Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Problem With Church

If you want to get fit, which is the BEST OPTION?

1. Watch Cooking Shows and create a Pinterest pin board with examples of healthy eating, and binge watch workout videos on YouTube.


2.  Fill your diet with healthy food and eliminate processed foods and sugars, as well as begin a workout routine combining cardio and strength training. 

The obvious answer is number two!  To get fit you have to engage in activities that develop a fit body.  Watching shows or reading articles on fitness will do nothing for any muscle other than your brain.  Yes, a healthy brain is important but really not the point in this discussion. 

Most people understand the importance of being active and eating healthy in achieving their fitness goals, and yet that knowledge doesn't translate well when it comes to our spiritual life. 

Many Christians utilize church more like a movie theater than a gym.  Yet, church is meant to be a gym NOT a movie theater. 

Do a google search on the decline of church attendance over the past decade and you will see, while the statistics seem to vary a bit, all agree that church attendance is declining.  There is a lot of thought on the reason for this, but I think it is because of a lack of proper focus.

1.  Church is not a building.  Sure, this can come down to a semantical argument and yes, we do "go to church" referring to a service in a building, but the Bible is clear - the church is Christians collectively.  We are often referred to as the body of Christ because God intended for us to be different yet work together just like our physical bodies.  We often get distracted by the building and forget we are the church. 

2We have become spectators.  Christianity is NOT a spectator sport.  It isn't a to-do list that one checks off.  Going to a weekly service is not our Christian duty.  There are no brownie points for extra weekly Bible studies or service projects.  You don't get an award for putting more money in the offering plate than your neighbor and there are no wings to gain if you volunteer in the children's department.  Of course, we do need to engage in a local church with some of the above activities but the point is where the problem can be found. 

Our Christian duty is knowing Christ and making him known. (Please note: I am not referring to the guy shouting from a public square that you are going to hell).  If you want to be a Christian and grow spiritually, that is found in reading your Bible, studying what you have read, spending time with others who are like-minded and spending time in prayer.  Spiritual growth comes in putting the needs of other's first and seeking what God might want with your time and money.  Remember the greatest commands are loving God and loving OTHERS as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). Christianity isn't about being perfect but instead allowing God to work in you.  That doesn't happen overnight, it usually takes a good 80 plus years. Trust me! I have been a Christian for 34 years and I still have a list of ways God needs to work in my life.  I am as human as anyone else.

I haven't been to the gym in awhile and when I go back I won't be benching 250 lbs.  I will start where I am, which is more like 10 lb free weights.  Spiritual growth works the same way.  We have to offer God ourselves where we are now and not expect to be ready for a spiritual body building competition next week.

In my 34 years walking with God I have seen God work in me and through me and while I still have a way to go, I still desire God's guidance change me as we walk out life and I relish that because of God, I am never alone.  I love that I have a hope in something bigger than our country, political system or my career.  I love church because of the body of Christ - the people with which I get to share community.  I love praying with friends and walking out life together.  I love seeing where I can grow and adjusting my life to allow God to do so.  I love doing Christianity as one would go to a gym. Obviously, a movie theater is more fun, but a gym is essential to our physical health.  Being active in our faith helps promote a better connection with God, others and ultimately, ourselves.

When we shift our focus we will see less fights about the worship songs we sing on a Sunday morning or how we would change the weekly schedule.  We would focus more on loving the world and pointing them toward Jesus instead of being so focused on a church staff making us comfortable. 

Its time we get out of the spiritual entertainment mode and grow some spiritual muscles!!!  Believe me you will be better for it!!!! 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Do You Have A Plan?

Let's pretend we are going on a trip.

What might be some of the first questions you ask before planning a trip and deciding what to pack?  

1.  What is your budget? 
Will you be counting each penny or do you have money to burn?  Will you need to find ways to save or can you splurge a little?

2. What type of trip will it be? 
Vacation or Business? Family, couple or friend? The purpose of the trip dictates what you take.  Clothes need to be professional for a work conference and you will want to have travel entertainment if you will have kids with you.

3. Where is it? 
What will the weather be? What is the terrain?  You wouldn't pack just shorts for a snowy, mountain ski trip or take a down jacket on an island beach getaway! Destination comes into account when planning your trip.  

4.  How will you be traveling? 
Car rides accommodate for more bags while airplanes means organizing those small ounce containers for security checks.  There is also bus when the budget is small and time isn't an issue or a train for the scenic route.  You may need small bills for tips or AAA for extra security, discounts and maps on a road trip.

5. Where are you staying? 
Do you have a friend close by with room to keep you?  Do you need to book a hotel or suite if the family is with you?  How many nights do you need?  What amenities are essential for your trek?

Those 5 questions are just the beginning of the planning process.

The irony of life is we don't often consider the equivalent of these questions when it comes to our spiritual life, something much more important than a trip.  

Navigating through life can be a challenge, especially when you understand we have an enemy.

Yes, Satan is real.

I am not sure he looks like many of the depicted caricatures circuiting, especially when you read scriptures that say he comes disguised as "an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14).  Satan doesn't like us.  He didn't just get kicked out of heaven because he wanted to be God, he was upset that God created us.  He was in essence the jealous older sibling after mommy has a new baby.  He wanted and still wants to take us out.

God came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.  Jesus died and came back to life to conquer for us what we couldn't conquer ourselves, but we are still walking through the battlefield of life and we need to start engaging a little more so we come out alive.

Do you know the books of the Bible and their themes?
Are you memorizing scripture on a regular basis?
Do you have and are you following a reading plan of the Bible?
Have you read the Bible in its entirety?
Do you pray on a regular basis?
Have you examined cultural influences that help in understanding what God is communicating?
Do you know your weaknesses and are you protecting them with accountability through other believers and having scripture prepared to combat temptation?

I am not asking these questions to shame you if you can't positively answer these questions - instead, I want to bring home the point that we need a plan.

So why do the questions above matter? 

Knowing the books of the Bible and their themes helps you find what you need.

Memorizing scripture allows you to have it handy.

Reading the Bible isn't the same for everyone and in this digital age there are a million plans out there to read through the Bible so there is something for everyone, and reading the Bible consistently gives you that link to our Savior.

Reading the entire Bible takes about 80 hours but most plans do it over one to two years.  Reading the whole thing can be challenging, especially some passages, but it is a story and reading all of it is crucial to understanding the story and the purposes of Christ.

Prayer is our connection and communication with our God, and in war time soldiers need to have communication with their leader if they want to survive their enemy.  This is such a crucial tool in our belt.

The Bible wasn't written alongside the Declaration of Independence.  It is older than that and was written on soil on the other side of the world. The Bible wasn't written but often interpreted through Western culture and that is a mistake.  Many customs in the Middle East haven't changed much from the way they are today.  Context is also key in understanding what the Bible is all about.  Take the time to check it out.  Need some resources?  Let me know!  Happy to point you in the right direction.

Remember that enemy well he know humans really well, he's been roaming the earth for some time now.  We all have weaknesses and he knows how to prey on us, not to mention we are pretty good at self-sabotage.  Knowing ourselves, and our weaknesses, helps us to protect ourselves.  Having an accountability partner helps us to grow and keeps us honest about our journey.

Do you have a plan?  Where are you with each of these categories?  Can you up your game just a bit in each area?  If you don't have a plan, its time to get one!  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

25 Kids Books For Your Summer Reading List

Summer is here, okay so officially the first day of summer is next Tuesday, but summer in this house starts when school gets out.  

I immediately made a list of all the things we could do together and places we could go.  Sitting around the house doing nothing all summer is not an option.  Without a plan comes non-stop electronic entertainment and that does not make for a good summer break.   

Part of our summer plan includes books.  We have a great children's book library in our house but we also love to go to the library.  Let me digress for a minute to let you know I love our library!  They have a summer reading program, wonderful events, and this summer are doing PJ story time nights.  

I thought as a fun way to celebrate summer and reading I would share some of the 

Guy Family's favorite kids books.  

Some are well-known and may be familiar to you, others may be new finds.  I have a six and two-year old, but some of the chapter books we read are geared more towards older kids, even though my son loves them too.  I have links to all the books so you can check them out on Amazon, but may I suggest going to your local library and check out some books, you may find your own list of favorite books.  

Picture Books: 

Caps For Sale - Esphyr Slobodkina  - This book was a gift when my son was born.  It was a recommendation from my Aunt Julia and Grandma Pat.  It has been a fun read for us.  We seem to all have it memorized.  

A Bad Case of Stripes - David Shannon  - I've actually had this book for some time.  I got it in my year working at the residential care facility for troubled teens.  I found teenagers liked nightly story time just like kids. This has a great message and I have found I really love many of the David Shannon books.  

How I Became A Pirate - Melinda Long & David Shannon  - My son loves pirates so this is a book we checked out but then finally decided to buy it and have it at home.  

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs - Judi Barrett - This is one of my favorites from childhood.  We have multiple copies.  I still have the one from when I was a girl, but wanted my kids to have their own as well.  

Tikki Tikki Tembo - Arlene Mosel  - This is another book that came from my aunt and grandma at the birth of my son.   Just saying the boys "great long name" fills our book time with laughter. 

Jamberry - Bruce Degen - This was actually a find when our church was getting rid of a bunch of kids books.  We love it! 

Good Night Yoga - Mariam Gates - This book was a gift from my mom, and I love it because its a book that also get kids moving.  

Johnny Lion's Rubber Boots - Edith Thacher Hurd - My friend Sabrina loved this book as a girl and shared it with us.  My son loves this book and subsequently we had to get red rain boots and coats to match Johnny Lions.  

James the Jaguar - Mary Lystad - This was another gift from Sabrina, and I LOVE THIS BOOK!  My son does as well but it is one of my favorites.  Its a fun book to enjoy as a family!

When Dinosaurs came with Everything - Elise Broach  - We don't yet own this book.  But it was a fun book we continue to get from the library and just check it out again.  

Hey Duck - Carin Bramsen - This was another library find.  It is just a fun book great for all kids.  

Tea Rex - Molly Idle  - The library introduced us to this book and author.  She is a clever author.  Tea parties and dinosaurs = Tea Rex and a ton of fun!

Hermelin The Detective Mouse - Mini Grey  - I have to admit this is MY FAVORITE.  Again we found this at the library and like Molly Idle, Mini Grey is a fun kids' book author.  She has several great books, but this one is still my favorite.  

A Froggy Fable - John Lechner - This is an older book and was one we discovered at the library.  We finally found a used edition on Amazon Prime and love to read it.  It is a great life-lesson book.  

Otis Book Series - Loren Long - This is not just a series we discovered at the library but we kept waiting for new books to be released.  We currently own 4 of the books in the series, but they are just wonderful!  We also found an Otis stuffed animal on Amazon as well, and my son loves it while we are reading the books.  

Max Spaniel Dinosaur Hunt - David Catrow - This book was a special library find because the author is from Springfield, Ohio where I grew up.  I love clever authors and we are excited to read other books in this series.  This dog is so cute.  

Skippyjon Jones Series (we love Lost In Spice) - Judy Schachner  -  Skippy Jon Jones is a fun cat who things he is a dog, a chihuahua to be exact.  Many books come with CD's so that is also a great bonus too! 

Stranger in the Woods and the rest of the Woods Series by Carl R Sams II & Jean Stoick  - We got this book as a gift from my mom and it is filled with beautiful nature photos and a cute story to go along with it.  We just found two other books in the series at the library and brought them home to read.  We are having fun seeing the connection between the books.  

Chapter Books:

Timmy Ninja - Henrik Tamm - Our library has a new release section just as you enter the kid section. We were exploring one day and found this book.  It is a Swedish author and there are 3, soon-to-be 4 books in the series, however, this is the only one I can find translated in English so far.  This cat ninja and his friends work with a magical toy maker to find the souls that have been stolen from children.  Okay so that sounds a bit strange but it is a fun book to read.  We loved it! 

Charlotte's Web - E.B. White - This was the first chapter book we read together.  Its a classic and there is a reason for that! It is great! 

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot Series - Dav Pilkey and Dan Santat -  We discovered this series in the new release section at the library, but since there is a lag when books arrive to the library we ended up buying the new ones as they came out.  Each book in the series follows Ricky Ricotta and his Mighty Robot as they fight an enemy from each planet.  I also love that the main characters are named after characters in "I Love Lucy." 

Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales - Elizabeth Rudnick (New Release)  - This just came to the library and we started reading this before we head to see it in theaters.  So far its a great hit each night before bed.  

The House at Pooh Corner - A.A. Milne - This was one of our early chapter books and it was also a hit.  Winnie the Pooh is great for kiddos.  

Chronicles of Narnia Series - C.S. Lewis - We've seen the movies and love the books as well, especially since some weren't turned into a movie.  This is great for growing creative minds.   


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Three Things That Annoy Me About Prayer

I am a Christian.  I believe Jesus was more than just a man.  I believe he was and is the Savior of the world.  He came to not only give us life but take out our enemy and give us what we needed to defeat him.  Our enemy is real.  I believe prayer is a powerful weapon.

Its one often ignored and many who claim to be a Christian don't honor the power of this weapon.  When we come against injustice, we use our mouth to speak up, and that is amazing, but it can't do all that prayer can.  Because of the power of prayer there are three things when it comes to prayer that really annoy me.

1. De-valued Greeting 

When you pass someone on the street, "Hi, how are you?" has become the standard greeting, rather than a question.   The auto response is always, "good, and you?" No one is really asking how you are - your presence is merely just being acknowledged. Honest answers are only okay in a more intentional setting like over coffee or lunch. 

Prayer requests have become the passing salutation in the Christian world.  People often say, "I will pray for you," but it rarely ever goes past that.  When we say we will pray, we need to actually spend time talking to the father about that person, their life and God's purposes for them. 

Honestly, if we prayed for everyone we said we would, I'm not sure we'd have time for much else.  Luckily, if you become a person of prayer, you will soon find, while you do need quiet time to pray, prayer is also a good multi-tasking job.  I can pray for people as I pass them on the street or stand in line hearing the heartache in their exasperated pleas with their children.  Prayer is a beautiful way to find connection in this world and we are selling that blessing short when we just post a praying hands emoticon and feel like we've done our spiritual duty. 

2. Mimicked Fortune Teller 

I have been to Christian churches of all varieties and see benefits to the stoic practices of groups like Lutherans as well as the more demonstrative practices of denominations like Assemblies of God.  We can experience God in a variety of ways and I love the balance I get from the spectrum.  I don't speak in tongues often in public (like maybe a few times total in my life), but do I use this spiritual tool in my solitary prayers often.  I am not offended or freaked out when I hear others utilizing this gift, yet some certainly abuse it.  This abuse is not okay.  I have had people pray over me that don't know me.  Some have prayed a surprising prayer that definitely echoes the heart of God and speaks to their strong connection with the Almighty.   Others have prayed and I experience just the opposite.  They begin to get this word from God that is completely NOT GOD! 

I recently had someone pray for a body part that has no issues and I could see them look for non-verbal feedback to that prayer and when my body language did not confirm the accuracy of that prayer they tried to re-speak it in some spiritual terms.  I immediately felt off-put by their seemingly forced spirituality.  Others go to praying folk as a way to get answers like prayer is some sort of fortune telling.  It is not and that is not its purpose.  Prayer is connection with God and he does speak to us in prayer but he isn't going to give you the winning lottery ticket numbers or let you know what your dead aunt is doing.  If you see someone treating prayer this way, run, just run!

3. Powerless Scrip

I have no problem with written prayers.  There is a time and place for it.  Like I said before there are many ways to connect with God and utilizing those when appropriate is a blessing, however, prayer is at its core, a conversation.  We are speaking to an All-Powerful God who is also our father and an ever-present guide in our lives.

The main purpose of Christianity is relationship.  So I get annoyed when I see people constantly reading prayers and have no ability to just communicate with God from their heart. If you had a friendship that you interacted with by reciting pre-written conversation points, it wouldn't be a close relationship and probably wouldn't last long.  I call my friends or meet up with them and we just talk about life.  That life adds to the strength of our relationship.  I do pray scriptures when I talk to God but I am connecting those to the real-life happenings of my life or the lives of others.  We lose the power when we just read prayers and don't have that open, heart-felt, real communication.

Don't miss out on all God has for you in the area of prayer.  Praying out-loud with a group of people can be scary but its something we should practice doing so we can grow in comfortability, because if someone comes to us for prayer, taking the time to pray with them can be a HUGE blessing.  However,  most of our prayer time should be one-on-one before God.


New to prayer?  Here are 3 things to help.

1. Start small: take 5 minutes in the morning, on your lunch break or before bed to just tell God about your day or about the things that have you stressed in life.  Ask him to take those burdens, and invite him to meet you in that place.  Allow God to train you.  As you become more confident you can make that time longer.

2. Practice praying silently throughout the day.  When you see someone hurt or hear an ambulance nearby, pray God healing.  When you see someone stressed out, ask God to relieve their stress and train them to run to Him.  The opportunities are endless in our world.

3. Train yourself on Prayer.  Do a word study in the Bible (search out all the scriptures that have the word prayer or pray in them).  Find resources that teach on prayer.  I just found a great devotional by Ann Spangler on Praying the Names of God.  That is a great way to learn about God and prayer, but there are a ton of Christian books out there on the subject.