Monday, April 21, 2008

Matthew 25:1-13

This year I have been reading Matthew in my daily devotions. For January I read chapters 1-7, February found me in chapters 8-14, March was camped in chapters 15-21, and in April I've been working through the final 7 chapters. Today I was particularly interested in the parable of the 10 virgins.

I remember, as a young girl (around 9 or 10), the older girls of our church (15-17 year olds) presenting a drama that was basically an enactment of this parable. It gripped me deeply, as I felt the plight of the foolish virgins in their despair of finding the door locked, and the bridegroom saying, "I do not know you." These words echo Matthew's earlier recount of another of Christ's lessons in Matthew 7:22-23: On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'

In meditating on Matthew 25:1-13, several analogies needed clarification in my mind, as I was trying to understand this parable.
1. Who are the virgins?
2. What are the lamps?
3. What is the oil?
4. What is meant by "became drowsy and slept"? (My first thought: this represents our daily lives on earth, as we are waiting for the bridegroom, Christ's, return.)

In addition to learning what Christ was pointing to with these word pictures of lamps, oil, etc., the admonishment to "watch" is clear at the end of the parable. So I am also seeking to clarify what that exactly entails and requires on my behalf, since it seems to be the point of Christ's story.

As I studied, I came to think that the virgins are people, with the foolish being the unregenerate and the wise being the children of God. In checking out such thoughts I looked into various commentaries and was reminded to note the context of chapters 23 and 24, where Christ is clearly admonishing the scribes/ pharisees and outwardly religious. This adds the dimension of these virgins being people who are preparing themselves for the bridegroom - professing Christians... and this dimension begins to point to what Jesus is meaning by the word, "Watch".

Initially, I thought the lamps which the bridesmaids carried represent our souls. I'm not entirely sure, since Wesley's commentary suggested "faith" as the lamp,... with the oil representing faith that is working by love. In my spirit, this was not what I understand the text to be saying... that we need to "watch" by 'working out our salvation with fear and trembling,' or by keeping ourselves in the faith. I believe the Father does this by the power of the Spirit (John 17:11, Gal.3:3) . I saw the oil to be the gospel, or "saving grace" as MacArthur described, in his sermon. This clarified the "trimming of their lamps" as the preparing virgins examining themselves and preparing to meet God.

At this point of the parable, there is a clear separation between those that are found ready and those that are wont of oil. Why couldn't the virgins share their oil, I kept wondering. If it's the gospel, surely they could share? This question clarified for me that indeed, the oil is saving grace - which cannot be given from one person to another, but must be received individually from God Himself through faith in Jesus Christ by the Spirit.

However, the alarming part of this story is that there will be a day when the door will be closed and it will be too late to have a lamp lit for the bridegroom. This clarifies Jesus' words to "watch" all the more. Dear fellow pilgims of this world, please let us each examine ourselves to see that we are in the faith. These words should be especially serious to all of us who proclaim to be Christians. We must make sure that our lamps are lit with God's grace, and not that we THINK we are part of the many who will be saved (Matt.20:28) and yet are part of the many mentioned in Matt.7:21-23.

Please join me today, and take a moment to look at the fruit of our lives. Let's examine ourselves, while we have today, so that we too will be ready for our bridegroom with our robes of righteousness in place and holding the oil of saving grace in preparation.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Morning Check-List

About a month ago, I was talking with my sister on the phone about getting children ready for school. She had just welcomed baby #4 into their home and was trying to figure out how to help her older children make it to the school bus without the continual nagging that had become habitual in their home between 7 and 8 am. They had begun using a morning check-list and said it was working really well.

So I considered our morning routine, and decided to try something similar, which I've been enjoying for a lot of reasons.

1. Now my boys are becoming more independent with their dressing, hygiene, room maintenance and bible time.
2. It establishes a routine that they can do without my help.
3. It frees me up to get things ready for the day, and spend time doing some of my chores.

So this is what I've got on our chart in the bathroom, with stickers to mark each day:

Get Dressed
Make Bed
Tidy Room
Brush Teeth
Wash Face/Hands
Brush Hair
Personal Bible Time

At the end of this, they are ready to head downstairs and start the day.

I've been encouraged by doing this. Maybe everyone else has a more regular life so that these things occur more naturally. I have found the chart to be a real help in reducing my nagging, and in directing their minds in activity. Hopefully we can keep it up, and expand this to include some other helpful habits.

Housekeeping Chores for Children

Last weekend we were at a homeschooling conference, which was helpful for me on many fronts.

About a month ago, I set up a schedule for chores and was trying to stick to it. The keynote speakers at the conference were Steve & Teri Maxwell. They have 8 children and have written 2 books about scheduling - one geared on homeschooling multiple children and another geared towards chores. Two weeks into our new "Team S---- Housekeeping Chart", I had been experiencing some "blips" and was thankful for their advice along the way. At the end of the one session, devoted to chores, I was particularly encouraged to keep at it with my boys - despite the "reminding" and "quality control" that needs to be part of the whole endeavour.

I have found one of the most difficult parts of setting up the schedule was finding age- appropriate tasks for my boys to do. Here's a list of the chores they have:

7 year old son (Monday) feed cats, gather laundry, sort laundry, put away laundry
(Tuesday) feed cats, vacuum kitchen, dust lampshades
(Wednesday) feed cats, empty garbages, polish shoes
(Thursday) feed cats, wipe bathroom counters, gather library books
(Friday) feed cats, clean french doors, wipe mirrors
(Saturday) feed cats, clean out van, vacuum main floor & kitchen

5 year old son (Monday) dust railings, put away laundry
(Tuesday) wipe doors (week 1) wipe knobs (wk 2), wipe window frames (wk3)
(Wednesday) wipe baseboards
(Thursday) dust door jams
(Friday ) wipe cupboards (week 1 - kitchen, wk 2- bathrooms, wk 3- bookcases)
(Saturday) tidy garage, tidy shoes
We have yet to make it successfully through a whole week, but we're getting there... and I'm noticing that the boys are mastering the chores bit by bit. Now they are starting to complain less, and accepting their jobs as part of the "Team", and they're becoming familiar with supplies, etc.

Some of the things I have learned:
- pay attention to SAFETY ( a good reminder for me from Steve Maxwell).... I especially like vinegar and water as cleaning ingredients, paired with a good cleaning cloth from the dollar store
- try to choose chores that are age-appropriate... I'm still figuring this out
- be clear in teaching the task and expectations
- inspect the chore after it's complete.... Teri Maxwell mentioned this. I was thankful to learn that this can be an excellent opportunity for me to affirm my sons, as they complete tasks properly. Without this inspection time, I generally only notice when a chore is NOT completed well... and that means only giving negative feedback, which I want to counteract with positive words.
- try doing chores after lunch but before play time.... I have tried doing chores before homeschooling, and found we were using up their best brain time to "dust railings". For the last 2 weeks, we do our morning checklist, homeschool, lunch, chores, and then play time. I find the incentive to stick with chores is exceptionally high at this time, since playtime is the desirable reward at the completion of chores.

These are only my findings thus far. In the coming weeks I want to try out the Maxwells' "ChorePack" idea. If it works, I'll post on it FYI.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Never walk. Strut.

Never walk... Strut!

These words accentuated this advertisement which I encountered driving into the big city on Saturday. Here is the picture that accompanied those big, bold words. It made my mind think of the phrase, "to strut like a peacock". This, in turn, took my mind to Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.

How our society would love women to strut. The continual fascination to pursue what "we deserve," to "love ourselves," to "believe in ourselves," are all enticements towards the pride that so easily takes residence in a heart... such as mine. Though I desire to walk humbly, quietly, with grace and truth, and with love, the greatest obstacle in my feeble soul is my pride, and that remnant of sin which seeks to usurp God from residing as Great One within me.

Last week's coffee cup verse is true help in such a war - Do not love the world, or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For the things in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of possessions (NASB - the boastful pride of life) are not of the Father, but are of the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 Jn.2:15-17).

Praise be to God, "who... with the temptation will provide the way of escape also." We do not need to buy into the world's call to strut. We can set our eyes on the things above and these lusts will pass away.

Coffee Cup Verse

Psalm 73:25-26

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Mud Fight

The best fun is often not planned - possibly even among the ordinary, everyday work. This was our experience on Wednesday afternoon.

My sons and I began some chores down by our pond. When our house was built, the previous owners used re-claimed bricks (from the inside of old bank vaults) to build the front steps and front window box. The extras were thrown down by the pond, and covered with composting tree branches, grass clippings, etc.

Three years ago, we added a large shed to our back yard, and I've been thinking up some ways to use these bricks to finish up the front of the shed. So, Wednesday we began to dig up some of these bricks, and to haul them with wheelbarrows to the garden.

While mommy was working up a sweat, the boys began to get distracted with the pond's edge. Although the pond is still frozen, the sides of the pond, are melting and beginning to become a little muddy. To keep them occupied and out of my way (since I realized pretty quickly that these bricks were far too heavy to expect them to help me), I suggested they get their dump-trucks from the sandbox, and play in the soft dirt.

It didn't take long for the trucks to be tossed aside, and the mud was "explored" with feet and boots. The embankment is fairly steep, so part of the fun was slipping down. Naturally, a mud fight ensued, and at the end of it all, mommy just had to get some photos to remember the fun.

I'm still cleaning up some of the mess, but for the boys, it was the best chore-time of the week, I'm sure.