Posted in Thoughts from Others, What Works for Me

Relational Instruction

Last week, I shared the first of two thoughts inspired by a stranger’s random comment. The first had to do with how we learn. The second is more about how we teach – or maybe more how we share advice.

What About Ideals?

When the Facebook stranger offered his one-word instruction regarding my family’s library visit, he gave me instruction without having any knowledge of me or my family. He instructed based on his ideals, not based on relationship.

While I do agree that we must hold firmly to certain ideals, I have learned that the number of firm ideals is, in all honesty, much smaller than I might like to believe. There are biblical truths that must govern every action. Then there are the lesser things.

How we learn is a much lesser thing. And, it is something learned through relationship. Through interaction. I am still discovering how my children learn best. I am still working to teach them according to their strengths, while teaching them also to challenge themselves in their weaknesses.

My husband’s teaching is an even better example. He has served in ministry for over twenty years, and it has been fascinating to watch him tailor his teaching method to each new congregation. He may have taught the same lessons over the years, but he has rarely taught them the same way. Why? Because his audiences – his congregations – have differed. As a result, he has always taken the time to get to know each congregation as much as possible in order to teach according to their strengths.

Relationships are key to teaching and learning.

The stranger who replied to my comment has no relationship with my family. Yet, I also have no relationship with him. Just as he cannot know how to best teach my family, I cannot know how he best learns.

Yet, I wonder how many times I’ve imparted advice in the same way. Without relationship.

These thoughts do not simply apply to parenting and how I raise/teach my children. They apply to life. How do we interact with others who learn and grow in gloriously different ways? How often do we attempt to corral others into our patterns? And how often do we instruct without first building relationship?

Instead of continuing to be agitated, I’m now rather thankful to this complete stranger, because he made me think. I won’t be changing my habits and restricting my children (or myself!) to non-fiction only. But, I will be more careful to stop and think before I speak. To get to know before I instruct. And to delight in the ways God created us to be gloriously individual!

Posted in Around the Web, Thoughts from Others

The Impact of Story

My job opens the door for me to interact with some fantastic people. Last fall, I had the privilege of interviewing Warren Walsh, Editorial Director for YWAM Publishing, for a pair of Family Magazine articles. This morning, the first of these articles was republished online.

The stories Warren shared express so beautifully the reason I believe strongly in the ability of story to impact lives. This article also shares a fantastic opportunity for ministry this Christmas – one dear to the heart of my family.

Read and enjoy!


Prison Heroes 101

Stories are the mother tongue and currency of our hearts. This is the stuff with which we do the business transaction of life. It’s worldview. – Warren Walsh

For decades, YWAM Publishing has worked to produce and distribute resources that stir Christians to actively impact their world for Christ. But recently, a door has opened for YWAM to directly partner with their readers to minister in a powerful way through the Prison Heroes 101 project. YWAM Publishing Editorial Director Warren Walsh shares that, in all his years at YWAM, he has “never seen a project that has as much traction as this one does.”

What exactly is the Prison Heroes 101? What does it accomplish? Why is it such a powerful and successful project? And how is it relevant to the HEDUA audience? Family Magazine had the privilege of sitting down with Warren Walsh to discuss these very questions.

Please click here to read the rest of the article.

Posted in Thoughts from Others, What Works for Me

The Beauty of Story

Some time ago, I commented on someone else’s Facebook post. It was an innocent comment about letting my children grab books from the library. I made the comment and forgot about it. But, months – yes, months – later, I was drawn back to the post when a complete stranger replied to my comment. It was a simple response:


That’s all it said. But the meaning was very clear. I would be a bad mother if I allowed my children to choose a new fiction favorite. I would be a bad teacher if I dared think they could learn from fiction.

Yes, I read all of that into this stranger’s simple response. Why? Because I’d heard the argument many, many times before.

Beyond What We Love

A quick response popped into my head. I wanted to make some comment about how sad it was that this stranger had never had the joy of learning from a fictional story. But, something stopped me. And as I took a moment to breathe and think, my irritation was replaced with sadness as two thoughts came to my mind.

Today, I want to share the first of those thoughts.

It is true that learning through story – whether fiction or non-fiction – can be incredibly joyful. But this stranger’s comment led me to realize just how often we dismiss forms of teaching that are not natural to us, simply because we do not learn well through them.

Several dear friends of mine greatly dislike fiction. It holds no allure for them. In fact, their minds simply do not process through story. Yet, they still recognize story as a powerful teaching tool. I, on the other hand, struggle with non-fiction that is not story-based. My mind needs a picture to take raw facts and turn them into something meaningful. Yet, I know that there is great value in learning to process factual information. So, I challenge myself to read non-fiction.

Learning happens in so many ways, yet we often get so caught up in our own learning preferences that we neglect – or even deny – all others. Then we criticize those who do not learn our way.

Every single time I have a “what works for me” thought, I am instantly reminded that it will not automatically work for my husband or my children or my dearest of friends or my fellow church members or my co-workers. If we all learned the same way, how boring would that be?!

So, what works for me? Learning through story and through narrative while stretching and challenging myself through non-fiction.

What works for you?

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts, Thoughts from Life, Thoughts from Others

My Certainty

Uncertainty. Don’t you just love it. Never knowing what’s around the next bend? Not being able to plan and anticipate?

Okay, if that excited you and made you say, “Yes! I do love it!” then I will go ahead and admit something right now – I don’t understand you. I may still love you, and I will probably try to draw on your strength and excitement when I’m overwhelmed by uncertainty. But I just cannot understand you.

No, I do not always have to have all of the answers, nor do I insist on a crystal clear path at all times. Admittedly, surprises are fun, and the unexpected keeps life interesting and exciting. But that’s not the same as uncertainty.

Uncertainty is knowing that there is something around the corner – and possibly even knowing what it is – but not really being able to predict how it will impact life. If I know that something uncertain is ahead of me, I want to at least have the chance to do something productive to prepare for the uncertainty.

It’s like knowing that tornado season is coming around. I’m an Arkansan, which means tornado season is a given. I do not know when storms will come, but I know they will. And although I cannot guarantee my family’s safety during a tornado, I can do practical, productive things to prepare. I can make sure that we all know where to go to take cover quickly and smoothly. I can make sure necessities are easy to grab. I can prepare.

The problem comes when I see uncertainty on the horizon and cannot do a thing about it. I can’t prepare. I can’t plan. I can only wait. Wait in the uncertainty.

That’s exactly where the Lord puts me from time to time. Why? Because I’m finding my certainty in activity. In preparation. In doing something. What does He want instead?

He wants to be my certainty.

Oswald Chambers says it quite well in My Utmost from His Highest.

Certainty is the mark of a common-sense life; gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways…

Ouch. I tried to argue with that rationale this week. I hoped that I could look at 1 John 3:2, the focal verse for the devotional, and determine that Chambers was out of context with his deductions. But no, he wasn’t. And I was stuck.

I had been living a common-sense life. The Lord was – and is – calling me to a life filled with Him. A life in which my only certainty is Himself. Not circumstances. Not preparation. Not clear answers or firm direction.

Just Himself.

Where is your certainty today? If it is anywhere but in Christ Himself, He will push you into circumstances that challenge your common-sense life. And it hurts. But it’s worth it.

Will you join me in “gracious uncertainty”? Together, let’s make our Lord and Savior our only certainty.

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts, Thoughts from Others, Thoughts from Scripture

Sacrificial Rest

This week I’m sharing part three of my Rest series, originally published in Arkansas Baptist NewsI wrote this as the busyness of Thanksgiving and Christmas were descending upon me. But, in all honesty, the last two months have been no less crazy. I definitely needed this reminder to glorify God sacrificially, even in those times when all I can think of is my need for rest! 

The holiday season is upon us! As an introverted homebody, sometimes the busyness of this season throws me for a loop. I do love it. I love the decorations and the celebrations. I enjoy the parties and the events, even if I sometimes have to pry myself out of the warm house to attend them.

But I also need rest. And I am not quite sure I like the next lesson God has been teaching me about rest. You see, in addition to learning that rest is relational and expected, I am also learning that rest is sacrificial.

I have always been pretty selfish about rest. My opinion has always been that I need it, and I need it my way, or it doesn’t count. But when my husband and I had a conversation about a couple of passages of Scripture, I found my selfishness challenged.

In Acts 16:13, we see Paul heading down to the riverside in hopes of meeting people gathered there to pray. I have never though much about that action until Doug made a thought-provoking observation. He pointed out that Paul’s trip outside the city on the Sabbath was a sacrificial act. It was outside his norm. It was outside the parameters of rest he had been taught during his formative years.

Paul made a sacrifice.

So, where was he when he made this sacrifice? He was in Philippi. He was making the contacts that would eventually result in the Philippian church. The same Philippian church that brought him incredible joy, according to verses like Philippians 1:3. In fact, it could be argued from Scripture that this particular church provided Paul’s greatest source of strength and encouragement.

But it all started with a sacrifice.

One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 3:13. I have always loved the idea of encouragement among believers. But, as I look at Paul’s sacrificial investment in the Philippian church – and the return it brought – I see Hebrews 3:13 in a new light. I see that we receive our greatest encouragement, strength, and support when we are willing to sacrifice for one another, even in rest.

Now, sacrificial rest does require care because it still must be rest. It cannot become just another source of busyness. But, what would happen if we were willing to put aside our selfish conceptions of rest and determine instead to rest in fellowship with our fellow believers?

As the busy schedule presses in, I pray God will show me exactly how to rest sacrificially – and that He will allow even my rest to bear the fruit of joy and encouragement for others.

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts, Thoughts from Life, Thoughts from Others

Despising the Old

Last week I shared about a willingness to make a change.

My desk is now reorganized, and I love it! I am discovering improvements I never expected from the adjustment – and this was just a minor one!

But, as I contemplate the improvements, a new thought occurs to me. I must not despise the way it used to be. Yes, that seems silly – it’s just desk organization. But, how clearly does the desk organization reflect my attitude toward my past?

Years ago, Doug and I discovered a new Christian rock band. Their first album was different from anything else in the Christian market, and we grew to love it.

Then the second album came out, and it was just okay.

What bothered me the most about the second album, though, was the attitude of the band toward their first album. They looked back on their freshman efforts and declared them immature and rough. Their new album, they claimed, was a marked improvement.

So, what does that say for the fans who loved their first album? Who liked it better than the second?

Fortunately, the band outgrew that mentality. They even returned to the style of their first album and produced several more phenomenal records before moving on to other things. But I never forgot the impact their second-album attitude had on me.

And I never forgot the lesson learned: Don’t despise what brought you to this place.

Sometimes it can be very, very hard to lay aside something that has worked well for us. When we finally do, however, we see that what God has next is infinitely more wonderful! We wonder why we chose to cling to the old for so long. And we forget that the old really was perfect for its time.

We begin to despise the old. The old friendships. The old responsibilities. The old connections. The old books. The old songs. The old whatever…it’s all just old.

But where would we be without the old?

God uses each phase of life to accomplish His great purpose. Every stage is beautiful. Every stage is important. How can we despise what God orchestrated?

There are old things in my life that I look back upon fondly. I do not regret them. Sometimes I miss them. Other times I am thankful that God moved me forward, just as I am thankful that He had me there at the time.

Other things I do not miss. Stages of life that were not what I would have preferred. Or, even if they were good at the time, they did not end as I would have hoped. So, while the experience was sweet, the aftertaste turned bitter.

But both sets of experiences brought me where I am today. Both have been used by God to shape me and grow me. Both are critical. And neither need to be despised.

Posted in Around the Web, Homeschooling, Thoughts, Thoughts from Others

Around the Web – June 18, 2014

I haven’t gotten quite back into the full scope of blog reading this week as I’d hoped, but I’ve still come across a few posts that I really enjoyed.

Doug’s Blog

A couple of weeks ago, Doug wrote a post about earning his MDiv and contemplating what’s next. Obviously, I know all about his journey and his plans because we have talked through these things many, many times. But, “Third Degree Burns?” also has a point. No matter what might be ahead, consider where God has you right now. Obey here and now. I needed that reminder.

Oh, and if you like historical fiction and want something a little different, take a look at Doug’s review of Edwin, High King of Britain.

The Fun of Homeschooling

The Nerd Factor

I love the way homeschooling feeds our nerdiness. Here’s the phrase that caught my attention this week:

Do you hear the words Allon-sy, Geronimo, and Fantastic all the time in your house? Are jelly babies on short order? Does the sound of the T.A.R.D.I.S. echo from your living room? If so you might be the parent of a Whovian. (Who am I kidding? You might be a whovian yourself.)

I love that a fellow homeschool mom wrote “Using Doctor Who in Your Homeschool.” And my oldest immediately said, “Yes, please!”

The Training Factor

I also ran across this post about the need for children to move and play and be outside: WHY CHIDLREN FIDGET: And What We Can Do About It

And this post about summer boredom:
Dear Children: Let Me Explain This Thing Called Summer

A Lifestyle Thought

Then there’s this post: Because There is a Difference

I absolutely loved this post. It expresses what I know to be true about myself. My eating habits, or any other health or discipline habits, mean nothing if my heart is not in tune with Christ. Aimee Byrd articulates that fact beautifully.

Be sure to check out what my HEDUA friends have been reading and writing in Must Reads. And don’t forget to share your links with the rest of us!

Posted in Thoughts from Life, Thoughts from Others

The Results We Crave

A friend of mine remarked this morning that she awakened much earlier than usual, but didn’t feel tired. Lately she has changed her eating habits for the better, and it is paying off. She feels great! The rest of us, meanwhile, are still dragging, hoping that cup of coffee or tea or Choffy will kick in and boost our energy.

Ultimately, the only thing that is going to boost our energy is following her example, disciplining ourselves to choose what is best for us rather than what tastes or feels best to us.

Everyone knows this about eating and exercise, but how often do we think about it from a spiritual perspective?

We marvel at someone else’s prayer life. He makes it look so easy! We neglect to admit that we can live the same life if we would just follow his simple example. Why does he have a great prayer life? Because he is obedient to God’s Word: pray continually, take every thought captive, think of these things.

We envy the faith of another. We wonder how, in all things both good and bad, she can just trust and rest. Even when her heart is breaking. Even when she’s on her knees in tears and pleading. Still her faith is not broken. Yet we forget that Jesus’ example is as clear for us as it is for her. “Not My will but Yours be done.

We wonder how this couple can make such a confident decision or that family can take the road less traveled even though every logical marker indicates that they should serve God in a more proven manner. Do we forget that the God of Abraham is our God as well?

The results of my actions will never exactly match someone else’s. I might pray just as fervently for healing, or the sale of a house, or provision, or relief as the next person. But God might grant her the answer she seeks while leaving me with results that I deem to be less than satisfactory.

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t come down to physical results. It comes down to the relationship. It comes down to how consistently I weather every up and down. Every sunshiny day and every storm. Every joy and every challenge.

Yes, it comes down to how I relate to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We have everything we need to live the same biblical, relational life that the people we admire live. Will we choose to do so? Will we put in the work? Will we exert the discipline? Will we surrender?

The path is hard. The results are phenomenal. May we choose the hard path!

Posted in Thoughts from Life, Thoughts from Others

Urgency vs. Purpose

It is so easy to get caught up in the urgent. Do you know what I mean? We wake up each morning with thoughts about how we will spend the day. Then those little pesky things pop up, driving us to and fro. We come to the end of the day exhausted, having done and done and done and done. But when we look back, we never are really sure what it is we’ve truly accomplished.

Recently, my boss encouraged me to sit down and divide my work week into percentages. What needs to be given the highest priority? What needs to consume the least amount of time. I realized that the things that should take the least amount of time usually consume the most. Those that should consume most of my time often are given just a few moments here and there as an afterthought in the busyness of each day.

This is not just how a work day flows. I have lived through enough years without a paying job to know that a regular “mom” day works just the same. Plans are drowned out by demands until the plans seem nonexistent. We just work to survive.

I cannot help but think that God has different intentions for us. But what does it take to get there? How can we move past the survival mode to true purpose? The things that weigh us down and take up so much of our time are always going to be there. How can we thrive despite those distractions?

When I evaluated my work last week, I was reminded of the purpose of my role with Home Educating Family. I was reminded of what was most important. And I began to consciously process how to deal with the time-stealers that prevented me from accomplishing my purpose.

The same principle applies to our spiritual lives. There are things that must be done, of course. We must get up and face our duties for the day, whether they send us to an office, a field, a computer screen, a wrestling with children at home, or any other destination. But we do not have to allow those things to distract us from our true purpose.

So, what is our purpose? We were created to glorify God and relate to Him personally. How do we live that out each day? Well, that is where our individual personalities comes into play. I cannot tell you how glorifying God will look in your day. But I can tell you that you and I must both be very intentional about making sure it happens.

It is so easy to get caught up in the mundane. So easy to be trampled by the urgent. So easy to come to the end of a day, week, month, or even year and see that nothing has truly been accomplished.

Could it be that our goals are wrong? Could it be that we are too focused on survival to truly accomplish anything?

As this week closes, I encourage you to stop and think about your purpose. What distracts you from it? How can you fulfill that purpose without neglecting the necessary obligations that come up each day?

Finally, how can you merge those obligations with your purpose, honoring God in every action?

Posted in Elizabeth Camden, Thoughts, Thoughts from Others

Crying out Hope

I love fiction. Although non-fiction is great and purposeful, I must confess that my brain processes stories much better.

My current fiction selection is entitled Into the Whirlwind, written by Elizabeth Camden. It opens with the great Chicago fire of 1871, giving readers a close-up view of what it must have been like to watch the city go up in flames, destroying everything in its path.

One scene struck me with particular force. As a miraculous rain fell and finally ended the raging of the fire, homeless refugees surged back into the city to find whatever shelter they could. In the novel, just as the main character is plummeting toward despair, she hears a man’s voice calling out in the midnight darkness. He is speaking words of encouragement. Words of strength. Words that remind the people to not despair. They will rebuild! They will survive! God is their strength!

According to the author, there is no historical evidence that a town crier went around calling out encouragement in the middle of that very dark night. But, the words he speaks in the novel are taken from historical records of signs put out by people all over the city. Words of hope.

I love that picture of hope. And I love the reality behind it. That hope was born out of an abiding relationship with the only One who can give such hope: Jesus. It was born out of a love for Him and a trust that His love would continue, no matter how dark the circumstances. The town crier might be fictitious, but the hope is not. It truly existed for God’s children in those dark days.

But there’s something else that strikes me from this story. The town crier could have kept that hope to himself. He could have rested on that dark night, finding a place for himself and his wife to hole up and sleep so they could tackle the hard days ahead. Instead, he walked around the city crying out, strengthening others.

Now, I know that this man is fictional. But, don’t you know people who would do this? Haven’t you heard true stories of people who share their hope with others, lifting the hearts of those around them? I have. I know people like this.

And I am convicted by them.

I live a life rooted in the knowledge that Christ is my hope. Not a hope that someday, something I desire will come to be. But a biblically rooted hope that what He has promised WILL come to pass. But what do I do with that hope? All too often, I just rest in it myself. I draw strength from it and allow it to build me up.

But I forget to share it. Ouch!

Oh to be the type of person who shares the hope I know inside my own heart. Oh to be selfless, not thinking about how I need encouragement, but instead thinking about pouring into others what has been poured into me. That is the kind of person I want to be.

Lord, make me one who pours hope into others!