The Land of Boys

Learning to live in a house full of testosterone

History and Heritage

The boys somewhat recently studied a dark time in our nation’s history-The Civil War.

We read about it, watched a documentary, and listened to music of the era. To tell the truth, I didn’t like studying about it very much. The death toll was astronomical.  The suffering that was felt by so many people at the time will forever darken our nation’s history.

One night while we were in the car, we starting talking about the war and the conversation drifted into wondering if any of our ancestors were in the war. Mark accused my family of being part of the Free State of Winston.  Granted, that might explain why 2/3 of my children have always said they would be on the Union side if they lived at that time, but no. I knew (or at least really strongly believed) that MY family could not be Yankee traitors. I knew my family had lived in Alabama well before the war, but truthfully I had no idea if they were any Confederate veterans in my lineage or not.

Mark and I started talking about how we really don’t know that much about our ancestors. I have been told that my ancestors were Dutch and Cherokee. I have always assumed that Mark’s family hailed from Ireland, given that their last name looks Irish. So, we decided to try a free trial on Ancestry.com. Wow! That website is a goldmine of information. We have been able to find all kinds of people that we are related to. Neither of us can brag  that we have found royal blood (although, at a family reunion someone had done years of research to find out Mark is descended from Charlemagne), but we have found preachers, soldiers, farmers (everything from rich plantation owners to barely able to feed their own households), veterans, New England Puritans, mayors, colonists, bootleggers, rich, poor, middle of the road and everything in between. I learned that some people in my family participated in a DNA project and found out we are descended from Vikings. (arrrgh!)

I was able to prove Mark wrong about my ancestors defecting to the Yankees. The following story was attached to one of my relatives:

                              The Childress Brothers Go To War

Six brothers and possibly several brothers-in-law served in two companies of the 29th Alabama Regiment. David James, Joel B. and Robert Brown were in Company H.. David James and Joel B. were wounded. David James was shot in the leg and Joel B. was shot in the jaw. David James was captured and sent to prison in Illinois for awhile. Robert Brown was captured in Nashville and sent to Louisville. Thomas, Reuben and Weldon E. were assigned to Company D., also known as The Bibb Rifles. Joel served in this company as well as in Company H.. Reuben survived, but Weldon died at home while he was on sick furlough.Thomas was listed as a deserter on the roster. One Civil War historian explained that it was common for soldiers to leave the war-front, go home to plant crops or check on family members and then return to battle.  I have found a website that says that Thomas died of disease in a hospital in Montgomery. I have not checked this out yet.

Seeing as how the deserter was my direct ancestor, I tried to look further. I found out that he was 6’1″, had black hair and eyes, and a dark complexion. That fits most of the Childress men.

My grandfather, Bill Childress, great-grandson of Thomas Childress.

He died in a hospital of unknown disease in February of 1862. His youngest child (of four) was born in August of that same year. The oldest of the children was 6. I wish that I could find the story of how his wife and children survived after his death. I know where his widow is buried, but I do not know if he is there, too.

Knowing our heritage has been interesting for our whole family. We found out that Mark had an ancestor that actually died in the Civil War.  The 150th anniversary of the battle where he died  will be next Fall. We have enjoyed seeing how many generations of Biblical names we have found. TONS of Benjamins. Here’s one:

Gran and Papa Downs

Lots of Samuels. Only a few Nathaniels.

Knowing where we came from can be interesting,but it can also have it drawbacks. Reading wills of people who died in the 1700′s can often include instructions of what to do with their slaves. If that isn’t bad enough, hearing stories about alcoholics, bootleggers, and gamblers can make you want to hang your head in shame. There is something that is comforting, though. When God chose a family to bring His Son into the world, He did not choose a family who was righteous and full of good character.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father ofDavid the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ

The people who God chose as the family line of His Son were not all what one would call the nicest of people. Cheaters, liars, adulterers, and idolaters are a few of the vices on the list. Yet, it is not the sins of our ancestors that counts. It is our own sins that we are accountable for. Just because my Viking ancestors killed and marauded, that does not mean that I will be guilty for their crimes.

I think it is amazing that God can take people who have less than perfect, blue-blood families and make them His own children.

Imitation

It has been said that imitation is the highest form of flattery.  If that is true, Mark must feel very flattered. From our boys’ earliest moments, they have looked to him to know what to be.

Samuel looking at his Daddy

They have often wanted to dress like him…

…whether it is in clothes that just match his….

Little Nathaniel in Mark's clothes

…or actually wearing Mark’s clothing.

The boys with their cousin Chelsea

Samuel in Dad's hat

As they have gotten older, they have mostly stopped the mimicry and turned to more learning to do things from their dear old dad.

Nathaniel learning to tie his own tie

Benjamin learning to grill on his own

Samuel and Mark before a "vermin hunt"

As flattering as it is to be imitated by our kids, we parents have to be careful.  Just who is it that we are imitating? Are we chameleons who blend in with whatever crowd we happen to be a part of? Do we try to act like the people we admire? Do we do the latest things celebrities are doing? Or can we, like the Apostle Paul, say, ” Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:11)

Wow. We as parents have a tremendous responsibility to point our children in the right direction.  Are we doing that? Do our children grow in holiness by imitating our actions, or do they become more worldly the more they act like us? It is something all Christian parents need to ask ourselves.

Brothers

Sometimes I think it is no coincidence that the word ‘boisterous’ sounds like ‘boys’ at the beginning. A house full of boys is going to have moments that are filled with all types of noises. Sometimes the noises are happy-laughter ringing through the halls, singing, the rat-a-tap of feet dancing across the floor… that sort of thing. Then there are times where the sounds do not bring happiness-whining, arguing, stomping… etc. I rue the day it was discovered that gassy sounds could be made with armpits.

One thing I do love about my boys is that regardless how much they get on one another’s nerves, they always love each other, especially in times where things are going tough.Recently, for example, Samuel cut himself. At first it was no big deal to his brothers. I go to bandage up Samuel’s finger and that’s when it happens: He looked at it. Apparently when it happened and while washing his hands, Samuel did not actually look at his finger. Looking at it, he saw blood. Seeing blood made him think about the fact of that was his blood coming out of his body. He does not like the thought of his blood coming out of his body. He went pale. He started getting limp. Mark picked him up and carried him to our room to stretch out. Seeing as how the cut was very near to a joint, we decided that even though it was not a deep cut, he need to be seen by a doctor to determine if stitches were needed. I called our pediatrician, but they said they did not do stitches in the office.  So we started getting ready to head to the Emergency Room. My mother was at our house, so Nathaniel and Benjamin did not have to go with us, thankfully. I told Nathaniel that we were about to go and he was shocked that Samuel was cut that badly. I told him it was not too bad, but we wanted it seen about anyway. When I went in Benjamin’s room to tell him, he was rocking back and forth on his bed. Before I even said anything he burst out, “Is Samuel going to be alright?” I explained that Samuel was fine, but we were going to go to the hospital to see if he needed stitches.  Benjamin’s reaction? His little face went pale and he asked in a trembling voice if it was really that serious. I explained to him that it was not serious, but with the cut being in a bendy place we thought it would be best to let the doctor look at it and decide if it needed help in healing.He asked me if I was sure it wasn’t serious and I told him yes I was sure and he could look at it himself if he wanted. He didn’t want to.

To sum it up, Samuel is fine. He got some glue on his finger (no stitches woo-hoo!!!), a banana split, and a chicken, bean, and rice burrito to boot. He gets out of his turn at doing the dishes for several days. While cutting himself was not exactly fun, he did enjoy the benefits.

When we got home, Benjamin was at he door. He was extra-nice to Samuel the entire night. This is the same kid who will make noises at Samuel just to get on his nerves, or jump out from behind something to scare him.  Those things are done are normal days. On days when things are not going so well, he’s there to help and take care.

I hope they always have that sweetness of of being there in bad times. As they grow up, they might not always be near each other on a regular basis. In times of crisis, I do hope they remain close and loving.

Proverbs 17:17- A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.

 

 

If We Don’t Laugh, We Might Cry

A few days ago, Mark and I were in the car, ALONE, which is very unusual. We used the time to talk about a serious matter. Death. Neither of us are dying, soon, that we know of. We do talk about it every now and then. Death is going to happen to all of us one day. There is no sense in being unprepared when it happens.

Both of us happen to think that sending flowers to the funeral home and decorating graves is somewhat wasteful. We do it for other people, but when we die, we don’t want people to feel like they have to spend their money on flowers. Don’t get me wrong, we have nothing against flowers. We like them. It just seems silly for people to buy us flowers when we are not there to enjoy them. Our bodies may very well be lying there, but we will not be.

1 Corinthians 5:8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

“At home with the Lord. ” Can you imagine what that would be like? We would be seeing things that are much more enjoyable than flowers. Think about it: Gates of pearl, streets of gold, walls of jewels. The building materials there are things we think of as precious and valuable here. But really that is not the most valuable thing about about being in Heaven. Can you imagine seeing God in all His glory and splendor? Seeing the hands that took the nails on the cross? The mere thought of that makes flowers pale in comparison.

So anyway, while we were in the car Mark was saying that if he went first he knew I might want to visit his grave occasionally. He said, “Don’t worry about putting flowers on it a few time a year, for special occasions or anything. Just stop on your way home to have a burger and think of me. “

I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing at that one. That is how my dear husband thinks he will be best remembered. Slabs of beef, fried or flame broiled, in a bun. Don’t forget the ketchup!

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.~ Proverbs 15:13

Still Looking For a Title

Hmm. I just got an email from WordPress that contained my blog stats of 2011. I only posted nine times in the whole year. Seems like an uneventful year, huh? In reality it was a very eventful year. Not all of it was good, but it did have some bright spots.

The year began with a little carry-over of last year. Mark and I  had decided to get in better shape. To help him out, he got new jogging shoes. There is a walking/jogging trail near our home. We would go there (in the freezing cold) to jog and walk. He over did it one day. So he took a few days off. We went to a museum and he did not have a good time. His knee really hurt. Finally after it was still hurting for two weeks, he went to the doctor.  (Keep in mind during this time his dad was having knee replacement. Mark was taking him to the doctor and hospital. He stayed in the hospital the night before his own doctor’s appointment) The doctor thought it was tears in his cartilage causing him pain. He had to go for an X-ray and another test. Turns out he did cartilage damage, but in the doctor’s own words, “That’s not what is actually causing the pain when he walks. He has a fracture.” Egads!! Did not see that coming. Surgery was needed to repair the damage. A few days after the surgery he passed out as a lingering effect of the anesthesia. Guess who had to catch him? That would be me. It was quite scary. I thought for a moment he died. Two months of missed work. I had to pump gas one day. (first time in my life I had to do that)

So that was mid-to late January, February, and early March. Shortly after he healed, he resigned from youth ministry at our church. Seeing as how we lived in the house owned by the church, a house hunt began. Let’s just say we have seen some really seedy looking neighborhoods.

Late March we were going to head out for a little shopping one night. Before we got on the highway, Mark called his parents to check on them. They had JUST tried to call us. Their house was on fire. Faulty wiring had sparked in the wall. They stayed with Mark’s sister while their house was being rebuilt. During that time, we had “church” services in her living room.

In late April a tornado unlike any I remember in my lifetime hit the southeast. We had to spend much of the day hunkered down. During that time we very fortunate. Many people lost their lives, their homes, or other possessions. The only real loss we had was food from the fridge. No power for about a week. Our town’s water department could not pump the water out to people. Our family can survive without power, but lack of water? We hit the road looking for a hotel. We found one about three hours away. It was the last room they had. The boys weren’t thrilled about being ALL in one room. They kept asking why the hotel didn’t have an indoor pool.  Samuel looked on the sign to the place next to us and said, “They have an indoor pool. Why didn’t we stay there?” Hmph! All the times I told him how important it is to read and now the one thing I would like for him NOT to notice, he does.

Finally in May we found the perfect house. We moved out in the boonies. It is very quiet. We live on a one lane, gravelly type road. When I say this house is perfect, I mean the cabinets in the kitchen are even low. I don’t have to climb to get things. :-D

As we were moving, my mother came to help watch the boys while we moved stuff. She was having problems getting around. Her leg had a swollen place on it. Well, in June she was hospitalized for blood clots. No one could understand what was causing her blood to clot. I had earlier in the year found some good coupons for Osteo BIflex. Turns out if you have a blood clotting disorder, you are not supposed to take that stuff. So, for six months I have felt very guilty that I caused her problems.

October and November: Mark’s mother had to go out of state for doctor’s appointments and a brain surgery. Mark and his aunt are the main ones who had to take her. Going out of state means long car rides and overnight hotel stays. Which can get a little interesting with a brain surgery patient.

Now on to December: Turns out my mother has cancer. THAT is what was causing her blood to clot. She had surgery to remove part of her colon and small intestine. We went to see her after her surgery. Samuel passed out from seeing her with all the needles and tubes coming out of her. I had planned to stay with her a few days at the hospital. After the passing out, I almost went home instead. The boys were really forward to having a “guys’ weekend” complete with eating microwave popcorn and NOT making their beds. So I stayed. Somewhere around midnight, my mother went to sleep. I sat down and started a blog. It is still in my drafts. During her sleep, she had a heart attack. Before I even picked up the nurse call button, they had come busting in. She was actually on the cardiovascular unit of the hospital. That is probably what saved her life. They were there quickly and had her revived in just a very short matter of time.

She had to be moved into the CVICU. My family could not have asked for better nurses. The treatment that my mother has received has been top notch. Even after getting out of the ICU she has had nurses and CNAs that have treated her wonderfully.

Her doctor talked to me a good bit. We really don’t have a strong family history of cancer. He asked about her stress level. He actually told me that stress causes cancer. Wow. That was an eye-opener for me. I always seem to be stressing over something. Usually it is things that don’t really matter.  For example, on the way home from the hospital, Mark apologized for not folding towels and placing the pillows on the bed “the right way” (aka MY way).

So I am starting 2012 with a totally different attitude than I normally would. I don’t have any goals of how I am going to change the world, or even just change my  world.  I am determined to be kinder. Mark was amazed that I was talking to strangers at the hospital. He says I am a snob. I’m really not. I generally don’t talk to people I don’t know because, well not knowing them kind of makes it harder to care about them. I don’t say “Hi how are you?” unless I am actually listening to the answer. But I have spoken to strangers, hugged strangers, and prayed for people that I don’t know and will probably never meet. Since being home, I have made it a point to not get worked up over towels on the floor or toothpaste squeezed from the middle. Those things don’t matter. You want to know what I think does matter? Telling the people you love how much you love them. Being there when someone needs you. That’s what is important.

Why Am I Such a Chicken????

One day last week the boys and I were sitting in the hospital waiting room while Mark was having a test done. ( For anyone who knows us, he is fine, everything is okay) The lady at the registration counter asked if we were Mark’s family. I told her yes. She told us that his test would take a while. We already knew that so we had brought books to read. She went on to remark about how well behaved the boys were and how most kids that have to come in are not very nice. (no other kids were around at this point)  Of course, my heart was beaming. Wouldn’t any mother’s?

Fast forward about an hour. Another lady who works at the hospital came in and started talking VERY loudly to a friend who had come in for something. Then a lady came in with four or five kids. All small kids. From a baby that she was carrying up to a five or six year old. I noticed them as they walked by, then not again. All of a sudden, the lady who worked at the hospital (the one who came in talking to her friend) starts yelling at the kids. She said they were NOT to climb on the chairs in the waiting room and they needed to behave if they were going to be there. She then goes back to talking to her friend, very loudly and obnoxiously again. To be fair, I was looking at my book, not the kids. I don’t know what they were doing. All I  do know is that they were not making noise. Obnoxious lady is telling her friend, “Look at that little boy. He is just daring me to say something else.”

I had still not heard a sound from them, other than the baby cooing. So I looked up from my book. The little boy (maybe 18 months or two years old) is sitting there, just smiling at the mean lady.  I watched for a few minutes and the kids were really good. They did fidget a bit, but they are all little kids. They seemed to be sweet children. I think the lady just had a problem with their race. (they were the only non-white family in the waiting room) By this point, other children had been in/ were in the waiting room. Some good, some not so good. So why did she have to embarrass these kids? Why did she continue to talk so loud to her equally loud and obnoxious friend who had a phone that kept ringing with a loud, obnoxious ring tone. She said she did not know how to silence her phone. I really wanted to say something. I wanted to tell her that they were being much more annoying to the other people in the waiting room than that group of children. I wanted to tell her to get her  butt back to her desk so she would not keep people waiting that needed her services. I wanted to say that she was presenting herself in an ugly, racist light. But I didn’t. I am a chicken. Really, what is the worst thing she would have done to me? Body slammed me in a room full of people? Not likely. Talked mean to me? She had already done that to a bunch of kids. The lived through it. I’m pretty sure I could too.

That bit of chickening made me feel bad. It still makes me feel bad almost a week later. It reminds of something that most Christians I know (myself included) are guilty of. We chicken out of sharing the gospel with others. Why do we do that? Jesus commanded us to go and teach: Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Why is it that we shy away from and chicken out of what we are commanded to do? What do we really think is going to happen if we share the gospel? Here in the US, really not much is going to happen. Sure, someone might make fun of you. You might get a reputation as being a religious nut. So, what is so bad about that? Wouldn’t we rather  please God than man? That is the way it should be anyway.  We should want to do the things that please God. We should be telling others about God’s grace and mercy.  I pray that we, the scaredy-cat Christians have the boldness we need to bring God’s message into a dying world.

Without Math We Are Cave Men Eating Mud

That is a statement made by a math teacher on the TV show Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. It is also something that I have to remind my kids of, frequently. Nathaniel really enjoys doing Science. He could read about Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton all day. Benjamin loves to read literature. He reads his own books and sometimes reads Samuel’s. Occasionally I have caught him reading some of Nathaniel’s books. Samuel loves to read history. The gorier the better in his mind. But then math time comes along and they are all asking ,”Can’t I do _______ first?” They sometimes ask how they are going to need math if they are not going to be math teachers. I have started trying to point out ways to them  that math is necessary and useful. Perhaps these reasons for math can be helpful to others, as well.

Scientist. I am always telling Nathaniel that if he wants to be a scientist, he is going to have to learn math and  learn more than the average person. As he gets older he is beginning to see that to progress in his scientific studies (and actually understand what he is reading) he has to know his math. It is not enough to know a particular formula, you need to understand what the formula is saying and how to solve it.

Chef. Sometimes Benjamin says he wants to be a chef. That is great. How he thinks he can get away with being a chef and not knowing how to do math is beyond me. Converting recipes from the metric system is not easy if you do not know what the metric system is . Doubling or tripling a recipe is going to take much less time than mixing one batch right after another. If you do not understand basic math how do you know how much food to prepare in proportion to the number of people you are serving? (These are actually things that apply not only to pros, but home-cooks as well)

Cashier This is something we see on a pretty regular basis. Cashier punches a wrong button on the register and then goes berserk trying to figure out how much customer actually owes. Sometimes the mistake is made after the total is figured up and the customer is paying. Then the cashier panics not knowing how much change the customer is supposed to receive. Some businesses are very strict on their cashiers. A drawer that comes up not matching the total sales can result in probation or even job loss.

Deli clerk People who get meat from a deli often ask for a specific amount. As a matter of fact I asked for 6 ounces of Canadian Bacon once at the Publix Deli.  Their scale measures in hundredths of a pound. I learned this that day. The lady behind the counter looked at me strange when I asked. She sliced one very small piece and placed it on the scale. “Are you sure you only want 6 ounces? Look, this is .06 by itself.”  Six ounces is a little under half a pound so I just asked for a half-pound. (It is .375, in case you are wondering) So now I ask for easy amounts for them to slice.

Seamstress If you are planning to make your own clothes, you need to know how much fabric and accessories are needed. Along the same lines would be making quilts. Quilt making requires careful planning. You need to know how much of each type of fabric is needed for your quilt pattern. The size of the quilt also affects the required amount of fabric.

Order Receiver Say your job is to be sure that orders are received for your place of business. Say they are big orders. It would be easier and take less time to say “Eight rows of boxes each stacked  four high. 32,”  rather than counting out 32 individual boxes.

There are many other ways we could talk about using math in our everyday lives such as balancing our checkbooks, planning a budget, etc.. but for brevity’s sake I’ll think this will have to suffice. I think it is safe to say that math is all around us. We need it to live our lives as productive citizens.

Just How Depraved Are We, Anyway?

Yesterday I heard a sermon that was really good.  It was from New Covenant Baptist Church in Albertville. During the sermon, the pastor made the following statement: “You ought not to have to tell a person,’Don’t cheat with someone else’s wife. Don’t take what is not yours.’ The fact that God had to tell us this an indication that something is wrong.”

Often I have thought that some of the more “out there” laws are proof of humankind’s depravity. I always thought that God should not have to tell us not to touch dead bodies. That is gross. God should not have to tell us NOT to sacrifice our children to idols. That is heinous. There are many sickeningdemented, perverted and just plain WRONG things listed in the Old Testament Law. I think is is easy to get bogged down in some of these and wonder how people could be so evil.

When you really start to think about it, though, why is it just the big things we get amazed about being told not to do. (Or do as in washing ourselves after touching something unclean.) God has poured out countless blessings to us, and yet we repay Him with telling lies,  coveting, and hating people of different cultures. We justify ourselves with thinking that our coveting is ambition, our dislike of foreigners is somehow their fault (they need to act more American or go home) or thinking we only tell “little white lies“. We commit adultery because our spouse “isn’t treating me like he/she should”. We take advantage of those who are weaker than ourselves because it is a dog eat dog world.

How far we fall from what God deserves!! We fall short of what He requires. We are totally, completely, and wholly depraved. From our earliest days, we want what is wrong. We do what is wrong. I have never had to teach my children to lie. I have never taught them to hurt one another, steal, or hate. I clearly remember the first time Benjamin really shocked me with his behavior. He was the most beautiful blue-eyed angel of a baby. His temperament matched his look.  He was calm, sweet, and precious. Then, one day, Nathaniel was playing cars in the living room floor. Benjamin was walking by. He toddled right up to Nathaniel… and kicked him right in the head!!!!! After which he took off running. It was such a surprise to me because he had never done anything like that. He had not been taught: Kick someone when they are lying down. He just did it.

We are like that, too. We do what is wrong, the opposite of good. God gave His very detailed law, to show us that very fact. He is showing us how depraved we are. We would be in such a desperate state if He left it there. Fortunately for us, He made a way for us to be justified.  He sent Jesus to pay for our sinfulness. Without our Savior, we would be doomed. Titus 2: 11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

On Dreams, Denim Skirts, and Fitting In

I had a strange dream a few nights ago.  I dreamed that Mark had been somewhere and when he got home he told me he had a surprise for me. He very excitedly reached into a bag and pulled out… a denim skirt. With a HUGE grin on his face he proclaimed, “So you can fit in with all the other homeschool moms!”

       ******** DISCLAIMER: In case you are not  familiar, someone, somewhere, decided that homeschooling and denim skirts go hand in hand. It’s almost like it is a uniform of sorts. Personally, I feel if we were to have a uniform it would need to consist of a T-shirt that I have. It is red with a big white outline of a stop sign on the front that says “Please STOP talking” But I don’t make the rules. ************

Even in my dream I remember looking at him and thinking, “Excuse me? Has fitting in EVER been high on my priority list?” I woke up right after that. It made me start thinking about some of the things throughout my life that go against the flow. I can remember in elementary school missing two words on spelling tests. They were on different tests, but both in first grade. Color and airplane were the words. I spelled them: colour and aeroplane. Some of my favorite childhood books, such as Paddington and Winnie the Pooh, were British. Personally I think I should have gotten bonus points for being able to spell them in a different language (English, as opposed to American, ha-ha) but alas, I do not make the rules. Once in high school a friend asked me what I watched the night before on TV. It was not the day after The Wonder Years or Quantum Leap so I said I didn’t watch TV the night before, which is what I normally answered when she asked.  She said, “Gah! You never watch anything! You are so weird!” Same girl asked me another time who was my favorite singer. I said Michael Crawford. She said she had never heard of him. She then asked me if he was related to Cindy. I asked  her Cindy who. Friend looked at me as if I had worms crawling out of my head. (Keep in mind I was a teen in the ’90s. Cindy Crawford was only the biggest supermodel the world had ever seen.) My senior year, another friend and I started bringing our lunches in plastic cartoon character lunchboxes. People made fun of us. Still, she kept bring Herself the Elf and I kept bring Beauty and the Beast. You know what happened? Other people eventually started bringing kiddie lunchboxes, too. Not the whole school, mind you, but some people.

I think my whole life God has shaped me into a non-conformist. As Christians, we are not supposed to follow along with the world. We are to be different. (Romans 12: 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.) Going along with the world and worldly things is not our calling. Sometimes what may be popular could also be the very things that God wants us to avoid. Look at the world of entertainment. Some of the most popular video games, songs, books, movies, TV shows, magazines, videos, etc, are very ungodly. They glorify things such as fornication, demon activity, sorcery, witchcraft, drug usage, foul language, cross dressing and so forth. Add disobedience to parents and you have the plot to most of what is considered “Young adult” or “Teen” entertainment. When we are entertaining ourselves with things that we know are are ungodly we are like the people in Romans 1:32Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Wow. That is some strong language to think about. There are songs I used to like. But after listening to them through a filter of being God-approved, I can not seem to enjoy them anymore, such as the Pina Colada Song.  The tune may be catchy, but the lyrics are about two married people who are tired of each other. They each decide to meet someone through an ad in the paper.  In the end, they wind up meeting their new lovers in a bar, only to discover each other. Granted, compared to a lot of music, that may be very tame. It is still not something that I would grow closer to God by listening to, so it is out of my song world.

Another way we are to be different is in how we talk. Ephesians 5:4Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. We need to watch what we say. Our words have immense power.  This verse is not something we should only practice in church, although more and more churches need to be reminded of it. We should remember not to have filthiness, foolishness, or crude joking in our mouths at any time. This includes the internet. I am shocked by some of the things that people will put as a facebook status. I have a friend on there who is an atheist. He is not the one who puts things that make me wish I had bleach for my brain. As a matter of fact, I recently “unfriended” a popular preacher because he has been putting some  comments that were just a little too far “out there”  to be in good taste. Christian friends, we need to watch what we say. You never know who might  be looking, but we do know who IS  looking. God. Psalm 139 7Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,10even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

I could go on about other ways we might lower our standards to fit in. But in the end, do we really want just fit in? Do we really want to be like other people? I don’t. I want to be special. I want to be the me that God made me to be. I do not want to concern myself with worldly preoccupations. The kinds of things I want to be thinking about are listed in Philippians 4:8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Let me leave you with what could be an anthem for all of us non-conformists.

How John MacArthur Ruined Hoarders For Me

Have you ever watched the TV show Hoarders?

It chronicles the struggles that people who hoard undergo as they are faced with the prospect of cleaning up their house and getting rid of things.  That show is somewhat of a train-wreck to me. It is depressing, gross, and sometimes just plain weird. Yet I seem to be drawn to it. Netflix has the whole series on instant watch. I have been watching the early episodes that I missed when they first aired. My family chooses to find other things to do. ;-)

You may be wondering what John MacArthur has to do with anything hoarding related. I have recently been reading his book The Vanishing Conscience. It is not a new book, but it is a very good read. If you do not have it, you can probably get it fairly cheap somewhere. The whole point of the book is sin and more specifically, our reaction to our own sinfulness. The fist chapter, entitled Whatever Happened to Sin? takes a good hard look at psychology and the damage done to our society by making everyone out to be victims of something rather than sinners.

Perhaps the most prevalent means of  of escaping blame is by classifying every human failing as some kind of disease. Drunkards and drug addicts can check into clinics for treatment of their “chemical dependencies” . Children who habitually defy authority can escape condemnation by being labeled “hyperactive” or having ADD (attention deficiency disorder) Gluttons are no longer blameworthy; they suffer from an “eating disorder”. Even the man who throws away his family’s livelihood to pay for prostitutes is supposed to be an object of compassionate understanding; he is “addicted to sex”.

We as a society seem to blame everything on anything but our own sinfulness. It isn’t MY fault. I can’t help it. On Hoarders, many of the people are labled as OCD. I always thought of OCD as leaning more to the direction of perfectionism, but hey, what do I know? They are told by counselors, “It’s not your fault. Something made you this way. Don’t feel bad.” The something that made them this way could be anything: an unhappy childhood, a happy childhood that ended with the death of a parent, being poor, my kids all grew up and moved away so now I have stuff everywhere to take their place. The list goes on and on. They never man up (or woman up) and say, “I buy too much. I never get rid of the stuff I don’t need/use/want. I leave garbage lying around. I do not like to clean my bathrooms. I have no reason to keep going on this way” Of course they don’t say something like that! That would mean they have to take responsibility for their own actions. Nobody wants to that.

But what about us? The non-hoarders. Do we confess our sinfulness as sin? If we are prone to “road rage” do we blame it on ourselves? Of course not. We blame our furiousness and rudeness on other cars. They are to blame for the obscenities/lewd gestures/horn-honkings thrown at them. ( Ephesians 4:26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.) I have to confess about loss of patience… frequently. Perhaps I lost patience with my precious children or husband, or maybe it was some stranger in Wal-Mart. (Going to Wal-Mart is probably not a good thing for trying to uh, avoid thoughts that I might feel sorry about later. ) The bad thing about having to face a lack of patience is when you really look at it in depth. See, 1 Corinthians 13:4  says: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant. If you stop right there it is bad enough. Do I not LOVE my family? Of course I do!! According to that verse I should be patient if I love them.  When you look at 1 John 4 we can see 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love it becomes  clear that love is pretty high on God’s priority list. See, love is not just mushy-gushy romantical feelings. It’s not just that affection we feel toward our children. It is so much more. If you read that verse from 1 Corinthians in its context you will discover:

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Wow. See number six? Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth. That verse has taken away many a TV show, movie, book, and song from my liking. Now, as I try to watch Hoarders  I don’t think about the people as being idiots. I think of them as being unrepentant sinners. I can’t watch that. So, Pastor MacArthur, my husband probably likes you even more now. He always hated that show, anyway.

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