3 Things You Can Do {Today} for the Persecuted Church

Today, all across the world grassroots prayer vigils are being held on behalf of Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor, husband, and father who has been tortured and imprisoned in Iran for exactly one year today.  Pastor Saeed converted to Christianity thirteen years ago, and has been arrested ten times since then.  He was imprisoned in 2009 and released after agreeing to stop supporting home churches.  According to his wife, Abedini felt it was safe to return to Iran, his native home, since agreeing not to work with churches.  But last September, while crossing into Iran from Turkey via bus, immigration authorities seized and arrested him.  He was sentenced to eight years in the notoriously brutal Evin prison in Iran.  I first heard Pastor Saeed’s story through a Facebook news feed several months ago.  At the time he was in extremely poor physical health due to beatings and mistreatment in prison.  His wife and many others fear he will not last eight years.

What Can I Do? 

  1. Send a letter to the Iranian government on Pastor Saeed’s behalf.  This morning on the radio, I heard his wife say they are hoping an influx of mail will urge the Iranian government to reconsider her husband’s imprisonment.  They’ve set it up so that all you really have to do is type in your name, and press “send.”  (View the letter Billy Graham wrote the Iranian president on Saeed Abedini’s behalf.)
  2. Join one of the many prayer vigils, meeting today.  I think it would be incredible to gather with a throng of believers on behalf of the persecuted church, to pray for our brother in Christ and experience the POWER of the body united (Matt 18:20).  If you don’t live in a city where a vigil is being hosted, gather your family and pray!  You can join the vigil spiritually if not physically.
  3. Share his story.  Put the miracle of the digital generation to use for the gospel of Christ!  The more we raise awareness, the better.

To read more about Saeed Abedini, click on the links below.

Over 100 Grassroots Prayer Vigils for Pastor Saeed Worldwide Thursday

Iran Sentences US Pastor to 8 Years in Prison

After One Year in Iranian Jail, Christian Pastor Pens Heartfelt Letter to Daughter

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The Master’s {Violent} Mercy


I had a dream that long I sat
Upon a distant shore,
And trembled lonely in the storm,
And knew myself no more.

There was a Voice to steady me,
But I lost it in the wind.
And so I knew not who I was,
Nor who I’d ever been.

I listened to the roaring waves,
And to the sand and sea,
I let them tell me how to think,
And who I was to be.

Until I feared the sea would rise
And crush me with its spite,
And drown my hope upon the rocks,
And snuff the day to night.

I called to the Master of the Sea;
I knew that He could save.
For once upon a distant time,
He spoke to the wind and waves.

But He would not calm the raging storm,
He only held my hand,
And let it beat us bruised and bloody,
Over the calloused sand.

I fought and groaned and cursed aloud,
I wept into His face.
I judged Him for His cruelty,
I blamed His failing grace.

Then He lifted me into His arms,
And whispered, “Do not mourn.
This is not where mercy dies,
But the place that it is born.

I have not come to spare the storm
That threatens peace and health,
But to use the very storm you fear,
To save you from yourself.”

It was then I knew His endless grace,
Had come to change within,
And at the very end of me,
At last we could begin.

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Without You

Without you, life would be a whole lot quieter,

a good deal more predictable,

and not nearly so expressive.

Without you, life would be much more serious,

a lot less rambunctious,

and only half as tender.
Aubrey 1-2 months 056

Without you life would be less inspiring,

less passionate,

and unbearably lonely.

Dear Clint,
Today you turn 31 years old, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that I don’t even want to imagine my life, without you.

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8 Ways to Cultivate a More Restful Home


Like many things I blog about, this topic has been on my mind not because I’m so good at it, but because I’m quite the opposite. In my September favorites I linked up to an article about seven purposes for the home. I found the article so convicting that I decided to spend some prolonged time meditating on each purpose, the first being “the home as a place of rest.” I asked myself how I could make our home more restful. Here are some thoughts from someone who still has a long way to go.

1. Make rest and refreshment a personal priority. Nobody wants an anemic for a blood donor. Sure, I could wake up running and not pause for breath until bedtime, but I’d probably look more like Medusa than Martha Stewart. And honestly, the first to suffer would be my family. So how do I make time for rest? I’ve found 3 times in the day that I can use for different forms of personal rest. The first is before the kids wake up (normally I’m unconscious during this time, but I’m working on it). The second is in the afternoon when the baby naps, and the third is after the kids go to bed. Look at your schedule. Where could you allot some time for personal rest?

2. Recognize that there’s a hierarchy to rest. Not all restful activities are created equal. Watching thirteen movies in a row may be restful, but not rejuvenating or nourishing. If we want lasting rest, the Bible says it only comes in a Person (Matt. 11:29). I don’t think that means there’s no room for personal hobbies, it just means those forms of rest shouldn’t trump the most important form. Ideally, I’d like to spend time with the Lord first thing in the morning, have an hour in the afternoon to blog or read, and spend time with Clint in the evening. How are you using your free time? Is it providing lasting rest?

3. Enforce a consistent bedtime for the kids. From the moment our kids exited the womb, we started putting them to bed at 7pm. Of course it took time to get them used to the routine, and it’s always necessary to deviate now and then, but on a typical day at 7pm it’s Daddy & Mommy time. Good night, kiddos, we’ll see you in the morning! It’s healthy for their little bodies, my sanity, and our marriage. If your kids don’t have a consistent bedtime, what sort of nightly routine could you create to help them develop one?

4. Work to maintain an efficient home. Isn’t it ironic that we have to work hard in order to rest well? But if the house is a wreck with no clean clothes and no food for dinner, how restful will it really feel? I’m finding that the more I invest into the home, the more my family enjoys being in it. But there’s a fine balance! As I’m doing my best to manage the home diligently, I must remember to…

5. Love the people in the home more than the tasks of the home. Of all the items on my list, this is the hardest for me. Isn’t that a sad confession? It is to me, too. And yet the #1 reason our home isn’t more restful is because I can be a drill sergeant about maintaining it. Slowly, I’m beginning to realize that this is idolatry–it’s loving “order” more than God’s mandate to be kind and gracious with my family. Is your approach to maintaining the home balanced? Do you need to become more diligent, or more gracious?

6. Have a daily “down time” for the kids. Once my pre-schooler outgrew nap time she started having an afternoon “quiet time.” She picks a few sets of boxed toys out of the closet and plays in her room for 1-2 hours. There are so many benefits to this–Aubrey learns to play independently and be imaginative, Heidi gets a quiet nap time, and I have an afternoon break. Depending on the ages of your kids, how could you establish a designated “down time” for them every day?

7. Find opportunities to bless your husband with alone time. I know my husband often feels guilty taking any time to himself. Because he works all day, he feels like every other moment should be spent with the kids. But if he’s going to serve and lead our family well, he needs time to rest and rejuvenate. What does your husband find restful? How can you give him some down-time this week?

8. Be at peace with those within the home. Nothing transforms a restful home into a war zone faster than discord. Colossians 3:12-17 urges believers to bear with one another, to forgive one another, to allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts, and to let the Word of God dwell so richly within us that we admonish one another in wisdom and gratitude. Let me ask you two last questions that I’m also asking myself: Am I at peace with every member of my household? If not, what steps can I take today, to restore the peace?

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Can You Really Raise a Child with an Unbiased Worldview?

Earth boy - North and South AmericaThe notion of raising a child with an “unbiased worldview” is growing increasingly popular.  Parents want to raise children who are “free to find their own spirituality” without the bias of the parent’s preference.  Conversely, attempting to raise a child with a biblical worldview seems to be going the way of high water pants and dial-up internet access.  Not only is it unpopular, it’s often viewed as arrogant, controlling, and close-minded.  Parents are seen as “imposing their worldview” upon their children, even “brainwashing” them.

The issue is so loaded that I’ve heard Christian parents question whether or not they should raise their children spiritually “neutral.”  It just seems so intolerant, even manipulative, to teach an impressionable young child that God is real.  That God created her in His own image for His own glory.  That she inherited a sin nature from Adam.  And that God loves her so passionately that He Himself died in her place to save her.

But here’s the bottom line–every parent raises their child with a biased worldview.  We are constantly teaching our children how to view the world, whether we “mean to” or not.  Every time they see us rejoice or get angry, we are teaching them something about what we value.  The fact that you probably choose to raise your children in a home, with food and clothing teaches them that you find those things important.  And if you get down on one knee and tell them that they can determine who God is for themselves, or that they can accept or reject any religion with no consequences–you are not raising them spiritually neutral.  You are raising them with a very particular, biased worldview.

Thus the question isn’t should we influence our child’s worldview.  Like it or not, we’re already doing that.  The real question is how should we influence it?  If you are a believer, the Bible gives you an answer.  In Deuteronomy 6:6-7, after exhorting the Israelites to love the One True God with their whole hearts, Moses issues a mighty charge: “And these words…shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Clearly Christians are to be intentional about raising their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Pro. 19:18, 22:6, 23:19; Eph 6:4) recognizing that only God has the power to save (John 6:44).  Fulfilling this biblical mandate is loving not controlling.  Think about it this way–you and I teach our children countless things from the moment they’re born.  We teach them that the bump below their eyes is called a “nose” and that cows say “moo.”  Nobody calls us close-minded or accuses us of “brainwashing” when we do this.  Inherently, they recognize our teaching as truth.  So dear Christian, if you really believe Christ’s claims are as true and real as the nose on your daughter’s face, how could you not teach them to her?  How could you withhold the very Truth that has the power to save her soul on the grounds of allowing her the freedom to “find her own way”?  If you’re willing to teach her that there’s a nose on her face, be willing to teach her the truths that matter so much more than that.

If you don’t believe the claims of Christ, then I understand why you wouldn’t teach them to your children.  I don’t judge you for influencing your child according to your personal beliefs.  But I do urge you not to judge Christians for doing the same thing, and not to deceive yourself into believing you are raising your child neutrally.

One final thing: To those of you who don’t know what you think of God, to those who are indifferent to Him, and those who hate Him–I wholeheartedly believe God loves you more than you could ever fathom (Romans 5:6-8) and longs to have a relationship with you (2 Peter 3:9).  Regardless of what you’ve done or what’s been done to you, He is faithful and trustworthy.  He is capable of bringing beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:1-3), of restoring what’s been lost (Joel 2:25), and of making you a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

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September Favorites

Hello, September!  I’ve been waiting for you.  May cooler days and autumn shades be close on your heels!  Here are some fresh favorites to start the month.

ACTIVITY: Stir Up Some Imaginary Soup

P1060060 A great outdoor activity for a boring afternoon!  Gather one big bowl per child, a handful of creative kitchen utensils, all your old spices and whatever other pantry items you don’t mind “wasting.”  (I filled coffee filters with things like oatmeal, coffee grounds, and flour so after we made a big mess we could just throw it all away.)  Remember grass, dirt, flowers, and rocks also make great ingredients for imaginary soup.  More details at One Perfect Day.
soup collage

ARTICLE: What is the Purpose of the Home? 
Screen-shot-2010-04-15-at-2.33.23-PMRecently I stumbled upon this article, published several months ago by Lindsay of Passionate Homemaking.  (In February of this year Lindsay took an indefinite sabbatical from blogging, but you can still peruse her site, linked above).  I’ll be honest–this article was exciting, inspiring, and painfully convicting for me.  In order to determine the purpose of the home, Lindsay read every Bible reference related to “home,” coming up with 7 purposes for a home.  Saturated in Scripture, this article is an excellent guide for any woman in need of some fresh encouragement regarding the incredible calling to be a “keeper of the home” (Titus 2:5).

PRODUCT: Cranium Hullabaloo
CraniumHullabalooWhen Aubrey’s best friend brought this game over for a play date, it took me two seconds to realize it was brilliant.  The game comes with a stack of brightly colored felt pads in different shapes, featuring different images of animals, instruments, and food.  After the kids scatter the felt pads on the floor, the Hullabaloo tape player bursts into song telling them to hop to a yellow patch…twirl to a square…put their elbow on an animal…  It’s a great way for squealing toddlers to practice their shapes, colors, and gross motor skills, not to mention get giddy with friends and family members.

BOOK: When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin
when_crickets_cry_jacketA great fiction novel about a world-renowned heart transplant surgeon who goes into hiding after a mysterious loss, only to cross paths with the one little girl who can give him a second chance at everything.

If you’ve rolled your eyes at Christian fiction before, assuming it’s all trite and watery, give this one a chance!  The only thing watery will be your tear ducts.  (Okay, that was cheesy, but the book really isn’t!  He’s a much better writer than I am 🙂 ).

Happy September!

P.S. As I re-vamp my monthly favorites section, previous favorites will be temporarily MIA.  

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When Mom Just Needs a Good Cry

exhausted[1]Occasionally Clint comes home to the kind of house the biblical womanhood books urge us to cultivate—peaceful, joyful, and in order.  Often he comes home to the slightly more frazzled version.  But every now and then he comes home to the blank-faced, empty-eyed, wife-of-exhaustion home.  Last week I had one of those nights.  If I was a punching bag I’d have been entirely flat.  All done.  He found me sweaty and woefully shower-deprived, chopping sweet potatoes in the kitchen, vacantly wondering if one roasted starch could qualify as dinner.  Clint took one look at me and said, “Why don’t you go out for dinner tonight?  I’ll feed the kids and put them to bed.”

For a moment I thought the clouds might part and a dove descend from heaven.  “Are you serious?”  Before he could answer (or change his mind) I was in and out of the shower, running out the front door with soaking wet hair and the first pair of clothes I could find.

“Where are you going to eat?”  Clint called.

I flashed him a mile-long smile.  “I don’t care!!”

For an hour and a half I enjoyed sushi, shrimp, and sweet silence.  But here is a really honest admission—sometimes, even in the oasis, I feel anxiety.  I think it’s because deep down I’m afraid I will always end up back here, in this place of depletion and discouragement.  And I want to grow past that.  After all, I’m an overcomer in Christ.  I have two beautiful children who are watching me.  And let’s be honest—there’s not always going to be a Japanese steakhouse when I need it.

So the question I’ve been asking myself is what drives me to this point?  When I was a teacher there were stressful days, but I never felt like a coma would be welcome relief.  I don’t know if it’s the ultimate answer, but one of the conclusions I’ve drawn is that parenthood is just different from any other vocational calling.  Most jobs allow for a sense of separation.  You clock in and clock out.  You maintain personal boundaries.  You become as emotionally invested {or detached} as you want.

And then along come children, and in five seconds flat they invade all of you, running full speed ahead into your heart, your mind, your life, and occasionally your shower.  I used to think that after having kids Clint and I would still sometimes live like we didn’t have them.  Maybe we’d go on a romantic vacation, or hire a sitter and go out with friends.  And we did.  But what I didn’t realize is that once you have kids, they are always a part of you.  Even when they’re not around physically, you think about them, pray for them, wonder if Grandma remembered to put their toe medication on before bed.  They are woven into your DNA.  It’s surreal and precious.  It’s the reason I cry every time another candle on the birthday cake reminds me that they’ll one day be grown.

And at the same time, it’s challenging.  Kids don’t ask for a portion of your heart or a little bit of your effort.  They ask for all of you.  They need all of you.  When you want to burst into tears because you just had a fight with a friend, they’re right there beside you wanting to know—“Why are you crying?  What’s wrong?  Explain it to me, Mom.  Help me understand this world, Mom.  I’m hungry, Mom.  Meet my needs, Mom.  Be there for me, Mom.”

But here’s the game changer.  You and I have a Parent, too.  And unlike us, He’s perfect.  The Bible says, “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12-13).  If you have taken Christ at His Word, surrendering your life to Him because you believe He is who He says He is, then you are His child.  Which means you are allowed to run into His arms and burst into tears just like your baby runs into yours.  And boy are the arms of Jesus tender.  In Matthew 23, even as He is rebuking Jerusalem, Jesus says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

O Jesus, I am willing.  I am willing to be gathered into your arms.  I am willing to find strength in Your strength (Eph 6:10) and rest in Your rest (Matt 11:28-30).  I am willing—I am longing—to be parented by You.

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The House That Cleans Itself

housecleans[1]The first time I saw these five words on the cover of a book they looked as tantalizing as a cream-filled doughnut.  If there’s one idol I’ve battled for years, it’s the idol of wanting a perfectly tidy home.  For some reason my mom has always had this innate Mary Poppins-like ability to create order out of chaos.  As a result I grew up in a beautifully organized home that ran like a well-oiled machine.  And then I got married, moved into my own little house, and made two startling realizations: Keeping an entire house clean is crazy hard, and I have no idea how my mother did it.  Suffice to say it didn’t get any easier when I added two children and 85,000 articles of doll clothing.  Plus accessories.

Over the years I’ve felt all sorts of things when it comes to housekeeping—guilt, frustration, and at times the ungodly desire to morph into a barking drill-sergeant.  Which is why I was so taken aback to read this statement in Clark’s book:  “The startling truth is that cleaning really shouldn’t have any emotional component at all.  It’s not an emotional subject.  It’s just a necessary set of tasks.  If the thought of cleaning house evokes any [strong] emotion…it’s time to unpack that baggage and see what’s in there.  It’s making housekeeping, which is just a necessary part of life, much more difficult than it needs to be.”

Right off the bat this helped me make it through the rest of Clark’s book, because let me just warn you, the woman is detailed.   But if you can let go of the emotional component, you’re free to apply the principles you like and not feel guilty for ignoring the ones that are beyond your stamina.  That being said, here are my 3 favorite principles from her book (re-phrased in my own words):

1. Don’t just tidy, figure out what’s causing the mess and problem-solve.  To do this, you have to analyze the way mess accumulates in your particular home.  For instance, there’s always a pile of books on the end table in our den, usually dirty socks on the floor, and a huge {amazingly comfortable} blue chair that’s crusted over with sticky handprints.  Normally I ignore the books, take the socks to the laundry room, and wash the blue slip cover every few weeks.  After thinking like a problem-solver, I designated a basket for the books we’re currently reading, stowed a hamper discreetly in the den, and made a new rule—no one under twenty-five gets to eat in the blue chair!  By the time I problem-solved my way through the whole house, the mess had begun to reduce itself rapidly.

For your inspiration--a shot of all the things I was ready to part with after my HTCI makeover.
For your inspiration–a shot of all the things I was ready to part with after my HTCI makeover.

2. Get rid of as MUCH as possible.  Clark taught me to view every single object in my house as owning a piece of my time.  Furniture, paper clips, Barbie shoes, that monogrammed bridesmaid gift in the attic—everything. The question you have to ask is: Is this object worth the time it takes to clean it, dust it, straighten it, pick it up, pack and move it?  The simple truth is, the less you have the easier it is to maintain order.

3. Create a “launching pad” and eliminate “rabbit trails.”  Two of the most common ways mess accumulates is in the entryway of your home and in the pursuit of what Clark calls “rabbit trails.”  A rabbit trail is any activity you frequently embark upon that requires supplies from around the house.  For instance, I store wrapping paper in the upstairs guest bedroom closet, simply because there’s room for it there.  But of course, the tape and scissors are downstairs in the study, and I actually wrap gifts on the dining room table.  Once I’ve gathered all the supplies and wrapped my gifts, what’s the likelihood that I will put them all back where they belong before next Christmas?  Moderate to low.  Clark’s solution is to set up “stations” wherever the task is accomplished.  In my case, there should be a large container with all the supplies necessary to wrap presents stored out of sight somewhere in the dining room.

To help out your entryway, Clark suggests a “launching pad”–a cabinet, bookcase, closet, or shelving unit somewhere near the main entryway that holds all the items you enter and exit with on a regular basis (wallet, purse, sunglasses…etc.)  If your kids are school-aged, they can each have their own bin in the launching pad to hold things like backpacks and library books.  This is a fast way to stop the clutter as it comes in the door, and to keep from losing important items.

All in all, I loved the improvements Clark’s book brought to our home.  If you have the time and energy, I’d recommend buying it and giving her system a shot.  Take it with a BIG grain of salt, use what you like, ignore what you don’t, and thank God for the gift of a home—messy, clean, calm, and crazy.

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