Sunday, February 27, 2005

Faint Not

Galations 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season, we shall reap, if we faint not.

If you are new to homemaking and finding the task sometimes overwhelming, there are several Bible women who would inspire you. These women displayed extraordinary courage in the face of danger: Esther, Deborah, and Abigail. Ignoring the risk to themselves, they went ahead and did the right thing. "If I die, I die," declared Esther. These historical accounts have not been related to you for nothing. These women were courageous, faithful and obedienct to the will of God.

Our own duties at home--those of being organized, productive, and on time, seem minute, compared to the courageous examples of these women of the Bible. Their example makes our problems seem small. If they could summon the strength to do unpleasant jobs, then surely we can tackle the job at hand and get it done.

Church Shopping

Some visitors at church were heard to say they were "church shopping." I've heard this phrase often over the years. I'd like to hear someone say they were "truth shopping" instead.

Another remark I heard was from a member of the church who had been carefully taught the gospel and the purpose of attending worship services, for many years. The person is in their 40's, yet said they wouldn't be able to be there for worship this Sunday because of a ball game they had to attend.

The wife was looking behind him and rolling her eyes. I thought something very wise and spiritual might come from her mouth. I suspected she wanted her husband to attend church with her. Was I ever surprised to hear her say, "Some people just don't know any better than to host a ball game on Sunday!"

Neither one of them came to church because they felt they must attend the ballgame. I'm still reeling from the special twist of reasoning portrayed here. I think I've heard it all now! The excuse should have been "Some people don't know any better than to neglect worship on Sunday." Instead, they seemed to be blaming the ballgame people. That makes about as much sense as blaming the Fish and Wildlife for allowing fishing and hunting on Sundays.

When Grandma was alive, she would say to people who were anticipating being gone fishing on Sunday, "What if you die while you are fishing on a Sunday?" Many of the people who wanted to neglect church, would be there, because of her warnings.

So now, we have a new generation, who, instead of resisting the temptation to do a dozen other things on the Lord's Day, will blame the organizations for holding the event on Sunday, then they will attend the event and say they had no choice.

If a person has obeyed the gospel, they have given their lives to Christ, and owe him their allegience. Yet, many will who will often neglect church, will never miss a ball game. They even get up extra early to attend, often standing in the cold weather in long lines to get into the stadium. Sometimes it rains on them during the game, but they can still sing and chant their ballgame songs, and wave their arms enthusiastically for their team. Some loyalists can quote you names of sports heroes and exact scores of years gone by. I often wonder if they think they are going to ballgame heaven when they die. They know more about the game, and are more faithful to attend, than they know about the scriptures or attend church.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Improving Your Mood

I thought it might be interesting to tell of some mood-lifters that were used in former times, passed on from my great-grandmother's time.

Sometimes when girls felt low or depressed, their mothers would tell them to wash their hair. The movement of the arms and hands, combined with the massage of the scalp, and the smell of the shampoo, would often create a change in mood. After the hair was dry, styling it and putting a ribbon in it made things seem much brighter.

Another thing that they used to lift the mood was lavender grown in their gardens. A lavender wand could be made by a special way of weaving ribbon around several stocks of the flowering plant. This wand was put in drawers of clothing, including handkerchiefs. In the days before paper tissues, ladies liked their handkerchiefs to be scented. Putting a lavender scented hanky to the nose often improved a "blue mood." Both the flowers and leaves were used to make a hot tea. Boiling water was poured over a teaspoon of lavender and allowed to steep a few minutes, and then sipped. It was used to cure depression.

Going for a long walk was another remedy for depression. Freshly picked flowers were a must in curing the blues.

Women of means usually found that buying a new dress or hat cheered them up considerably.

In church circles, women found that getting a basket of good things to give to someone in need, was a sure way to lift the mood.

Hobbies such as paper dolls, scrapbooking, letter writing, and sewing, were also common remedies.

My grandmother said she used to mop the floor and clean house when she was feeling a bit low.

Cleaning house, then dressing up and having a cup of tea in a pretty cup, changes a person's mood considerably.

Music is also a great mood lifter. Even without a radio or a tape player, a person can sing, and even if the singing is not quite note-for-note on tune, the act of singing cheers the heart in a mighty way.

There are certain scents that create a feeling of well being. Even if you dont' drink coffee, the smell of it is said to make people feel good. Cinnamon is another great scent, as well as a freshly peeled orange. Leave the peelings in a bowl for awhile and let them scent the house. Bread baking can make people feel happy and relaxed. You can take a shortcut by buying frozen dough at the grocery store and following the directions on the package. Often it is just a matter of putting it in the oven at the right temperature. Sometimes the bread is already in a tin, prepared for baking.

Colors are also great ways to improve the mood. Red in all forms, including cranberry, wine, burgundy, scarlet, etc. can often make people feel cheerful instantly. Some people are made more happy by other colors, such as pinks, peaches, or blues.

My own solution is usually to think of the pioneer women who settled out west, and endured much loneliness and hardship. I'm sure they had many depressing and lonely times, and much tragedy, yet they loved a bouquet of flowers and some pretty fabric, just like I do. The lives they led give me endless inspiration.

Romans 12:1-2 be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Some of he things you must transform your mind to are found in Philippians 4:8

The mind needs to be renewed often, because it can become full of many extra things.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Finding A Mate

It is obvious from the many match-making message boards and sites, that finding a mate has become a major problem in Western society. Before the 20th century, the task of finding mates for eligible people was largely a function of the family, and it was assumed that the parents would make it possible for them to meet someone to marry.

It is interesting that we have tried to restore the purpose of the home in so many ways, yet the idea of guiding our grown children to finding the right kind of mate, is one of the "untouchables." While many of us agree that education, health care, birth, Bible study, money-making industry, talents, services, and many other things should come from the home, there are also many who find it unthinkable to try to provide a mate for their son or daughter.

Yet: someone is doing it. If we, as parents do not do it, there are certainly many other ways of finding a mate for our children. The web is full of lonely heart sites. I read one just recently, full of lonely young women who want nothing more than a husband and a family. They don't plan to compete with him, use him, or get rid of him. They just want someone to love and be faithful to for the rest of their lives. Other message boards have young men with the same concerns.

If you want to do it more Biblically, you'll notice that the fathers of that day and time took wives for their sons, and gave their daughters in marriage. I think we can still follow the basic principles of this, at that it will work, if we have the faith that it will. I'm old enough to remember the days before dating became popular. Previous to finding a mate through the dating process (kissing, hugging, and dumping, and then starting all over again), parents used to invite a young lady or young man whom they considered "a catch" or a really desireable addition to their family, over for dinner. It was as simple as that. The parents encouraged and enjoyed the couple, in what would have otherwise been a very awkward situation. Those of you who have experienced dating, know what I mean by awkwardness.

I will give you some real life examples of this: One man invited a young employee from the same workplace, home to dinner, just to meet his daughter. He already liked him like a son, so he wanted his daughter to meet him. Today, they are married. The great advantage to this is not just for the couple. The parents enjoy a rich fellowship with the couple and their family, taking holidays together, going to church together, sharing their joys and their sorrows. They look after each other.

Another set of parents noticed that their son, in his late twenties, was going from one relationship to another, and not making a commitment, causing hurt feelings all around, and decided to reign him in. You probably don't think that is possible these days, but this is how they did it then. They had known a family with a daughter they had always hoped would marry their son. She was of the same religion, and had the same interests. They arranged to go as two families to a picnic on the beach. I know this story because my brothers and sisters and I, then teenagers, were on the same beach and walked past their lovely little party. The young man in question barely looked up at us, his old friends, as we passed, because he was thoroughly absorbed in a conversation with the whole family of the young lady. Over thirty years later I inquired of them, and found out they had married and were still together.

One particular story I always enjoyed was "Wives and Daughters," written by Elizabeth Gaskel in the 1800's, because the older people took such a serious interest in their children's choice of mates, and would have done just about anything to keep a girl from marrying someone who was not of sound mind or good character. It was important to society that people make good, solid marriages. When Mr. Gibson, Molly's father, got wind that a young man in his employ was in love with his daughter, he sent him packing. He then turned around and sent Molly straight to help out a family who had two eligible sons. I wondered why he sent one man packing, yet seemed to be encouraging Molly to get acquainted with the others. It is possible he just didn't like one of them. Later on he tells the boys' father, "I like the lads, and am glad to see them coming around." Here, he thwarted the attempt of one young man to win the affections of his daughter, and encouraged the other one. In the end, both fathers did their best to get the two of them together. "There is a girl after my own heart," said Roger's father. "She's like a daughter to me."

I knew another family who took an active interest in their son's choice of a mate. The mother got sick, and hired the daughter of a family from church, to come and help run the house. During this time, she and the son became better acquainted and were soon engaged. Both families were thrilled.

These are only a few stories that I know. I will not have time to talk about all of the stories of how people met in the early 1900's, largely through their families, when families thought it their responsibility to find good mates for their children. Since the 1950's, families have relinquished that duty to the schools, colleges, dating services, and other institutions. There are of course exceptions, throughout history, such as the mail-order brides, that came to the West to meet a mate and settle the land.

I don't want to criticize anyone who did not meet their husbands through their families. There are some families who don't want the responsibility. They think their sons and daughters will just find someone when the time comes, and some of them do, but a lot of them don't, and are still out there on blogs and boards longing for a mate.

Those that have no family to guide them in finding a mate, will have to gather up some strength, give a little courage, and take some chances, in order to find their own. Too many of them, in my opinion, afraid to put themselves forth, or afraid to be seen as "forward," do not show any inclination of interest at all, and lose their chances.

Today, men in our society are reluctant to pursue a woman the way they used to. They don't want to come across as harrassing the woman, or being out of line. They don't want to push it, if the woman appears not to be interested. At the same time, women don't want to appear to be desperate, or "hunting" a husband. There are some things you can do to help yourself along, if you are on your own, and still seeking a mate.

One of the best books on the subject I ever read, was "The Fascinating Girl." I'm sure not everyone will agree with every single thing in this book, but if you really want to win a man, you will find a couple of things you can glean from this book. You can probably get a used copy from the web. It was written for single girls who didn't know how to go about finding a mate, during a time of terrible permissiveness in the U.S. It showed how to detect good character or bad character in a man, and how to find the kind that would marry, settle down, be faithful, and provide for his family.

Other suggestions I have are: When you find someone you might like to get to know, find out about his parents, and get acquainted with them. You can also smile and be a little encouraging. Often girls, afraid of being flirtatious, will not smile at all. All you have to do is treat the men as brothers, and you'll be at ease. The motto is: He's your brother until he's your husband. That will keep you from worrying to much about being too friendly or too affectionate before a commitment is made.

You might arrange to have the person visit you in your family home, to get acquainted with everyone. If you are using message boards to meet people, arrange to have a parent or trusted relative meet personally with the candidate first.

Young women looking for mates need to pay attention to the way the dress, that they do not send off messages that send the young men packing. Neither appear too alluring nor too stodgy; not too formal but not too casual. You should choose clothing that is not masculine, but ladylike and pretty.

There are other things you can do to improve your chances of finding a mate. Attend church regularly. One young lady I knew, grew discouraged because there were no eligible men in church. She decided to go elsewhere, only to find out that family with four sons had attended the church the day she was gone. You never know what God holds in store for the faithful!

I think, in essence, it is the parents that should do the "dating" and the screening. In lieu of parents, the young lady may have to assert herself a little, in order to secure a mate. One woman I know, who has now been married over twenty years, perceived that the young man she had her eye on, was too shy to say anything to her, so she asked her parents to invite him to dinner.

Finally this word of wisdom to anyone who has someone in their life just hanging on, but no commitment being made. If your family does not show any interest in the person, and will not make friendly overtures toward them, just part amicably. If the family is urging you enthusiastically to procure the person's interest, to bring them around, to marry them, then take that as a "sign" that you have found someone who is suitable. Many a young woman who was encouraged by her parents, married a fine man, due to their enthusiasm.

I don't believe in this sitting-around-stuff that some single girls are ascribing to, waiting til somone magically appears. The parents need to be alert and be able to recognize a good man when they see one, and pursue a friendship with him. I agree you shouldn't chase men, but I do think there are many things you can do to bring one into your life.

In this current day, parents take a greater interest in choosing the college their children will attend, than they do in choosing a future mate. You judge for yourself which is the most important. As a society we have no qualms about giving our two cents worth to our children regarding the purchase of a car, or enrollment in a University, yet remain silent on the choice of a mate. In the Bible, even Sampson, who chose the wrong woman, still had to implore his own parents to "get her for me." (Judges 14:2) Are there any brave parents full of faith out there who are willing to take responsibility for finding mates for their children? It doesn't have to be a "my way or the highway" situation. It can have a take-it-or-leave-it approach. And, if parents feel that they have no role in finding their children appropriate mates, they can rely on the avenue of prayer. You know what they say, "You can never get so far away from your family that your mother's prayers can't reach you."

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Multi Generational Church

I wrote this article quite awhile ago. Most people seemed to misunderstand it or to say, "that sounds nice, but it is impossible to do." This article was received with skepticism by some, just as my own decision to home school was received with both curiosity and even condemnation, in the early 80's. I'm republishing it here to see if there are any of like mind on the subject of the multi-generational church.

We seem to understand the necessity of the multi-generational family, especially in regards to educating our children. We understand it when it comes to authority and when it comes to influence. We understand it when creating a family business. We know we need the young and the old to work together. Youth needs the benefit of the wisdom and sound judgement of the old, and the old need the vitality and ideas of the youth.

As the home school movement increases, churches are beginning to understand the importance of having families worship together rather than split people up into age groups or taking the children to children's worship.

This article will show you why I think that churches should encourage multi-generational attendance and belonging. It will show you how defeating it is when young people that the congregation and the families have invested in spiritually, and sometimes other ways, leave to go "somewhere better,", with programs that suit them, or to a place where there are mostly other people their age. It will show you that a church will stay alive and healthy when there are multi-aged groups involved in it.

The Multi-Generational Church

Parents and grown, married children and grandchildren, can benefit greatly by attending the same church. They need each other. The multi-generational lifestyle that includes the grandparents, children and grandchildren, is a great testimony of Christ's word, to the church and the world.

My husband recently preached a sermon to encourage the young people to put the church first, and to stay in the congregation where they had worshipped with their parents, to help the work of the Lord, rather than going somewhere else when they became adults. It is sad to see parents work so hard raising their children to become faithful, productive citizens in the Kingdom, only to see them leave the little congregation where they grew up, and go somewhere else, when in three-fourths of cases, with some effort, they could stay and contribute a lot to the church they grew up in.

One church in a certain town was known to complain that after all the time and effort they spent on helping their children grow up in the Lord, that the young people left the local church and went to a bigger place, leaving the church to become an old-folks congregation, without the help they needed. They felt the least they could have done is stay and pay their parents back, by helping keep the work alive. While this may sound like an unusual idea in this day and age of independent thinking, it is something worth serious consideration.

The New Testament mandates the older teaching the younger, in the local church, but if we separate churches into younger groups and older groups, it is very difficult to obey these scriptures. It is harder to teach the younger women if the younger women aren't there. Older people thrive on encouraging younger people, and if there aren't any, they remain silent, and do not use their skills and knowledge as they should. Many older women, for example, would love to teach the younger women, but there are none available in their congregation. When young people remove themselves from the local church, they remove the opportunity to interact together with multi-age groups, the way we were intended to function..

Now a grandmother, I look across the rows of people and see so many couples who used to have children sitting next to them, and wonder where their children are. Visitors who come may not realize that it was once a thriving church, full of people of all ages, working in harmony, and see only old people there. Without our grown children, and their children sitting in the congregation, no one sees the fruits of our labors in teaching the Christian life to our children in the home. No one sees the testimony of our lives in Christ, living through the next generation. Not realizing the opportunities that come with having old people in a church, young people move on where there are more younger couples to worship with.

Youth and age were meant to interact together. Without young couples in the church, old people do not function as well. Just as young people get discouraged when there aren't other young people around, old people feel sad, lonely, and hopeless without the presence of the young. I often look out over the assembly and see the old people that once had children sitting next to them, and wonder what happened to their grown children and grandchildren. They are never present except for the obligatgory Mothers Day or Fathers Day. This is a shame.

Often the younger congregations struggle from lack of sound leadership and counsel, and even financial strain, while the older groups have spiritual peace, sound teaching, and financial security. God designed young people to benefit from the stability of the older people, and that the older people could benefit from the vitalilty of the younger, in the church. When we separate into age groups, we all lose. The older and younger need to work together in the same congregation, to keep the Lord's work healthy and growing.

One church we worked for in a foreign country, was very small. The social climate of the particular country we lived in at the time, was very hostile to the gospel. The church had very little success in that country. They had great difficulty reaching the lost in that area, but they stayed faithful, and each family raised their children up to love the local church. Being a young couple ourselves, we grew discouraged, and moved somewhere else, but we kept in touch with these people. Now, over 30 years later, when we read their church bulletins, we have discovered something wonderful: they kept their children. And grandchildren. And great grandchildren. They could not seem to grow from without, so they grew from within.

The people we originally worshipped with were now great grandparents. They taught their children to marry other members of the church. It was so interesting to read the surnames of the people who were marrying or having babies. The children of the people in this little congregation, that so struggled to maintain its existence in a hostile country, had preferred to marry each other, and then raise their children in the Lord. When we lived there, we never thought the work would really grow and amount to much, and now, all these years later, there are so many of them, they have to have two services each Sunday morning. These strong, multi-generational families became evangelistic and won many souls to Christ in that area. They bring the new Christians into this varied congregation that is not separated according to age, and everyone benefits.

Married 33 years to a preacher, I've lived in many different places. Although I found the brethren kind, generous and loving, there was always something missing. I watched other families enjoy the blessings of the fellowship of their grandparents, great-grandparents, or children and grandchildren, all in the same congregation. I saw the strength that it gave these families, and the benefits it gave the rest of the church. When someone in the family, or a relative of theirs was baptised, they had good teachers they felt comfortable with, in the congregation, helping them to be faithful. There is less adjustment for them than for another new Christian who doesn't have relatives in the church. Seeing their grandparents and parents there, gives them a stability and reinforcement they need. New Christians who have no one in the church, often have many adjustment problems, but the ones who experienced the multi-generational church, have the comfort and encouragement of their own people.

In 1993, we moved to the congregation where my husband's parents, in failing health, still served. It didn't take us long to understand that we should have done it years ago. We thought we were needed elsewhere, or that we should have a better salary, or get away from from our home and achieve success in the church somewhere else. We came to realize that the greatest success for us was the triumph of seeing several generations of the same family converted to Christ and serving faithfully, upholding and encouraging each other. Our family immediately felt like we belonged. There was no breaking into the congregation--we were everyone's children, because this is where we had come from.

I particularly noticed how happy my own children were. Being around their grandparents daily was their joy, but they also thrived in the church, where we all attended together. Because it was a small group, and we were so needed, every single one of our children had a job to fulfill, and a place to serve. Our sons had to learn to teach, preach, and evangelize, and our daughter became proficient at teaching young girls, and showing hospitality. As teenagers, they were always available to help the local church.

Because of our children, the grandparents seemed to get a little more life and enthusiasm, and maybe this improved their mood, affecting their health, and extended their years. It had always been their dream that their children would locate in the same congregation, and raise their own children here, worshipping in the same pew with them and teaching the gospel together as a family team. There were many Sundays when our sons were leading singing or teaching, and my daughter and I were hosting someone after church in our home. When we were younger, we would have thought this was not progress, but we were made to see that the multi-generational church is the best progress.

I thought of the years and years of my husband's parents pleading and hoping that we would come home, and help them with the work of the Lord, even if we just built the attendance by the addition of 5 more people. Grandma always delighted in counting the attendance. She even counted the babies, in order to be able to put up a higher head count on the board. Having us attending the same congregation, was a source of great happiness for her. While she was alive, she watched the baptism of a young man who would eventually marry her granddaughter, in the same meeting house where she and her husband, my father in law, had worked for almost 30 years. My children have all told me how much their faith was helped by their attendance in the same place as their own parents and grandparents. It would be the realization of my own dream, to have my children, their spouses, and my grandchildren, all sitting together at worship services someday.

We noticed that our multi-generational family attracted other people, who wanted to duplicate this in their own lives. People were won to Christ from the world, partly because they were impressed with the strong family we represented. They, in turn, converted their own parents, or children. The family atmosphere in the church was very appealing.

In the many years we have been in Oregon, we have often been contacted by parents and grandparents from churches across the nation, to visit their children who moved, through job transfers, college, or marriage, to this area, and encourage them to be faithful to the assembly. In almost 100% of these cases, the relatives we visited, were very reluctant to attend, and not interested in the church at all. Yet, when they went back home on visits, the parents and grandparents reported that they attended church with them, as they always did. I'm not excusing neglect, but there is something to be said about the comfort of attending your home congregation.

Without the family (and I'm not just speaking of the nuclear family here: father, mother and children, but of the extended family), we are like coals taken out of the fire. We may burn for awhile, but not as hot. My husband and I spent a few years in foreign countries as missionaries. Even though we considered the church members our brothers and sisters, we've often remarked that we would have had a stronger feeling of confidence and well-being, if we had had the daily fellowship of our own parents, as well as the church.

When grandchildren see their grandparents in the same church, they understand better the importance of being faithful. They know there is stability in the Christian life, as they see the example of the older people. People outside of Christ will also see this living testimony of Christian lives of all ages.

In reality, there will always be members of families who must leave to other places to find work, or to spread the gospel. I am in no way suggesting that every single member of the family should stay in the church where they grew up, but I do think it is possible for more to stay, than now do. It would be nice if there was a better balance of young people staying.

Eventually I hope the church will catch up to the home school families and realize the benefits and strength of the multi-generational church.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Keeping the Light On

In a neighborhood of predominantly working parents (both parents have jobs), one woman tells me that seeing the light on in the house at the end of the street gave her great comfort and encouragement. This represented someone besides herself that stayed at home to manage it, guard it, raise the children, and look after her husband. She especially liked to see the light on evenings when she had to stay up late for something or other. One day, the family at the end of the street sold the house and moved away to be closer to their own parents and help them out. My friend said, "I miss seeing her light on. Although we didn't often visit, it always cheered me up to see that light. The new people both work, and the house rarely has lights on."

You might have read about some of the customs of the Israelites when they settled in the land of Canaan. Because of the problem of thieves at night, little lamps filled with oil were kept lit and put in windowsills of the houses. Anyone coming near would assume that there was someone in the house, and not bother it. This makes the verse from Proverbs 31, "Her lamp does not go out at night" more understandable. Some historians think that women often worked late into the night sewing or working on some kind of industry to sell the next day. Whatever it was, it was considered a mark that someone was on guard at home.

You might not think anyone notices you, if you are at home in an empty neighborhood while everyone leaves the home to go to work for a corporation of some sort. Your influence is there, however. Deep in their hearts, people know it is right for women to stay and guard the home, and if your light was not on, they would notice it. If they did not think that staying home was something they wanted to do, they would still likely feel vastly let down and disappointed if you left your post to do someone else's business. The world knows that women function best at home, and that the home benefits most when the woman is present.

While there are hundreds of people who can fill the positions in offices and other businesses, there is only one person in the world who can rightly fill the position of the wife and mother in the home. You might not know how far your influence is reaching, but just give up your position at home, and you would find out. Someone would surely miss seeing your light on, and with that light, the message it gives out about you and your life.

This illustration can also be translated into the effect of the Christian life on the world. While the neighborhoods may be dark with houses of those who do not follow in The Way, every Christian is a light, in some way, to someone else. Everywhere there is a Christian, is a light turned on. Thus in a dark city, the real lights are those of the Christians scattered here and there. If you are practicing the Christian values of marriage, home, and family, in a town where few or no people have a high regard for these things, think of yourself as a light turned on, showing the way to those who are lost.

There is an old song, "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning" which is about Christians being spiritual lighthouses, sending a beam across the waves. It ends with the words, "Some poor fainting, struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save." The lower lights of a lighthouse are the ones that beam across the water to those who have lost their way at sea. (see the words here

Phi 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;