Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Home "making" -- A Time Investment

I had just finished sharing about the womanly privilege of edifying husbands and building homes. We looked at Proverbs 31, Genesis 2, 1 Cor.11.9 "...nor was man created for the woman, but the woman for the man," and more.

She apprehended me in the lady's room. "All those things you shared today are okay if you don't work full time. But I do. He gets home before I do. I walk in the door at 6:00pm to find 6 kids who all have questions for me, and dinner is waiting to be made. He's already been home for a while. Shouldn't he be helping me? How am I supposed to do what you talked about?"

Sigh. This question about how to juggle all these duties is a common one. Women's magazines have been trying to supply solutions for years now. Articles about managing an office and a home are prolific. It is a tricky dilemma, indeed.

But the greater difficulty is that we don't even see the problem, the inconsistency with the Word of God. Her husband is unhappy, feeling worthless in all that he does at home (he told her as much.) The kids are restless and needy, unable to help. Who will stop and fill the gap? Who should? God has already supplied that answer. She was made for him.

"Have you asked your husband how he feels about your work? Does he agree that it is assisting him in his calling from God? Does he feel it is helping him accomplish that which he has been called to do -- to raise up a future generation who knows God and loves Him, to serve in the local church, and to extend the kingdom of heaven here on earth?"

In our present culture, many husbands are in the same quandry because they want their wives in the work force -- that second income has become vital. They believe their wives should be heavily contributing to the household budget. But isn't it possible that there is something more valuable for a woman to contribute than a second income, even if that second income is the bigger one? (Is it possible that such a situation in itself could be detrimental to a husband?) What eternal treasure could she be contributing instead?

Perhaps we should have a course on Titus 2 for men as well so that they can understand the demands of building a home. Husbands and wives alike must be renewed in their thinking. Women need to be encouraged in this calling and husbands need to release them to it. May we see it happening more and more.

"Lord, let your word go forth in power to your people this day. Help us to apply it in very practical ways in our homes, marriages, relationships, work places, and in our hearts. We are a desperate people, for sure. But You, oh God, are a great and mighty God who delights in teaching us Your Holy ways. Lead us, this day, into truth and holiness. Be glorified in all we do. Amen."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Home "making" -- Building a Refuge

"My home isn't like this," she said. Sitting across the candlelit family room in my comfy "chair and a half" she sipped her tea and nibbled on the homemade pumpkin cake before continuing. "Your home is . . . peaceful."

A quick moment of reflection led me to realize that she wasn't referring to quietness or lack of activity, for even as we spoke her daughter and several others were gathered at the kitchen table, laughing -- loudly (around here we take the scripture quite literally regarding doing all things heartily as unto the Lord!) At the same time there was a steady stream of newcomers through the front door. Meanwhile some of my younger children were busy getting ready for bed. No, there was no absence of sound or activity.

She answered my thought. "There's no contention here. We have contention -- between him and the kids, the kids with each other, me and . . . Well, the oldest one has really changed and that has been such a blessing. I can't believe it."

Her oldest one received the Lord and the baptism in the Holy Spirit this fall. That does introduce a change, no doubt! And now the mom is being stirred to revisit a relationship with Jesus that started when she was a school girl but has long since been set on the shelf. But back to the issue of "making" a home.

A Godly home is a center of ministry by simply existing. It is not a program, not scheduled, not expensive (well . . . mine costs more than a tent, but a tent could work if you wanted it to!) It simply exists -- at all times, for whoever comes in the door. Apart from a piece of pumpkin cake or a cup of tea, there is no extra cost involved: no text book, no white board, no overhead projector or meeting room fee. It's all there, waiting to be experienced by the needy, the weary, or the broken hearted. We've all been in places of need; some of us have been privileged to then partake of the ministry of a Godly home. Ah -- peace, comfort, wisdom.

In this day and age, many terms such as "home" and "family" are redefined, and Biblical perspective is not a part of current definitions. A family is a group of people living together who care for each other. Wrong! And that was written by a Christian author! God's idea is a bit more defined: a husband and wife in covenantal relationship, raising up Godly children, all living according to Biblical principles. It is designed to be a reflection or picture of heaven itself.

Is there a desperate need to reclaim this definition and practice? Absolutely! One encounter with a Godly home can cause the unbeliever to wonder and, prayerfully, even to thirst. And within those walls fellow believers will find a respite from the battle. What a privilege to serve them in this way.

Is God looking to enlist strong Godly women who will take the charge to be a keeper at home seriously? Definitely! We need to keep and protect our homes from the enemy's influence, rejecting every new fangled definition and paradigm. We must make homes that overflow with His presence and model His plan. If we don't, who will?

Did I say strong women? Yes! This is not an easy calling. We are going against the current of all that today's culture is promoting. We will be the "rare bird", the odd man out, if you will. Standing strong against the flow is imperative, and so very essential.

Will He equip me to do this daunting task? Of course! In all actuality, we can't do it without Him. Let go of all your own ideas and let Him teach you. Ask and He will give all you need; wisdom, energy, plans, and training. Really -- He will!

Society around us is floundering, grasping at new inventions, not knowing that they have abandoned the thing He calls good. Why didn't it work for them? For the same reason it is failing in so many situations today. Even Christians will not automatically have homes free from contention apart from the Holy Spirit. His fruit is guaranteed only to those who abide. Yield to Him and His leading, take His yoke upon yourself and learn to walk in His Holy ways.

The world is desperately looking and waiting.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Home "making" -- Settling Your Heart

When recently taking a fresh look at Titus 2:3-5, I paused to consider the charge to be "homemakers" or "keepers at home", a sorely needed ministry in our day and age. A look at the "immoral woman" of Proverbs 7 , also known as "the wayward wife" in the NIV, brought renewed perspective on the call to keep our hearts firmly planted at home. Homemaking is to be our primary ministry. When our feet are missing from the halls of our homes too much, trouble is soon afoot (couldn't resist that one.) See what the Good Book has to say about the wayward and immoral woman who is absent from her home (with added emphasis):
  • Proverbs 7:11, 12 She is loud and defiant, her feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks. NIV
  • Proverbs 7:11, 12 She was the brash, rebellious type who never stays at home. She is often seen in the streets and markets, soliciting at every corner. NLT
  • Proverbs 7:11, 12 Brazen and brash she was, restless and roaming, never at home, Walking the streets, loitering in the mall, hanging out at every corner in town. The Message
  • I know that it is easy in this culture -- and more and more necessary -- to be busy away from the coziness of our abode, to become what is kiddingly known as a "roadrunner"; but let this scripture be a warning to us all. When our time and energy investments become greater in any place other than home, we endanger ourselves, our families, and those homes. Jesus said that where your treasure is there will your heart be also. When you invest your time and energy, your heart soon follows. Your heart will become divided or even given to something other than your home and family. Look around you -- this effect is everywhere present; women are torn between career and family, self-fulfillment and service, independence and dependence.

    I experience this sensation when I involve myself in a season of service outside my home. I must say that it is easy to be drawn away to a world where there may be greater self satisfaction, a sense of instant gratification, and more accolades. Let's not kid ourselves. There is a reason why women throughout time have run from the homefires. There are seasons of great fulfillment in keeping a home, it is true. But there are just as many seasons of plain ol' hard work. Raw commitment may need to be drawn upon more than once.

    Does this mean we shouldn't involve ourselves with any outside matters or projects? Remember the Proverbs 31 woman -- she ministered to the poor, she was active in the market place, she purchased a vineyard. These were all beyond her own doorstep. The key, as always in the kingdom, is your heart. Don't allow it to wander. Reign it in when it becomes distracted. Be honest in your assessments of where your affections lie and do what you must to bring them back home.

    Living in this day and age requires more time away from the home than perhaps was once standard fare. Choose your commitments and activities carefully, nurture your heart for hearth and home, guard the treasure of family and that place of refuge that should be found within your walls. If you necessarily have been through a busy season, cut back outside activity as soon as possible so that you and yours can re-establish those ties to home and family. It is vital for you and for them.

    Why should we busy ourselves with making homes front and center? What's wrong with the changes that are prevalent in our society today? We'll talk about that next time!

    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    True to True (see previous post)

    Yesterday afternoon I pulled out two score books from High Button Shoes, the show I am directing this spring, and began to pound away at the keys of the piano in a meager attempt to hear what the musical score sounded like. And meager is most definitely a correct description. I encountered key signatures that had previously only existed in my theory book (okay, that was a bit of an exaggeration, but these are not everyday key signatures, trust me!) The pages are tattered and yellowed and the handwritten notation challenged even my dear friend, an accompanist par excellence. As she played through the pieces earlier today she would pause, with some regularity I might add, scrunch up her nose to heighten the effect of her already quizzical expression, and blurt out, "What is that supposed to be? Is that a sharp or a natural sign? And what key are we in now? There is no key signature listed here!" Whoever penned this one, left a bit to the imagination. Ah! The era of manuscripted musical scores was an interesting one, indeed.

    But I was soon catapulted back into the 21st century -- I received a package shortly afterwards addressed to dear hubby. The return label was some sort of education outfit. What could this be? I opened it (I take such liberties, I'm afraid) and there was his new computer program, Sibelius, a tool for writing music quickly and neatly! Hopefully his band students won't have to search for lost key signatures and wonder at the meaning of certain symbols. Ah! The era of computer generated musical scores is also an interesting one.

    Later I snuggled under the covers -- it is officially chilly in the north country -- with my most recent book, The Medicis: Godfathers of the Renaissance. It is a fascinating read for those who love history. Or people. Or God's working throughout the ages. Or power. Or money. Or the Renaissance. Or Italy. Let's just say it includes all of these things. This Medici clan was some family. In the text we follow them through 400 years of influence as we see Western culture transition from Medieval paradigms to Renaissance thinking. Let it suffice to say that my education about them was deficient; many missing links are falling in place. Fascinating. I will be getting the video with the same title in the next few weeks. I can hardly wait!

    Today I will bake cookies, grocery shop, attend the wedding/reception of my daughter's violin teacher, gather with college students on campus for a meeting as another daughter leads a worship band, and head home to prepare for a Sunday school class on Titus 2. Doesn't look like there will be much time for High Button Shoes or The Medicis. But some of the tunes have already stuck in the memory bank, so I may be humming a snatch here and there. And images of Cosimo and Lorenzo ruling in their 1450 Florence, Italy are still floating through my mind. So if you catch me dreaming just snap me back to reality. As long as I don't have Cosimo Medici dressed in high button shoes and a boater hat, we will be all set!

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    True Confessions

    I love Friday School.
    I love teaching choir.
    I love laughing with the kids.
    I love singing with them and helping them learn their parts.
    I love playing through a musical theater score with my favorite accompanist and dreaming about costumes, sets, choreography, and everything that goes with it.
    I love working with the kids.

    I love it all!

    So in spite of coming home exhausted and wasted for the remainder of the day (I will soon retire to my room with said musical score and matching script to spend some more time dreaming of great productions or I will continue reading my latest historical text, The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance -- at any rate, I will not be producing alot of work -- unless mental effort counts) I must say,

    I love being a choir director at Friday School!

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    Harvest Time

    I thought she said it wonderfully. A seasoned mom -- is that an okay thing to say, Helen? -- was comparing the reaping and sowing we do as mothers with planting and harvesting a garden. There is a season to reap the harvest and a season to sow the seed.

    We live in the age of convenience. In our culture we are accustomed to having apples and oranges year round or roses whenever we want them. But in God's economy, such delights were only intended to be enjoyed in their season. We've been not only spoiled, but have lost touch with the reality of seasonal fruits. Gone also is the idea of working without instant reward. We have forgotten that some things take time.

    There are seasons of motherhood where, as she so aptly said, there is no give and take. Well, there is -- mother gives, gives, and gives while they take, take, and take. That is by His design. It is the season of sowing, tending, weeding, and watering. There is no fruit on the vine. Maybe a small bud is developing, but full grown fruit is yet in the form of promise. But for those who labor faithfully -- and prayerfully, for most certainly He brings the increase -- the time to harvest will come. Most assuredly, it will come.

    So look to the harvest, moms and dads -- look ahead, labor accordingly, and your reward will come in abundance. The lord of the harvest will be faithful to bring a bountiful ingathering.

    Saturday, October 07, 2006


    Tonight found me in the front room of what once was Stockholm's Post Office and General Store listening to a grand piano pour forth the musical strains of Chopin and Prokofiev, among others. The charming old building is in the process of rennovation and the first floor now is home to Dr. Paul Wyse, a professor of piano performance at the Crane School of Music. And this once public area is now his living room. A favorite young man was participating in a semi-private piano recital being hosted by Paul. Julia and I were fortunate enough to be able to attend.

    Before the playing commenced I sat in my seat, taking in the uniqueness of my surroundings. The original shelves and drawers were still in place, the hardware burnished and true to period. Just inside, above the front double glass door, was the sign which at one time hung outside, declaring to every visitor in town that this was the place for letter postings as well as for purchases of penny candies and drygoods. I couldn't help but imagine the shelves stocked with wares and the shopkeeper's hands which regularly touched these drawer pulls, proudly extracting each specially asked for commodity. And over there, where the kitchen counter now stands I imagined the postal counter. As I looked down, I wondered how many feet had strolled across these wooden floors and what other paths those same feet had followed. This was the meeting place of many neighbors and friends, possibly for generations. Somehow that always astounds me.

    Soon the music began. I sat among afficionados -- people far more educated and trained in this art form than I. There were people of prestige as well. Just ahead of me sat the president of Potsdam State with his wife. Looking back I recognized various music professors. The couch had been reserved for a dear choral master, long since retired, and his ever faithful lifelong companion. How is it possible that they are still at every performance I manage to attend here in the North Country? Next to them sat the head of ONNY's board whom I had just met. And then there was me. Together we all quieted to hear the music which was at last beginning. We enjoyed duets, movements of concertos, and even some original pieces by Arthur Frankenpohl, a longtime Potsdam resident and composer. Ah! Beautiful. It is hard to beat fine music in a setting like this.

    We mingled and visited a bit. I don't cross paths with these folks often so I wanted to catch up with the ones I know. We shared stories and cookies before saying our thank you's to the host and giving final farewells to new and old acquaintances.

    So now my footsteps have walked that floor. They have been added to the multitude of those from another time. I wonder who else will contribute their step and their conversation in this place? And more importantly, who else will bring with them the Spirit of the One True God?

    I shared my life in small measure, for a brief moment this evening, with these people with whom I share a common love of beautiful music. I prayed that my feet would be shod with the gospel of peace. And I prayed that I would reflect His great goodness.

    Maybe, just maybe, my footprints will have a lasting impact.

    Friday, October 06, 2006

    Peace In the Midst

    Odds and ends are what you will be getting. When it has been a week since my last post you can be sure that it has been busy. Extraordinarily busy. A few highlights...

    Tuesday found me and a few others at a choice auction in Massena. I had seen the listing in last week's paper and had been announcing it regularly as one of the most promising auctions I had seen in the North Country. I was not disappointed. Hubby had given the nod to do some major purchasing, so that is just what I did. My son-in-law said I wore my "eager beaver" heart on my sleeve a little too much (having the number 1 assigned to you, for instance...) But in spite of the fact that the auctioneer knew my number by heart within 10 minutes of the opening bid, I came away with some great deals. In all, I came home with two cherry drop leaf tables, 6 cherry Windsor chairs, 4 solid ash bow back chairs, two painted junker chairs (the kind you put on your porch), and two upholstered wing chairs -- a gentleman's and a lady's. Oh, I also picked up 11 crystal goblets for those holiday tablesettings. All for super prices. Great fun!

    The family received a long hand-written letter from a certain young lady in Germany that we love and miss. Familiar handwriting is SO special and dear! Nothing beats the old-fashioned sort of communique when you are far from home. Just holding the letter brings on a wave of sentimentality, knowing it was there with her just a short time ago. Definitely special.

    Christian Fellowship Academy (CFA) hosts a homeschool support program on several Fridays each semester. Today was the start up of the fall session. For my own kids it meant locating proper uniforms and packing lunches, gathering instruments and gym clothes, and heading out the door for adventure. For me it meant teaching choirs and all that it entails: choosing songs, coordinating music with a daughter who is teaching a younger group, making oodles of copies, and practicing the tricky parts before presenting the material. But it is so much more. I absolutely love working with the kids. I mean that I love it. And on top of how great they all are, they sounded terrific, too! This will be a wonderful choir -- a real joy to direct and watch perform.

    The fall promises to be a bit of a whirlwind when I view the schedule. What I thought would be a relatively simple calendar has somehow become filled to almost overflowing, all with things that Rick and I feel certain are from His hand. That means that He will enable. It also means keeping my eyes on Him and not my calendar or surroundings. I tend to forget that. I look instead at the days crowding together and demands pressing in. "Look up, Dar. Your peace is in Him. Your strength is found when you look up." Oh, yeah. If I lose my focus, someone, please, remind me. He is my peace, always and forever.

    Isn't He so very good?