May 7, 2012

Engaging Culture with Discernment

Engaging Culture with Discernment

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.                                                    -Romans 12:1-2

Well, it seems that the pot has been stirred yet again.  The opening of The Hunger Games movie this weekend has Christians visiting again the issue of how to deal with culture.  So what’s a Christian to do?  How should we think about and engage culture? How do we know when to flee, and how do we keep from being simply reactionary?  How can we learn to be critical and discerning regarding culture?  How do we train our children to be leaders in critical and discerning thought regarding culture?  I have a few ideas.

1. Flee the obvious in light of Scripture.  What do I mean by obvious?  Books, movies, video games, and music that by the genre they have been put in obviously are set apart by Scripture to be avoided because by their nature they are meant to lead one into sin.  Examples would be porn, erotica, or any other genre of sexual deviance. Other areas not sexual in nature should be considered as well.  Be sure definitions of what is sin are Biblical definitions.

2. Filter out those things that you (or a family member) are susceptible to.  If your child cannot read a fantasy novel or play a certain video game without having a major disassociation with reality, then remove those things from his use until you deem him more mature and discerning. Also be careful to not make a blanket generalization that just because you are avoiding something, everyone else should as well.  We want to be careful not to fall into legalism as we seek to make wise choices for our families.

3. Test the rest. Test it how?  By engaging it – reading it, watching it.  Watch it with your mind.  Pay attention to the message being sent because there is always a message. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but usually it’s mixed.  Be willing to pull apart the subject matter and find what might have been dropped in there just because we are all made in the image of God.  Look for themes of redemption – everyone wants to be saved, fixed, or found. What is the message the author or movie maker ultimately wants to leave us with?  How does it stand up with Scripture?  If it’s not a Biblical worldview, then what worldview is it?  Postmodernism?  New Age?  Secular humanism? (Ah, yes, we have to know what those are, don’t we.)  Take every thought captive -2 Corinthians 10:5.

4. Do engage in material “from the other side” knowing your own limitations and sinful inclinations.  If you have a friend who needs to check her horoscope everyday, you may want to become a bit more versed in the “language of the Babylonians” in order to show her from Scripture how what she is doing is leading her away from God.  Usually, in order to have these conversations, you need to know something about the subject so that you can have the credibility that comes with knowing what it is you are saying to stay away from. We do our non-Christian friends well to be able to intelligently discuss their views with them. More than a few have come to know Christ through those avenues, C.S. Lewis being an excellent example of this.  Do this with much prayer and  accountability.  Let someone you trust know that you are reading a book to learn more about what your friend believes and have that person pray for you as you research and engage in conversations with unbelievers.

5. Represent the subject accurately.  We are all clouded by our own biases and judgments, so, as people of the truth we must make every effort to represent whatever we are critiquing as accurately as possible.  Don’t you hate it hear a critique of what Christianity is supposedly about, only to learn that the critic is entirely misinformed, or worse is intentionally misrepresenting Christianity?  I just read a review of The Hunger Games by a well-respected Christian.  It was not a favorable review – which is fine.  (Remember – a review is someone’s opinion, nothing more.) What bothered me about his review was the fact that his relaying of the story had some major inaccuracies, especially regarding the thoughts and feelings of the characters, which were very much revealed in the storytelling of The Hunger Games itself.  I highly respect this man, so I was left disappointed.

6. Teach your children to do all of the above at appropriate times in their maturity and development.  It is so fun to have discussion with my children regarding culture – what they like, what drives them crazy, and how they see others trying to make life work apart from Christ. They have not always been able to do this.  They had to learn, and are still learning…as am I.  But it has been so encouraging to learn together, to sharpen one another, and to challenge one another to think more Biblically and not reactionary (I’m a mom…yes…it still happens.)  All of this came bit by bit as we engaged age-appropriate content over the years with them.

I also suggest checking out the ClearPlay DVD player.  It has been a wonderful tool for our family allowing us to watch more movies and shows together while filtering out the elements (e.g., gratuitous language) without detracting from the storyline.

I offer these suggestions because it is my desire to see Christians intelligently engaging culture with a Biblical worldview. We belong to Christ Jesus and we have been fully equipped to engage our culture with discernment.  Put on that armor and go forth in the Spirit of wisdom, courage and truth.

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You can sign up for next year's conference here!

Driving away from a coffee date, which God planned at the end of May with a new friend, I felt distinctly and heard clearly that I was to attend this parenting conference for moms in Birmingham, AL. Thinking of our finances, I laughed at the crazy thought.  How in the world, LORD?  How would I pay for it? How will the logistics come together?

Well God made a way.  I don’t know why I was surprised.

He set up Divine appointments/ meetings just for me during this time I just spent in Birmingham–one upon the other.  I don’t know why that surprised me either.

In fact, each thought I had of someone I hoped to connect with, He made it happen. He even had some surprises in store! For I met a homeless man (Deborah, it’s the same one you met, I know….funny how God works!).  Also I met the twin sister of an old family friend, who also happened to be my dentist most of my life–this lady is Esther Burroughs, a wise and godly woman. Oh, I want to be just like her!  Finally I met a sweet lady, who treated me like royalty and met me at church–God turned my disappointment of having to go alone into God-appointment. In fact she just texted me to make sure I made it home safely.  I think that’s pretty awesome!!

I could name tens of others that He set up…from the cashier to the hotel maid to the two ladies at the car rental place to the college student, who knows and goes to school with my dear friend Carol’s son! God MET me there.  He saw me.  He saw where I am.  He challenged me.  He arrived and escorted me throughout the entire journey. He oversaw my family and my Chris, who had a very special meeting while I was gone.  Certainly, He drove me home last night for I was entirely spent!

Although I could go on and on about each session, each speaker, worship, times of fellowship, new friends made, old friends savored and conversations  that I shall never forget, I will not go in-depth.  For I am still “eating the Word” that God served up.  I am sure those life-lessons shall be reflected in my future articles here.  They would have to, for I have come home with a renewed sense of calling upon my life.

Instead, I shall share some gems from my notes.  The personal interactions were for me and those with whom I met. Those are deep treasured moments to me. Like Mary, I treasure them up and think about the goodness of God in setting up those times. Thank You, Lord!

So here are the gems I received from dotMOM:

  • I came to this conference to get refreshed not escape. Priscilla Shirer
  • Think of those old-time, story changers’ books–when we are lonely, we are most likely to choose the wrong ending or get stuck in a chapter. Constance Rhodes
  • We must choose excellence, not perfectionism.  Perfectionism is when doing things takes the place of relationship. Constance Rhodes
  • It’s a lie to believe that as we become more perfect, we will be more liked. Constance Rhodes
  • When I am on the phone and my child interrupts, they are drawn to my sweet voice that I am using with my friend.  I should use my sweet voice with them as well.  Value them.  They love their Mama’s voice! Angela Thomas
  • We need to be a light to ALL those in the house.  Angela Thomas
  • We teach our kids God’s Word the D6-7 Way (Deuteronomy 6:7). Any time of day is a good time to share God’s word with your children. Angela Cottrell
  • Listen to God’s voice. When the Holy Spirit speaks, we speak. Angela Cottrell
  • Be brave and silence the noise in your home. Angela Cottrell
  • We teach God’s word to our children line upon line and precept upon precept. Angela Cottrell
  • Our children’s questions for us are God-initiated. So when they ask questions, praise the LORD, and tell them this: We were slaves in Egypt, but God brought us out with a mighty hand. God has delivered us.  Angela Cottrell
  • Kids remember stories. We must share out God stories with our children.  Tell the next generation what He has done.  Angela Cottrell
  • Tie God’s stories into our everyday life. If God did this in the Bible, then God can do this!  Angela Cottrell
  • Always share a gem from the Word to hook them early in the morning.  For you never know what will happen or grow when scattering seeds.  Angela Cottrell
  • I tend to stay in the shallow, but it is in the deep where I see Jesus’ face. Angie Smith
  • Safe places are not for God’s glory.  Am I encouraging my children to swim out in the deep, to live radically for Christ? I must show them and not tell them.  Our highest calling is to glorify God and we do that through mothering. Angie Smith
  • When I speak of teaching diligently (from Deuteronomy 6:4-7), it means to whet, sharpen, to pierce, to be wounded–not for the wound, but for the glory that rises in redemption. We want our children to be pierced for a purpose.  Angie Smith
  • The Lord needs imperfect servants, not good little soldiers to carry out His purposes. Angie Smith
  • Ultimately we need to lead our children by example into the deep places following Jesus Christ wherever He takes us.  Angie Smith
  • Distractions means our attention is diverted from the word perispao, meaning to drag all around. We must take time to sit and listen to God. (She is observing a media fast, which is white noise and distraction to her.) We must learn to self monitor. Vicki Courtney.
  • From the Ladies Home Journal in 1894, resting before God leads to a more worthy life.  Sitting must always precede serving. Vicki Courtney
  • Aim for enough and not too much.  We over-organize everything, like a buffet, when a single serving would do. One thing is needed. Vicki Courtney
  • We are drowning in a sea of too many choices. Vicki Courtney
  • What is your primary affection? Are your actions saying something different?  If an idol controls me, I go after it without giving it a second thought. (referenced Tim Keller’s Counterfeit God)  Vicki Courtney
  • Our busy-ness is destroying our families.  We must take time with one another–family night, family alter (worship), one weekend a month where no one comes in and no one goes out (breathing time) Esther Burroughs
  • We leave a legacy of faithfulness when we tell His story over our story–”God did it!” Tell what God has done in your family. It is passing the baton to them.  Esther Burroughs
  • We must call out the giftedness in others. Write a note to them and tell them. Esther Burroughs
  • God created the family first, church came later. Esther Burroughs
  • Teach your children to pray and when God answers CELEBRATE it together!  Esther Burroughs
  • If you are still using your nursing bra and your child is now five, it’s time to get a fitting and pay for a new bra. Melanie~Big Mama
  • If you are wearing knit clothing, please invest in some Spanx for a nice line from the back,. Often we miss the whole effect by not looking in a full-length mirror at the front and back views. Melanie~Big Mama (This totally changed my going-home wardrobe)
  • Find yourself a great pair of jeans and buy a few of them.  Go to an expensive store and try them on.  Then take the brand name and go home to Ebay.  You can save a lot of money this way! Melanie~Big Mama
  •–helps you find a certain item from all the stores on the net.  Like black dress or green scarf…it will search and give you the store from which to purchase it. She had a lot of other websites.  I hope she will list them sometime on her blog. Melanie~Big Mama
  • Take a picture of yourself in outfits that you like, then when you have an event to dress for, you can remember some good choices. Melanie~Big Mama
  • When fishing is not yielding what we expect and becomes too hard, God comforts us in the midst of our hardship.  We can go encouraged, even if our circumstances do not change. For Jesus sees our disappointment in our boat.  He notices, cares and sympathizes with my weaknesses. Priscilla Shirer
  • When we must stop fishing and wash and mend our nets, God is there to help mend the fissures of our hearts–we can get refreshed, as he sends people along-side to help. Priscilla Shirer
  • We abandon the boat of our discouragement.  It is in this place, which becomes a natural pulpit, that Jesus steps in and teaches a clear message, which is emphasized by the locale. Priscilla Shirer
  • Jesus gives us insight in those places, which we otherwise would not have had.  He steps into those places, which become an instrument and tool from my life to teach others and teach me.  He takes me right back into the middle of it, but He comes with me!  Priscilla Shirer
Be blessed, friends!

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Oobleck~What is That Runny Stuff?

Oobleck 1

To me, this stuff looks like a gobbly, goopy mess. But to kids. . . it is the divine and fun way to play!

It basically starts out all runny, but when you apply pressure to it, it turns into a hard solid ball.

Once pressure is released, it automatically turns into a runny, gloopy mess again. Apply pressure and it starts all over again.

The kids played with this stuff for over an hour. Eventually the liquid dehydrates from it and it just starts to crumble, but for a while it is SO fun to play with. I even enjoyed it!

If you want to make your own Oobleck, here is the recipe. I love it because it uses simple household items.


2 parts cornstarch
1 part water
food coloring of your choice
(FYI–the food coloring will stain your hand, but it should come off with soap and water)

Mix all items together and play until your heart’s content!

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Our Home: God’s Territory

gate for front

Our home is God’s territory.  And we are marking it as such.

We have been in the throes of an entire kitchen remodel in our home.   I mean a rip everything out and take it down to the studs gut and remodel. 

Part of the demolition process of this remodel included chipping up 450 square feet of ceramic tile.  And if you don’t know anything about chipping up tile, it was quite the messy project.  However, when it was all said and done and we were about to have the new tile installed, I realized I had a great opportunity.

We have been involved in several construction projects both at church and at our kids’ school where we have written various things on the building’s foundation before the finishes were put in.  I realized that we had an opportunity to do the same thing.

So the night before the new tile was to be installed, we gathered on the bare concrete floor of our gutted kitchen and the four of us each wrote a scripture on the foundation of our house. 

You see, a while back I read a book* that has really challenged me to go further and do more in terms of parenting my children and teaching them our faith.  One chapter, in particular, talks of marking the home as God’s territory.  

Now, that idea can be taken symbolically.  Or it can also be taken literally.  I have felt the need to take it literally.  At least in some ways.

In Deuteronomy 6, as Moses is conveying to the Israelite people the commandments of the Lord, he finishes off the first section in verse 9: “Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” 

In that day and time, I imagine their floors were pretty much just dirt.  So for some reason I am picturing the door frames being one of the stronger “foundational” parts of the house.  And I picture the gate being a thing of protection.  So, to put it in the New Donna Version, “Make my Word and commandments visible in your home.  Make it the foundation of your home.  Allow it to protect your home. “

Now, I’m not saying that there is something mystically protective about some words written somewhere or hanging on a wall. What I am saying is that there is power in recognizing that your home is God’s territory and doing intentional things that remind your family and anyone who walks into your home of that fact.

We can accomplish this in a variety of multi-sensory ways.  In other words, engage all the senses. By doing so, you will create triggers to memories of you home when your children are older that will remind them of the faith that they were taught in your home.

Sight:  Have artwork that reflects God, Christ and His Word.

Hearing:  Provide Christian music and a stereo in your children’s rooms and have it playing in the house.  And if I might put in a plug for some of the older hymns of our faith here…  There are treasures of theology in many of those hymns that need to be passed to the next generations.

Taste and Smell:  Make your meal times a time of gathering as a family to build one another up and even discuss things of your faith.  Make certain meals a tradition around certain religious holidays or gatherings.  For instance, we always have lamb at Easter in our house.

Touch:  Encourage your family to do “faith.” If your children take music lessons, they should learn to play some Christian songs.  If they like to paint or sculpt, encourage them periodically to make something Christian in nature for an art show. If you sew, then sew something for the needy or for a mission project.  The bottom line here is to get their hands involved in something faith related.

You know, we all have triggers that bring back memories.  If I have a roast cooking at home, that smell and taste can take me back to Sunday lunch during my childhood like nothing else.  Roast on Sunday was a given in our home.  Of course, so was hand-washing the dishes afterward.  So, maybe not all the memories are pleasant.  But in my rebellious late teen and early adult years, just the thought of roast, potatoes and carrots with gravy (oh yes, you must have gravy) would remind me of lunch around the kitchen table after Sunday morning at church. 

Certainly it was the Holy Spirit that drew me back to himself during those rebellious years, but the memories that I have of growing up in a Christian home couldn’t have hurt one bit.  And as a parent, I feel a responsibility to do anything and everything I can to give my children the opportunity to remember things that draw them toward their faith. 

So as we wrote out verses of scripture on the foundation of our home, we engaged the senses of touch and sight as we demonstrated to ourselves and our children that Christ and the Word of God are the foundation of our home.  And I gave myself and hopefully the rest of my family a memory trigger of that fact each time we walk through our kitchen and over those scriptures each day.

Engage the senses. Create triggers for memories. And mark your home as God’s territory.

And just in case you were wondering, the scripture that I chose to write on the floor was John 6:35, “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.’”

*Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham Jr.

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Who Are We Raising?

mom and baby daughter-1

I recently had the opportunity to attend an event where a well known female Bible teacher would be speaking.  It took place over a Friday evening and all day Saturday, including 5 solid one-hour sessions of Bible teaching.  It makes for an intense weekend, but it’s so much fun and the Lord just has a way of really speaking to me on these weekends about really deep things.

I had four tickets – with myself and two friends, three were spoken for.  I was surprised when I had a difficult time finding someone to take that 4th ticket.  I finally had the idea to invite my nine year old daughter to come with us for the Friday night session. She was unsure about it, but the clincher was when I told her that her dad and brother would just be watching sports on TV that night… she was MORE than willing to get out of the house at that news. HA! At the same time, planning for her to go to her soccer game on Saturday morning, I continued to try to get someone to take the ticket for Saturday.  I was emailing, texting and Facebooking people like crazy thinking that there was someone that the Lord wanted to be there.  I just hadn’t found who it was yet.

Friday night came and it was just so wonderful. Sarah sat nearly on the edge of her seat the entire time. Bible open, highlighter and pen in hand; taking notes and highlighting important words and phrases in her Bible.

It was the most precious sight for this mother’s eyes to see.

At the end of the evening we began talking about the next day’s schedule. Sarah looked at me and said, “Y’all are doing this tomorrow, too?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I didn’t figure you’d come since you have a soccer game and stuff. Do you want to come back tomorrow?”

“Oh Mom, yes! This is SO worth it.”

Well… how can you argue with that, I ask you?

She was up the next morning before I even got the chance to go wake her up. She was ready. Hungry and ready.

It was so clear by mid-way through Saturday’s sessions that the 4th ticket was intended for her the whole time. God had reserved her a spot and wouldn’t let me give it to anyone else.

The Lord has really been speaking to me lately about what it means to “train up [my own] child.”  I am becoming increasingly aware that she will only truly learn as I actively model and teach certain things and that can only be done if we are experiencing those things together.  She can only learn what it means to take in good Bible teaching if she is exposed to it and given the opportunity.  What an opportunity this was for me to share in some Bible teaching with my daughter and allow her to see the beauty of women gathering together and loving on one another in the name of Christ.

And I also had the opportunity to allow her, at 9 years old, to choose the better part.  In fact, we talked that Saturday morning before going back to the event and I asked if she remembered the story of Mary and Martha from the book of John.  She said she did, so we talked about it.

“What was Martha doing?”

“Cooking and cleaning and running around and complaining that Mary wouldn’t help her.” (my paraphrase)

“What was Mary doing?”

“She was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him.”

“And what did Jesus say to Martha?”

I could tell she wasn’t sure of the exact words, so I helped her out.  “He told Martha that Mary had chosen what was better.  That being near him and sitting at his feet was better than being busy trying to serve.  And you know what, sweetie, you have chosen the better part today by choosing to listen to what God might have to say to you rather than being busy going to soccer games and running around.”

Oh my.  It dawned on me that my nine year old daughter has learned this and yet, my 37 year old self still struggles at times.  In spite of my inner Martha of Luke chapter 10, my daughter is learning to be a Mary.

Believe it or not, this was a test for me, I think.  The Lord has been convicting my inner Martha about our family’s running around, playing sports and missing more important things because of inconsequential things.  I have resolved in recent months not to be held captive by my kids’ sports schedules; it’s not the most important thing.  It really felt like this was God saying, “Are you going to walk what you talk?” I had to stop and think for a second, but only a second when she said she wanted to skip soccer that Saturday.  I think I passed the test.

I am painfully aware, through this experience, that I have underestimated her and what she is capable of handling in this area for far too long.  I have treated her as a kid who could only understand kid “Bible stories.”  Oh, if we could all grasp that they can handle so much more.  They can if we, their parents, would just teach them.

My husband and I have done a lot of teaching of our faith with our children.  But I continue to be convicted that it could be so much more and that so much more is needed.  If we are to stop the mass exodus of young adults from the church and even Christianity as a whole, we, as parents, must fully accept our role and responsibility in teaching the next generation – proclaiming His goodness, grace and mercy displayed through Jesus Christ.  It is our responsibility alone and not that of the church staff and volunteers in ministry to disciple our children.

The Lord blessed me with being able to see a little of the fruit of our labor over the last nine years with our daughter.  And it is such an encouragement to me to keep on and even step it up.

Who are we raising?  Are we raising children who will be “Marthas”;  too busy with soccer, football, cheerleading, dance, band, etc…. to stop and listen to Jesus?  I fear it is so.  May we encourage our children through our teaching and our own example to be the Martha found in John chapter 11, who can do things to serve, but know how to, like her sister Mary, stop and sit at Jesus’ feet.

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