Survey Results: Charitable Giving

Thanks to everyone who took the poll, which asked "How much do you give to charity?"  Here's a quick summary of the results:
  • 55% of responders said they donate between 11-15% of their gross income
  • 17% said they give 5-10%
  • 13% give <5%
  • 10% give 16-20%
  • 3% give more than 20% of their gross income.
(numbers don't add up to 100% due to rounding)

Teaching Stewardship: Practical Application

In the previous post, I gave some Biblical principles for teaching stewardship. Now that are equipped with that knowledge, here are three practical ways to reach your child's heart:
  1. Pray
  2. Preach the Truth
  3. Practice and Discipline

Prayer
As I mentioned in the previous post, I cannot force my child to worship God. I can only pray for God's mercy and for the Spirit to work in and soften his heart, so that he may worship the Lord. While I do have responsibilities (more on that below), I have to start with prayer.

It is bad theology when people say, "When all else fails, we need to pray." Prayer should be our first option, not our last resort.


Preaching the Truth
We have to teach our children the truth, the God has revealed in the Bible. But remember that teaching truth is not just restricted to family worship time, but should be part of the normal conversation of life (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

Children love stories, so use them! You can use the illustration of fruit trees. It's most helpful if you have a fruit tree in your yard, or if you have ever picked apples, or strawberries, or whatever . Use the image that Jesus used, to explain that their actions and attitudes reveal the sin in their heart -- just as the fruit reveals what kind of plant you have -- and that Jesus came to die for their sins. Remind them that you are not so much concerned about their actions (the "bad" fruit of irresponsibility and selfishness, in this case), but that you are concerned for their hearts. If their hearts are abiding in Jesus (John 15), then they will have a pattern of bearing good fruit.

Furthermore, tell real life stories. Tell them when you have trusted God and been a good steward, and when you have failed to do so. And make all your teaching and story-telling point to the redemption that we have in Jesus.


Practice and Discipline
Here's an idea that a friend taught us, to teach about irresponsibility. Go back to Jesus' parable of the talents; the message is that if we cannot be trusted with a little, then we cannot be trusted with a lot.

One principle that we've been taught is to "parent inside the funnel" (see the parenting video here). At a young age, a child's responsibility and freedoms must be kept limited. But they can earn more freedoms by demonstrating more responsibility as they grow and mature. Where we (my wife and I, as well as most parents) mess up is that we tend to get "outside the funnel" -- we often give our kids too much freedom that they are not ready for. And then things go crazy, and it's our own fault! So, we then have to pull back, and pulling our children back into the funnel is much harder than keeping them there in the first place.

So, explain to your child that you are going to help him learn to be responsible with however much he can handle. Start by taking away some of his possessions and freedoms, and explain that you will keep doing so until you find the level of stuff that he can be responsible with.

Warning: this might mean that you will have to remove half of the stuff in his room, or more! Another warning: don't just expect instant success, as I shared about how we took away our kids' Legos for a time.

The level of responsibility that each child can handle will vary from child to child. There is no universal right-or-wrong answer. Each child's personality, maturity, and temperament will dictate how much freedom and responsibility he can handle.


Other Ideas
I'd love to know if you have some other practical ideas that you have used to teach children responsibility and/or generosity. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Whatever applications we implement, we must remember that this is an issue of worship. The reason that we can be both unappreciative and selfish at the same time is that we focus on ourself. We worship ourselves more than we worship God, and we love ourselves more than we love others.

To help us (and our children) become God-worshipers -- instead of self-worshipers -- we need prayer, truth, and discipline.


Related Links:

Teaching Stewardship: Principles and the Gospel

image courtesy of Pink Sherbet Photography via flickr
Continuing from the introductory post about Children and Their Possessions, here are some basic principles that should frame the conversation with your child. At the least, this is a start, since the issue is bigger than just irresponsibility (under-caring) and selfishness (over-caring).


Stewardship
I think the terminology that we need to move towards is stewardship, not "ownership." To be a steward is to take care of something that is not mine. Everything around me is God's, not mine. Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains; the world, and those who dwell in it."

This idea of stewardship meets both issues that your kids are struggling with -- both the irresponsibility and the selfishness.
  1. Since it's not mine, but God's, I should take care of it. God's ownership should lead to my responsibility.
  2. Since it's not mine, but God's, I should freely share it. God's ownership should lead to my generosity.

Greatest Commandment
Another way to think of this issue is through the lens of Matthew 22:36-40. Jesus tells us to love God and love others. Here's how this passage (called "The Greatest Commandments") meets these issues:
  1. Loving God. Being a good steward is an act of worship. It is acknowledging and acting on the truth that God owns everything.
  2. Loving Others. Being a good steward is an act of brotherly love. It shows that I consider others better than myself (Philippians 2:3).

Gospel-Living
Of course, we must be careful that we move past their actions and words, and get to their hearts with the gospel. Behavior is not nearly as important as their hearts and attitudes. The sinful behaviors we see are actually good, in a sense! Their actions and words are reveal their hearts, allowing us to see the sin that Jesus wants to deal with. Here are two passages that help us see this:
  1. Luke 6:43-45 teaches that just as fruit reveals what kind of tree you have, that our actions reveal who we truly are on the inside.
  2. Similarly, James 3:9-12 teaches that our speech reveals the condition of who we really are.

What children need help understanding is that they cannot love God and love their possessions at the same time (Luke 16:13). As Tedd Tripp writes in Shepherding a Child's Heart, all children are worshipers. They will either worship God, or they will worship themselves and things in the world. They will worship God the Creator and Provider, or they will worship what He's created and given.

Here's the thing -- we cannot force our kids to be worshipers of God. We have to realize that it is going to be their choice, and I think it's OK to tell them that. We tell our kids, "This is what a follower of Jesus looks like, and if you want to follow and trust in Him, you are going to have to let Him change you from the inside out."  But my child's faith is not completely in my hands (see point #7 in A Response to Comments on "How Do We Know That God Is Real?")


Our main job as parents is to expose their sin, and point them to the sufficiency and love of Jesus.


Check out some practical ideas that go along with these principles.

Q&A: Children and Their Possessions

Recently I received an email from a friend:
I am struggling with my children on several issues related to possessions.  Because my kids are so blessed with all sorts of toys, stuffed animals games... our house is constantly a mess.  The kids lose interest in a toy and leave it right where they were playing with it.  They often lose a piece of a puzzle or the spinner to a game without really noticing.  I feel like I am constantly nagging about taking care of what God has blessed us with.
The other side of this issue is that they cling with all their might to stuff.  Cleaning up rooms often results in tears and pleading with me to not throw away old scraps of paper, half finished craft projects and HappyMeal Toys which have not been played with for years.  The mention of donating items that we no longer play is not well received either.
I feel like I am failing my kids on both fronts- they are not appreciative of what they have been given and yet they cling to stuff in an unhealthy manner.  Do you have any wisdom on this issue?

So, the issue is that her kids (like my own kiddos) are both unappreciative and selfish. How can we lead our children towards responsibility and generosity? I'll attempt to answer that by giving some principles and some application.

Cats & Asperger Syndrome

All Cats Have Asperger SyndromeJoanna told me about this book, and I'm so glad I got a chance to read it a few weeks ago. It's called All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome. Less than 70 pages, with few words, lots of cute pictures (if you like cats), and plenty of thoughts to ponder. Here are some tidbits:
  • "He likes to be near those he loves, but doesn't want them to hold him."
  • "Loud sounds and sudden movements may scare him."
  • "He's often fussy about what he eats."
  • "He can do the same thing over and over again, without getting bored."

And my favorite:
  • "Don't forget, everyone is different in his own way and there is a little bit of Asperger in us all."

If you know anyone (adult or child) who has autism spectrum disorder, this book is a must buy.


Related Link:

Saturday Round-Up (August 26)

Last week's posts were in alphabetical order by title. Today's are alphabetical by the source's website.


Lose with Dignity. The first of a 2-part series about how to handle yourself whether in victory or defeat.

Where's My Older Woman?.  When we read or hear teaching about mentorship, we ask God to bring mentors in our lives. But maybe we should focus more on who we can pour into.

Johnny Cash, "Hurt".  Great analysis of Cash's video of "Hurt" - with the focus on the realization of the brevity of life and vanity of fame. Here's the video:



Teaching the Trinity to Kids.   I am a big fan of explaining theology to kids. But when it comes to hard topics, like the Trinity, the temptation is to utilize silly (or even heretical) analogies. Sometimes, we just need to teach the foundations without trying to make everything make sense to them. 

Toxicity of Aromatase Inhibitors.  This article may not make much sense to you, but it's related to what I did my Master's Degree work on. As you can imagine, when people ask what I researched, I would simply say "breast cancer research."

Parenting By Prayer. Reading this was convicting for me. Usually I am so focused on my own skills in getting to my kids' hearts, that I fail to cry out to the One who can actually change their hearts.

image courtesy of Getty Images
Stress Turns Your Hair Gray.  What stress does to your body is not just a temporary setback in your health. It actually causes permanent damage to your DNA.

6 Steps to Building a Team (Like Jesus Did).  Jesus seemed to break all the rules when it came to team-building, like choosing uneducated nobodies and giving impossible tasks. We must even expect success, failure, and betrayal.


Fast Forward to "Mission: Allendale"

Since I started this blog last October, a lot of changes have been made. For example,
  • My post frequency went from 2 times per week, to 3, to 4 or 5, to 6, and now to at least once per day.
  • I learned a lot about what tools and features make it easier for readers (like full posts in the automatic feeds)
  • I started writing exponentially more about our adventure in Allendale. I explained how this fits into the theme of "A Different Way" in Where Am I?

Over the past few months, I've been considering how this blog has gained a following of a variety of different perspectives. Some have looked for parenting insight (Lord knows why they are looking to me), others wanted to stay in touch with our mission in Allendale, and others wanted both.

Additionally, a friend suggested I would have more flexibility if I switched to Wordpress, instead of Blogger. I hate change, but I think he's right.

So over the next few months, I hope to transition over to a new blog platform. The first step involves moving all my writings about Allendale to my new site, Mission: Allendale. It's a work in progress, and I'm trying to add the features I want, like an easy way to subscribe and such.

If you want to follow this journey of ours,
  1. Go over to Mission: Allendale and bookmark it. 
  2. Even better, sign up for the Email Subscription (look to the right column)
  3. If you prefer the RSS feeds (like me), sign up for that. I'm going to get a better way to subscribe, but haven't had time yet. Or try this link: http://missionallendale.wordpress.com/feed/
  4. Give me feedback! Tell me what you like or don't like about this design, or if there are broken links. Leave a comment or email me. Don't hold back.
  5. Help me spread the word by sharing posts by email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. You'll see those options at the bottom of each post.

You can start by checking out today's post, I Wish I Could Fast Forward and Look Back. This is a recap of our journey over the past year.

Here's an excerpt:
"A lot happened between November and January, but there was a bigger story going on. Some of you know that the entire year of 2010 was a transition for us. . . . We had been asking God to grow us, and increase our faith, and use us to have an impact. We just couldn't figure out what He was doing. Being in that season like that flat out sucks."

**Note: For now, parenting (and other) posts will stay on this blog.

Hope you enjoy today's post and the new blog!


"How Do I Know If I Love God?"

I had been a follower of Jesus for just a few years. I just left a campus ministry event, and a thought hit me, "How do I know if I really love God?" It's easy for me say that I love and trust Him, but what would help me know that my faith is real?

Hello, my name is Joey, and I'm an over-analyzer.

image courtesy of digitalart
I went to a friend for counsel, which was something to the effect of "a tree is known by its fruit" (Luke 6:43-45). That is, my love for God is evidenced by the good works that He was working in me. I wasn't completely satisfied with this, thinking there should be more, or at least more specifics. I walked away feeling a tension, though I could not fully express it.

But I think that tension is good. I think it was a sign of my flesh and my spirit at war. And my flesh and my spirit can only be at war if God's spirit is in me. If it was just my own flesh and thoughts, I wouldn't be concerned about loving God at all.

Part of my mistake was not understanding that salvation is more than just an event. It is about a lifelong process. God is continually working in my heart -- to help me believe in, follow, and love Him.

Here is what I recently read that made me think about this. It sure would have been helpful 13 years ago, but it's still good for all of us today. It's called How Do We Know If We Love Christ?, and gives eight "fruit" that would be evident in one who loves God. Of course, these "fruit" don't guarantee that one is a true disciple, but they are an indication.

So, how do you know if you really love God? Maybe you can't. But I'm not sure it matters anyway. In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis writes:
Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, 'If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?' When you have found the answer, go and do it.

What do you think? Can you know if you love God? How?


Related Links:

Intern in Allendale: End of a Season

Wes, Hannah, and the Espinosas
We were so thankful for the the two interns from Grace Church who lived in Allendale this summer. Hannah Swoap and Wes Johnson spent 11 and 8 weeks, respectively, pouring into the community here, including the after school program.

You should read the final post from Wes, The End of a Season, to get a summary of how God blessed him with this experience. He had the opportunity to grow, and to see others grow.

Here are some of my favorite parts of this article:
  • How he benefited from hanging out with Frank Lewis.
  • Travis realizing that his life is not all about him.
  • Gerome discovering his passion and skills for working with kids.
  • Joanna and I being encouraged by what he wrote about us (though he is far too gracious).

[Note: You can read this post on the new blog -- Mission: Allendale.]

    Demoralizing Defeat to Stunning Success: 3 Lessons I Learned from High School Football

    Football season is upon us. I really don't watch much. I loved the 10 years that I played, and would still rather play than watch. And I have so many memories (good as well as bad) from my experience of playing for the Swansea Tigers and Furman Paladins.

    Although it was twenty years ago, I’ll never forget the feeling of losing the football state championship my sophomore year in high school. The final score of 50-28 makes it seem a lot closer than the game actually was. In truth, our opponents crushed us, physically and emotionally.

    The next fall, we started off with a 1-3 record, losing two straight games in double-overtime. The season did not look promising.

    However, we wound up winning the next 11 games, including the state championship. Even more, my senior season we were triumphant in all 15 games, giving us two straight championships. (And before you think that it was all because of me, they also won the state championship the following year, the year after I graduated.)

    How did we go from demoralizing defeat to stunning success? Through planning, working, and enduring.


    Plan Ahead
    Every team and individual needs a clear and thought-out mission. Without a purpose, how will you measure success? 

    The goal for our team was the same every year: “To be the best that we can be.” Some years, this could mean winning four games; other years, fifteen. But we were determined to work hard in season and out of season, to give us the best shot at winning. 

    Every year, our coach laid out a plan that would help us be the best that we could be. He didn’t wait until August to start preparing for the season. While we could not control everything that happened during the season (including injuries, weather, and bad calls by the refs), we could control how much we prepared. 

    You need to set some goals, and here is a quick way to set them:
    1. Ask yourself, “What do I want one, five, and ten years from now?” Dreaming is a huge part of planning.
    2. Be sure to commit those goals to writing. Writing them down will help you clarify and be accountable to them.
    3. Under each goal, set up 3 - 5 action items under each goal. If your goals can be done in one step, your dreams are not big enough.
    As Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”


    Work Hard
    After our coach laid out our plan for the year, we had to execute it. The off-season schedule included lifting weights three or four days a week, two weeks of spring practice, speed training in the spring, conditioning all summer long, scrimmages against other schools, and a week of two-a-day practices (followed by a week-long camp of four-a-days). We were expected to show participation in all these events, or face consequences. If I didn’t get stronger and faster, I would risk losing my position to someone who did. Slack off and not pass the conditioning test? There would be extra post-practice running. If you didn’t go to camp, you would not play on the varsity team. Period.

    The in-season training included more than a dozen hours of practice on the field every week, continued weightlifting and conditioning, and watching game film. All of this was for just sixty minutes of football once a week for up to four months.

    While it may seem like overkill, we knew that no one was going to hand us success. We had already felt the sting of defeat, and we did not want to go back there. 


    Endure the Hardships
    During my junior season, we could have just given up after having just one win in the first four games. We could have panicked when one of our top players dislocated his shoulder. We could have become demoralized when another top player (who started for four years at a Division I school before going on to play in the pros) was removed from the team for disciplinary actions in school.

    But we kept moving forward. We absorbed the licks, pulled together as a team, and remembered our goal (“to be the best we can be”).

    A football is an odd shape, so it will bounce in odd directions. Likewise, no matter how hard you work toward your goals, there will be some things that you just cannot control. People working with you will not carry their weight. People working for you will quit. The computer will crash. You’ll get the flu. 

    When (not if) these things happen, you have a choice. You get frustrated and give up. Or you can keep moving along the path. And these things may be a blessing in disguise. The difference between a stepping stone and a stumbling block is how you use it. 


    Conclusion
    You, too, can move from defeat to success. First, make a plan to evaluate where you are and where you want to be. Second, work like it all depends on you. Third, realize there are things you cannot control and endure the hardships that come your way.

    Even more, the benefits of playing sports, especially team sports, go beyond championships and statistics. Competitive team sports help build social skills and character development. This doesn't mean that children need to play in competitive leagues at a young age (I didn't play organized football until the 8th grade). In fact, unlike with individual sports, athletes in team sports don't reach their peaks until later on in life.

    Let your children play team sports, but let it be fun and not stressful for them. There are lessons for a lifetime in store for them.


    Related Links:

    **first image courtesy of ElvertBarnes via flickr
    **second image courtesy of tome213 via sxc.hu

    Leadership & Fighting With My Wife

    From Michael Hyatt's What I Learned About Leadership from a Fight with My Wife:
    1. Clarify our expectations up front.
    2. Assume the best about each other.
    3. Affirm the priority of the relationship.
    4. De-personalize the problem.
    5. Listen more than you talk.

    Be sure to read the entire article.

    Related Link:

    Busted! What My Son Thought About My Speeding Ticket

    I wasn't even in a rush. I was driving down Pelham Road on a Saturday afternoon a couple of years ago. I was waaaay ahead of schedule for where I needed to be. There were no cars on the road, which is probably why I didn't realize I was going about 57 in a 45. In fact, the first time I noticed my speed was when I saw the blue lights in my rear-view mirror.

    The officer was polite and gracious (being my first traffic violation, he gave me the minimal penalty), and I was soon on my way. And for the record, I was still ahead of schedule.

    When I got home and explained to my wife and kids that I was pulled over for speeding, Elijah (about 5 years old at the time) was shocked, exclaiming, "How come you're not in jail?!"

    I explained that you don't necessarily go to jail whenever you break the law. Sometimes there are other consequences, like having to pay a fine.

    Here are some others things that I explained to my son:
    • Mostly, I was thankful that by my lack of attention to my speed, that I didn't hurt anyone, or get hurt myself.
    • I reminded my son that the police officer did a good job in his role. My son thought that the job of the police is to "catch bad people," but their ultimate role is to keep people safe. They only need to penalize others when they put someone's safety at risk.
    • I told my son that I respected and submitted to the officer. There was no used complaining or defending myself. I did wrong, and I had to accept the consequences. The only thing I could control was my attitude in how I accepted them.
    • There had been plenty of times in my life that I sped and didn't get caught. It doesn't make sense to complain about the one time that I did get stopped for it.

    The biggest win in all of this was that God let me use this experience to teach and model to my kids what it looks like to submit to authority. (And, also for the record, I did actually have a good attitude through this experience -- not flippant, but also not whining. I wasn't just faking it.)

    We cannot just preach the truth to our kids. We need to model what it looks like to live out submission to Christ and His commands in the Bible.

    Related Links:

    image courtesy of TALUDA via sxc.hu

    Of First Importance

    "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,"
    I Corinthians 15:3


    There is one thing that matters more than anything else -- the gospel (= Good News) of Jesus Christ. What is the gospel? Paul gives four points:
    1. Jesus died for our sins (v. 3)
    2. Jesus was buried (v. 4)
    3. Jesus was resurrected (v. 4)
    4. Jesus appeared to many (v. 5)
    This message is what I must build my life around, and believe in with all my heart. If these four things are true and if I trust in them, they will affect every aspect of my life.

    Praise Jesus!

    Saturday Round-Up (August 20)

    For those who have (or are) kids, I hope you had a good first week of school! And because it's the first week of school, I put these in alphabetical order by title. Yay, me.


    Complex Choices in Medicare Advantage Program May Overwhelm Seniors.  When looking to set up programs to help others, we need to be sure to focus on the real need. What may be a great idea for one group of people may be detrimental for others.

    Early Childhood Allergies.  Researchers have identified a protein that may influence how susceptible children are to multiple allergic diseases, such as hay fever, food allergies, and eczema. This discovery may lead to future treatments that could slow down or eliminate "allergic march" -- the gradual acquisition of allergic diseases.

    Generational Conflict in Ministry.  In ministry (and in life), there are often disagreements and tensions that arise from each person's experiences, perspectives, and skills, even when the ultimate goal is the same. This is a good reminder of the importance to reach out, to listen, and to build relationships. You can also see this article on Tradition vs. Traditionalism.

    How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver in 6 Different Situations.  Make sure you check this out. One day, you might need to save someone else's life. Or your own. Or your dog's.

    Nothing going on here. Just a man giving his dog the Heimlich.

    The 'Absurd' Debate About Length of School Year.  Instead of simple, cut-and-dry fixes, we need to make sure we are doing what students really need. But of course, the other side of the coin is that it is essentially impossible to tailor education to each child's wants and needs.

    Why Joni Erickson Tada Wants to Bring Her Wheelchair to Heaven.  I'm sharing this story because it's an amazing testimony to someone who is completely trusting in God. And also to brag that I once wrote an newsletter article that was printed opposite one that she wrote. I'm kinda' famous.

    Scout, Settler, Explorer: The Risk and Reward of Being Out Front

    Image courtesy of State Records NSW via flickr
    Do you think you would want to be a scout in the military? Going close to or behind enemy lines to gather information, so that you can send back crucial information to your fellow soldiers.

    Or would you want to be an early American settler? Going to an uncharted land to clear a space for your family to live in, and to pave the way for others to follow.

    What about an explorer like Meriwether Lewis or William Clark? Traveling across land and water, meeting new people, to give others a picture of what could be.

    Being a scout, settler, or explorer means that you are out in front others. It means risk. It means being a part of something bigger than yourself.

    This is similar to how we view our mission in Allendale. Ultimately, we are here because we feel God has called us to be here. But it only came about because of how Grace Church has been involved in Allendale for the past few years. Grace Church has laid a well-tread path before us. (So, in truth, we are the second wave of scouts -- but the first wave of settlers -- from Grace in Allendale.)

    I have now been living in Allendale for just over 7 months, and my family has been here for 4 months. This adventure has been fulfilling, and challenging. We are here to be "feet on the ground" for Grace Church.

    Even though we've seen the rewards for our family and for the church, living here has also been lonely. For all that enjoy about living here, we miss the loss of community the most -- community that I've had at Grace Church for over 15 years, and that Joanna has had for 13. We are trusting that God will help us maintain those relationships, while also giving us the opportunity to build more here.

    We miss the conveniences and comforts of Greenville. But we are reminded that this is small compared to what Jesus gave up in the Incarnation (Philippians 2:6-8).

    We know that God has us here for a season. And we are thankful for Grace Church, who is partnering with us in this adventure. Yes, we are out front, but we are not the first or only ones to be here. And even though we have been "stationed" out front now, we are continually receiving support -- physically (financially and volunteers), spiritually (prayers), and socially (friends coming down to visit and serve).

    Oswald Chambers wrote (My Utmost for His Highest): "A servant of God must stand so very much alone that he never realizes he is alone."

    So what are the rewards for being out front here?
    • Growing intimacy and dependence on the Lord
    • Making new friends
    • Being a part of the beginning of a ministry opportunity
    • Being a part of something bigger than ourselves
    • Helping others (from Grace and from this community) be able to connect and serve
    • Our kids having the opportunity to see what it looks like to give your lives away for the gospel. That is, it's a way for us as parents to pass on our faith.

    As we all go forward on our adventures -- as part of God's bigger adventure -- we need God to strengthen us. We must look straight to God, and after that we could seek counsel and comfort from others.


    Related Links:

    Put Trust in God First

    My Utmost for His Highest (Oswald Chambers Library)From My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers:

    Our Lord never put His trust in any person. Yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, and never lost hope for anyone, because He put His trust in God first. He trusted absolutely in what God's grace could do for others. If I put my trust in human beings first, the end result will be my despair and hopelessness toward everyone. I will become bitter because I have insisted that people be what no person can ever be -- absolutely perfect and right. Never trust anything in yourself or in anyone else, except the grace of God.

    In other words, my frustrations with others are due to me not fully trusting in God.

    Related Link:

    Poll: How Much Do You Give?

    Recently, I've commented on several charities and non-profits that we support or think are worth supporting. These include:
    Image courtesy of mathdelane09 via Picasa

    This got me wondering: How much of your gross (not net) income do you donate to charity? Please take the poll to the right.

    As I wrote in Why Ask for Financial Support?, I think you should consider supporting the Osborns, because of the nature and duration of their work.

    Additionally, we ourselves are looking for a few more financial supporters.We have been blessed by a number of folks who have given one-time, monthly, or something in between. But a few of our monthly supporters will soon come to the end of their generous commitments. Any amount would be helpful, but I am looking to add about $200 in monthly support. This can be accomplished with about 4-10 more people who could each donate $20, $30, or $50 per month.

    You can learn more about how to donate (tax-free) on our Financial Support page, or email me.

    On a Treadmill

    “Tune your ears to wisdom, 
    and concentrate on understanding. 
    Cry out for insight, 
    and ask for understanding.
    Search for them as you would for silver, 
    seek them like hidden treasures.”   
    Proverbs 2:2-4

    I’ve still been reading through Proverbs with my kids – not as often as I probably should, but we’re moving forward. In chapter 2, we talked about how we have to keep seeking God all our lives. Following Jesus is not a one-time decision, but the adventure of a lifetime. It’s about continually choosing the path that leads to Him, instead of the path of sin and death.

    I explained that it gets easy to become lazy, but we have to keep moving towards God. It’s impossible to choose nothing, as that actually means moving away from God.

    This clicked with Elijah. He said, “It’s like being on a treadmill, where God is in front of you. You can’t just stand still.”

    Amen!

    Education Articles for First Week of School

    For most students in South Carolina, school is starting back this week. Here are a few links to articles related to education that seemed pertinent.

    image courtesy of anissat via sxc.hu
    Rigor Redefined. What do students need for success in the 21st century? Not mere memorization and regurgitation of data, but the ability to ask questions, work as a team, analyze complex problems, and propose multiple solutions.

    Money for SC to Go Elsewhere. South Carolina was offered $144 million to go to public schools, as part of last August's federal bailout (nationwide package totaling $10 billion). We're the only state to not accept this money, but we apparently don't even qualify to receive it, because of state cuts to colleges. I'm torn on this issue. On one hand, I do agree that we need less federal intrusion; on the other hand, even if Allendale received only 1% of the money, that would be about 10% of the district's budget. And while I agree that if we turn it down, it would be nice for that money to be applied towards national debt, it would actually be divided up amongst the rest of the country. I guess there are no simple answers anymore.

    Overriding a Key Education Law. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is working to override the central component of No Child Left Behind. The NCLB law, signed by Bush in 2002, requires increasing percentages of students be proficient in reading and math each year. Sounds good, right? Except who where the IDIOT lawmakers that said that 100% of students had to be proficient by 2014? Probably someone who never taught in a classroom. 

    A Change in Perspective Could Be All It Takes to Succeed in School. The stress-released hormone cortisol can either contribute to a students success or failure in math. The difference can be as simple as what frame of mind the student is in when he enters into that stress.

    More Thoughts on the Stages of Parenting

    A couple of months ago, I wrote about The Phases of Raising Boys, giving counsel from two other resources.

    This past weekend, Pastor Matt Williams (Grace Church, Greenville, SC) started a new series on I Kings. In part of his sermon, he spoke about King David's failure to lead his family.

    I've already watched the sermon. (I think I was the first on-line viewer, all the way from Allendale, SC.) But I think the four stages outlined can best be summarized by Tweets by @DavidAllston, with the key concept in bold.
    1. "When your children are young, you must teach them to submit to authority."
    2. "As your children grow older, they must learn responsibility."
    3. "In their teens, your children must learn a healthy independence."
    4. "When your children are grown, you can interact with them as friends."

    Problems come when we do what most of the culture is trying to do -- making our young children our friends. We must be intentional to train our children according to Godly wisdom, not worldly counsel. We must parent with the future in mind, not what is convenient or satisfying for us now.

    We can learn from the model of King David's parenting. 

     "David's failure to discipline his children creates havoc in his family and in the kingdom."


    Related Links:

    House Party

    Teenage boy having a mid-afternoon nap
    Joanna and I lived in Greenville for over 11 years, in three different houses. In that time, we had 8 different out-of-town guests spend at least one night with us.

    In the past 2 months in Allendale, we have had 12 out-of-town houseguests.

    The difference?
    1. Need. There are not too many options of where someone could stay in Allendale.
    2. Community. We've had so many friends who eagerly desired to visit us, from three hours away.
    3. Our own hearts. God is growing our hearts to be more giving. We realize that even with the little we have, we can be generous with all that God has entrusted to us.

    We have at least one more friend coming in September.  And we'd love to have more! Just let us know.

    A Whirlwind of a Week

    In less than a week, we spent at least 1 night in 4 different towns in South Carolina. Here's a brief summary of what our past week looked like:

    Last Saturday:  Drove back to Greenville, and stayed with Joanna's parents.

    Sunday:  Worship at Grace Church, including getting to catch up (even if briefly) with so many friends!

    Monday:  I drove back to Allendale for a meeting; Joanna and kids went to the pool with friends. Guess who had more fun? But I did have a late night meeting with a mentor at Waffle House.

    Tuesday:  Breakfast with another mentor (me); breakfast with friends (Joanna). After lunch, drove to Columbia to stay with my parents.

    Wednesday:  Saw my new nephew, Isaac Joseph. Columbiana Mall. Back to Allendale.

    Isaac and Hannah

    Thursday:  Drove to Beaufort. Dinner (not-so-great seafood) and Drive-In Movie (awesome). Stayed the night at the "fancy" Sleep Inn.

    Joanna and Sender watching the movie


    Friday:  Beach at Hunting Island. Having too much fun to take too many pictures. Caught small crabs and minnows. Ate lunch. Fed minnows to crabs. Drove back to Allendale.

    Lunch break


    Saturday (today):  Helped out with the Health Fair & Back 2 School Bash. Made (or re-made) some good connections. Grilling cheeseburgers tonight. I've gotten pretty good at it thanks to this article.


    It was a great week to see family, and especially for our own family to have time by ourselves. School (and after school program) starts on Tuesday!


    Related Link:

    Saturday Round-Up (August 13)

    Only a few this week. Was on vacation, including 4 different parts of the state in less than a week.


    Malicious Book Reviews. An author was awarded monetary compensation after receiving a malicious book review. Since I've done some book reviews (including Shepherding a Child's Heart, Parenting By the Book, Hints on Child Training, and Read and Share Storybook Bible) and I plan to do more, I should be careful, huh?

    Real Men Repent.  "My entire life I battled sin, and I always came up on the losing end. When I placed my faith in Jesus Christ and through the repentance of my sins, I received the mercy of God and acceptance as his son."

    China's Puzzling Flat Line.  The GDP in China has tripled in the past 12 years, but their citizens don't rate their lives as being any better.



    The Wrong Body Language. Helpful hints for communicating well with others. 

    Social Class as Culture. What social class you are in is more than just how much money you have. "People from lower classes have fundamentally different ways of thinking about the world than people in upper classes -- a fact that should figure into debates on public policy, according to the authors." This is similar to the case I made in Love Them Into the Middle Class.

    They're Baaack!

    The first day of school for Allendale County is on Tuesday, August 16. We took this week off from our after school programming, but will start up on the first day of school. We're expecting that not only will we get back many of the members that we had last spring, but that we'll keep most of the new kids that we picked up this summer. This ministry is growing!

    On the last day of the school year program, a child asked me, "Will you be here in the fall?" I said that I sure was planning to. Now, I'm glad that my promise to that boy will hold true. We are so excited to be a part of these kids' lives. Even more, we are looking forward to being with these children for an entire school year, instead of coming in half-way through. We get to walk through their school year with them.

    Many of these kids are used to people coming in and out of their lives, whether parents, parents' significant others, and teachers. Allendale County has the highest teacher turnover rate in SC (data from 2009-10). At 28.8%, it was only one of two districts over 20%; for comparison, Greenville County was at 6.5%.

    Joanna and I have already talked about what the fall looks like for our family. Our family won't stay until closing time every day, but Joanna really wants to be there for homework time. She will schedule our own kids' schoolwork to leave some of their independent assignments to be done at the Club.

    Here are some other things that we're excited about in the after school program:
    1. Joanna being there a lot, just like she was for the last month of the school year. The kids see us talk and work together. Early on, one of the best things Joanna thought to do was walk across the room to intentionally sit next to me during a talent show. You could tell that other kids noticed what she did; many of them don't have any kind of model of what a healthy marriage looks like.
    2. Our kids being there a lot. They have made friends and enjoyed the activities. But even more, other kids get to see Joanna and I talk to and interact with our own kids -- from correction, to encouragement, to direction, to joking. The kids in the program will be treated with the same care and leadership as our own kids get.
    3. Conversations. As you can read from the first two points, talking is so important. Conversation, especially for young children, significantly helps develop vocabularies and gives them a sense of connection. Good deeds lead to chances to communicate the Good News (see the first bullet point in this post).

    Outside or my work, we're also looking forward to getting more connected here, with friends, with church, with the community.

    Related Link:

    Narcissism and Leadership

    What makes a good leader? Would you say . . .
    • Confidence
    • Self-esteem
    • Dominance

    Turns out, these are qualities that many people look for in leaders, but those are actually more indicative of narcissists

    As this study from the University of Amsterdam indicates, sometimes narcissists actually do make good leaders. The problem is that they miss some important factors like
    • Teamwork
    • Communication
    • Empowerment

    In order for an organization to thrive and grow, you need real leaders who can help others best utilize their gifts. "Good leaders facilitate communication by asking questions and summarizing the conversation—something narcissists are too self-involved to do."


    Related Link:

    Answers in Genesis: What I Like and Loathe

    Like with Jews for Jesus, I've donated to and received resources from Answers in Genesis on multiple occasions over the years. They have solid and helpful books for adults and kids, although some of their children's videos are (for a lack of better words) lame.

    We were supporters for their Creation Museum, becoming members before construction even began. We visited the museum twice, once when it was near completion for a sneak preview, and once when it was fully operational. It's an impressive facility, and the petting zoo was a nice feature (including our kids feeding a camel). And it was during this second visit that my older son asked, "How do we know that God is real?"

    For all that I like about Answers in Genesis, I do have disagreements with some of this organizations theologies and philosophies. While I do believe in a young earth, I think some of their interpretations are out of context and not exegetical. Also, as I stated in Passing on Your Faith, I disagree with their premise that many youth "fall away from the faith" because their parents and churches compromise on the subject of evolution and creationism.

    So where do I go from here? More than likely, I will continue to buy books from Answers in Genesis on occasion, and may even give more donations. But part of that is because I am a science nerd, and I enjoy the pursuit of truth and scientific explanations.

    I know that not everyone is as passionate about science, but if you have questions about specific topics, I recommend that you check out their selection of books.

    The Goal of Parenting

    "The goal of parenting is to work yourself out of a job. The goal of parenting is to send young adults out into the world who are prepared to live as God's children and as salt and light in a corrupt and broken world."
    Paul Tripp, in Age of Opportunity


    Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, Second Edition (Resources for Changing Lives)Based on Colossians 1:9-14, Tripp gives six characteristics of what we should make as lifelong goals for our children.
    1. Sensitivity to God's revealed will
    2. Functional godliness
    3. Progressive spiritual growth
    4. Perseverance
    5. An appreciation of God's grace
    6. Kingdom awareness

    "Successful parenting means that we admit that we, as parents, are still children in need of our Father's help."

    I sure am.

    What goals do you have for your children?


    Related Links:

    Realizing That I Am Proud

    "If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, 'How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?' The point is that each person's pride is in competition with every one else's pride."  
    (CS Lewis)

    I was 20 years old, at Furman University, lying on a table in the sports medicine department, getting treatment (ice and electric stimulation) on my lower back (a problem area since high school). I had been a follower of Jesus for almost 2 years.

    Lewis's Mere Christianity (Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis (Paperback - Feb. 6, 2001))I had been reading Mere Christianity (CS Lewis) and got to the chapter about pride. Halfway through this chapter, I'll never forget suddenly thinking, "Oh, my goodness! This is me!" Then, I had the feeling that everyone in that training room was looking at me, and that they knew that I was proud. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I wanted to go hide. But I was hooked up to that stupid stimulation machine.

    I stopped reading, and wondered how God could love an proud person like me.

    That's what pride does.
    • Pride makes you think of yourself. 
    • Pride makes you feel alone. 
    • Pride makes you doubt God's love.

    Ever feel like that?
    "In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that - and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison - you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you."

    Get your copy of Mere Christianity. Read (or re-read) the chapter called "The Great Sin." And watch the great teaching below (or you can download the audio of the sermon "Humility and How I Achieved It" from 7/30/11 on the Grace Church website).




    Related Link:

    5 Awesomest School Supplies of All Time

    5. Colored Paper Clips. I like to peel off the rubber coating. Just because.



    4. Calculator Watch. Never had one, but that's OK. You had to have microscopic fingertips to operate it.



    3. Scratch 'n Sniff Stickers. Technically not a school necessity, if you're a parent. But awesome for kids. Except for the skunk. That's just evil.



    2. Washable Markers. As a parent, I only appreciate this now.



    1. Trapper Keeper. Hands-down winner.






    What other ones can you add?

    Saturday Round-Up (August 6)

    Here are some interesting things I read this week, in no particular order.

    Watermelon Seeds. The average American watermelon has hundreds of seeds. And eating them will not make a watermelon grow in your stomach. In fact, they contain vital nutrients including protein.

    The Danger of Gospel-Centered Behaviorism. Legalism can easily morph into a better grade of legalism. Gospel-centered living can be tainted by pride. (And I am a proud person.)

    Not Every Day Will Be EPIC (and that's OK). To be a hero, we don't need to hit homeruns, climb Mount Everest, pull in a ginormous paycheck, or stop bad guys. "A life of faith is the greatest adventure this world has to offer. Period."

    Titus 2 Is Not Just a Woman's To-Do List. First, BE. Then, RECEIVE. Finally, you are ready to DO.

    image courtesy of Kecko via Flickr
    Physics and Crop Circles.  Apparently, the crop circle phenomenon is growing worldwide. Who knew? Oh, yeah. The aliens.


    NASA Tracks Drought in Northeast Africa. "Northeast Africa continues to reel from the effects of the worst drought to strike the region in decades. The arid conditions are contributing to famines that the U.S. Department of State says are affecting more than 11.5 million people, particularly in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti."

    What to Expect This School Year. Successes, failures, teachable moments, conflict, and an end.

    6 Characteristics of Spiritual Leadership.  Humility, Diversification, Mutual Helpfulness, Strength, Benefit to God's people, Surrender to God's Sovereign Guidance. From John Piper, in 1981.