Personal Advent Devotion

In addition to the Family Devotion this Advent, I have included a personal devotion aspect, as well. This is for Mom and Dad or older kids to do on their own through the week following the Family Devotion. You can also do the Family Devotion alone and incorporate the Personal Devotion aspect into your own days if you choose, as well. This is intended to compliment the weekly devotional. You can do this all at once, stagger it through the week, or just do some of it. Really, make it your own. The goal is to center our hearts and minds on the season at hand and the truths God has to reveal to us this Advent.

wp-1479326488180.jpg

So, you’ll need a Bible, notebook, and pen. You may want more, that is up to you. You may want washi tape, stickers, colored pencils, markers, watercolors, etc. You don’t need them, but if you are more of an art or craft style journal person, those might be what you need.

Now, I just grabbed one of my handy little mini notebooks from Casemate. (They come in 2 packs at Wal-Mart for $1.88.) You might choose a composition notebook, sketchbook, Moleskin, or some other form of notebook. I went with what I had. I may fill it up completely and have to bust out the second one before Advent is over, which will be fine for me.

wp-1479326510350.jpg

What you’ll be doing is very simple. Each week, there will be several Bible passages that go along with the devotion. You’ll look them up and read them as part of that devotion time. Some other time during the week, you’ll take each passage and write it down in your journal. On the right hand page of your notebook, you’ll copy the Scriptures word for word. You can use any translation you like. You can read the Hebrew or Greek and translate it yourself. I numbered my verses to match my Bible, but you can omit the verse number if you’d like. Just copy the Scripture on the right side of the page. Now, one passage may take several pages, and that is fine. Just write the Scriptures only on the right hand pages. On the left hand pages, you’ll go back and write thoughts, questions, song lyrics, other verses, or doodles that come to mind. The left hand pages are for your journaling. The right hand pages are for Scripture. Easy enough, right?

wp-1479326517431.jpg

Why write the verses and not just read them and write what you think? Well, writing will activate different parts of your brain and memory than just reading them. Remember in school when you would write out notes and make note cards? The more various ways you interact with a specific text, the better ingrained in your memory it becomes and the better you really “see” it.

wp-1479326526650.jpg

There are several passages each week. You have all week to write and journal about the passages. Take your time. If you miss a passage, no worries. This is for your benefit, not to make you feel bad. I encourage you to put forth the effort to get as much out of this as you can. But if life happens, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on track as soon as you can.

My prayer for you is that you immerse yourself in the Word this Advent. That as we draw close to our remembrance of the Word being made flesh, we fill our hearts and minds with the Word and find Jesus there.

Fundraising, Charity, and The Church

funraising, and the church

I’m writing this blog post for the Church. Not just my church, but the Church. This isn’t for those outside the Church. Just the Church. I’m also writing this as a Protestant. And I’m writing this as someone knows the inner working of churches. That makes it a little more awkward. And I’ll tell you, most of the pastors I know, including the one I am married to, have a hard time talking to you, the people, about this. First, it directly affects them. Their livelihood comes from the Church. Second, some pastors, and we won’t name any names, give giving a bad name. They are self-centered and have no vision for the Kingdom, only their wallets. But the majority of pastors I know aren’t like that. The majority of the ones I know live on small salaries, sometimes working more than one job to provide for their own family, all while trying to do the thing God has called them to do. They often don’t know if they’ll have income by the end of the year. They often don’t know if they’ll have income next month. So, drop your preconceived notion about pastor millionaires flying around on personal jets. Now, on to the money talk.

I’ve been listening to quite a few podcasts lately. It is just something I do while washing dishes, folding laundry, or cooking dinner. While folding laundry and listening to an old Freakonomics Podcast (called How To Raise Money Without Killing A Kitten) about charity giving and the economics and research behind Americans giving, it just really hit me that (1) Christians aren’t the super charitable people they like to think they are and (2) the Church often tries to pull a lot of the same “tricks” other organizations do to compete for the Christian’s dollar.

Now, there are a couple of issues going on here. And I don’t call myself an expert, and really this is more of a rant to raise awareness than anything.

The average American gives 2% of their income to charity. Now, a Gallup poll in 2008 said 77% of Americans identify as Christians. (Who do they poll? I’ve never been polled. Anyway, moving on.) I think that is a very high estimate. Huffpo in 2013 said 20% of Americans no longer identify with any religion. (This source says 83% identify as Christian.  This source says 70.6%.  This source says there are 247 million Christians in the US.) My point is, something is wrong. The majority of the country is Christian, yet they obviously aren’t tithing.

Dun. Dun. Dun. I said the big bad word in today’s evangelical circles. Tithing. It is a Biblical concept you’re all aware of. Give God 10%. Now, we can debate gross or net. You can even try to debate that tithing is an Old Testament concept not relevant for a New Testament Church. And if you want to go there, fine. Pattern your life after the New Testament Church in Acts 2 when they sold everything they had and gave the profits to the poor and lived sharing everything with one another. That’s cool. I was just asking for 10%. But I guess everything works, too.

So, disconnect number one is that 2% of income from Americans is going to charity (all of them, not just the Church). Shouldn’t that number be higher since the majority of America is “Christian”? (I use the quotes because I am not sure we have that many followers of Christ; I think more of them are cultural Christians.) So, clearly, some of you (again, talking to the Church, here) aren’t giving as you should. (I should also note here that neither I nor the Pastor has now or ever known how much any individual or family in any church we’ve been in have given. We’ve made it a point to not know those things. I don’t want you thinking I cooked you dinner when you were having a tough time because you gave the church money. We’ve also made it a point not to touch the money. So, I have never seen a single check in the offering plate or a single name on the PayPal summary. I really have no clue.) And you can justify that decision until you are blue in the face, but the facts will not change. You need to be giving 10% to YOUR CHURCH. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care where you attend. You need to be tithing to your church. If you don’t trust them with your money, why are you trusting them with your spiritual health and the spiritual health of your family? You can dislike this if you want, but you need to be giving 10% to your church. You don’t need to be earmarking it for what you want it to be used on. You need to let go and give it to God. Period. No strings attached. No splitting the amount between all the good things you want to give to. 10% to your church. Then give to the other things. (And don’t forget to give of your time and talents as well.)

Back to the podcast, they listed six reasons people give to charities: (1) altruism– you really want to help the person or cause; (2) “warm glow” altruism or as I called it, selfish altruism– you want to feel good about giving, you want bragging rights, you want the warm fuzzies knowing you are a good person or knowing other think you are a good person; (3) guilt– you feel bad not giving, you don’t want to look bad by not giving; (4) herd giving– you give because others around you are giving or someone you look up to gives; (5) private good– you give to get or keep (not loose) something you want; (6) public good– you want the thing to exist, not just for yourself, but for your community or others. Now, often your reasons are a mix of things. And often churches use these same things to get you to give. (I don’t necessarily think it is intentional for the most part, just something that happens when we do things because it is the way things are done. Think about passing the offering plate for a minute. You play on herd giving: everyone else is doing it, possibly even someone I look up to. You play on guilt: I don’t want to look bad not giving. You play on public and private good: I need to give for the church to continue and I really like this or that program; plus, I want this place to exist for my community. “Warm glow” altruism: you feel good by giving; some churches will even tell you the blessings of God are directly tied to your giving. Altruism: you really do want to support the Church and the cause of Christ. Now, clearly all those are not bad things. There are a few negatives, but some positives. We don’t pass a plate at our church because of the negatives. I don’t think passing a plate is wrong. We just don’t do it.) But isn’t there another BIG reason to give to your church? Yes, I hope there is altruism in your gift. But isn’t there something else? Obedience. It is a dirty word in our culture. Obedience. But that is how we grow. That is how we grow as children. That is how we grow as Christians. I don’t know how to put others before myself until I practice it. I don’t know how to become less self-centric until I practice it. I don’t know how to be obedient until I practice it. Tithing is bare-minimum obedience practice. It is the absolute easiest form of obedience. God asks us first for the small things. When that becomes easier, it becomes easier to give the big things. To give up our lives for full-time ministry. To give up our children for full-time ministry. To give up our time for someone in need. To give up our comfort for someone else. To give up ourselves for the cross. 10% of your money is the starting point.

So why is it so hard? Why are churches closing the doors because they don’t have the funds to carry on? Why are pastors working two or three jobs just to be able to bring God’s word to God’s people? Why are churches not being planted? 70% giving 10%– we shouldn’t have problems funding any aspect of Christian work. The widows should easily be taken care of. The orphans should be well loved and cared for. The missionaries shouldn’t have to come home to beg, but come home to share the fire in their bellies for the people. Why is 10% so hard for us to let go of? And is 10% in your pocket really worth limiting the Church?

So what do donors or givers like to get? Well, according to the podcast, they like getting something in return. An inflated ego, for sure. They want to win something. They want to gain something. They want control. Sadly, how much does this all sound like Christians? (Ahem. Especially that control part. Ahem.)

But what do we actually get by tithing? What is in it for you? Well, the fact that we ask that question highlights the problem. If you’re more concerned about yourself than others then you clearly haven’t quite gotten the message of Christ.

Now, I could go through the list of what your pastor does, what your church does. I could add copies of the budget and account for hours spent and what they were spent doing. But really, the bottom-line is obedience. And your church shouldn’t have to use gimmicks and tactics to get your support. You should support them because you love God and you love the Church. You should give because you are invested in the Gospel of Christ. We should give because God tells us we should. The Christian life is a life lived for others– from our pocket books to the hours in our days. Giving isn’t to make you feel good. It isn’t to make you feel bad. It isn’t to purchase your mansion in glory. Giving is about obedience to God and love for others.

Now, I know my editor is going to give me grief about this post. All I have to say to him is that I was led to say something and that I did it out of love, not self. I think it is a message worth sharing.

Transparency

I know many find my open expression of who I am to be odd. I don’t use a lot of filters in my life. The reason is very simple. Our culture has seen plenty of people in church leadership fall. We’ve seen the hidden sins of people we felt were holy revealed. Many don’t trust the church, don’t trust our message based on that simple fact. I’ve heard it many, many times. “I won’t go to church because it is full of hypocrites.” The cry of those outside of the church seems to be “Show me who you really are!” Because of this, because we are a pastoral family, I choose to live a life of transparency. Often, it comes across as too much information. But it will never be said we have anything to hide. I would much rather give too much information than for anyone to think I’m hiding. You come in and you can see all the movies on our shelves. You can check my Facebook and see how I really feel and think. I keep all our books on Goodreads and anyone can see what I am reading, what I have read, and what kind of literature fills our home. Anyone can ask me anything and receive a completely honest answer. Nothing is hidden. I think that we, as Christians, need to be able to show what we are made of. We have a message, that is well and good. But the truly interesting and inspiring thing is not just the message, but how that message impacts our life. I would challenge everyone, not just those of us in church leadership, to live lives of transparency. To let the world, and the Church for that matter, see who we really are. No masks. No acting. Just living together openly.

My Wish List is here.

You can see the books I am reading and books I own here on Goodreads.

My Amazon wishlist, which I use to remind myself of the books, movies, etc. that I want to buy can be found here. You can also look on my Amazon profile and see my reviews and my purchases.

And, of course, here on my blog, you can get to know me- what I think, what I do.

New Tutorials Coming Soon!

**Note: Photos in this post are completely unrelated to content. I just hate posting without pictures.**

Oy! Life has been so busy lately! I haven’t had a chance to share with you some of my newest designs! I’ve recently created a half-yard apron pattern (per my Mother’s request) and a plastic bag holder pattern. I will get around to posting them asap! (Have to take all the pictures first!) I will also attempt to post a tutorial for my hoarding apron. Not sure how well that will translate, since I had to draft the pattern for it, not just measuring squares and such. We’ll see. I’ll try. You see if you can manage!

We have had two illnesses fly through the parsonage this month. Yuck. Everyone but the Pastor got the flu earlier this month. Then the big littles got a stomach virus this week. No fun!

This weekend, a crew of volunteers will be giving our church (the building, not the people) a make over. Everyone needs a little “spruce” now and then. (And no, that was not a hint to the wall color.)

I have made 3 Etsy sales in my one month (almost) of being open. I consider that a success (though I would have liked to have sold out) considering it is a new shop. (And since many other sellers are complaining about low sales right now.) Maybe my giving the patterns away for free won’t bite me in the butt. One can hope! I’ve got a few skirts that will be in the shop soon! (Just have to take some pictures of them!) Believe me, these skirts are gorgeous! I’m very tempted to keep them for my own princess!

Church Facebook Page

A year ago, our church had a Facebook page (group) that was started by some of the yutes in the church. Funny, I was unable to join because Facebook for Blackberry was pretty limiting and wouldn’t allow me to do it from my phone. (We didn’t have any regular internet access at the time.) Well, that group disbanded- disappeared without a leader to help them along.

A few weeks ago, one of the yutes was asking about starting a Facebook group for our church. I doubted The Pastor would do it, but waited to see what would come of it. After finding the previous group has gone away, he decided to begin anew. So, our church now has a Facebook page.

The Pastor puts silly things up, like adding events for things like Advent services. (Silly, Pastor!) We also discuss and joke with one another about various topics. (Though my comment about Narnian music was not a joke- that is what I prefer!) It is a goofy little way for us to stay connected and get the word out about things. (Though they are usually repeated through the eloquent e-mails from The Pastor, for those that choose not to participate in Facebook.)

You can check it out, or not. Whatever. (I sincerely hope that link works. I’m pretty bad about linking to Facebook. There is something about it that I just don’t fully understand.)

Corn Puns Abound!

P1010076

The Pastor planned a fall outing for the gaggle of youths that he’s been ministering to. I decided to tag along with my kids, since I thought they would enjoy it. About half the youth (actually a litle less than half) we able (or desired) to make it. We went and wandered about corn “maize” for a while, then refreshed at the “corncession” stand. We headed back home for a bonfire and cook out at David & Christie Chandler’s home.  There were 14 of us at the farm. And, I think, 19 at the cookout/bonfire.

P1010068P1010072P1010066The youths and I, we spotted quit an interesting site. A site that really begged to bed shared with the world. Just take a gander at the gentleman with the platinum skullet ponytail. Yeah, I just made your day, didn’t I?

P1010073