear turtle necks every day, forever. (I HATE turtle necks!) Just make sure at LEAST 3/4 of those puppies are left for the imagination!

This is a good rule of thumb, for married women. When you buy something new, before taking the tags off, model for your husband. You know “that look.” If that comes across his face, the top is just too low. If you can’t read his face, then ask if he would be okay with you wearing the garment to go hang out with him and his all male group of friends. If he says “no,” see if you can add a layer under it, other wise return it and try again.

For single ladies, think what your dad, brother, or maybe grandad might say about what you have on. If you think they would question it, or be uncomfortable talking to you while you have it on, then the rest of us don’t need to see so much either.

Both of the rules above apply to garments that may be too tight, too short, or too anything else, as well. Modesty, can be so much more attractive than dressing like a clown.

I know most of this sounded pretty harsh, and perhaps embarrassing. I rather intended for it to come across that way. It’s so important that we respect ourselves enough to dress well. I’m not talking about being fashion forward, and on trend; I am NONE of those things. I’m talking about honoring ourselves, and our husbands (or future husbands)  by saving our bodies just for them.

 

April OCC Collections

April is just around the corner, and that means I’m gearing up to start a new Operation Christmas Child collection theme at church. We collected soap and rags in January; toys, clothes and blankets for 2-4 year old girls in February; and we are wrapping up collections for 2-4 year old boys for the month of March.

After some research and reading I learned that Samaritan’s  Purse tends to see the most shoe boxes for 5-9 girls. With that in mind, we will be skipping that age group this year. So, April we will be collecting for 5-9 year old boys.

You’ll have to forgive me for being a bit scatter brained for my idea shopping trip this month. I actually needed to go to Walmart for milk and some produce. But I try to avoid going for a bunch of extra trips, so I tacked this shopping on too; and forgot my idea list at home. (Go, me!)

Without further ado, here is a list of what I did get…and  a list of some other great ideas, as well.

Shoes and Socks**

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Like the last 3 months, I’m going to ask folks to bring shoes and socks for the shoe boxes. Flip-flops are easy to fit in the shoe boxes, and Walmart has these for $0.98! I recommend getting size Small (5-6). As always, I encourage you to try to get some good sturdy shoes for the boxes. Flip-flops are better than barefoot. But real shoes… WOW! These canvas shoes are size 10 and cost $5.87. The socks are size 10-2 1/2 and $3.97 for 4 pair.

Pants and Shirts**

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Clothes are great to include in Shoe boxes. I found these solid color shirts for $2.97 (the red one was marked down to $2. No idea why, but it may be worth digging.) I went with an XS and a M. The shorts were $4.97, and I went with size 5. Long pants would also be great, but they will need to be athletic type pants that will fold up really small. Remember to avoid wording or movie characters. What would be super popular here may be unknown, or even offensive in another culture.

Underwear

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Most Americans take things like underwear for granted. Other countries that just isn’t the case. It’s always good to include a pair or 2 of underwear in each box. I chose 4T briefs. The size chart says it will fit a 35-38 pound child. Small boxers or briefs would also be good for this age group. This package was $3.47 for 5 pairs.

Hats Bandanas and Sunglasses

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Obviously, I didn’t remember to actually buy sunglasses the other day, but just some ordinary shades would be great in a shoe box. I found this beanie on sale for $.50! But caps or the floppy brimmed sun hats would also be great to include. Bright colored banadans are fun and useful. Pick them up at Walmart for $1, or go to Hobby Lobby for a huge selection at about the same price.

Toys

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Just like for the last 2 months, stuffed animals are still welcome. Just remember to keep them small so we can still fit everything else in the boxes as well. These are T-balls so they are slightly softer and more bouncy than a regular baseball. I found them in lots of colors for $1.50. Tennis balls are also great. The match box cars were $3.47. The bigger cars that I suggested for  2-4 year old boys would be fabulous for this age group as well.

Other Ideas

Some other ideas for 5-9 year old boys, include:

  • Peg games (found on tables at Cracker Barrel. Find them near the store check out, for just a few dollars.)
  • Slinkies
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Flash lights
  • Echo-Mics
  • Cups or bowls

Happy shopping y’all! Let’s bless some children with some material things, while reaching out to them with the Gospel.

**As sad as this sounds, many of the children who will be receiving these gifts live in countries where food in scarce, and undernourishment is rampant. I say that to remind you that what we would consider average size for each age group, may likely be a pretty big kid in another country.