"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." --Titus 2:3-5

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reflections on Matthew 7:21-23

Matthew 7:21-23 was the passage of Scripture that my pastor preached from yesterday, so I thought I would share a little bit about it. In case you don't have your Bible handy, here is the passage: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"

This can be a bit of a haunting passage because there are so many in this world who think they're "okay," but they are very far from God. Some of them, unfortunately, are sitting in the church pews every Sunday! Many others are relying on their church membership to somehow save them. They may not attend church anymore, but they have their name on a piece of paper somewhere, so they think that's enough. Our pastor shared a quote from G. Campbell Morgan, "The blasphemy of the sanctuary is far more awful than the blasphemy of the slum." I agree completely. The people in the church should be the ones shining Christ's light to those around them. The people in the church should be authentic Christians! That in no way means that they are perfect, and I don't believe that's what this passage of Scripture is saying. It does mean, though, that their hearts have been changed by Christ, and they have a relationship with Him. It's not about "religion!" It's about a relationship with Jesus Christ. Americans especially are guilty. We've learned the language and how to "look" like a Christian, doing all sorts of "religious" activities, but it's our hearts that matter to God! It's the same as in the Scripture passage. These people looked like Christians and performed lots of good deeds and even miracles. The problem is that their hearts were far from God.

Am I saying that we shouldn't go to church or do religious activities? Certainly not!! While I know that going to church does not make you a Christian, staying away from the church doesn't necessarily make you a better one. Yes, there are problems with our churches, but that's largely because the church is full of humans! Just because we may be Christians, doesn't mean we're no longer sinners. We are not "sinless," but we should be trying to "sin less." Being Christians, we have the power of the Holy Spirit to help us do just that! Even though our "good deeds" don't save us, they should be the fruit of having a relationship with Christ. They are evidence of our love for God and one way that we shine His light to those around us. People should be able to see something different about us!

So if saying we're a Christian, going to church, or performing religious activities doesn't reveal authentic faith, what does? It's our relationship with Christ! It's our hearts! We need to be developing a closer relationship with Christ everyday. How do we do that? Spiritual disciplines! Our pastor shared a quote from Bill Hull, "The spiritual disciplines are to transformation what calisthenics are to sport." What are some of these disciplines? Here are a few: prayer, Bible study, worship, evangelism (sharing your faith), and service. There are others, but those are some of the basics. Great books on these disciplines are Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney and Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster.

The challenge from our pastor was to consider our lives and see if we find evidences of Christ. If we don't see any evidences of Him in our lives, then maybe we're not truly Christians. If you don't have a love for Christ, if you don't have a passion for the things of God, then you need to realize that you may not be saved. If that's the case, then please (TODAY!) get on your knees and pray! Acknowledge before God that you are a sinner. Thank Him for sending His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross, paying the penalty for your sin. Ask Him to forgive you of all your sin and to come into your heart and change your life. Take this first step and then take time to spend with Him every single day. It can be as simple as reading a passage of Scripture and then praying to God. You can lift up prayers to Him throughout your day! Find a church where you can fellowship with other Christians and learn more about God's Word and how to share your faith with others. If you have any questions about becoming a Christian, feel free to e-mail me or call me(if you have my number). I would love to talk with you!

Friday, September 2, 2011

No More Dryer Sheets!

Alright ladies it's time to try something different! I decided this week to try to get rid of my dryer sheets. Why? Well, for a few reasons. One is that dryer sheets are full of chemicals, including synthetic fragrances, that aren't necessarily good for my family or the environment. Also, they've been known to coat dryer lint trays, and they leave a coating of residue on clothes. A third reason is that it's just fun to try and make something yourself!! Well, I tried this recipe, and it works!! Not just a little bit; it really works! I will say that using the essential oil in the recipe is not incredibly necessary. Your clothes don't really retain any scent other than that of your detergent (unless you're using fragrance free or soap nuts or something). I used 15-18 sprays for a large load of laundry. You'll probably want to cut it back to 10-15 for a regular or smaller load because you might notice a faint smell of vinegar if you don't. So here's the recipe (from crunchybetty.com):

2 cups white vinegar
3 tsp eucalyptus essential oil (I used tea tree because I didn't have eucalyptus, but you could really use anything you want)
spray bottle

Just mix all the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well! You'll need to shake well before you use it, too, because essential oils will separate from the vinegar. When you put your wet clothes in the dryer, simply spray them with the vinegar mixture and start the dryer. Simple!! Now, when I washed some of my girls' soft blankets (you know those really soft baby blankets) there was some static when I pulled them out of the dryer, but the regular clothes were just fine and static-free. On the rare occasion that my husband does laundry, he uses two dryer sheets/load. Even he didn't notice a difference! Give it a try!

Reflections on a Summer of Change

Wow! I can't believe summer is almost over. This has been one of the busiest summers I've had in a while. Lots of changes for me and my family, but all for the good! I've been thinking this morning about all the things I've done or tried this summer, and I decided to make a list. Some people have "spring cleaning," but my experience has been "summer greening." Here we go:

1. Farmer's Market: I've been going almost weekly all summer, and it's been amazing! I even began buying meat and eggs from there. I probably won't purchase chicken anymore simply because it costs way too much! $12.99/lb for boneless skinless chicken breasts and about $15 for one 3 lb whole chicken!! While I really want to support humane chicken farming, I really can't afford that on my family's budget.

2. Grain Mill: No I haven't purchased my own, but I have been enjoying getting fresh ground flour from the Grain Mill of Wake Forest. I just keep it in the freezer so it doesn't go rancid. Since the flour is composed of the entire wheat berry, the oils are present and can turn within a few days. I've been trying to use whole wheat flour in all of my cooking, but I haven't developed a taste for it in desserts or biscuits yet. For those, I use unbleached all-purpose flour.

3. Sucanat: I've almost completely rid myself of white refined sugar. I say almost because my husband really doesn't like this change. He likes his white sugar so I'm trying to compromise a little.

4. Coconut oil: This wonderful oil has taken over my kitchen and my bathroom! My husband laughs at my use of coconut oil for my skin and hair, but I'm telling you, this stuff is amazing! In cooking, I use refined coconut oil because I don't like for my food to taste of coconuts. It would be okay in desserts, but scrambled eggs and other dishes like red beans and rice don't need to taste of coconut! For myself, I use coconut oil to tame my crazy hair (I have very thick, course, and curly hair so it can take a good bit of oil), and I also use it for my body moisturizer (not on my face). Yesterday I mixed in a drop of lavender essential oil when moisturizing after my shower, and it was quite nice! The lavender scent doesn't stick around all day, but it's calming aroma did stay for a couple of hours.

5. Homemade beauty products: I've been using homemade cleansers on my face for a couple of weeks now, and it's been wonderful! I use an oatmeal-almond scrub in the morning and do oil cleansing at night with a mixture of castor oil and jojoba oil. I also made a lavender-bergamot body spray. My recipes came from crunchybetty.com. Love her blog!!

6. Homemade household products: I've been experimenting the past couple of weeks with several different products. Here's what I've made so far: drain opener, air freshener, dusting spray, and dryer spray (to use instead of dryer sheets, and it works!!). Glass cleaner is next on my list to try.

7. Composting: I made my own compost bin out of a heavy duty plastic trash can. I drilled holes all around it for drainage, and I keep it outside next to our curbside can. We don't have much of a yard, so I don't have an open bin, but so far this has been working just fine. Why spend the money on a fancy bin if you can make your own! This adventure mainly came from necessity. My husband was on a fruit and veggie fast for 2 weeks, and we had a lot of pulp from all the juicing. I couldn't find anyone to give it to, and I didn't want to just throw it away. My dad suggested I compost it myself, so I did :)

8. Growing vegetables: Okay, so I only planted green bell peppers, but I'm really excited because they're actually growing!! I DO NOT have a green thumb, so the fact that I could produce anything is amazing to me (I know it's God who actually produces it, but I'm glad that I haven't prevented it's growth or killed it in the process!).

Well, I think that's it! I might be leaving something out, but my brain isn't fully functioning today. I will tell you that the MOST important change I've made this summer has been sitting down in the mornings to have my quiet time with the Lord. This is something, I'm ashamed to say, has flown by the wayside the past few years. I have been in desperate need to make this a part of my daily routine, but it's been hard to be disciplined in this area. I finally just made the decision to get up at 5:30 in the morning and make my coffee, sit down with my Bible, and just be still for a while. I was reading Discipline by Elisabeth Elliot, and she talked about people that have trouble getting up in the mornings. She basically says to just do it! So I did! I won't say it's easy, but I will say that my day is so much better because of it. We are created to be dependent on God, and when we try to do everything ourselves we can really mess things up. More on that later, because I think I've given you plenty to chew on in this post! I'll be posting some of the recipes I've been using for homemade products soon!!