Friday, February 27, 2009

Downsizing For Success

This is today's thought from Ron Hutchcraft. It gives me hope.

"Every time the economy or corporate profits take another dip in their roller coaster ride, you start hearing corporations saying that word again - downsizing. Many companies have and probably will come to the conclusion that one way to increase their profitability is to decrease the number of employees they have. So they downsize to be more successful.

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Downsizing For Success."

Actually, God believes in downsizing, too, as His strange means of bringing about something bigger. In fact, that may be what He's doing in your life right now.

He sure did it to Gideon in our word for today from the Word of God in Judges 7, beginning in verse 2. Here's the situation: the Midianites have invaded Israel year after year during harvest time to plunder their harvests, and nobody has been able to stop them. God calls Gideon to do it even though Gideon argues that he is maybe the least qualified guy around. Of course, this happens a lot in the Bible and still today.

Gideon is able to muster an army of 32,000 men to go against a Midianite army of 132,000 men! And the Bible says, "the Lord said to Gideon, 'You have too many men (Don't you love it?) for Me to deliver Midian into their hands." I'm sure Gideon didn't laugh, but I can't help it. Outnumbered four to one, and he's got too many men? God tells him to let go anyone who is afraid, and suddenly Gideon has 22,000 men. Now he's outnumbered about six to one. After God has him downsize again, Gideon has 300 men left. He's outnumbered more than 40 to 1 now! But miraculously, that force wins the battle, and the Midianites aren't seen again!

Now why does God follow this strange plan for winning: reducing, taking away, cutting back, making smaller? God gave His reason to Gideon, "in order that Israel may not boast against Me that her own strength has saved her." It's a pattern throughout the Bible - God loves to win major victories with inadequate resources. He arranges mismatches and impossible situations so we will see how big He is and He will get all the glory!

God knows we all have pride issues, we tend to be controlling people, and we tend to rely on the methods that have always seemed to get it done for us. But God puts us in situations where, like Gideon, we're left saying, "If there's a victory here, it's going to have absolutely nothing to do with me." So if you find yourself out-manned, out-gunned, and under-resourced right now - if it seems like God has been cutting you back and putting limitations on you - realize this may very well be the prelude to an amazing victory!

God is working on that wonderful addition and subtraction thing He does. John puts it this way: "He must become greater; I must become less." As God reduces the amount of you there is, He is increasing the amount of Him there is in the situation. He's been downsizing you so there can be more of Him, so He can show you a victory bigger than you ever thought you could be a part of. God isn't downsizing so you'll lose, He's downsizing you for a victory so big that only He can get the glory for it.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

And now a word about the tongue



I've done it more times than I like to admit.... I've said just the "perfect" thing at the perfect time to "zing" my husband or kids (or others) and wound them terribly with my words. When will I learn?

We have a stuffed animal "Thumper" (you know, from "Bambi") who has a few phrases he says when you press his paw. My favorite is:
"As my daddy alwasy says, 'if you can't say sumthin' nice.... don't say nuthin' at all'"

How much happier our jobs, schools, *cough* churches, and families would be if we/I followed this simple wisdom.

Another great one is this from Elisabeth Elliot: "When thinking of saying something keep these three things in mind; 1) Is is true? 2) Is is kind? 3) Is it necessary?
hmmmm...

I hope I learn this someday.

P.S. Check out Jim's latest blog post. "This is a Football"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Simple, Relational, Intentional



These are the words that came out of a discussion yesterday at our house. These things characterize (and will do so more and more)our church. Someone else has described our church as a "Pot Roast" church... home-y, welcoming, like going home for a good simple meal with family. Instead of us trying to be something we're not, we're going to continue to be more of who we are. Simple: We have a simple worship service. No laser light shows, no smoke or mirrors. What you see is what you get. Worship songs, hymns, Scripture. The teaching is simple (not simplistic)... straight from the Bible and practical for every day life. That's pretty much it. We love God, we love each other. (Oh yeah, and we have "snacks" after the service, too!)
The relational aspect is first of all with God. Our relationship with Him is of primary importance. Next, it is how we view our caring for each other and our reaching out. It's all about relationships. We get to know others, spend time with them, build relationships and pray for them. (we also call it "Prayer, Care, Share").
Intentional.... well, yeah, it takes some work, it takes thinking about it, stepping out of our comfort zones and reaching out. I'm encouraged by how our discussion went. It helps to focus a little bit more. Simple, Relational, Intentional, yeah. That's it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Good words from Nancy Leigh DeMoss...

"...it’s in the midst of trials that God provides for us opportunities to grow, opportunities to see God’s power. Those trials, those battlefield experiences, put us in a place where we most need God, where we’re desperate for Him.

"Lord, if You don’t come through, I’m not going to survive. We are going to lose. These children will never have a heart for You if it’s just up to me. I will never be able to help this person that I’ve been discipling or ministering, help them to get it. If you don’t turn on the light, Lord, I can’t deal with this situation. I can’t handle this responsibility. I need You."

You want to see God work in the most powerful ways? You’ve got to get to the place where you desperately need Him, where you can’t manage without Him, and where everything you’ve ever known and experienced prior to that point proves to be inadequate and insufficient to take you through the battle of this moment.

Our natural tendency is to want to be delivered from the battle. "I’m not ready for this! God knows that." I believe He sometimes puts us right in the battle so we can experience the supernatural power to defeat our enemies.

How do we learn to deal with temptation, with our sinful flesh, with tough relationships? You know how we learn? By having to do it, by getting thrown into it. God wants to use your trial, your battle, to train you. So don’t run from it. Don’t resent it. Don’t resist it.

By the way, let me remind you that not only do you need trials and battles to teach you, but those of you who are moms or will be someday, your children need battles and trials to learn God’s ways too. Don’t overly protect your children.

Don’t throw them into sin’s path or harm’s way. Hopefully they can learn a lot from your experience. But there are some things they are not going to learn until they are thrown into the battle, until the faith that is yours that you’ve been trying to pass on to them becomes their own.

When they get into the battle, be careful about trying to rescue them because it may be that it’s right in that situation that you, as a mom, are going, “I can’t let my child stay there.” It may be in that situation that God is going to shape a Joshua, God’s going to shape a leader.

Now what I just said—there are different ways to apply that. There are times when you ought to snatch your child out of a dangerous or an ungodly situation. That’s where you need God’s wisdom to know: “Is this a battle God is putting into this child’s life or God is allowing to happen for their good, or is this a time to intervene?”

Joshua has witnessed all that has taken place in the children of Israel from the time they left Egypt up until this point. He has seen firsthand the amazing, awesome power of God. He’s also learned—remember he’s a young man. He’s learning. He’s learned by watching Moses what a leader should do when he doesn’t know what to do. Moses was such a great teacher, such a great example for Joshua of this.

Again and again Joshua watched Moses in these desperate situations where Moses would cry out to the Lord and say, “God, I can’t handle these people. I can’t find food for them. I can’t provide water for them. God, help!” Moses cried out to the Lord. Joshua saw that. Moses humbly acknowledged his inability and asked God for wisdom, for direction, for supernatural intervention.

So Joshua, a younger man, half Moses’ age at this point, is learning dependence, dependence on the supernatural power of God, learning to lean on the everlasting arms. He’s going to realize that the battle is not man’s. The battle is not Joshua’s to win or lose, or Moses’ for that matter. The battle is the Lord’s. God can be trusted, and nothing is too difficult for Him."

Whatever you do, don't forget the 'Li'l Smokies'!




(Lark News is one of my favorite places for a good laugh. This one caught my attention today... and made me laugh out loud)

Church picnic ruined when couple breaks Li'l Smokies pledge

TACOMA — Two hundred people who had anticipated Living Grace Church's annual picnic were gravely disappointed when the couple who signed up to bring a crock pot full of Li'l Smokies bathed in barbecue sauce forgot the dish.
One by one, attendees at Gann Park scanned the rows of food.
"Where's the Smokies?" one man asked his wife. She whispered the circulating rumor that they had been forgotten. In anger, the man cracked his plate in half and threw it in the trash, then repaired to a nearby tree to smolder.
The Moore family, who had volunteered to bring the Li'l Smokies, sat with grim expressions. Nobody approached them, save one reporter.
"We blew it," Doug Moore said. "We signed up for it, and then forgot."
A few feet away, people had left a spot on the table by the card that read, "Moores: Li'l Smokies," hoping that the picnic favorite might miraculously appear. Some stared at the spot in silence.
"We remembered the A&W root beer," Sandy Moore said, trying to inject a note of grace.
Meanwhile, an atmosphere of gallows humor prevailed. The pastor shook people's hands and made non-specific comments like, "We'll do better next year. It's okay." The volleyball net sat idle. Nobody donned the gunny sacks for the usually festive 100-yard dash.
Timothy and his wife Rhonda sat on the grass holding plates of cold, uneaten quiche, mayonnaise-heavy macaroni salad and pretzels. Their children played tag around the monkey bars.
"I told the kids I'd get a game of softball going, but I don't feel like it," Timothy said. "There's a hole in my stomach where those Smokies should be."
Frustrated organizer Jim Braswell found it hard to settle down. "They put their signatures on the sign-up sheet," he said, pointing to line 23. A few others were considering formal action against the Moores, he said, perhaps stripping them of small-group host home status, or compelling them to chaperone the junior high kids at church camp. But most people didn't want punishment, just a taste of their beloved barbecue-flavored dish.
After a little while, the Moores slipped away quietly, taking their untouched A&W 2-liter bottles. Then the rest of the group dispersed. •

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

At least there's NY city on the horizon



Two months from today we'll be in NY city, in rehearsal, for the National Youth Choir! We're still raising funds to get there but I think we'll make it! The Madrigal choir will be joining with other High School students from around the country to rehearse and then perform in Carnegie Hall! The concert is Sunday, April 19th.
We just got our music yesterday... should be fun! I don't really get to "do" anything while there except for watching out for 20 High School students (which may be a challenge). I'm looking forward to the change of scenery and a chance to observe the conductor and accompanist they will have there. I have SO much to learn (a tous les niveaux!).



New York here we come!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Challenges



I think the reason I like these "demotivators" as they are called, is that there's a certain amount of truth to them, while at the same time being really funny.
Seriously, this sums it up for me right now.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Fellowship of the Ring



This past weekend, our three teens, along with 80 other teens from the area (and 6 others from Exeter) participated in "True Love Waits". The emphasis of the weekend was to promote and encourage sexual abstinence and "wait" until marriage. The kids (and parents) gave up Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday morning for this conference. A lot of what was said my kids had heard before (about STD's, etc) but the real emphasis, I think, was on why wait. Do they wait so they won't get an STD or get pregnant? No, they wait because God, who created us and created sex to be enjoyed within the confines and protection of marriage, says to! God isn't some cosmic "kill-joy" who wants to make us suffer and take away all our fun. He knows what is best for all of us and gives us certain rules (guidelines) for true happiness!
At the close of the weekend, Sunday morning, 9 teenagers stood up in front of our congregation and pledged... to God, to the congregation, to their future mates and future children, to wait until marriage, to honor God with their bodies (their very lives). The parents then gave each of them a ring (or necklace) as a symbol of their commitment.
My kids love "Lord of the Rings". One of my sons decided to wear his ring on a chain around his neck. I hope it won't become a burden for him! I'm happy that each of our teens decided to do this and made this promise of their own volition.
We joked about their being 9 of them yesterday (the same number as in "The Fellowship of the Ring"). I do hope and pray that they will be able to help each other keep this promise! That they'll be - along with the many, many other teens who have made this promise - a true fellowship to help each other, pray for each other and support each other.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Not On The Test

Like everyone else, our school is facing some severe budget cuts. It's upsetting. The first thing they seem to cut is music and the arts (so, yeah, that means my "job" too). They'll cut anything that isn't on the state (govt) mandated "tests" (i.e. Language arts and math). Here are some facts about the importance of arts education in schools:

Young people who consistently participate in comprehensive, sequential, and rigorous arts programs are:

- 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement

- 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools

- 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair

- 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance

- 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem.

Source: Americans for the Arts (www.artsusa.org).

The arts provide children with:

- different ways to process information and express their knowledge

- the ability to think creatively in areas like math and science

- the ability to be independent and collaboration skills

(source: Young Audiences, Inc. www.youngaudiences.org)

The arts also:

- teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships.

- celebrate multiple perspectives - showing students that there are many ways to see and interpret the world

- make it clear that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not
define the limits of our cognition.

- help children learn to say what cannot be said. They must learn to reach into their poetic capacities to find the words to describe how
the work of art makes them feel.

(source: National Art Education Association website - www.naea-reston.org/tenlessons.html From Elliot Eisner's book: The Arts and the Creation of Mind)


I know that there are only a few of you who read this, but, I have to say this somewhere. (Since Board meetings are at times I can't really go).

Check out this great song by Tom Chapin. I'm thinking it'd be a great song to do for our Spring concert (if I only had the nerve):


video

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

We won!


No... we didn't win like a million dollars or something, although that's my secret fantasy (oops, now it's out!).

Our Mock Trial team at the High School won their competition last night! Mock Trial is another one of those "extra-curricular" activities that adds so much depth to education. Where else do kids learn even a little bit about law and what goes on in a courtroom (I mean, from this perspective, not from the perspective of being a real defendant!! yikes!). In these days of economic crises when things are being cut from public schools left and right, this is another one that may not exist in a few years. Well, back to the team. I knew they had done a good job but thought they had last week, too, when they didn't win. Still, last night they scored higher than the opposing team. Hooray for our side! The courtroom was a little scary last night. The judge was kinda intimidating. He explained at the beginning that he'd been in court all day and was "a little grumpy". But, he really helped both teams (I think) to learn more as he questioned them and helped them along in a few instances. My daughter took the witness stand last night at got average scores from all three scorers. She's soft-spoken (in public) and the judge had to ask her to speak up a few times. Otherwise she did well. So tomorrow night Joseph and the rest of the Prosecution team go up against another school.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Yard Progress





We've begun! Bushes are out. Trees (Chinese Pistache) are in! Next step, vegetable garden (salsa garden?).