Word Before World

I’m scrolling through Instagram when I wake up this morning and come across a hashtag that gets my mind rolling. #wordbeforeworld . Now, this isn’t the first time I had seen the hashtag. I have seen @wellwateredwomen posting it for several days now. But it was the first time I stopped and took note.

What is the first thing I do when I wake up? Usually grumble about the kids already being awake and lament how late I stayed up the night before. But the first thing I usually choose to do after pulling myself out of bed and getting ready for the day is grab my iPad and start checking social media. I choose to plunge into the world first. Always. The Word part normally comes when I’ve done everything else I need to do for the day. Sure, we get into the Word every morning during Morning Basket time, so I guess I could count that. But before I even do morning basket, I’m checking my social media accounts.

Of course, my mind went to Deuteronomy chapter 6. The people of God are being told not to forget who they are and what God has done for them. They are to teach their children, talk of them in their house, talk of God’s commands walking around going about their day. They are to write them on the doorposts of their houses. And they are to think of them when they lie down and when they rise up.

It got me thinking of the giving of the first fruits, something we remind ourselves when we tithe. We give God the first of what he has given to us. So, what is more valuable than our time? The days, hours, and minutes we have? Why wouldn’t we give the first of our time each day, too?

Essentially, when I choose social media before getting into the Word of God, I’m stating my priorities for the day. Connection, news, self-image- all those things we tie up in social media- I’m saying those are the most important for me. I’m saying that my FOMO (fear of missing out) on the world is more important than my FOMO on God.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with social media. I think we, as Christians, need to remain engaged in social media as a way to influence our culture. But as all our youth pastor’s warned us, we need to be careful of how we let it shape us. So, I’m not saying we should all pull away from social media. I think a host of evangelism can be done through a screen in our culture.

I am saying that I found myself guilty this morning. I realized I’ve not been putting first things first. I’ve been putting them last. When there is time. At the bottom of the to-do list. And those priorities will never stand. The Word will never shape me because I’m not letting it take the rightful place in my life. That is not anyone’s fault but mine.

I had thought of New Year’s Resolutions in abstract terms. I knew I needed more discipline in my spiritual life and my physical life, so I was just going to abstractly focus on discipline. I now realize an abstract one word focus isn’t going to get me where I need to be. Sure, it will help me think of where I need to be. But I need action steps. I need firm commitments to being disciplined.

So, with discipline as my word of the year, my first practical step is going to be Word before World. That is my first firm commitment to the process of being disciplined. Word before World. I will seek Him first.

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Godbold Academy Geography

We are homeschoolers, as I am sure you are aware. This is the little geography program I put together this year for my kids. I do this for pre-k through upper elementary. I think it would work well for any age, though. I plan to continue this program forever.

My goal in geography was for the kids to know generally where countries are and for them to have a broader worldview. It is hard to fathom the world that isn’t right outside your front door. I want my kids to have the knowledge of geography along with a heart for the people of the world.

map trek

I start the school year going over the 7 continents and 5 oceans. We review this every single year. The older kids know it, but it gives the younger kids a chance to learn it every year. I use the Map Trek CDs to print out maps for the kids to color and label. This book and CD set is a little on the pricey side, but I use this so much year after year. Buy it. Use it. It is great. You can print out as many maps as you need. Historical maps. World maps. It is awesome. We’ll have some contests and such to learn all the continents and oceans with the older ones helping the younger ones. We usually only spend a week or two on this review. It is just an annual refresher.

operation world

Operation World is the next piece of our geography curriculum. Each week, we choose a country and commit to praying for that country for the week. I use my Map Trek CD to print out maps. Each child keeps a master world map in their notebook where they label each country we study that year. The Operation World book lists the basic stats for each country. Things like land size, population, climate, etc. We talk about those things and compare them to what we have here. Would we have more neighbors? Less? Would it be warmer? Colder? Operation World also gives a brief summary of the economy and politics of each country. Then you have a break down of the religions of each country. You’ll also find a prayer list for each country, including things to thank God for that are answers to prayer there.

We might make some food from that country this week. Or we might try some art that is known for being associated with that country. Or we might only do the map and pray for the country. Sometimes I’ll find and print out the country’s flag for the kids to color. The details change week to week, but the bones of the program remain the same.

(1) Locate the country on a world map.

(2) Label your master world map.

(3) Write the country name on the prayer wall and commit to praying for that country this week.

(4) Read about the country. What language do they speak? How many people live there? What kind of work do these people do?  What challenges does this country face? How can we be praying for these people? Do we know any missionaries in this country?

The kids have really enjoyed this program and we’ve learned a lot about many countries. I chose countries where we knew missionaries first or we were learning about in history. I don’t think the order of countries is so important. Operation World is set up by continent, so you could go in that order and learn all the countries of one continent before moving to the next. I just choose randomly, though might go back and do the continent route at some point. As the kids get older, there is more discussion about things. What is the difference in a monarchy and a republic? What about a democracy? Why does it matter how many people are in poverty? How does history effect the current economic and political issues in a country? The little ones seem to focus on the climate and number of people. You can really delve deeper or keep it to 15 minutes reading the info in Operation World and locating the country on the World Map. It is really up to you and your child(ren).

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My Prayer Book

Years ago, I began a prayer request book. It was a time in my life that I needed concrete reminders of the faithfulness of God. I just got a cute little journal, opened it up so that one blank page was on the left side and one on the right. On the left, I write my prayer requests.  I make my requests very specific, so there is no question as to it being answered. I write next to my request the date I add it. Then, when the prayer is answered, I come back and write on the right side the specific answer to my prayer (sometimes it isn’t what I wanted) and the date. I’ve been amazed at how quickly some get answered. I’ve been amazed at how above and beyond others get answered. But most of all, like the children of Israel, I need reminders of God’s faithfulness. You’d think I wouldn’t forget some of the amazing ways my prayers have been answered, but sadly I do. We often cannot see beyond our own circumstances to remember that God has been faithful to us and will continue to do so. We can’t see beyond where we are.

Last week, I was praying with Imogene and Aidan. I told them God had always been faithful to us and we could count on him to continue to be faithful. Of course, they both asked what that meant. I told them God has always provided for our family, looked after us,  and given us what we need. I told them we know God will take care of us because he has always taken care of us. That was plenty for Aidan. Imogene wanted to know how he has taken care of us. So, out came the prayer book. I told Imogene these were all our prayers to God and I had written down what God had done for each one. Here is the version I told Imogene:

We prayed for a baby. It took a long time, but we just kept trusting God. And he gave us you (Imogene).

God sent us to Mississippi, we didn’t think we could pay our bills, but they were paid.

We needed a place to live, God gave us one.

We needed to sell our house, and it sold.

We prayed that Mommy could stay home with you (Imogene), and God made a way for me to.

We prayed for God to send us another child, if it was His will. He gave us Aidan.

God told us to move back to Georgia, but we didn’t have a place to live. God gave us a place to live.

We told God that we were happy with however many children He blessed us with. He gave us Emery.

We needed a bigger house. God gave us one.

Of course, in the non-3 year old version, there are many more prayers and answers. There was my earnest prayer that Aidan would flip head down, and he didn’t. God did give me peace through my c-section, but clearly did not answer my prayer how I wanted Him to. There were also many more specifics that were just too much to include for a 3 year old discussion, including us choosing not to go along with the advice of fertility doctors when we couldn’t conceive. We chose to let God give us the child and decided against doing anything “radical” (medications, IUI, IVF). We knew God could, and He did. There were also many prayers for others, many prayers for small things, that He answered. In fact, a couple weeks ago, I got to mark off the prayer that had been on there the longest, for a friend of mine to get pregnant. (That was on my list for 2 years!) God is faithful.

I recommend a prayer book. Just try it. Your requests don’t have to be long, just specific enough to be answerable. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your prayers are answered. (Because we know that when going through a trial, each day is so long, the whole ordeal seems much longer than it really is.) You’ll also be surprised at how it strengthens your faith, knowing God is answering you- and you’ve got the proof and constant reminder right there in front of you!

The Prayer Of Love

We do not reciprocate… hatred and contention, although [our enemies] would like it better if we did, and so sink to their own level. And how is the battle to be fought? Soon the time will come when we shall pray, not as isolated individuals, but as a corporate body, a congregation, a church; we shall pray in multitudes (albeit small multitudes) and among the thousands of and thousands of apostates we shall loudly praise and confess the Lord who was crucified and is risen and shall come again. And what prayer, what confession, what hymn of praise will it be? It will be the prayer of earnest love for these very children of perdition who stand around and gaze at us with eyes aflame with hatred, and who have perhaps already raised their hands to kill us. It will be prayer for the peace of these erring, devastated, and bewildered souls, a prayer which will penetrate to the depths of their souls and rend their hearts more grievously than anything they can do to us. Yes, the church which is really waiting for its Lord, and which discerns the signs of the times of decision, must fling itself with its utmost power and with the panoply of its holy life into this prayer of love.

– from A Testament To Freedom 320 by Dietrich Bonhoeffer