Thursday, February 28, 2013

Two Down, Ten to Go!

It is already the end of another month! I want again to thank everyone who has helped encourage me and kept me accountable to the goals I have shared with you.  Now that we are 1/6th of the way through the year, I thought I would reflect on the goals that were not completed by the end of January. 

Social Wellness 
I have already met my goal here.  I will try to work on creating a new goal during the month of March to help keep my goals balanced.
Financial Wellness 
By the end of 2013, we would like to pay off over 20% of the current outstanding debt on our house.  To do this we will need to continue to work together with our finances  find more opportunities to earn and save more money.  We have also considered looking at selling our house, since we probably have a larger house then we really need. 
UPDATE:  We are still on pace to do this thanks to Anna's parents saving for her when she was young.  We were a little concerned if we were going to be able to make this goal when we decided Anna would begin her journey toward earning her Master's degree this year.  Anna's parents reminded Anna that they had saved some money in saving bonds that she could use for paying for the tuition and books.  This truly has been a blessing for us to be able to continue toward making progress on our financial goals of becoming debt free while Anna works on her degree.
Occupational Wellness 
One of my goals this year is to have portfolios prepared for every one of my students showing their specific progress based on the Humanities IB-MYP Objectives for 6th grade.  In order to do this, I will need to continue to stay organized and make sure to be given specific and meaningful feedback on all major assessments throughout the year. 
UPDATE:  I have been able to continue to do this.  My students will be having parent-teacher conferences in March and I am looking forward to seeing the student/parent reaction to their hard work.
Physical Wellness 
I have many physical wellness goals this year.  One of my goals is to participate in an organized run/race every month of 2013.  Another one of my goals is to complete the entire week of RAGBRAI in July. 
UPDATE:  I completed my January run and had registered for races in February, March and April.  The week prior to the Red Flannel Run I broke my foot and was not able to participate and also had to realize that running a race in March was not going to be able to happen either.  This will be a goal that I will not meet in 2013 now, but am sure it will end up on a goal list in a future year.  My current short term fitness goal is to be able to heal and be ready for a come back race on April 20th.  I then want to concentrate on getting back to the gym and getting it shape and prepare for RAGBRAI.  I have registered for the week long event and signed up with team RAMBRAI (through Cornell College), the team that we hosted at our house in 2011.
Environmental Wellness 
One of my goals in 2013 is for William to complete the "Leave No Trace" requirements for cub scouts to learn the importance of taking care of our environment. We will work with William to learn to be intentional with doing things outdoors and indoors to help protect our planet. 
UPDATE:   William has completed all the requirements for the Tiger Scout badge and now has been starting some work on this achievement.  There is a lot that goes into it.  We need to practice the "Leave No Trace" principals on two more outings and then William will be organizing a "Leave No Trace" related community service project. 
Intellectual Wellness 
In 2012, I completed 82 books.  My goal for 2013 is to read at least 100.  Several of my friends were able to meet this goal.  As Charlie Jones said, "Five years from today, you will be the same person that you are today, except for the books you read and the people you meet."  I want to read some good books, so that I can be a better person five years from now. 
UPDATE:  I have currently read 24 books in 2013 and am working on several other ones.  I am ahead of the pace needed to meet my goal right now by 8 books.  I am helpful to be able to stay on pace throughout the school year and really kick it in gear during the summer.  In addition, this month with spring break may help me.
Emotional Wellness 
I will continue to blog about my throughs and feelings at least once a week throughout 2013. I will also post additional content on my blog's facebook page 
A friend shared a great idea on facebook that our family has decided to put into action in 2013.  We will be keeping a "Good News Jar" to write notes of all the good things happening this year to open up and read on December 31st, 2013.   
UPDATE:  I have continued to update my blog at least weekly, though disappointingly I have not kept up with my twice a week updating since my I broke my foot.  I hope to get back to updating even more regularly this month.  I also need to work on writing more notes for our "Good News Jar".

Spiritual Wellness 
After finishing reading the Bible again in 2012, I plan on starting over in 2013.  In addition to reading the Bible, I will be using Tony Dungy's The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge for my personal quiet time in 2013.  Another spiritual wellness goal of mine for 2013 is to begin weekly devotionals as a family at least 5 days a week using Bruce Wilkinson's Family Walk.
UPDATE:  I have been doing a good job of getting my personal quiet devotional and Bible reading time in. One of the great resources I have added is a devotional called Ashes to Fire by Merritt J. Nielson.  It is a great devotional that has morning and evening pieces to bring me into a closer relationship between Ash Wednesday (Ashes) to Pentecost (Fire).  As a family we have decided that Family Walk is not an age-appropriate devotional for our family at this time so will be switching resources in March.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

God Loves You!

The third session of the Christian Atheist series was on "when you believe in God but aren't sure He loves you".  Pastor Craig says that there are two questions that Christian Atheists ask:
  1. Why would God love someone as bad as me? (Job 42:5-6)
  2. How could God love someone so insignificant? (Exodus 3:11 
As Christians we must remember that Love is not just what God does, Love is who God is.  God's love covers our sins and makes us significant.

One problem that I have experienced in my own life is trying to earn God's love by doing the right things.  When we learn to receive God's love and stop trying to earn it, it totally changes the way we live.

Several scripture references throughout the Bible tell us about God's love.  God's word describes it as unconditional, instructive, merciful, enduring, and inseparable.  These biblical truths along with other aspects of my spiritual life help me deeply feel loved and forgiven by God.  One of the ways I keep recharged is by listening to Christian music.  Many times the radio or my iPod play songs that touch my heart unexpectedly.  Here is a song that helps me remember that God never gives up on me even when I God's love for granted. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

God's Not Fair

Our second session of the Christian Atheist study focused in on times when we believe in God but don't think he is fair.   I have to admit at times when people I love are suffering or when I see bad things happen to kids I have had some of these same thoughts in my mind.  I have found myself asking the question, "God where are you?"

After diving a little deeper into the subject of God's fairness, I am relieved that God is not fair.  If he was fair he would give a sinner like me what I deserve.  Pastor Craig gave us three things to remember when we don't understand something about God:

  1. We don't deserve good things.  There is a misconception in our society and in modern Christianity that we deserve good things because we are good people.  Too many times we try to compare ourselves to others instead of trying to follow Christ to the best of our ability.  The problem is that if you use Jesus as the plumb line we are not good people.  "No one is good--except God alone" (Luke 18:19b). 
  2. Good things happen to bad people.  There are times in our lives we see good things happening to others we consider "bad people" but we don't focus as much on the good things that happen to us.  Remember we are sinners too and God has blessed us with many things.  God does not treat us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103:10-12). 
  3. God is present in your pain.  While we are grieving  morning or weeping God is there.   We have two options in our pain to go away from God or invite God in.  God wants to confort you in your pain, so invite him into your life.  "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble" (Nahum 1:7a)
So do you want God to be fair?  C.S. Lewis puts it this way, "Those who would like the God of scripture to be more purely ethical, do not know what they ask."  I am grateful that God extends his grace on us when we fail and draw closer to him.  

In hardships of the future I pray that I will be asking "How is God in the suffering?"rather than "Why is God so unfair to me?"  I also hope to be able to continue realize the underserved grace God has extended to me so that I in return can extend it to those who have hurt me in the past or hurt me in the future.  If God can forgive all of my sins and wash me clean, I should be able to forgive the lessor wrongs against me. 

While God is not fair he is good, even when people are not. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Do you really know God?

The small group study that we began this week is entitled The Christian Atheist.  The study focuses on six different types of Christian Atheists   Our first lesson was on believing in God, but not really knowing him.  The Bible says that even demons believe in God, but what we need to be true Christians is to have an intimate relationship that changes our actions.

At different stages of our life each of us has experienced different levels in our relationship with God.  There are areas in which I need to continue improving on in order to grow closer to him.  I am hopeful that this study will help me point out some of these weaknesses and allow me to strengthen them.  As a Christian, I want to be be able to say without a doubt that "I believe in God, know him intimately, and serve him wholeheartedly".  The core problem of being a Christian Atheist isn't whether we truly believe in God it is not having a personal relationship with him.

Our first lesson had a list of factors that are part of our personal relationships.  Some of them included the need to spend time together, to be vulnerable, to communicate regularly and to have common interests.  All of these things lead us to having deeper relationships with other people and with God.  As we get to know God better our lives will change.  Our lives don't change because we feel like we have to follow a set of rules, but because we love God and want to serve him.  My prayer for you and myself is to grow deeper in a relationship with God and to serve him better and loving others.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Challenges Create Opportunities

This is not actually my x-ray but the
closest I could find on the internet to
what my break looked liked. 
This week I broke my foot. Those who know me well, understand that this has created some big challenges for me and will for several weeks. I am not one who likes to sit down and always seem to have something going on.

James 1: 2 states, "When trouble comes your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." I am going to use this verse as a way to continue to live "Complaint Free" and see the positive side of breaking my foot. I will no longer be able to go the gym or run the races I have registered for at least 6 weeks. I plan on using this time to relax, spending additional time with family and see what other opportunities God brings into my life.

 I plan to follow Tony Dungy's advice, "When troubles hit, dig in deeper and grow-right where you are!" Good thing I get to grow-right where I am, because I won't be moving anywhere too fast for a while.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Key of Financial Peace

The final lesson, "The Great Misunderstanding" is my favorite lesson that Dave teaches.  All of the previous lessons taught us how to get out of debt, how to budget (spend) and to invest (save).   Financial Peace is more than just God's system for understanding money, becoming debt-free, and building wealth.  You can do everything Dave Ramsey teaches as you will prosper, but if you do not understand this lesson you will never have financial peace.  You need to learn to manage money with an open hand and have a giving heart.

Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof."  We must stop acting like we own everything and realize that we are stewards (managers) of God's property and money.  Jesus and the rest of the Bible talk more about money than it talks about love and grace.   Throughout those scriptures we are told to be givers because God is a giver.  Giving helps us be more Christ-like and therefore spiritually mature Christians.  Dave says, "because we are designed in God's image, we are happiest and most fulfilled when serving and giving."

While a lot of giving in Christianity focuses in on the tithe, the important thing is to realize that God owns it all, not just 10%.  Giving our tithe and offerings reminds us that God is the owner and is part of the praise and worship of God.

What is a tithe?  The tithe is defined as a tenth of your increase.  The Bible tells us to give our "first-fruits", which means off the top.  This is why Dave puts tithing on the top of all of his budget forms and should be done throughout the babysteps, not just when you get out of debt.   The tithe is to go to your local church.

What are offerings?  Offerings are different than the tithe.  They are above the tithe and are freely given our of surplus.  Dave recommends this type of giving after you get out of debt or when God calls you to do it.  You should never give with the motive of having your giving returned.

We are on babystep 6 and are looking forward to to making it babystep 7 and being creative in ways we can give to others!  This ends my series on the Financial Peace curriculum.  If you have any other topics you would be interested in please comment below or email me at