Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for October, 2012

Life at College… (A Joke)

A mother goes to visit her son at college and is surprised to find out that her son’s apartment mate is female.
‘Oh no, Mom, it’s not like that. We’re just roommates,’ the son assures her.
After dinner the mother leaves, and, while cleaning up the roommate notices her gravy ladle is missing.
‘You’re mother wouldn’t have taken my gravy ladle, would she?’ the female roommate asks.
The son assures her that his mother would not, but weeks go by and the gravy ladle is no-where to be found, so the female roommate pesters the son to ask his mother if she knows where it is.
So he writes an email to mom…
‘Dear Mom, I’m not saying you took the ladle, and I’m not saying you didn’t, but if you know where her ladle is could you please tell us?’
Mom replies…
‘Son, I’m not saying you’re sleeping with her, and I’m not saying you’re not, but if she was using her own bed she’d know where her ladle is!’

The joke brings up an important question: How much do parents have a right to interfere with their children’s lives once they are off to college? Especially if mom and dad are footing the bill. And, is it fair to impose consequences if the college-aged child was not aware that, because mom and dad are paying, there is still some accountability and that rent and tuition may come with a few strings attached? Should families discuss expectations and behaviors that would cause the child to lose their parents’ financial support before they send their children to college?

Photo by Matija Barrett

An Election Year Parable (Judges 9)

Abimelech (Gideon’s son) then goes to his brothers and tells them to ask the people of Shechem whether it would be better for 70 brothers to rule over them, or just one. He reminds them that he is their flesh and blood. The brothers agree, and the people are ‘inclined to follow’ him, so they give Abimelech 70 shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, which Abilmelech uses to hire ‘reckless adventurers.’ He then murders all of his brothers except Jotham, Gideon’s youngest son, who hides. The people then gather and crown Abimelech king.

FYI: Killing your brothers when you become king is a common practice during this time. When Abimelch went to his brothers for support and reminded them that they were his brothers, he was likely implying that he was going to become king, and was reminding them what would happen if they did not support him. He killed them anyways to ‘secure’ his throne. Many of his brothers likely have more of a claim to a throne, since Abimelech is the son of a concubine, and not a wife, if you believe royalty should pass from father to son. (Though the name ‘Abimelech’ implies that his father meant for him to succeed him. Not that Gideon was ‘king’… but Abimelech has delusions of grandeur.) In this time uprisings against a king often involved the people getting behind a relative of the king and claiming that this relative had more of a claim to the throne than the current ruler. Abimelech was trying to guarantee that this would not happen.

Jotham (Gideon’s youngest son who escaped) then climbs to the top of Mount Gerizim and tells the people a parable. He says that the trees wanted to anoint a king for themselves so they asked the olive tree to be king, but the olive tree produced oil that was needed. The olive tree decided that it would be wrong to give up doing something so necessary just to ‘hold sway’ over the other trees. The fig and the vine are asked to be king as well, but they too do not feel it is right to give up producing important fruit in order to be in charge. Finally the thorn bush is asked. The thorn bush is not a good king however. He tells the other trees to take refuge in his shade. (This is how a thorn bush kills other trees. By outgrowing them when they are young and weak, the bush deprives them of sunlight, and ‘chokes’ them out by using up all their resources. The trees then whither and die.) When the trees will not ‘take refuge’ in the thorn bush’s shade, the thorn bush catches fire (another thing thorn bushes are known to do, especially in the desert where they dry out easily) and the fire consumes even the sturdiest trees (the cedars of Lebanon).

Point to Ponder: This parable applies today. Too often the people best suited to run the country are too busy producing and running their own businesses. Instead we are left to choose from a group of people who can easily leave whatever they are doing, and want the job. This is not ‘the best’ group of people to be choosing from. A good ruler (or in our case ‘representative’) of the people is one who has succeeded in other aspects of life. Unfortunately, these people are difficult to get as they are often busy with productive work that is important too. If we want our country to run well, we need to pry more of them away from their jobs and convince them to serve us for a time!

An excerpt from: A New Believer’s Bible Commentary: Joshua-Job (Click on Books By Me in the sidebar for more details)

Photo by Matija Barrett

Some Not So Usual Suggestions for Studying Your Bible


1. Do not start with Genesis. I know this sounds like bad advice, but the truth is most people who start Bible reading programs do not finish them, and Genesis is the book they already know the most about. A Bible reading program is supposed to increase your knowledge of the Bible. To most effectively do this begin with the books you know the least about.

2. Read the footnotes. Most Bibles contain footnotes. They are great sources of information that most people overlook. They will help to explain what is going on in each passage and give you the information you need to more fully understand what you are reading. Footnotes are like a free mini-commentary, so use them.

3. Choose a Bible translation you enjoy. While there is much debate over which Bible translation is best, most of them are excellently translated. Choose one that you can read and understand easily, then look at the footnotes. Different Bibles have footnotes that focus on different things. Some are focused on ‘life application’ and will try to relate the Bible reading to something in your life so that you can more easily apply the Bible to your own situation. Others are ‘study Bibles’ and the footnotes focus more on giving you background information about the passage you just read. There are a lot of different styles of footnotes so spend some time finding ones that are right for you.

4. Use a Bible reading plan. If you know that you know that this time you will in fact read through the entire Bible use a Bible reading plan. (Google ‘Bible reading plan’ and find one that looks good to you.) Bible reading plans keep you accountable, and also put passages of the Bible together so that you can see how different books viewed similar teachings.

5. Mix it up. If you have already read through the Bible at least once in your life do not use the same plan, or the same Bible to read through it again. Different footnotes will broaden your understanding, and a different plan will put different passages together allowing you to see things in greater context.

6. Use the verses listed in the margins. In most Bibles there are verses listed in the margins beside each passage. They are references to other places in the Bible where similar things are taught. When you get to a topic you are unsure about use them to look up what the Bible says about this in other places. They typically do not contain every passage on the subject, so look at the verses listed next to the passages you look up for even more information.

7. Read with friends and plan to discuss what you have read. Accountability works, which is why Weight Watchers does so well. If possible, find a group of people who are willing to read along with you and encourage you to stay the course. Further, their insights will help bring into your life more than you noticed while reading alone.

8. Use Bible studies that force you to look up scripture and read it for yourself. Commentaries are good. (I have one that is currently being released now, so I am not against them.) But, the best learning is done when you do most of the work yourself. My favorites are Kay Arthur’s Precept Upon Precept studies. You will need a concordance, and these studies require much of your time, but they are worth it.

9. If you know you have limited time, choose a book of the Bible that relates to what you are going through right now. Every book in the Bible focuses on a different theme. Leaf through them and decide which book will speak to you and your situation most right now.

10. Bring your Bible everywhere. Life is busy and most people fail because there is just not enough time in the day to do everything they want to get done. While waking up early and simplifying your life are good ideas, most of us will not make that change, so bring your Bible with you. Whenever there is a moment of downtime take it out and read. Do not be afraid of getting ahead. You will probably need a day off soon, and any ‘getting ahead’ you did will now come in handy. Life vacillates. Some days we have more down time than others. Use yours wisely.

11. Choose a Bible reading plan that gives you days off. These are not really ‘days off,’ they are days to catch up. Most people quit reading through their Bible because they have missed days and are now too far behind to catch up on the arbitrary goal they set for themselves. Days off give you time to ‘catch up’ so you do not feel frustrated and quit quite as easily.

12. Keep things in perspective. The Bible is a big book. It is actually 66 books. Most people would not set reading 66 books as a goal to do in a year. Thankfully many of the books are short, so it is not as bad as it sounds, but reading through the Bible in a year is a big commitment if daily Bible reading is not already a part of your life. Have mercy on yourself and know that if it takes a little longer than you planned it is still worth it, so stay the course.

13. If you have the time, take notes. Journal about what you have read. Writing things down helps you to remember and relate things to your life. Reread your notes frequently to remind you about what you have learned. But, if your time is limited, forget what I just said and keep reading through. Once you have covered the entire Bible more than once there will be time for more leisurely strolls through its pages.

14. Read even if you only have a few minutes. Many people make a big deal about their Bible reading time. This can be helpful, as it becomes a daily habit, or it can be limiting, since you feel you can only read in the right place at the right time. Take your Bible out as if it were a novel. Every little bit adds up, and reading short sections allows you to think about what you read more than you may have if you had read more at once.

15. Make an effort to think about what you have read throughout the day. Even if you do not have time to read more, think about what you have read while you are driving or doing any other task that requires little thought. This will also help you remember things better.

16. Go for the audio version. While the audio version lacks footnotes and other helps, it is better than not reading at all. Audio versions are great for joggers, time in the car etc so they often fit into your life more easily. James Earl Jones does a very nice job with the King James Bible, if you can handle the vocabulary and word order in the King James. There are also theatrical versions of audio available where different speakers assume different roles and try to make the Bible come to life.

17. Incorporate what you are learning into your daily life. This is more than just doing what the Bible says. If you are an artist, take a verse that speaks to you and incorporate it into your art. If you love to cook, try following the dietary laws when you read through them. If you love maps, look up the places mentioned. If you love the outdoors, imagine the terrain you are reading about on your next hike or bike ride. If you are a parent, think about what it must have been like raising children under the conditions described. If you are a nerd/geek, make outlines and lists, or maybe even a computer game that incorporates what you have learned. (You should see the outlines I have accumulated! But only do so if you find this fun.)

18. Pray. Always pray. Pray before you read. Pray when you are dealing with a difficult passage. Pray when you find an instruction and realize that you need the strength to change something in your life. Pray that you find the instructions you need and realize there are things you need to change in your life. Then, when you are done, meditate peacefully on what you have learned and thank God for everything He has revealed.

19. Set up an environment you enjoy to do the majority of your reading in. Making Bible reading time a treat, rather than a chore will help you do it more often. There can be candles, soft music, nice food and drink, a comfortable chair etc. Your routine should invite you to want to read. Even a bathtub can be set up with a bar for reading, so figure out what you like and get creative. Just don’t spend so much time setting up that you never find the time to actually read.

20. Reward yourself when you meet your goals. The Word of God is sweet like honey according to scripture. The Jews took this to mean that there should be rewards for learning it and rewarded children with treats. Most people are motivated by the thought of reward, so set goals for yourself and celebrate when you reach them.

Bible reading should never be a chore, but for those of us who did not grow up doing it, it is something extra to fit into our already hectic lives. Hopefully my suggestions will help you find the time, learn more and succeed. Remember, they are only suggestions. Take the ones that work for you and throw the rest out. And enjoy!

photo art by Kristin Andraka

25 Ideas for Home Schooling Teens

1. Adult Education Courses– There are many adult education courses given in most communities. Check with your local colleges to see what may be offered. Some may be for an entire semester, while others may be much shorter. Many are fun or useful. Swing dance, medieval weapons making, cabinetry and other interesting things may be offered, so it is not always traditional academic fare.

2. Volunteer– Many places could use an extra hand, and may teach your teen useful skills along the way. There are the traditional places such as the church, hospital, nursing home, soup kitchen or Habitat for Humanity, but the local bee keeper, small engine repairman or dog groomer may also appreciate some unpaid help.

3. Hobby Shops– Hobby shops often have classes that teenagers may enjoy. My children have taken lessons in pottery, dichroic glass fusing, wood working (using a lathe) and jewelry making. I am currently drooling over a glass blowing class, but the youngest is not yet 16 (the cut off age), so we are waiting.

4. Lectures– Museums, colleges and other community organizations often have guest lecturers. Check the local paper and/or the college websites to see what is being offered.

5. Seminars– Many times there are seminars given for the general public. Get Motivated is one of these. They bring in big name speakers. In between the speakers are commercials for other high priced learning opportunities, but if you know how to say ‘no’ to what you know you will not benefit from, then this is a great way to hear some truly remarkable people speak.

6. Church events– Most churches allow everyone to attend their events.  By investigating what each church is offering your teen may see concerts, comedians, take a course on financial responsibility or improve their Bible knowledge.

7. Toast Masters– If your teen is scared to death of public speaking Toast Masters offers a gentle, supportive way to gain confidence. There are Toast Masters groups in most communities.

8. College Events– Many colleges bring in entertainment and allow members of the community to purchase tickets as well.  Most of the time the performances are cheaper than you could see them elsewhere, and your teen gets to check out the college, without the pressure of an official visit.

9. Hikes– There are many interesting hikes to take. Plaques along the way often teach history without it seeming like you planned a history lesson.

10. Mining– Many areas have gem or other precious metal mining for a price. Some also have places where ‘rock hounds’ can dig for free. Use the internet to find places you may dig in your area.

11. Road trips– Your teen should now be doing much of their work independently. If they can complete their course work, then a trip is not unreasonable. Combine education with fun by visiting museums as part of your tour. There are also fun historical places like Pops by Oklahoma City on Route 66 where you can get any kind of soda imaginable.

12. Use movies to teach literature- Learning what onomatopoeia is may not be fun, but it is more fun when you get to watch your favorite movies and look for it. Also many movies are remakes of classics. For example the Lion King is Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and She’s the Man is 12th Night. Google whatever classics you are currently studying and see if Hollywood has a modern remake to compare it to.

13. Use food- Teens are always hungry. Build cells by cutting open a bun, spreading cream cheese and adding other toppings for organelles (a friend of mine’s suggestion).  Frost a cake and decorate it as a contour map of Egypt. Reinforce adding or dividing fractions by doubling or halving the recipe.

14. Use Pinterest- Pinterest has great ideas, especially for crafts. I started looking, and now my daughter goes on herself, gives me a list and does what she likes independently.

15. Order kits- You can do almost anything at home, just follow the directions carefully. The last big project we did was basket weaving.  My daughter now wants to make a carpet ball table.

16. Home Improvement– Many building places offer free classes and suggestions on how to improve your home. Get the kids involved. One day they will have a home of their own and these skills will benefit them. Recently we made mosaic tables, and placed a mosaic dragon on the kitchen floor. My son is now starting to landscape the yard, with the freedom to use some of his own ideas.

17. Cooking classes– As I said, teens are always hungry. Cake decorating is also an option.

18. Interesting science experiments– Search the internet for things that are ‘cooler’ than what you usually do. If you have boy, things that blow up are typically a hit. dissection kits and other interesting activities are also available through sites like Home School Science Tools. Our favorite was making elephant toothpaste!

19. Sports– Many teens are welcome on adult leagues, and classes in Tae Kwon Do, Zumba or golf are also age appropriate now.

20. Music and Drama– Many areas have community bands and theater groups. They are fun and low pressure. If your teen has talent in these areas they may enjoy joining one.

21. Book clubs– If your teen is a reader they may also enjoy joining a local book club. They are a great way to meet interesting people and share ideas.

22. Job Shadow– To help your teen figure out what they want to do in life you may want to set up opportunities for them to observe a day or two on a job they think they would be interested in. Most people will gladly allow them to do this.

23. Allow them to Explore their Own Interests– This is a time for them to develop hobbies that will enrich their lives. Currently my son is looking into blacksmithing, while my daughter is trying her hand at photography. 

24. Part time jobs- Part time jobs give teens practice being responsible and hard working without mom looking over their shoulder. If nothing else they teach your teen exactly why they do not want to leave school early and try to live on minimum wage.

25. Do things with them- They are now approaching adulthood and it is time to start establishing a more adult relationship with them. Take them out to eat, to bowl or anywhere else there is a lot of down time where you may talk. Ask their opinions, listen and try not to over-react if they do not think as you do.

Photo by Matija Barrett

How To Help The Poor


It’s an election year and everyone has strong opinions. The problem with most opinions today is that they define the problem using one very limited example. Recently I responded to a tweet that attacked people by stating that if you think the problem with the poor is laziness then you have not met anyone who is poor. This is simply false since there are people whose problem is that they do not wish to work. Some of my favorite ‘lazy’ people include the person my sons worked with who thought the boss would not notice that he was not washing dishes when the boss was not looking. That the ever-growing pile of dishes might give him away never occurred to him. Another woman cleaned hotel rooms. She assumed she just needed to fold the toilet paper into a triangle and no one would know the difference. The management tried and tried to help her be successful. When people were watching she did a wonderful job, but when their backs were turned she folded the toilet tissue and left.

The Old Testament actually describes more than one type of poor person and gives us different instructions regarding how to deal with them.

First there is the ‘roosh.’ This person is poor because they make poor decisions. They will not listen when corrected, are lazy and make other poor people’s lives miserable. We are to feed these people, but because they ruin other people’s lives with their decisions they are also generally avoided.

The next type of poor person is the ‘dal.’ They are weak and cannot help themselves for some reason. Typically, this person’s situation is temporary and if given proper help they will do well. These are the people we are rewarded by God for helping. We are also cursed if we take advantage of them.

Another group of poor are the anav and aniy. They are the poor and needy. In the New Testament these are the people Jesus refers to when he gives instructions on how to treat the poor. These are the people who are poor because of a more permanent condition such as low IQ or severe disability. It can also be because of a more permanent situation like being an elderly widow with no family. They too are to be helped, and we are to be generous to them. They are the ones that the laws regarding gleaning were made for.

There are also a few other types of poor, which occur more briefly in scripture. They are the machcowr, a person who becomes poor because they spend recklessly on their own pleasure. He is best exemplified by the prodigal son. Remember, the son’s father did not send care packages, but did accept his son back fully when he returned in a repentant state.

Then there is the muwk. These are people who have made vows carelessly, or become in debt to the point of not being able to repay what they owe. They do have to work off the debt as a servant, but we are not to take advantage of them.

The ‘ebywon is a beggar. We are to treat him fairly. If we are doing things right there should be no beggars in our land.

The michen is poor through his own foolishness. All we are told about this man is that we are not to listen to his advice.

If we are ever going to truly help the poor we need to realize that there are many different reasons for being poor. Deciding that all of the poor are hard working people who just need a little help is just as destructive as deciding that all of the poor are lazy. It is just not true. Some people just need a little help and they will be fine. Others need education and wisdom. Still others have problems that may never be solved. And of course some are just unwilling to work. All of these situations require different solutions. Until we actually get to know the people we are helping we will not be very effective. The hard working poor will have a difficult time accepting help. The lazy poor will do all they can to gobble up the free stuff. And the people with lower IQs and other disabilities will fall through the cracks unless someone advocates for them. Just throwing money at the problem, or refusing to give any money is not the answer.

Photo by Matija Barrett

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