Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hawaiian Girl and Luke Skywalker

Here they are --- my lovely hula-dancing Hawaiian girl and my valiant Star Wars Jedi, Luke Skywalker (from Episode VI, to be exact!). In this photo, Luke Skywalker is exhibiting his Jedi powers by 'using the force' to make Hawaiian girl move against her will. This required some great acting on the part of Hawaiian girl. :-)

Rewind to last night at around bedtime --- 8:30pm. Luke Skywalker so nicely informed me that it would be really cool if his costume came with a black hooded cape as that's how Luke Skywalker dressed like in Star Wars Episode VI. Hmmmm...I had a moment of thought right then and there. Do I want to give up my relaxing evening (for once, I was caught up with work) or do I want to spend all night sewing a black hooded cape?!? The answer came very easily. Of course, I would love to complete my son's Halloween costume for him! The look on his face as he laid down to sleep, knowing I was going to work on his cape, was just priceless. I wish I took a photo of that face --- it was a look that said: "I feel significant!".

I quickly sent hubby to Wal-Mart to purchase 2 metres of black fabric. He came home and I sat down and started to sew. Two hours later, the black hooded cape was a reality. Yay! Seriously though, I commented to hubby that it takes soooo little to make a child feel significant. It's just a matter of choice for us parents whether to put in that extra little effort or not.

To be quite honest, I don't know if my answer would have been the same if something I read just yesterday afternoon wasn't still so fresh on my mind. I am currently reading another one of Tim Kimmel's books, Raising Kids Who Turn Out Right. This is what I read:
"A legacy of love requires a commitment of time, a willingness to work unrewarded, and a readiness to sacrifice personal agendas for the ultimate good of people who may not always acknowledge our efforts.
The natural resources of the world are napping in a crib down the hall and hanging off the top bar of the swing set in the backyard. They're in the kitchen leaving the lid off of the peanut butter jar and in the back bedroom playing the stereo too loudly. If you're a parent, you're in the process of mining and refining. Sure, you've got your own needs for security, significance, and strength, but you must be careful not to meet yours at the expense of theirs."
I am very thankful for these words of wisdom. If it wasn't for them, I would have surely thought that I'd deserved a night of watching TV and sipping tea after a hectic day. Surely, my son would be more-than-OK with a pair of black pants, a black turtleneck and a light-saber as his costume. He doesn't really need a black hooded cape as well, does he?

I am very thankful for these words of wisdom. Because of them, I was able to see the significance in taking the time to make this cape for my son. When he woke up this morning and saw the cape hanging on the hook in his bedroom, he quickly tried it on and came into my bedroom to model it for me. The look on his face was even more priceless than the night before! I tell you --- it truly made my day! :-)
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." - Colossians 3:17 NIV

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What About Halloween?

Halloween is here again. Every year, I somehow always get asked my opinion on whether or not Christian parents should let their children participate in Halloween activities. I personally think that the Holy Spirit convicts each family differently and uniquely about this issue. I thought I would post my thoughts on this topic here today. I wrote this just a couple of weeks ago in response to a dear friend's request for opinions on this matter.

We have always let our children participate in Halloween activities ever since they started preschool. We dress up in costumes, bring treats to school, go trick-or-treating on our street, and also go to our church's 'alternative' event. We even decorate our front porch with friendly Halloween/Fall decorations!

We understand the whole argument of the 'evil' or pagan origin of Halloween, but really, what happens at school and on our street, is hardly any of that. It is really just a day for children to dress up, get some treats and have fun. We’ve explained to our children the origins of Halloween and why that is bad, and we’ve stressed the importance of dressing up in 'fun' and 'happy' costumes because we want to stand out --- like a light in a dark world, as Jesus would have us do. This year, my daughter wants to hand out gospel notes along with treats to the children who come to our door. Some years, I have even made the kids’ costumes myself because we couldn't find anything good enough that they will stand out in. This year, my daughter will be a hula dancer (with full clothing underneath the hula skirt, of course!) and my son will be Luke Skywalker (the Star Wars Jedi from the light side).

Tim Kimmel's book Grace-Based Parenting starts up with 'Why Well-Meaning Parenting Falls Short' in chapter one and I think it sums up our position on Halloween quite accurately. I was really glad to read this in his book. It gave me the reassurance that we are doing the right thing for our family. Let me quote him:

"Let me use some broad brushstrokes to categorize a few of the typical parenting methods I see in the Christian community - methods that have led us astray. The first one on my list is the most pervasive model that I see: Fear-Based Parenting. We're scared of Hollywood, the Internet, the public school system, Halloween, the gay community, drugs, alcohol, rock 'n' roll, rap, partying neighbours, unbelieving softball teams, liberals, and Santa Claus.

Our fears determine our strategy for parenting. I see it everywhere I go. I hear it echo in the back of a parent's concerns. The moms or dads begin their statement or question to me with the words "I'm afraid of..." When I look at how the standard evangelical family has formatted their strategy for parenting, most often I see fear behind the steering wheel.

If you took all the categories of advice that Jesus gave us in the Gospels, you'd find that the longest list is made up of verses where He says, "Don't be afraid." If we have put our faith in Him, we should be the last people afraid of just about anything! Fear-based parenting is the surest way to create intimidated kids. It's also the surest way to raise Christian kids who either don't have any passion for lost people, are indifferent to the things of God, or out-and-out rebel against their parents, their church, and the Lord."

We have always believed that as Christians, we should 'go into the world' and let our light shine. And that includes Halloween. On the whole, Halloween is a fun children’s event, a part of childhood that should really be viewed as such.


This year, we are discussing what the significance of going to the church’s 'alternative' event is. We are debating whether that sends a mixed message to the children. If it is OK to participate in Halloween activities at school and in the community, then why are we going to an 'alternative' event at church as well? We are still debating --- so it is 'status quo' for this year. We will be going to our church's 'alternative' event tomorrow night. Really, the explanation is more this: we are not going to the church event because it is an alternative, but because we want to support programmes that the church runs and offers. In my opinion, the church should really take out the word 'alternative' from its promotion of this event, because I think it sends a negative message to non-believers whom we are trying to invite to an event such as this --- it sends a 'holier-than-thou' message.


In our discussion/debate on whether we should attend the church's event this year, somehow the question of WWJD - 'What Would Jesus Do?' came up. My daughter summed it up quite nicely. She said that Jesus would be out and about in the community shining like a light in a dark world sharing about God's love, rather than hiding out in the church building attending the 'alternative' event in order to avoid what's going on outside. Now, that's some food for thought!

My devotional today was coincidentally about this very topic. Check it out here!

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house."
---Matthew 5:13-15 NIV

Monday, October 29, 2007

More Than Enough

Yesterday was worship band Sunday for me again. It awes me each time how God uses my hands to make music in worship of Him when I fully surrender my weaknesses and my inadequacies to Him and allow Him to just take over.

This past week was a busy one. I didn't know I was on the worship band for Sunday until about midweek. So, I wasn't prepared and didn't clear out my week in order to practice. By Friday night, I was feeling overwhelmed by the music. I was feeling inadequate --- that the music was just too hard for me to perfect by Sunday. I turned to God and surrendered everything to Him. He knows my heart --- wanting to give only my best to Him. He also knows about my busy week and the lack of time to practice.

Sunday morning came and I was still feeling unprepared, but I had a calmness within me knowing that God is fully in charge. I sat down on the piano bench prayerfully as the youth choir started to arrive. As my hands went to start the intro for the choir song, it was like I was watching my hands churn out this music all on their own. It truly was not me! Praise God for He knows the desires of my heart. It was such a wonderful worship experience for me.

One of the songs on the worship package was 'Enough' by Chris Tomlin. Because my hands were just so at ease on the piano keys, I was able to focus my mind on the lyrics of this song. I've sang this song many times before but it touched my heart deeply this time. Here are the lyrics:


You are my supply. My breath of life.
Still more awesome than I know.
You are my reward, worth living for.
Still more awesome than I know.

All of You is more than enough for all of me.
For every thirst and every need.
You satisfy me with Your love.
And all I have in You is more than enough.

You’re my sacrifice of greatest price.
Still more awesome than I know.
You’re the coming King. You are everything.
Still more awesome than I know.

More than all I want. More than all I need.
You are more than enough for me.
More than all I know. More than all I can say.
You are more than enough for me.


I asked myself if I am indeed living out the lyrics of this song. Do I live each day acknowledging that God is all I need, that He is more than enough for me? The truth is I am still learning to live each day fully relying on God alone. Each day is progress. Each day is closer to glory. From glory to glory He's changing me...

It is a life-long lesson --- one day at a time.

"But godliness with contentment is great gain."
---1 Timothy 6:6 NIV

"Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."
---Psalm 37:4 NIV

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rain

I've certainly been spoiled by the great weather from this past weekend because the rainy day that we're having today is making me feel a little sluggish and lazy! For those who know me well, you know that I love to sleep and that I am NOT a morning person. This morning was particularly hard to peel myself off of bed because of the dark, rainy weather.

As I tried to wake up, I started my morning prayer time. The great time of fellowship at my Bible study last night was still fresh on the mind. We were on the topic of the Holy Spirit. The worship song by Hillsong "Holy Spirit Rain Down" came to mind:

Holy Spirit, rain down, rain down.
Oh, Comforter and Friend, how we need Your touch again.
Holy Spirit, rain down, rain down.
Let Your power fall, let Your voice be heard;
Come and change our hearts, as we stand on Your word.
Holy Spirit, rain down.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard;
No mind can know what God has in store.
So open up heaven, open it wide;
Over Your church and over our lives.

How refreshing! Rain is indeed good. It is now mid-afternoon and the rain is almost gone. Some coffee would be good for me right about now... :-)

"Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants."
---Deuteronomy 32:2 NIV

"He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth."
---Psalm 72:6 NIV

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thank Therapy

Last night, hubby and I went to our church's parenting class while the children went to the midweek programmes. The class is called 'Power for Parents' and we've been a part of it, on and off, for about 3 years now. This session, the resource material is 'Parenting Teenagers for Positive Results' by Jim Burns. We went last night to check out the material --- to see if it is relevant for us since we do not have teenagers yet. We quickly found out that it was indeed relevant for parents with children of all ages. So, I guess that means we are going to be attending the classes from now on. :-)

Last night's lesson was about 'attitude'. A lot of people complain about their children's bad attitude, but don't realize that it is actually stemming from their own bad attitudes. The children are merely practicing what is being preached! We learned that an attitude adjustment in today's families is greatly needed as attitudes are contagious.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) says --- "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." God's will for families is to be joyful always. According to this verse, joy is achieved by prayer plus having a thankful attitude in all circumstances. If we adjust our attitudes from worrying into thankfulness, it becomes easier and easier to be thankful at all times, even in dire circumstances. The best result in this shift of attitude is that our children will catch it and practice it themselves!

So...one of the in-class activities was to practice 'thank therapy' by writing down 10 specific reasons why we are thankful for our family. Here's my list:

I am thankful that...
~ each person knows Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour.
~ each person acknowledges that every blessing and provision is from God.
~ hubby is a "man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in His commands." Psalm 112:1 (NIV)
~ my children are generally happy and content.
~ my daughter has a very giving spirit.
~ my son is all-boy, energetic and strong-willed.
~ my children love to learn --- my daughter is identified as being intellectually gifted and my son is naturally very inquisitive and is finally getting the hang of reading! Yay!
~ our home is a peaceful place.
~ we have lots of fun together, and,
~ we are a household of faith!

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
---Matthew 6:25-33 NIV

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Psalm 34:4

"I know the Lord is speaking to me when I stop listening to sounds from the world that feed my sense of pride and ambition. Instead, I fall quiet, tune in to God's great world around me, and actively listen. Sometimes, nature speaks, telling me of God's majesty and glory. Sometimes God's Word speaks, reminding me of what God wants me to know. And sometimes the Spirit speaks, awakening my conscience, reminding me of failures, stirring my compassion and sense of justice, aligning me with God's will. I cannot control the voice of God and how it comes. I can only control my 'ears' --- my readiness to listen and quickness to respond."
---Philip Yancey (as printed in Discerning the Voice of God, Week 2: The Holy Spirit, page 31)


Yesterday, God's Word spoke to me from Psalm 34:4 (NIV) --- "I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears." It reminded me of what God wants me to know! Praise God.

You see, yesterday, I received the skin biopsy result that I have been waiting for. The results showed a benign skin condition that can be chronic, but is not harmful. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father who has graciously answered not only my prayer, but also the prayers of many others who were praying alongside me.

As you might have already guessed from the Philip Yancey quote above, I am on week 2 of my Bible study Discerning the Voice of God, and it is on the Holy Spirit. The author compares the Holy Spirit to a control tower. The control tower can see the big picture that the pilot of a plane can not. So, the pilot must fully trust the control tower for the plane to fly safely and reach its destination in one piece. Similarly, "the Holy Spirit sees the whole picture and may want to reveal something beyond what our physical senses can comprehend. As we put our attention on the Spirit, something miraculous takes place. Not only do we more clearly distinguish God's word to us, but the desires of our bodies and souls begin to fall in line with God's."

"...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
---Philippians 1:6 NIV

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Our Trip to the Food Bank

I can't believe it is now Wednesday! I am finally just emerging from the backlog of routine chores and tasks that resulted from not being able to do much at home during the long weekend. All in all though, we had a good Thanksgiving weekend.

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, we did something new this year for Thanksgiving. We donated food items to the Daily Bread Food Bank. I am quite embarrassed to admit that this is our first experience doing this! I can't believe that it took us this long to find out about this huge need and it is right here --- locally, literally right outside our doorstep. Not to offer an excuse or anything, but I think this is the drawback of living in the suburbs. We are less aware of the poverty that surrounds us because we are so far removed from it all.

So, on Saturday, we headed off to the grocery store. While I shopped for groceries for the family, my hubby and the kids ventured off to do the shopping for the food bank. Pushing a cart and armed with the list, the three of them was quite a sight to behold! :-) You see, the three of them do not have much experience with grocery shopping as I grocery shop mostly on Monday mornings while the kids are in school and while hubby is working. Despite of the lack of experience, they did manage to get everything that was on the list. Quite impressive!

On Thanksgivig Day, we headed off to the food bank's main drop-off and sorting centre in the city's west end. The whole experience wouldn't have been as complete if not for the person who accepted our donation that day. When this staff member saw us walk in with the children, he immediately approached us. He wanted to make sure that it was the kids who dropped the food items into the huge box, and not us. He also took the time to show us the food sorting area and told us about opportunities to volunteer there four times each year.

I love it when people are passionate about what they do. It is contagious! I truly believe that it is because this man was so enthusiastic that my kids now see why we need to volunteer and donate. We are now looking into the possibility of volunteering to sort food items this Christmas season, not to mention now donating each time there is a food drive. Awesome!

I must say that this was a positive experience, not only for us, but most especially for the kids --- it was most definitely one of those teachable moments!

"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'."
---Acts 20:35 NIV

Friday, October 5, 2007

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving weekend --- as we approach the first long weekend of the Fall season, it sure does not feel like it weather-wise! It is 27C right now as I look out the window into a calm, beautiful, warm and sunny Fall afternoon.

As I reflect on what Thanksgiving Day is all about, I remember reading somewhere about the Parliament of Canada making some sort of proclamation about Thanksgiving. So, I did a quick search, and here it is: On January 31, 1957, the Canadian Parliament proclaimed: “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed … to be observed on the second Monday in October."

What a difference 50 years can make! I don't think that we would see a proclamation by the Canadian Parliament worded like that in this day and age. Sad, but true. The reality is that we live in a society today that has increasingly embraced pluralism. On the flip side of this, I do think that pluralism is a good thing. In my experience, I notice that people today are more open to listen to what I have to say about my faith because of pluralism. People who are willing to listen is really all I need, the Holy Spirit will do the rest!

In Isaiah 55:10-11 (NIV), it says: "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

So...where was I? Yes, giving thanks. So it is the Thanksgiving weekend already. What have we planned for the family? Let's see...for starters, we will be working on filling Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes which we do every year around this time to get them ready for shipping overseas. We will also be having Thanksgiving dinner at my sister's home on Monday. Aside from that, we are starting something new this year. Tomorrow, we will take the children to the grocery store. They will fill the shopping cart (on their own) with food items that the local food bank has requested, then we will make a trip downtown to drop these items off.

We are so blessed in this country! We have so much to be thankful for. Everyday should be Thanksgiving Day! That is what we are instilling in our children. Each night when they pray, we encourage them to think of three specific things that happened that day for which they can thank God for. At first, it was a bit difficult to think of even three things without repeating the ones from the previous night, but once they got into the habit of doing it every night, it became easier. One night not long ago, my son announced to me that he kept going and ended up with five things to be thankful for.

I look forward to the day when my son comes to tell me that he's lost count of how many things he's thankful for from one single day! That will be such a blessing!

"I will praise God's name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving."
---Psalm 69:30 NIV

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Inner Beauty, Outward Faith

My daughter has been reading through a series of devotionals by Faithgirlz. Their main focus is on the idea of 'Inner Beauty, Outward Faith' based on 2 Corinthians 4:18 --- "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." These are great, relevant, age-appropriate devotionals for preteen girls. I highly recommend them!

From some of these devotionals came the discussion on the topic of dressing modestly. My daughter and I have talked about what it means and we have an understanding of what we are to look for when we go shopping for clothes. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my previous blog entry, we have found it increasingly difficult to find decent clothing for preteen girls these days.

Today, the clothes marketed to preteen girls fall into one of these categories: pants that are way too short or way too tight or having waist lines that are way too low, tops that are hugging the body or are cropped, tank tops with straps that are way too thin, or tops with graphics that are just not acceptable. We call these graphic t-shirts 'attitude shirts'. The one that tops the list, which my daughter and I still laugh about to this day, is a t-shirt we saw with the following printed on it: "saw it, wanted it, had a fit, got it!" I won't even start describing the styles of the dresses that are out there these days!

So, a question --- who decided that these styles are 'in' anyways? Seriously, they must not be a mother! So, what's a mother to do? Sew every piece of clothing that her preteen daughter will ever wear?!? No...I am not that domestic. Haha! Don't get me wrong --- I love sewing but I just don't have all that time to sit and sew! What I have done though is take some time (actually, a lot of time!) looking for stores that carry preteen clothing lines that are modest, yet not boring. Know what I mean? Clothes that my daughter can wear in order to stand up (for modesty) and also stand out. You'd be surprised to know which store fits this category (as of this moment, that is) --- it is La Senza Girl. Can you believe it? This is a good example of 'don't judge a book by its cover'! :-)

Sadly, this is the reality of the society in which we live. It is a society that does not promote modesty and purity. You don't need to go shopping for preteen girl clothing to notice this trend. Just look around --- this trend is clearly evident on huge billboards, on bus shelter advertisements, in magazines, on television, just to mention a few.

This is one of the many reasons why we, as parents, need to be even more intentional in keeping the communication lines open and the dialogue going with our children because it is very easy to lose them to the 'pattern of this world'. We need to instill in them the importance of offering up their bodies as living sacrifices to God, a spiritual act of worship.

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young. Set an example for the believers in what you say and in how you live. Also set an example in how you love and in what you believe. Show the believers how to be pure."
---1 Timothy 4:12 NIrV

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will."
---Romans 12:1-2 NIV

Monday, October 1, 2007

Closet Inventory

October already?!? I tell you --- this year is just speeding away much too quickly for me. I can't believe that we are into the last quarter of 2007 already. Well, with the colder weather starting to arrive, my kids have started to pull out their jeans and long-sleeve shirts to wear.

Much to my amazement, nothing fits my daughter anymore! She grew quite a bit over the summer months. A closet inventory is in order --- YAY! I love to organize things so this is actually a chore that I enjoy doing. So, of course, I could not stop after my daughter's closet was done. I had to do my son's closet, the winter coats and the footwear as well. Well, now, piles of children's clothing and footwear occupy our upstairs hallway --- a pile for goodwill, and piles to pass on to cousins and friends.

Over the weekend, the children and I embarked on a shopping run to refill their now-empty closets. I couldn't believe how hard it is to find decent clothes to buy for a preteen girl these days, but I'll save that topic for another day and another blog entry!

Now back to what I'm writing about today --- closet inventory. As I was cleaning out the closets, I couldn't help but parallel the process of inventory to life. I thought to myself: are there things in my life that I continue to do just because I've been doing it all along; just because I'm comfortable where I am; just because it's expected of me. I'm referring to things like: programmes our children are involved in; ministry involvement at church; community events we participate in; family routines and traditions we do year in and year out.

Is it time to do an 'inventory' of these things? The answer is YES! Just like I clean out the closets every year, it is good practice to re-evaluate every now and then why we do the things that we do. To take out things that don't fit anymore, keep the ones that still fit, and to make room for new things that are needed. Basically, to sit back and to refocus. To ask whether or not this is still where God wants me to be at this time. To ask whether this is still where God can use me the most.

Re-evaluation and refocusing are often difficult because the result can involve change. I think that God has been gracious in allowing me to do the Bible study 'Discerning the Voice of God' this season for this specific reason --- to help me in my re-evaluation and refocusing. I am eagerly anticipating to see what He has in store for me in this Bible study.

"If you want to hear God's voice clearly and you are uncertain, then remain in His presence until He changes this uncertainty. Often much can happen during this waiting for the Lord. Sometimes He changes pride into humility; doubt into faith and peace; sometimes lust into purity. The Lord can and will do it."
---Corrie Ten Boom (printed in Discerning the Voice of God, Week 1 - Anticipating the Voice of God)


"In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch."
---Psalm 5:3 NASB