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Thursday, June 7, 2007

What if My Child Hates to Write?

It can be rather discouraging when a child simply dislikes writing. There could be one of many factors at work here. Let's explore some of the reasons a child may dislike writing and some solutions to address each of these factors.

The first factor is that perhaps your child doesn't like the physical mechanics of writing. Does he hold his pencil with an uncomfortable grip? Does he grip his pencil too hard and push too hard on the paper? Does he have improper letter formation that requires a lot more writing to form each letter? These things usually correct themselves, but not always. The best way to develop a love for writing is to require typing as a subject. My favorite typing programs are Mavis Beacon JUNIOR and Typing Instructor. My children were required to do their typing program every single day for a few months, and then only once in a while after that. They got even more practice as they wrote stories on the computer.

Some children don't dislike writing as much as they dislike having to pull creative thoughts out of their brains. I like what classical educators have to say about this: children need ideas put in their minds before they should be required to create new ideas. They should be filled with knowledge, ideas, concepts, truths, stories, literature, facts, and information. Then, they should be asked to write about what they already know rather than come up with new ideas or on the spot opinions. When they are older and have been exposed to great literature and a wealth of ideas, they will have a stronger knowledge base from which to pull creative ideas and thoughts. They will also have critical thinking skills and the ability to conceptualize abstract thoughts. At that point, they can create a great composition, story, persuasive essay, or whatever it is the writing assignment requires.

Another reason your child might dislike writing is because you, being the very thorough and wonderful teacher you are, used their writing assignments as the examples of what they needed to work on in spelling and grammar. Every writing assignment became a poster of their weaknesses and failings. I have heard many homeschool moms say that they use their child's writing assignments to pick out spelling words and teach proper grammar. This may be an economical use of their writing, but it is also a good way to discourage their love for writing. I often take my children's notebooks to conventions to show others. I had one mom tell me how pleased she was to see all the misspelled words in my daughter's notebook pages. My daughter was nine when she wrote those pages, spelling Mercury as “Murcury” and more. However, by age 14 she had developed a love and passion for writing—and scored post graduate level on her spelling! I never used her writing for spelling practice. She learned to spell using a spelling program.

One note of concern here is that a child who has intensely poor spelling should not be asked to write until he has learned to spell the most common words in the English language. You do not want to reinforce poor spelling by having him copy it over and over. If the misspelled words are relegated to new or words not often used, that's another story.

Perhaps the most common reason a child doesn't like writing is because God did not design him to be a creative writer. This child prefers to solve problems (especially math problems). He doesn't see the benefit of writing. It seems purposeless. Frankly, creative writing—writing to entertain—isn't necessary for every child. The only writing that is absolutely necessary for every child is academic writing. If the problems are not one of the above-mentioned issues, I would not force a child who has not been given a bent toward writing to do a lot of creative writing assignments. For younger students that dislike writing, I would require them to narrate constantly. Have them retell back in their own words whatever they read or have had read to them. This will go a long way toward good narrative writing. A child who can relate information clearly will find it easy to put those spoken words on paper. As he grows older, have him do just that. Put his short (or long) narratives on paper. In late middle school or high school require him to learn academic writing.

Creative writing is simply not for everyone. A child who dislikes writing can still make A's on writing assignments if he is taught how to organize his thoughts and learns to write a well thought out and organized sentence, paragraph, and essay. This begins and ends with oral narrations, for even if your child becomes a mathematician, he will be required to explain his knowledge orally. Thus, in the early years, don't worry so much about writing. Focus on his oration of thoughts.

If we had time, I would tell you the story of my husband who didn't care for writing growing up but learned to write a good essay and now makes a living writing perfectly constructed legal briefs and other legal documents. But since we don't have time, just know your non-writer isn't failing at writing. He's simply expressing his unique God-given talents, preferences, gifts, and abilities, which will all work together to usher him into God's special plan and purpose prepared in advance.


One more thing, I do not believe in forcing writing in early elementary school. Late elementary or middle school is when a child should begin writing. If the child has a natural inclination, by all means...cook the pie when it's ready! But don't force it before your child is ready or he will be convinced that he is bad at writing. It would be like sticking a third grader in an algebra class. The child would be convinced he's not good at math when he might be very gifted in math. A child who doesn't like writing could still make a great living that requires a lot of writing. It's the kind of writing that matters.

Until next time!

FACTS

Regarding prayer, have you ever heard the acronym ACTS? It’s a great way to remember how we should pray and is an especially useful tool for corporate prayer. Here’s how it’s broken down:

A is adoration (Praise God)
C is confession
T is thanksgiving
S is supplication (Requests)

However, a few years ago, I realized that one VERY important element was missing from this acronym. This element should actually come before all the others. Here is a verse that describes it:

But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. Mark 11:25

Ah ha! All of our prayers really should begin with forgiveness—transforming ACTS into FACTS. Even before we confess our own sins to God, we should ask Him to reveal to us anyone that we have not forgiven. We should then forgive that person and ask God to make that forgiveness complete in our hearts.

Sometimes we spend more time on this step than any other, depending on how many people have sinned against us (either by commission or omission) that week.

I know sometimes I find myself offended by small things. Even these need cleansing before God. For example: when my husband doesn't show interest or compassion for my latest problem, I feel a tad slighted or hurt. These are things that can send me to bed feeling a little sorry for myself and a smidgen cold toward him. This is a hindrance to both a great marriage and my prayers being heard by God.

So before we ask of God, before we present our needs to Him, before we even begin to praise and adore Him, we should forgive all the transgressions of others. Then we can, with a sincere heart, pray, "Forgive us AS we have forgiven others." You see, the act of forgiving others will have already been completed.

F - Forgiveness
A - Adoration
C - Confession
T - Thanksgiving
S - Supplication


Distractions

I read a great quote that said, "If Satan can't tempt us with destruction, he'll tempt us with distraction."

How true! Satan tempts us to get off God's perfect path by distracting us with a plethora of "good" things: things that seem beneficial, that seem profitable, things that may even have the appearance of godliness.

We have all been given a specific course, a path to pursue in both walking with God and in accomplishing His will for us. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Like Paul, we need a single-minded focus to pursue the upward call of Christ Jesus: Let us throw off everything that hinders us from running with perseverance the course marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

What are the distractions in your life? What things are stealing the precious hours of your days? This week, spend some time in prayer asking God to reveal to you the things that are distracting you from His purposes, from His perfect path for your life.


Suffering

What is your biggest area of concern today? What worries you? What is the thing that has the potential to make you feel doomed, in despair, overwhelmed, or full of sorrow?

I want so much to remind you right now that if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ this area of suffering is the place where God intends to show His glory. God is either using this to hem you in or He’s using it to develop a special area of ministry for you—to encourage other Christians that may be suffering in the same way.

God will use this to draw you closer to Him so He can show you His power, His ability, and His faithfulness. He wants to show you He can and will handle it (once you get your hands off and allow Him to work it all out, trusting in Him, laying it at His feet, and trusting that His way of working it out is perfect). When we give our suffering to the Lord, we must settle in our hearts that whatever God does with it, after we’ve handed it over, is His will and we must believe that God will take care of it. Believe, believe, believe. Never lose confidence because the minute you do, you'll be back there trying to manipulate all the circumstances just right, trying to work it out in your human strength.

This place of suffering may also be an area where God intends to grow a ministry to others through you. I'm sure Joseph would have liked to avoid 14 years in prison in preparation for the ministry God had for him. But he learned things there that were necessary for his future work. I can assure you that no area of suffering in your life will be wasted. It will all be used for God’s glory and your good. Satan will never have the victory in the life of a believer who surrenders her suffering to God. God will always, always turn every situation and circumstance around with Him as the winner, getting the glory. What Satan means for evil, God allows and intends to use for perfection, good, glory, and awesome blessings. Every area of suffering, whether great or small, has the potential to yield the most outrageous testimony, the most amazing story, the most God honoring, glory-giving circumstance if we will persevere in faith, submitted in joyful hope in God, believing even when it looks hopeless that God is working it out in the way that gives Him the most glory and ushers us into the most victorious joyous peace.

Many years ago I was suffering in a tumultuous marriage. Unable to repair the relationship, I finally gave it over to God and actually thanked Him for the struggle, trusting that this was part of His big plan for my life. It had to be His plan, for there was nothing I could do to heal my marriage. As I look back I see that, indeed, it was His plan for now I speak to women on marriage. It's one of the ministries that God developed from that trial. But I had to go through years of suffering and years of mending, healing, and restoration before I was spiritually prepared for this ministry. I can honestly say I wouldn't trade those years for anything—even though I felt that God had surely abandoned me during that time. It wasn't until I completely gave it over to God and said, "Whatever Your will, I accept. Even if my marriage is never restored, I give it over to You. I've tried everything. I quit. I give up. It's Yours now. I'll trust in You and find my satisfaction, my peace, and my need for a husband in You. I choose contentment in my life despite this circumstance." With that act of submission, God did a miracle. My husband and I now teach marriage classes and enjoy a wonderful marriage—better than I had ever dreamed it would be.

Who would have guessed that God was preparing me for a ministry in this area? I believe God is preparing each of us for ministries in many different areas. He intends to use believers to minister to believers. Every believer has hope and comfort to offer another because of their suffering, the issues they have faced. We suffer because God is drawing us near and teaching us to quit depending on our own strength to make everything work out. He intends to help His people through the wisdom He imparts through our times of turmoil.

Trust in Him. Give it to Him. Thank Him for this trial.

In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Thank Him because you believe this circumstance is part of His wonderful plan. It is going to be used for His glory and your good and will ultimately bring peace into your life.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9

Don't let the enemy devour you while you are suffering. Let God use this for His glory.

You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to be distressed and grieved by various trials and temptations so that the genuineness of your faith­, more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire, may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7


You can be confident that your suffering is not for naught. It will result in an amazing victory. We are promised that it is only for a little while; there will be an end to it. Let go and trust your concerns to Him—because He’s already handled it all.

Jericho

Today our Bible study focused on Joshua. During the study I was compelled to consider, "What is my Jericho and who are the Canaanites I must overcome in order to win Jericho?" It was only seconds later that I knew in my heart my Jericho—my promised land—the journey I’m on and the place I hope to reach is a home surrounded by godly adult children.

I desire that all my children become adults who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, earnest in their relationship with God, and passionate about the things of God. I long for them to fulfill their God-given calling—the work they were created to do—and marry godly people who have the same love and sensitivity to the Lord, and that together they become loving and wise spouses and parents. That is my promised land. That is the family I pray surrounds me on my deathbed.

So who are the Canaanites that would like to lay claim to my land? Who are the usurpers that want to steal this land from my family? The culture. The morals. The enemies of God. Satan, of course. He would do this through music, through movies, through friends, through other adults and authorities that I thought I could trust (Satan is crafty and deceitful), through my lack of diligence or prayerlessness. These Canaanites will take every opportunity I allow them: every time I allow my child too much freedom and independence, or too much unsupervised time.

But I know that, like Joshua, I must first believe. Believe that God does intend for us to reach our promised land. He desires it, as I do. Believe, then pray. Pray in faith that God will fight this battle. Pray for God to win this battle. Seek His direction concerning every detail of this battle. Then obey. And sometimes that obedience requires me to do some unpopular things. Marching around a huge wall with a tooting trumpet probably looked pretty weird to those who would not have them win the city. Some of the things I feel God is telling us to do probably look absurd to others as well. But only through obedience will the victory be won. We must seek God, then follow Him. Oh PRAISE the LORD that we serve a God who will lead us if we trust Him to do it. He will show us the path to take.

And whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: This is the way. Walk in it. Isaiah 30:21


Healing

Today, April 6th, is a landmark day for me. I was just given the definitive answer about whether or not I have been completely healed of thyroid cancer.

It all began about eight years ago in San Diego when I became pregnant with my third child. I was referred to a specialist because of my history with miscarriages. The specialist had a particular understanding of thyroid disorders that caused pregnancy problems. Well in checking my thyroid, he felt a small bump: teeny tiny nodule.

I went to my family practice doctor who spent 30 minutes trying to find the nodule. He couldn't, but reluctantly referred me to an endocrinologist anyway. My endocrinologist was astonished that any doctor, besides an endocrinologist, could feel this tiny nodule. It was God's hand upon my life that brought me to this OB who could feel this miniscule tumor. I believe I would not have found it for years and years and years if I had not had high-risk pregnancies. Because I was pregnant, the doctors decided to wait until I had the baby to remove it.

A month after my son was born, I went back and the tumor had definitely grown. Not a good sign. The doctor was extremely concerned and wanted to schedule me for surgery right away. Unfortunately, I was moving to Georgia and couldn't do surgery in San Diego.

When I moved to Georgia, I found a family doctor who scheduled me for surgery. I went in and had my thyroid removed. The odds were that it was not cancer. Only 5% of the time is a nodule on your thyroid cancer. However mine was cancerous. A rare and highly malignant form of thyroid cancer called Tall Cell Variant, as well as a more common form of Papillary Carcinoma, were discovered. I was given radiation after the surgery (Iodine 131—the same stuff that leaked in Chernobyl) and had to quit nursing and stay away from my family for a week afterward because I was so radioactive. You could say I was a walking chest x-ray machine. Anyone within six feet of me received the equivalent of a chest x-ray the moment they got near me.

Unfortunately, I didn't have an endocrinologist to regulate my thyroid following the radiation. So the thyroid cells that were left in my body began to increase in size over the next few months. Upon finding an excellent endocrinologist I was informed that these cells were likely cancer because they didn't die when radiated. A large tumor had formed in my neck (about the size of a nickel). I had just found a wonderful conservative Southern Baptist Church. The director of the women's ministries scheduled a prayer meeting for me in the prayer room. She invited a missionary who believed God still heals (I wasn't sure that I believed this), the pastor, her husband, and my husband to pray for me. They prayed over me for hours.

I also had people around the world praying because I was put on an international prayer chain started and led by the president of the company where my husband works. We went on a company cruise and when people learned my name, they would say, "I've been praying for you EVERY DAY!" In fact, often I would be out somewhere and someone I didn't even know at all would come up and say that God had been waking them up at night to pray for me. It was unbelievable the number of people that were faithful to pray for me.

Nevertheless, I went back to the doctor and had a scan only to find out that the tumor was still there. They wanted to reschedule me for more radiation and possibly more surgery. I was willing to go. However, my husband was in intense prayer and felt God leading him in another direction. He felt I was not to take more radiation. I'm thinking, "Oh dear." Now, I had never met anyone who was healed of anything. I had never watched any healing stuff on T.V. because that all looked contrived to me. The man who prayed for me that believed in healing had seen many healings. But that just didn't happen in my world.

As a side note, my husband was extremely interested in keeping me around. He was in love with me and enjoyed the fact that I could raise our three children. He wasn't super interested in being a widower and raising three kids—two being toddlers—yet, he was suggesting I not get radiation (the only way one can destroy thyroid tissue). Further, my husband is very pragmatic and logical, and extremely unemotional even about spiritual things. For him to suggest this was definitely out of the ordinary. I, being the subservient wife that I am, said, "Are you crazy???" Nevertheless, I decided to pray and ask the Lord to lead me in the same way if this was really His will. It's a long story filled with miracles how God did this, but He gave me the same leading. Now I wasn't sure if it was because God wanted to take me to heaven to be with Him or if He was going to heal me. Whichever was fine with me, for my life verse had become Philippians 1:21-26:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

I realized that if I were to live, my life would not be my own anymore (not that it ever was my own once I was saved, but now I felt that my entire life was even less mine, and only on loan from God). I realized that every day of my life should be lived for Him and His purposes. I gave myself to Him for His work to be done in my life for however many years I had left. (Incidentally, my science books are the result of that offering unto Him.)

The doctor was livid and quite frightened that I refused radiation. He begged, implored, and warned me continually. It was hard to resist. But we had to obey God. I went back to the doctor every few months to measure the tumor; I always felt a little embarrassed about our decision in the face of this very strong willed doctor. Prayer was still forthcoming from all those around me. People were telling me they felt sure I was going to be fine. I was sure I was as well, especially since whether I live or die, I will be fine.

The Lord, however, taught me to pray with confidence against the cancer. To proclaim my body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and to take authority over the cancer—much like Jesus rebuked the fever in Peter's mother, Dorcas. I asked the Lord for faith; He gave it little by little. He is the author and finisher of our faith, after all. I also learned that cancer is often associated with bitterness and unforgiveness. I wasn't sure if this was true, but I realized that there were some people in my past I had not forgiven. I went through a time of repentance and absolutely forgave everyone the Lord brought to my mind. If this cancer had anything to do with that, then I wanted that door closed. This is one reason I blog so much on forgiveness. It was an amazing thing to be free after that walk through forgiveness. I want everyone to experience that freedom. The Lord took me through some tremendous moments of communion with Him and gave me such a heart for His people. I was so thankful for the cancer and all it had done for my walk with God. It really made me long for heaven even more, where I can be with Him forever and ever.

After months of this precious journey with God, on one particular visit to the nuclear medicine department at the hospital, the nurses could not locate the tumor. They sent immediately for the chief radiologist. He confirmed that there was no tumor. It had disappeared. My husband and I walked out of there in awe. It was quite a different experience than every other time we had gone into the cancer center. If you've ever had to go to the cancer unit at the hospital, you know what I mean.

Nevertheless, since this disappearance was impossible, my endocrinologist was not satisfied, even when my blood showed complete remission. Further, even though the tumor was gone (a medical miracle) there was still a tiny needle sized piece of tissue in my neck. Scar tissue, perhaps? There was no way to be certain. So for years I've gone in every few months for scans and other tests and procedures. In the scans there is some sign of thyroid tissue in my neck. For five years, there has been this small tissue. In my heart, I've believed it’s not cancer. Why would God miraculously remove a tumor and leave cancer still in my body? Nevertheless, I've trotted to downtown Atlanta twice a year for all kinds of tests, MRIs, thyrogen scans, and multiple blood tests—always with the doctor wanting me to receive more radiation, just in case.

Finally, Atlanta got a PET scan machine. The PET scan can detect cancer cells, even at their earliest stages. A PET scan can detect thyroid cancer cells easily. However, the machine costs 2 million dollars. The hospitals don't own the machine, but a mobile unit comes by and will do the procedure for a mere $6,000. Most insurance companies will not approve a PET scan. My doctor wanted a PET/CT scan for me. So after a FNA biopsy (YOWCH!) last month, they scheduled me. I had many praying that the insurance company would allow it. They did! Monday and Tuesday I went down for prep work. On Wednesday, I got the scan. Today, the doctor called me...and...there are no cancer cells in my body! None. Nada! There are no cancer cells of any sort. Praise the Lord!

I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. Psalm 118:17

I felt that because of this miracle, it is my duty before God to proclaim what the LORD has done. I have never been extremely vocal about it because I had no scientific evidence that I was indeed healed. I just wanted to be careful about proclaiming something that I didn't fully understand.

I still don't understand healing. I've been sporadically reading a book called “The Power to Heal.” It's not written by someone in the protestant charismatic movement; it's actually written by a believing Catholic priest, of all people. It's very good and discusses some of the abuses done in the name of healing in the church, as well as how most healing God does is progressive like mine was. Jesus had an experience of progressive healing when he put the mud on the eyes of the man who could see men walking around like trees. He continued the procedure, and the man was subsequently healed completely.

I truly believe that the prayers and, very likely, my walking through the repentance of bitterness were effective in the healing I received from God. From this book I've been reading, I am inclined to believe that the number of people praying for me must have been a powerful force in this.

God still heals today. I wish I could say I understand it all. I wish I knew why He sometimes doesn't heal, why some are healed and others are not, and how much faith, prayer, collective prayer, and repentance of sin have to do with it. I just don't know the answers to these questions. I suppose healing cannot be assigned to some formula; every person and circumstance is different. The Bible gives so many accounts of healing, and some accounts of those who were not healed. It's hard to understand. I think the main thing is: we should be completely submitted to His will. Whatever His will—we should want that the most. More, even, than our own lives. For all but one of the apostles loved not their own lives even to death. They were all martyred.

With healing, I'm reminded of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who replied, "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."

Thus, we shall proclaim in all things, "God is able to do it, but if He does not, I will trust and worship Him still."

I really don't believe I would have written my science books if I had not gotten cancer. For, though I lived for God, I was not so completely submitted to Him until after I went through the entire process. I didn't realize my own desperate need—my own lack of ability to do anything without Him. I learned how to totally give up myself and let Him be my all in all. I learned to follow His leading, even when it didn't seem the practical thing to do.

I believe the Lord wants me to proclaim to you that He does still heal. With the advent of modern medicine, we often don't need to seek Him for healing. In our fear of being associated with con artists and flamboyant, doctrinally unsound preachers, we tend to push aside this part of God's work in the life of His children. Yet it is my heart and desire to tell you all that God is able to heal. Not only that, He does still heal—even conservative Christians like me!


Commit Thy Works Unto the Lord

Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. Proverbs 16:3

I read this today and was deeply moved. It often seems the Christian life is a battle waged in our thought life. At least mine is. Perhaps normal people don't think as much or as tediously as I do. "Is my heart right? What are my motives in this activity? Am I in God's will? Are we on the right track? Is this God's plan for us? What does God want for my child? Am I where I'm supposed to be spiritually?" On and on the thoughts go, each and every day, as I fight against fear and discouragement and seek God's perfect will for me and my children.

I love how the Amplified Bible renders the verse above:

Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed. Proverbs 16:3

What a wonderful answer to all that grappling of mind! Instead of sitting around thinking, thinking, thinking, if I simply commit my works, my plans, my children, my day, my moments, and every choice completely unto God, HE will establish my thoughts. He will guide, lead, and conform my thoughts to His will. Then all shall work out according to His perfect plan. I can turn off the continual stream of questioning thoughts and worries by making a decision each moment—and especially those moments that I'm in doubt—to give it all over to Him.

Sometimes I want to make the Christian life so much more complicated than it needs to be. God says to just commit my works to Him—an act of my will—then He’ll do the rest.

LORD, I commit all these things unto you. I place them in Your hands. I will not fear, or struggle, or be anxious. I choose to simply, right now, trust it all to YOU. I give it to you and believe that You are going to establish my thoughts and my plans and that they will succeed by Your standards of success.


What's My Worldview?

People kick around the word “worldview” a lot. I remember when I first began hearing about it. I wondered, "What does that mean?" After a bit, I could give you a definition based on context. Yet, I really couldn't give you a strong meaning. Since then, the Lord has revealed a lot more about this thing called worldview. I'm so thankful because the more I ponder what I've learned, the more excited I get about it. I would like to share with you a little bit about worldview.

The foundation for one's worldview has to do with the meaning of life. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Why am I here? It all really comes down to that. What is my purpose?

If you believe you are a big accident that happened as a result of some odd explosion billions of years ago, and your grandmother is that fish with flippers they recently found (which by the way is not that unusual since seals and turtles have similar fin structures), then the meaning of your life is quite...well, meaningless. You have no meaning in life. You're an accident. You have no purpose. You can make up a purpose, but it's ultimately meaningless. Then you die. That's it. You're dead. Whatever you did was meaningless, really—especially when you believe all humans evolve into flying space people.

However if you believe like I do that you were created by God, and not only that, but He designed you in a very special and unique way to fulfill a very special and unique role on this earth, then your life has meaning.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Not only are you unique and have a special purpose, God thought of you and planned for that purpose before He even made earth.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1:4

Not only were you created by God, every single day of your life matters to God.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16

God also has a very great plan for you. What you do with your time, your days, your life matters to Him. You are extremely rare and special. Very special. You don't make up your own destiny. You don't determine your purpose. If you did, you would live in mediocrity. Yet if you seek God with all your heart, He will reveal and lead you into His purpose for your life. It will be a purpose that will prosper you. You will be prosperous in the ways that really count—ways that are prosperous in the sight of God.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:11-13

A Christian worldview offers us meaning in life. It gives us hope. Our lives have purpose. We are here for a specific reason. OUR CHILDREN ARE HERE FOR A SPECIFIC PURPOSE! Our highest calling is to make that truth known to their sweet and dear hearts. They are special and have a special purpose for their lives. We must tell them that every single day. When they leave our home, it is so important that they know that they know that they are valuable, significant, and important because God has designed them in His image and for a specific purpose. It is so important that they learn how to seek God's plan—His perfect will for them. We should pray Colossians 1:9 over them with consistency.

How sad for the atheists who believe they are nothing of significance unless they achieve something that some arbitrary system deems valuable. How sad that they think they are only as important as the trillions of earthworms in the park. How heartbreaking that they think this life is all there is to their existence. There is no peace for a person that believes these things. We know, as Christians, the only peace available to mankind comes through the Lord. We know from experience. We know because we all sought after the things of the world, always looking for that next accomplishment or conquest that would finally bring satisfaction—and we all found the satisfaction short-lived. Then we finally sought God and for the first time found true, lasting peace. That bottomless pit that resided in our hearts—that emptiness, that desperate loneliness—could only be filled with God.

Ultimately, the foundation for your worldview is what you believe about origins. What you believe about where you came from, where you are going, and who decides that. We have a reason for our existence. A reason to be. A reason to keep on going. A reason to pray. A reason to seek God. Yes, a reason for living.

Fear vs. Faith

I once went to a seminar on fear and learned some really amazing things. I would like to share one thing I learned because I really think so many of us homeschool moms make choices out of fear.

Here is what I learned:

Fear is the opposite of faith, but it is actually similar to faith. You "believe" the fear, much the same way that you should rather believe God. Therefore, fear is an expression of faith. You have faith in the thing you fear, rather than in the truth.

Here’s an example of fear in homeschooling (if your fear something else, just replace your fear with what I've written below):

You fear that you aren't able to do a good job homeschooling your kids. You allow this particular fear to speak lies to your mind—lies you listen to and ponder. You begin to have "imaginations" of the future—all the horrid things the fear tells you are going to happen. You entertain and give your attention to this fear/lie. You believe this fear. You have embraced this fear. You have begun to place your faith in this fear rather than in the Word of God, which tells you many things opposite of this fear, such as, "You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you." And, "For I know the plans I have for you (applies to your children as well), plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future." So basically, you are not believing God, but rather believing the fear.

Now you know that God has called you to homeschool and you really don't feel good about not homeschooling, but you have opened the door and made a guest bedroom in your heart for this particular lie. It has become a regular part of your day, your thoughts, your actions, your feelings, your responses—and has possibly robbed you of all joy, peace, and kindness toward your kids. You are controlled to a certain extent by fear. However, you continue to homeschool, but with total fear and unbelief in your ability to do it. If the fear gets total control, you will give up homeschooling. At that point you will have lost control to fear.

How could you have avoided this scenario, and how do you get out of it once you are overcome by the fear?

First, remember that fear is a lie. God tells us throughout His Word that we should not fear. He knows that fear is a controlling horrid thing, and He wants us to walk in faith rather than fear. When fear begins to whisper its dirty lie to you, think WDJD. What Did Jesus Do! How did Jesus rebuke the enemy? Through the Word of God. What word does God give us about fear? Many words. Here are some for you when you are being tempted to fear:

I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me. Psalm 23:4

But whoever listens to me shall dwell in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm. Proverbs 1:33

The entire chapter of Psalm 91 is a great chapter to memorize in your fight against fear.

The important thing is that you believe the Word, not fear. Put more faith in the truth you read in Scripture than in the lie that is projecting a terrible, hurtful, painful, ruined future for you. Do not put your faith in fear. Put your faith in God's Word. God loves and adores you. He wants to bless you—and He promises to do so. His only requirement is faith. We must believe God. We must believe the good things He has for us. Remember that Hebrews says the children of Israel that God so wanted to bless did not enter into the promised land because of their unbelief (Hebrews 3). What was it that they did not believe? They did not believe that God wanted to—and would—bless them, protect them, fight their battles for them, and give them good things and peace. They just didn't believe it. Instead, they listened to fear. "We are going to perish here in the desert!"

Paul scolded the Galatians with these very words:

I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?...Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard [faith]?Galatians 3:2

So what do you do if you have already believed fear? What do you do once fear is controlling your life?

Well the first thing is: repent. Yes, if you realize that fear is the opposite of faith, and you have embraced fear over faith in the God who saved you, then you must ask God to forgive you.

Remember, God tells us that if we repent, not only will He forgive us, He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness. So once you have repented, you must believe that you are also cleansed. Sometimes Jesus rebuked the enemy and told him to be gone. We can do the same to fear.

Next, spend time memorizing Scriptures that oppose the fear you entertained. If you aren't sure of any that oppose the particular fear that has gripped you, go to
 www.crosswalk.com and do a word search in their Bible Study Tools area. For example, if you fear disease, do a word search on "disease" and it will bring up Scriptures that you can memorize about protection from disease, such as Psalm 91.

Finally, stand firm in the truth. Whenever a fearful thought tries to take you captive, you take your thoughts captive to the Word of God instead. Speak out loud those Scriptures and stand firm against fear. Do not give ear to fear. Give ear only to the Word of God. Put your faith in God, not in fear. Believe God; don't believe the fear. God has good things for you. God has fully equipped you for every good work. You can do all things through Him. He has great plans for you and for your children.

So let's be filled with faith!


Notebooking


I would have to say that creating and using notebooks was one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things we did in our homeschool. It honestly kept me afloat and from feeling discouraged or ineffective. In fact, notebooks even gave me a sense of accomplishment, a much needed sentiment in the ongoing homeschool journey. We usually used notebooks in place of worksheets, even when the curriculum provided them. Fill in the blank worksheets with word searches, matching games, and the like were unable to engage my children the way creating pages for their notebook did. 

Writing and illustrating in a notebook employs all of the child—his memory, his creativity, and his ability to communicate the things that interest him most about what he is learning. The child remembers his work far better when all of his mind is involved in recording his learning than when he simply fills in the blank with the correct word. Besides these benefits, notebooks are just so much more fun, creating a social and energetic atmosphere for the entire family. I loved the sight of my children gathered around the table, sharing a large bucket of colored pencils, chatting about what they were drawing, discussing the subject, and complimenting one another's work. They were working on the same thing, each on his or her own level. It was the closest we came to the idyllic homeschool I had pictured in my mind before I began the adventure.

Here's how it worked: After each story we read, or every time we taught history or science, the children would sit down to illustrate a picture or write down what they had learned, usually both. The younger children sometimes dictated to me as I typed out their narratives. This exercise served as a written account of what they remembered from the lesson or story. The older children were required to deeply contemplate and ponder what was studied, then put their musings into words. After that, they would place their work in a page protector inside their literature, history, or science three ring binder. 

The content of our notebooks spanned the range. Our botany notebook was filled with, among other things, illustrations from nature walks, preserved leaves, and records of all our experiments. Each history notebook was replete with illustrations from field trips, books we read, and artists we studied. Our literature notebook had illustrations from each chapter of whatever book we read and a narration of the events therein.

As we would look back at all we had done throughout the year, the children would revel in their past learning. They had a complete record of the wonderful books we read, the science experiments we conducted, and the history we studied. It was all recorded and preserved—an unmistakable testimony of their learning.  

Children of all learning styles are rewarded from the use notebooks. The verbal child can write long narratives, poems, and stories about each subject. The artistic child can illustrate an assortment of pictures or make collages to help him remember his studies. The tactile child can collect artifacts and items about the topic. And the preschoolers feel they too are "doing school" as they color their little pictures and put them in their own notebook, just like the big kids. 

The notebook gives children freedom of expression while providing organization and order to the learning process. It shows elements of the child's character, creativity, and natural bent. We used plastic sleeve page protectors for every page placed in the notebook. It kept each page nice as the children perused their work again and again. Each time the children looked through their notebook they were reminded of what they learned as they unknowingly reviewed their "school work." Every time they proudly showed their notebook to a friend or family member, they subsequently locked the information into their brain forever.

This lays a solid foundation for future studies. As learning progresses and deeper analysis of subjects are needed, the previously compiled notebook can serve as a springboard for more thoughtful study. For example, a child can open his American history notebook and look over his simplified version of the settling of Jamestown. This will enable him to recall enough information to move into a deeper study of the subject. In this way, notebooking makes advanced studies less laborious.

But notebooks benefit parents as well! They offer a delightful record of what we taught and what our children learned, providing tangible evidence that, "Yes! I actually did teach them some interesting things this year!" When our children keep a personal notebook filled with collected artifacts and illustrated learning, we are rewarded with a documentation of all that was accomplished and can be confident we taught them well.

Notebooking was so gratifying for our family. It was a blessing to look over my children’s work, and I love that I was able to say with confidence, "We learned a lot this past year!" Without the use of notebooks, all the rich books we read and the incredible things we learned would likely not be remembered.

I can only imagine that when the last of my children are grown and gone, I will spend countless hours pouring over their old notebooks, laughing and crying at the rich memories they hold.


Evolution: Micro vs. Macro


Our children have heard us say that evolution isn't true, yet we often aren't sure how to explain why or in what way it isn't true. The simple concept of microevolution versus macroevolution is a great to place to begin helping our children understand this important and foundational topic. If you aren't sure what the difference is yourself, read on. As the author of Apologia's elementary creation science curriculum, I believe it's crucial we are able to explain the truths and untruths of evolution to our children.

Evolution is not an evil word in itself. The word simply means to change from something simple to something more complex. Businesses evolve when they begin selling more products; people evolve when they graduate from their ABC's in kindergarten to learning much more complex information in college. Your relationship with God evolves from a simple understanding that Jesus took away your sin, to discerning God's will for your every day and entire life. Scientists have borrowed the word evolution to explain processes they believe happen in the world. One thing scientists have discovered is microevolution—a process where little changes take place over time. These changes have been observed and recorded. Some scientists believe in macroevolution, a theory that organisms can change from one species into another. This kind of evolution has never been observed, recorded, or proven in any way. Most Christians do not believe in macroevolution.

Let’s take a look at microevolution. It occurs when part of an animal, like a beak, changes over time, causing the animals in an area to look differently than they used to. Now it doesn't truly change on an animal; the animal’s body part doesn’t become something else. A mouth doesn’t change into a beak; a paw doesn’t become a bird’s foot. Let me explain this. Pretend there are birds living in Hawaii that have long bills and enjoy eating nectar from flowers. Every bird is born with a long bill, however some naturally have a bill that is a few centimeters longer than the others. We see these same variations in people. Two sisters might be born with curly hair, but one has hair that is just a little curlier than the other. That’s a natural variation. If the curlier haired sister married a curly haired man, their children would have even more curly hair. Animals have natural variations as well. For example, let’s say there are more flowers in Hawaii with long tubes that only those birds with bills a little longer could reach. Now it’s a fact that the more an animal eats, the more babies it will have. Because the birds with longer bills will get more food, they will have more young. As a result, over time, there are more birds with longer bills. These birds will begin mating with other longer billed birds. And if there happens to be a little variation in the size of the bill in their offspring, those with even longer bills will get the most food, have the most young, and begin to populate the area even more. Slowly, the birds with shorter bills will not be as abundant. And when they mate with longer billed birds, their young that develop the longer bills will have more young than the ones that didn’t get a longer bill.

So over many years birds with longer bills begin to produce young with longer bills, and eventually it seems that the only birds you see around have extremely long bills. Did the bills change? No. The birds with longer bills simply reproduced more than the birds with shorter bills. We say they evolved longer bills. This is microevolution. The bills didn’t change into something different; they didn’t even grow. But the birds in the area eventually “evolved” to have longer bills. Does that make sense to you? Microevolution is valid. You can believe in microevolution because we can find evidence for it. If we were to discover buried deep within the earth old bones from these Hawaiian birds, they would reveal shorter beaks. Then, as we continued to find newer bones, they would show longer and longer beaks. The bones would reveal the transition from shorter beaks to longer beaks. Our Hawaiian birds are what we call transitional creatures because they show a change or transition between shorter and longer beaks. We can actually see, observe and prove the change that occurred. However, the beak remained as it was. It didn’t become something new or grow from something other than a beak. It was always a beak. The bird had within its cells the ability to produce birds with longer beaks. Yet it couldn’t produce a mouth with teeth because the genes inside the bird only allow it to produce bird parts.

However, some scientists make a giant leap and say that because a bird beak size can change over time (and we know it didn’t really change on any one bird), a fish can change into a man, or a lizard can change into a bird. This is like saying that because we see a small mound with ants living inside, which we call an ant hill, giant mountains must have been made by similar creatures. Macroevolution is the name given to this giant leap from truth to a lie. Macro means big, and evolution means change. Macroevolution is an impossibly big change for which there is no evidence.

Often in public and private school textbooks, microevolution is explained and all the evidence supporting it is given. After the students come to understand how microevolution works, the textbook then states this is how evolution works and how we evolved from monkeys and monkeys evolved from fish. Because the students understand how the small changes occur, they just assume the textbook must be right about the big changes. And many, many people, without even thinking, just believe it.

One thing that amazes me about the fact that some scientists believe in macroevolution is there have never ever been any transitional creatures found between man and apes, or dinosaurs and birds, or fish and mammals. Though millions of fossils have been unearthed, none show a halfway or changing body from one creature into another creature. Yet, for two hundred years, some people have believed in macroevolution anyway.

You are probably wondering why some people believe this when the evidence does not confirm their beliefs. Well if you didn’t believe in God, and you were a scientist, you would need some explanation for why we exist on earth. This is called origins. From where did we originate? What are the origins of man? Scientists who don't believe in God want to believe in macroevolution. And when someone wants to believe something, it’s really hard to change his mind. Once he has fully accepted the belief, it’s hard to convince him otherwise. Adolf Hitler said, "If you tell a lie often enough and loud enough, the people will believe it. And the greater the lie, the more they will believe it." That's a strange thing to say, but I'm beginning to think it's true.

Once the belief system (drilled into students' heads at an early age) is firmly in place, it's difficult to change it. If someone today told you that the color green is not really green but a shade of blue, you would have a hard time believing it. When you see green, you will always want to call it green. Let’s say everyone begins calling it blue. That would be a difficult transition in beliefs for you to make. All people have a hard time changing their beliefs once they really believe something. Sometimes when someone becomes a Christian, they have a hard time believing the Bible's explanation of origins. This is because they have, since childhood, been taught macroevolution is the way we originated.

The fact is most people have not even heard of the difference between microevolution and macroevolution. They think evolution is a scientific word for origins. But I believe all this is changing now that the word has gotten out. Winston Churchill said, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." The truth about evolution is fully dressed, and though the lie has gotten all the way around the world, the truth is becoming known and is exposing and correcting the lie so that real science can happen, and people can turn to the God who created it all.

Praying His Word

Someone once said that when you pray Scripture, it may sound like you praying to you, however, it sounds like God to the devil. For the Word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than a double-edged sword; God's Word will never return void but will accomplish that which God pleases for it to accomplish. (Hebrews 4:12, Isaiah 55:11)

Because of this, I have made some special Scripture cards that I am praying over my family. Below are the Scriptures I am praying this month. I have replaced pronouns with parenthesis to insert my children's names.

Let not mercy and truth forsake ( ), bind them around ( )'s neck, write them on the tablet of ( )’s heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:4

For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround ( ) with favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:12

( ) He also justified; and whom He justified, ( ) He also glorified.
Romans 8:28-30

Teach ( ) Your way, O LORD; ( ) will walk in Your truth; Unite ( )’s heart to fear Your name
. Psalm 86:11

( ) will make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man ( ) will not go, lest ( ) learn his ways and set a snare for ( )'s soul. I pray that ( ) will walk with the wise and become wise, and that ( ) will never keep the companionship of fools and be destroyed.
Proverbs 22, Proverbs 13

I pray that ( ) will never be unequally yoked. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness. And what accord has Christ with Belial. And what part has a believer with an unbeliever?
2 Corinthians 6:14

I pray that by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that (my children) will all speak the same thing, and that there be no division among (them), but that (my children's names) will be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1
Corinthians 1:10

Behold how good and pleasant it is for (names of my children) to dwell together in unity!
Psalm 133:1

Blessed are the peacemakers, for (my children) shall be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:9

I pray that ( ) will have the wisdom that comes from above that is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by ( ) who makes peace.
James 3:17-18


Prayer I

Who hasn't heard Jesus' words in Mark 11:24? “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” We also know He tells us that with the faith of a mustard seed, we can move mountains and whatever we ask for in His name, will be ours. Why, then, does this not fit our own reality? Is it because it's not true? Is it because Jesus wasn't talking to us? Did God lie to us?

No. This cannot be.

Our reality confirms the existence of God: our changed hearts, our changed lives, the many miracles we've seen. We know God, as He has revealed Himself in the Bible, is nothing but truth. He is incapable of lying. All Scripture was written for our reproof, and the Word of God stands forever. This Scripture was for our teaching. In fact, Jesus commanded His disciples to teach others everything He had told them.

Why then do we not always see answers to our prayers? Well, we would have to dig deeper into God’s Word for an answer to this question. In exegetical studies of the Scriptures, we find that most of the promises of God are conditional. "Believe on me and THEN, you will be saved." "Seek First His Kingdom and His Righteousness and THEN all these will be added to you." "Forgive, and you will be forgiven." So many, many conditions. No, it's not a works based faith I'm professing, for we hear in Romans 4:5 that FAITH is not a work. "To him who does not work, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."

Our faith is not about works. To whosoever believeth, He gives eternal life. It's not by works, but by faith—so that no one can boast. Our salvation is not about works, but occasionally the promises for our lives are. The abundant life of peace and joy is available to all who call upon Jesus—but there are certain requirements. This is probably why the Great Commission is not only to bring others to the faith, but also to teach them everything Jesus taught the disciples. We must pass along the baton of truth to one another.

In searching the teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures, I have come across five possible reasons why prayer might not be answered. Most people are quick to jump to the conclusion that when God does not answer, it's because it is not His perfect will. This could definitely be the case and probably is most often the case. However, I believe God’s Word gives us some other reasons—some clues that might reveal why sometimes our prayers are not answered.

Let's take a look:

Remember that first Scripture I quoted from Mark 11:24: "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Well it's followed by an AND. In the Greek, this word "kaiv" is also translated BUT. I think placing a “but” here is a better rendition of the verse. Let's see how it reads:

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. But when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:24

That gives a lot more meaning to the verse, doesn't it? It appears that one reason we may not be seeing answers is because we treasure some unforgiveness in our heart.

Do we have unforgiveness toward:

a relative

a spouse

a child

a neighbor

or even a whole community of people?

Do we hold unforgiveness toward ourselves? It's not uncommon. We've all acted so foolishly when we should have known better. This is part of being human.

However, no matter who it is, we must forgive. It's hard I know. Very hard sometimes. Be encouraged, though, because it's a choice—not a feeling. We choose to forgive even before we feel like forgiving.

It's time to allow God to cleanse you of the sin of unforgiveness. It only adds to your burden. Honestly, it doesn't benefit us one single bit to hold onto our sadness at another's treachery.

Unforgiveness is the poison you drink expecting someone else to die.

The times I have sat quietly before God and have asked Him to reveal any unforgiveness I have toward anyone, He has ALWAYS been faithful to show me. I have an entire blog on forgiveness—mostly as it relates to marriage, but forgiveness in general is also discussed. You can read it here:

Forgiveness 

Forgiveness is vital if we want to see our prayers answered. Cleanse your hearts before God and allow His healing to flow into the wounds of your past. Then you can say with confidence, "Forgive me my sins, Lord, just exactly in the same way as I have forgiven those who have sinned against me."

There are four other reasons I will share over the next four blogs, so don’t miss these posts!