Titus 2:3-5

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Maturity, how serious are you?

In our Sunday School class recently we have given a great deal of time and attention to the topic of maturity. It has created some interesting discussion for my husband and I at home too. One of our most recent discussions on the topic was particularly interesting to me, and so I decided to share here. How serious are we about maturity, and when is the price too high?

Firstly is the question of how serious we are about growing to full spiritual maturity. Most people would probably say they were serious about it. It is a serious topic afterall. To show a disinterestedness in such a topic would show both an attitude of immaturity and blatant ungodliness. Yet if we are truly honest with ourselves, just how serious are we? Are we serious enough to really make an effort? Are we serious enough to fight the urge to make excuses again this week? Are we serious enough to follow our conscience when the rest of the world grows deaper into ungodliness? Are we serious enough to stand up and be counted when it most matters? If need be, are we serious enough to stand alone in godliness and maturity?

I want to be completely serious about continuing to grow towards maturity. If I am truly honest I've let things slide recently in ways that should make me ashamed. I struggle with really making an effort. This is spiritual warfare, it is not meant to be easy. So some days I have to really commit to this process. It takes real effort to get into God's Word. It takes determination to hide God's Word in my heart. Mostly it takes effort and determination just to overcome my nature, for it is naturally lazy. Each day it is the same battle being fought over again. Yet each time I win it is not because of me, but the Lord in me. I have to learn the fine balance between my effort and the Lord's strength. On days that I fail I have to look at what went wrong, then guard myself from the same mistakes in the future. I must confess though that it can take a while for me to learn to guard an area of my life.

Then there is that wonderful minefield of excuses. We all walk through it from time to time, sometimes from hour to hour. There is always an excuse ready to go off if we want it to. All we have to do is stand on it. "It's too early in the morning, and you know I'm not a morning person." "It's my hormones!" "I just need some coffee first." "I was going to, but I just got distracted." "I forgot." "I didn't have time today." "I'm sorry, but..." Perhaps you have some others that are your favourite excuses. Just this morning I found myself using the "I'm not a morning person" excuse when my beloved husband tried to rush me before I had fully woken up, and I got grumpy. It really doesn't matter if I was still half asleep, and it was really still the middle of the night to me, I should not have been grumpy with him. He needed me to work faster so he could get to the office at a certain time. I should not have had a bad attitude about it. I was going too slow. If I want to grow to maturity I need to leave the excuses out. If I get it wrong I cannot justify it if I am going to apologise for it.

Standing alone, or just plain standing up for what is right, is getting into really serious territory. Yet so few of us are willing to do this. Sure we'll agree when others around us condem ungodliness. We will readily agree on the big topics, like abortion, homosexuality, prostitution, these are wrong. Then we watch sitcoms on TV that glamourise homosexuality, or we agree that it is perfectly alright to limit how many children we have, or we use sex as a reward, or withhold it as a punishment within our marriage. Are these not just as wrong for they come from the same heart attitude.

So are we willing to pay the price of maturity? Is there a price that is too high? How far is too far? Jesus himself said that if our eye causes us to sin we should pluck it out, for it is better to enter the kingdom of God with one eye rather than be cast into hell. Is that too much, too extreme? There are other things which to some may seem just as drastic a measure. The first one on our list was television. We didn't just cut out cable, we cut out all television. We still have the television, but it doesn't receive any signals. Instead we use it only for watching DVD's, and even then we are careful about what we watch. It is easier to guard the contents of a DVD collection, than to guard against inappropriate television programming. We don't watch anything new without getting a recommendation we can trust. We both also found television to be a terrible time waster. We don't have the luxury of hours upon hours of free time every day to spend it passively feeding our minds with ungodliness. Even the "harmless" sitcoms are not so harmless. When was the last time the husband was portrayed at the true head of the home? When are children ever respectful and obedient and still the hero? What about the internet? Is it just as much a time waster as television? I know I have to guard myself from too much time online. The content of what I read is good, but I have to limit my time. Sometimes I even have to set a timer, as I easily loose track of how long I've been online. The internet is a useful tool, but only when properly used. I want to grow in maturity, so I have to be disciplined. For some it may be they have to disconect for a while, like detoxing from an addiction. These are just two of the easiest examples. It could also be things that are seen as good, like books. Do you read "romance" novels, then find yourself discontent with your marriage. Even so called "Christian Romance" can do this. Our husband just isn't as perfect as the hero in the novel. Remember the hero isn't real, your husband is. Reading anything, no matter how good it is, if it takes away from time in God's Word is a distraction that will hold back maturity. I love books, but I found that I would open any book before I would turn to the Word. So I have to guard myself by not allowing myself to read anything until I have spend time that day studying God's Word. If I am serious then I have to be disciplined.

Is there too high a price to be paid for maturity? I don't think so. So far the price has always been outstripped by the rewards. What about you? Is there a price you won't pay for maturity in your life?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Who is my neighbour?

In our Church we are part of a Sunday School class of mostly thirtysomethings. The class chose the name "Homebuilders" when it was first formed just over a year ago. It is a class made up of mostly married couples, with a few single parents who don't fit in any other class. We are a very eclectic mix of people, and most were already adults before they were saved. My husband and I are the only non-parents in our class, at the moment. (We are working on rectifying that one.) Yesterday we had a very interesting discussion about the need to be looking out for each other. We have been looking into the life of the early Churches, as found in Acts, and what they can teach us about how we should be living. The sense of community that was found from the very first day after Pentecost is a very stark contrast to what we have here in South Florida in the 21st Century.

I grew up with a model of community that had more in common with the first century Churches, that with my current experience. Everybody knew their neighbours, not just to say "hello," but really knew them. No house was locked up, except if no-one was home. Everyone shared when they had plenty, and when they had little. Celebrations were joined by everyone. Times of mourning were also community events.

I remember my seventh birthday. A few cousins were visiting for the day and their mum had planned to have a small family celebration of my birthday. That didn't happen. Every child who played with us that day, that is every child in the neighbourhood who was at home, joined us for birthday cake. It is one of my favourite birthday memories. No organised party. No mountain of presents. Just a simple cake and a few extra treats, and lots of friends to help celebrate. It was the late seventies in Scotland, nobody had much of anything, yet we were amongst the wealthiest people in the world because we had each other.

My husband and I now live in a small neighbourhood within a "small town" yet we only know our neighbours to say "hello." It is a new neighbourhood, and Rob was the first person to move in, so everyone is new here. Even in our Church it is proving more difficult to build relationships that I first anticipated. Everyone seems to live in their own little world. There is no time for outside relationships. Yet at the same time, these same people can be heard to complain of feeling alone and isolated. Nobody cares about them. Everyone is too busy. Everybody works. I have moved to the most affluent country in the world, yet the people I meet are the poorest I have ever met when it comes to relationships and community.

Then yesterday our class began to discuss this very issue. We cannot be who we are chosen to be as God's children if we are not reaching out and making a community. We need to make time to build relationships. We need to be in each other's lives throughout the week. We need to know what is happening in each other's lives if we are going to truly be a help and blessing. For me this happens through opening our homes. It is in our homes that we build relationships. It is in our homes we establish community. Opening our homes in hospitality is opening ourselves to other souls. Sometimes we minister to them, but often they minister to us.

Who is my neighbour? Who should I be building community with. For me it is everyone that the Lord brings across my path. It is the members of our Sunday School class. It is the neighbour across the street, who has never heard the gospel. It is the friend across the seas I can offer encouragement to. My neighbour is every person it takes to build a community. I am challenged to step further out into the unknown, to show myself as a neighbour and begin building a new sense of community right here where I live right now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Keeping My Home

It is February already. This is going to be another busy month. This month will also see me celebrate six months of living here in Florida. The first six months has gone by quicker than I could have imagined. The first year of our marriage seemed to last for eternity while we were separated by an ocean. Now we have been living together as husband and wife long enough to become some what settled in our routines.

As I think about the time we have had together I am thankful. I am also aware that I am not yet all the wife and homemaker I should be. For the last few weeks I've been struggling with fatigue. Rob hasn't noticed much difference in my home keeping, but I have. I am aware that there are days when I have to remind myself to rejoice in washing the tile floors. Doing such a chore means I am here with my husband. We have a home for me to clean. I have the mobility to clean. There is much to rejoice in when washing tile floors. It is my joy and privilege to serve my husband by keeping our home.

So how do I get through the days when I find it difficult to find the energy to finish all that needs doing?

My first strategy, no matter how I feel, is that I have a list. My general weekly list is on the refrigerator door. It is split into the five days that Rob normally works, and the work is split between those days. At the bottom I also put the tasks that are done daily. This is only a list of the tasks that are done every week. We have a large home, and this allows me to pace the regular chores across the week, so everything gets done properly and regularly.

My next strategy is to have projects. I currently have several, all requiring different amounts of physical or mental energy. When my regular chores are done for the day I can then pick a project to work on. At present my projects include: priming and painting the downstairs bathroom; sewing a new church dress; cross-stitching a picture for my mother-in-law's birthday in April; restoring an old steamer trunk Rob inherited from his grandfather and completing the illustrations for a book I am writing for my niece's birthday in March. Some of these projects require physical energy. Some require mental focus. Then a few require less of both for when I am really weary.

Along with chores and projects I am learning I have to guard myself from committing to things outside the home. Before I even arrived my husband and I had committed to my volunteering at our Church school's library. I only go one day a week. It is tempting to increase the time I spend there, as it is a big job to reorganise an entire school library. However we both realise that one day a week is all that I should be doing. Ideally I wouldn't even do that, but we made a commitment and we will see it through for this school year. There are so many needs amongst the women in our Church. I am often tempted to take on more commitments than I should in ministering to these women. However I am learning that good is not the same as best. I am instead trying to be of use from my own home. I am willing to serve in any way the Lord requires of me, but look for ways to serve that don't take me from home. This can range from cooking meals for a family when the mother is sick, to counselling a woman in crisis. It can be opening our home in hospitality for overnight guests, or just for a family meal.

I have always believed that it is the wife's place to keep the home. I have spent thousands of hours since I was a teenager learning how to be a better keeper of the home. The theory was never a problem. The reality is more of a battle that I ever thought it would be. It is a battle against laziness. It is a fight against indifference. It is a war against a society that thinks keeping the home is a waste of my gifts and talents. Yet if anyone would ask my husband he would not hesitate in saying that it is worth every fight, battle and war. It is worth it when he comes home to a clean, neat and peaceful haven. It is worth it for dinner to be waiting on him as he walks in through the door at night. It is worth it when he gets to be greeted by a content and peaceful wife who is always happy to see him.

Keeping my home is the best way I can serve my husband. Keeping my home is essential to serving and glorifying my Lord and Saviour. Keeping my home keeps me at peace. Keeping my home helps me to build contentment in my life. Keeping my home is my work and my pleasure. keeping my home is what it means to be Rob's wife.

I am blessed that I can stay at home to keep our home. I don't have to go out into the world every day. I don't have to spend my life surrounded by messages that breed discontentment and unhappiness. I rejoice that I have a husband who understands and enjoys a wife who stays at home.

Praise God that His ways are always best.

Lilypie First Birthday tickers

Lilypie First Birthday tickers

Baby Mordecai

Our blessed first baby, Mordecai, gone to heaven on July 23, 2009 at 13 weeks gestation.

You will never be forgotten by us.