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I'm a stay-at-home Dad suffering from Fibromyalgia. I homeschool my daughter and lead worship at my church. I'm also a gamer and a geek and proud of it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

You shall know them by their...

So I was thinking the other morning on my commute to work, yes I am actually employed now, while watching the people drive through the rain and sleet, or rather try to drive. I'm always dismayed by the amazing lack of winter driving ability found among the denizens of Southern New England. I mean come on we grew up here didn't we. Well, no some of them didn't, which is obvious when you are stuck in traffic. I have always said that you can tell a real New Englander by how well they drive in the snow.

This reminded me of something Jesus said, you may be familiar with it, you shall know them by their fruit. That caught my attention. Would people know I belong to Jesus by looking at my fruit, or rather by the way I live my life. Do I show love to others, do I exhibit joy in all circumstance, do I enjoy a peace that can't be explained.etc., Well do I? Do we? Does my life reflect my status as one of the redeemed or do I look just like all the other strangers around me. Could another Christian pick me out in a crowd, simply by observing the way I interact with the people in my life and how I react to the circumstances of my life?

Christmas is an easy time for most people to act like Christians. So what can we do to set us apart from the crow? How can we let the Son of Glory, which dwells in our hearts, shine brighter than the tinsel this year? It's more than saying Merry Christmas, though I will happily greet everyone I meet with the traditional Yuletide cheer. For me it's about seeing beyond the natural and loving humanity the way God does. Even a simple act of kindness like holding a door for someone can speak volumes in a world where such basic social manners have been lost.

We've been given the greatest gift from God above, so this year I'm going to share it with others and let it shine!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Guilty of Being Blessed

I'm guilty.

yes you heard me, I'm guilty...

guilty of being blessed that is.

Those of you out there who are also guilty know exactly what I am talking about, for the rest let me explain.

When my wife and I bought our first home we were extremely excited, almost too excited. We wanted to show everyone all the work we had done on our little fixer upper. I would beam when explaining how I had hung the cabinets myself and installed the dishwasher without getting electrocuted. I was working a very nice paying job that afforded us the luxury of owning a home. We were in a word, "blessed."

We were in a word, "blessed."

So why did I feel awkward talking about our new home in front of people that I knew were barely putting bread on the table? I wasn't bragging about how much money I made, on the contrary my wife and I fully acknowledge the fact that we had been blessed with just the right circumstances to buy a home. We gave all the credit to God, so why did I feel guilty for being successful, or in other words guilty for being blessed?

I really think it stemmed from us being young in the Lord. We had been convinced that if a Christian was successful then they needed to act like they weren't so people wouldn't think they were prideful. Wow, just thinking about that gives me a headache, no wonder so many Christians fall away from the faith. They are so tied up in knots that they can't figure out how they are supposed to have the "Joy of the Lord"

They are so tied up in knots that they can't figure out how they are supposed to have the "Joy of the Lord" 

I realize now that this is crazy, after all why shouldn't we boast about all the good things God has done for us. How else will others see how great he is if we keep trying to dowse the light of His glory in our lives. The flip side is to not try so hard to be "happy" when things aren't going well. I'm not talking about joy, we should always be joyful in spite of any difficulties we are going through. What we don't need, and what others don't need to see, is the plastered fake smiles that hide our true feelings.

Don't feel guilty about how much God has blessed you.

Life can be a roller coaster at times and if we let it can take us along for the ride and leave us bewildered and confused but if we approach everything with a heart full of joy and thanksgiving we can ride out life's ups and downs on an even keel. We should hold on to joy when times are tough but by the same token shouldn't stifle it when times are good or even great.

Don't feel guilty about how much God has blessed you. Embrace it, own it, and boast about it. Shout it from the roof tops just how great our God is and How much he has done for you and me.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fox Knights for Royal Rangers

OK, I just got finished making these for my bulliten board in my Ranger Kids classroom, and they are beyond cool. We are starting the Fox quarter, where the boys will earn their Fox Advancement, and the theme of the quarter is Bravery. Well, I let the creative juices flow, and what could be more brave than knights, well how about fox knights?


Feel free to share and comment.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Planning Thanksgiving Dinner - Part 2

So, last time I talked about my table setting and decor for our festive holiday meal. This time I want to focus on the food. As I mentioned before I want the food to be simple yet special, seriously turkey is a must for Thanksgiving and I don't care if the Pilgrims didn't serve it at their meal.(They didn't have running water or proper sanitation facilities either, and I don't see anyone insisting we not shower and dig a latrine for the holiday.) All joking aside lets talk about what makes a simple meal special.

The Turkey

We usually stuff our turkey (the stuffing tends to flavor the bird from the inside out.) You do run the risk of the turkey drying out if you stuff it as it has to cook longer, we solve this problem in two ways. First I make some herb butter by mixing room temp unsalted butter with a combination of fresh and dried herbs and spices (remember what I said about something special ;).) This is then rubbed into the bird UNDER the skin. this will help with seasoning the meat, crisping the skin, and adding extra moisture to the meat. We also rub the skin with olive oil and season liberally with salt. Do not under season your bird folks! We then cover the turkey with foil until the last 30 - 60 minutes of cooking.

The Stuffing

As I said we stuff our bird, and always make extra on the side. Our stuffing is actually my wife's grandmother's recipe and consists of stuffing bread, chicken stock, herbs, onions, green and red pepper, hamburger, and Chourico (Portuguese hot sausage pronounce Sher-eese). This hot and spicy stuffing is a family favorite and is very special.

The Potatoes

Basic mashed potatoes are comfort food for me, so I tend not to mess with them. I'm not adverse to adding cheese, but beyond that LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!! What makes ours special is that we use my wife's stand mixer to whip the potatoes with butter and milk. Yum!!!!!

Corn

Okay, here is where I like to get a little fancy. Over the years I have tried various ways to make corn more exciting and this year I will be making creamy corn and spinach with Parmesan cheese. I've made this a few times and everyone seems to love it so, hey why not?

Sweet Potatoes

Candy them with butter, brown sugar, and mini-marshmallows. Do I need to say anything else about them? I didn't think so.

Green Bean Casserole

We don't make this ourselves, but my sister-in-law brings it every year, and it is delicious. Thanksgiving just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it.

Broccoli and Cheese

My mother-in-law loves broccoli and cheese and well, why should I be the only one to get their favorite comfort food. This is one is for you Mom.

Gravy

I can't believe I almost forgot this one. I'm in charge of making the turkey gravy every year, and yes, I make it from scratch and it is to die for.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my dinner menu. Hey let me know what your traditions are, I would love to hear them. Next time I'll be talking about appetizers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thank You and Well Done.

Once again Thanksgiving is just around the corner and like most people my mind turns to thoughts of turkey, family, and the things in life that I am thankful for. This past week though I was taken aback by something very simple. Someone told me they liked the worship on Sunday. I know it's not earth shattering as far as events go, and it wasn't the first time someone commented on the music. I usually say thank you and mention how blessed i am to be used by God, and this time was no different, but something in my spirit stirred a little.

I thought that the well done speach at the end of the race was all the recognition we should require


I've learned over the years not to ignore the nudging of the Spirit, so that night during my prayer time I let God speak to my heart, and what I heard surprised me, "Thank You." Did I hear that right? God was thanking me? He was, and I realized He was thanking me everytime someone was touched by the worship on Sunday morning, everytime I was obedient to his leading, and everytime I helped our congregation to fix their eyes on Jesus.

I let God speak to my heart, and what I heard surprised me


I guess that deep down, I thought that the well done speach at the end of the race was all the recognition we should require, but in reality it isn't. I'm not diminishing the reward we will get in heaven, on the contrary I think as humans we need constant encouragement to continue to strive towards that goal, and God is well aware of this need as well.

God is telling His servants, 

"Thank you and keep up the good work."


I realized that God is using those that come up and tell me how much they loved the music, or what a great voice I have, to let me know He appreciates my willingness to serve, to put myself out there (way outside my comfort zone I might add), and to be obedient to His call. I'm not saying these things to brag or to puff myself up, but rather to remind myself and others that God is telling His servants, "Thank you and keep up the good work."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Crazy Days Ahead

The next few days are going to be crazy busy. I'm going to training Wednesday morning for a new job. (I'm going to be doing some bookkeeping from home.) Then coming home to do some school with my daughter (she is mostly self directed but still have to go over her math and science lessons, plus she has a test in Bible.) After that I'm off to the church office to get some treasurer things done. Finally to round off the day I'll be teaching the K-2 boys at church. And that's just Wednesday.

The rest of the week is looking just as busy. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. I know with my fibro I'm going to crash hard come Saturday afternoon, but I thrive on this kind of pace. My body may be screaming no, but my mind says bring it on. Oh, by the way, Christmas is just around the corner. LOL.

Happy NaNoWriMo

Yes, it is National Novel Writing Month. The premise is to start on November 1st and finish by Midnight on November 30th. The total word count should be no less than 50,000 words, but the Young Writers Program (YWP) allows you to set more reasonable goals for students. The idea of writing an entire novel in a month is intriguing and well, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. I will be blogging about my experience as the month progresses, I'm getting into this late but hey, I'm a bit of an overachiever so lets see what happens. Also going to be using the YWP program with my daughter (pray for her as she does not like to write :P)

Want to write a novel yourself you can check out the program and sign up at:
http://nanowrimo.org/

Want to get free curriculum to use with your students goto:
http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/

Happy Writing!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembering My Dad on Veteran's Day

Went to get my free meal at Applebee's today, seeing as I'm a veteran. It was nice being honored for serving, but it was also bitter sweet. I watched many families bringing in their fathers and grandfathers to get their free meals and I couldn't help but think about my own father. He was a veteran as well and though we didn't have a great relationship growing up, it was getting better before his stroke and eventual passing. I thought about how I would never have the chance to bring him out for a meal, to share one of our few common bonds.

I say all this because it's important to honor our parents while they are still with us. Even if they haven't done anything deserving of honor, God says to honor them because He gave them to us for parents. So today I want to honor my father, not because he was a great dad, or even because he was a veteran, but simply because he was my dad. I hope he found peace with God at the end, so we can sit down at the great table in heaven and talk about all the things we did have in common.

Dad, thank you for your service, I miss you and love you.

Planning Thanksgiving Dinner - Part 1

Thanksgiving has always been a time for our family to get together and reconnect, and I have always felt that it should be more than just a meal. It should be an event. I want not just the food to be exceptional but also the decor to invoke feelings of warmth, nostalgia, and comfort. As a guy I want a comfortable table that I will actually want to sit around. I want food that is simple yet special. As an artist I want my decor and table setting to be visually balanced and emotionally serene. I want it to be both functional and pleasing to the eye.

Living in an apartment, we gather around our kitchen table for dinner. It can expand to seat eight, though in a pinch we can seat ten ( we've managed to get 13 of us around it one year but that is just too crowded). This year we are looking at at least ten if not more. Any overflow will be set up at a smaller table in our parlor. The table I set for the photo shoot  is set for eight.
Left: Our table set for eight
Top Right: I like to have a balanced look to the center of the table, candles at both ends and in the middle
Bottom Right: I tied cinamon sticks to a large pillar candle with twine. My wife bought the pumpkin on clearance at a pharmacy, it looks extra special sitting on top of a cake plate we never use. 
Left: This simple luminary is made from a pint mason jar that was stipple painted and then baked in the oven to set the paint. We then added a silk leaf tied with twine and placed a votive inside.
Top Right: I originally purchased this five votive candle holder to go in the unused fireplace in our bedroom but it didn't sit correctly so I've been using it on our kitchen table instead. We filled it with gingered pumpkin scented potpouri and popcorn kernals. We then topped them with a tea light.
Bottom Right: I like the idea of something special placed on the plate (last year I tied the silverware with twineand attached a silk leaf and a card with a scripture verse.) this year I made crackers. They will be filled with treats and a scripture verse. I made them using dicarded towel rolls cut down to size and covered with gold foil and ribbons of varying length.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Obsessed with Table Settings

As some of you may have noticed, I'm not your typical guy.My interests are varied and do not always fall within the realm of what the world has declared to be manly things. Over the years this bothered me until I realized that I'm uniquely made. I joking tell people that I don't just follow the beat of my own drummer, I have an entire mariachi band. I know who I am in Christ and I really don't care what anyone else thinks, well most of the time anyway.

I have an entire mariachi band.


I'm saying this because, as a stay at home dad, I have to perform some functions that are usually placed under the woman category by society, and even by most christians.One of those things over the past few years is planning our Thanksgiving dinner. I have really gotten into planning the menu and even creating a festive tablescape for our guests.

Last Years Table

This year hasn't been any different, with the exception that I will be sharing my creation on my blog. I had just finished photographing the table, complete with place settings and burning candles, when my wife comment that I was just not like other guys. Even my own wife of 20 plus years is taken aback by my creative side at times. she got me thinking though.

I'm obsessed with table settings. Did I follow the correct etiquet rules, does the coffee spoon go to the right or on top, which side does the napkin go on??? Why am I like this? Then it hits me, my mom. One of my fondest memories from my childhood was setting the table everynight for dinner. And when I says setting the table, I'm talking the whole nine yards. Frist you hand to remove the table runner and all the knickknacks. Then you had to pick out a tablecloth. Followed by the dinnerplates, glasses, and silverware, which my mom would gently correct me if something was out of place. My mom taught me how to set a formal table, and and informal one, and indirectly taught me the importance of sitting down for a family meal everynight. The meal would almost always end with coffee and dessert, and then everything was whisked away into the kitchen to be washed and the table would get its runner and knickknacks replaced once more.

I'm obsessed with table settings.


Familty dinners around the table. Something that our busy modern families hardly ever have time for anymore. maybe that is why I obsess over the holiday meals, I'm trying to recapture the warmth and nostalgia of simpler times. By setting an elaborate table I'm not only providing a festive stage for our meal but also for the family to reconnect.

Hey dads (and moms to), how do you help your families reconnect

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Teaching Tuesdays: Election Day

So Today is Election Day, and as in past years we have been discussing the importance of voting and in making an informed decision. Part of our homeschool philosophy has always been to use the events of our everyday lives as a jumping off point for learning. After all we are trying to raise our daughter to be a responsible adult. I know that this year isn't a major national election but that doesn't mean it isn't important.

If you are considering a study on the electoral process (whether you're a homeschooler or not) the following resources may prove helpful:


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Worship Wednesday: Woonsocket Day of Prayer

What is the likelyhood that you could get two churches of different traditions to work together for a common goal? How about 10 churches? Pretty slim right? Well what if I told you that this past weekend I participated in a prayer service involving not two churches, not ten churches, but twenty churches of different traditions, who came together as the body of Christ to pray for our city.

To me this is what unity is all about. Where we can put aside the things that divide us and concentrate on the things we have in common. Every church at this prayer meeting cares about vour city, loves Jesus, and realizes that He is the only one that is going to bring about a change in our city. It is not going to take more social programs, though God can use those to help the hurting. It is not going to take rallies or angry mobs, though God can use those to bring awareness. It is going to take God's people getting on their knees and praying for the people God loves (which by the way is everyone.)

Sometimes, I think what keeps God from moving is the lack of unity of His people. Maybe it is time we stopped trying to build our own little kingdoms and started building God's Kingdom. I'd love to hear your opinions.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fun Fridays: Sprucing Up the Place - Quote Mural

We have spent the last couple of weekends painting the stairwell of our three tenement house. The property is owned by my mother in-law and my sister in-law and brother in-law live on the second and third floors respectively. We chose a bright yellow (Valspar - Soft Duckling) wall color that makes the stairwell clean and bright. We then decided to paint a quote on the wall on the landing between the first and second floors.


The quote is visible as you enter the side door from the porch (this is the main entrance used by the family and guests.) I really love the way it turned out. I used two complimentary colors (Valspar - Rich Chocolate and Bear Claw) that I was able to get in 8 oz. sample sizes. I drew the layout of the letters lightly in pencil and painted them freehand. The whole mural measures approx. 3 1/2 feet wide by 6 feet tall.I'm still trying to decide what to do on the landing between the second and third floors, but will definitely be sharing when I do.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Worship Wednesdays: Getting Ready for Christmas

Christmas?!? Really?!? It's not even November yet,  but yes if I'm going to get ahead of the scheduling insanity that is the holiday season, I need to start thinking about our church's annual Christmas program. This year after listening to far to much Christmas music in July I have decided to have our choir perform Bethlehem Morning - A Ready to Sing Christmas.I like the simple arrangement and the fact that the selections have some style variation. (Too many Musicals and Cantatas I've listened to seem to get stuck in one particular style for every selection.) Of course if I had the time I would design my own program (I've done that twice now, and though the results are rewarding the time and effort is just beyond what I can handle this year.)

I know not every church out there has a choir (we only have one at Christmas time) but there is something about the traditional choral selections at this time of year that resonate with people, especially the unchurched. Almost everyone is familiar with Christmas carols and when combined with powerful narration and scripture reading can make for an unexpected evangelical service. For many this might be one of the only time during the year that they are thinking about God or are willing to even attended a church service.

So, I would encourage you to start thinking ahead, and planning how you will proclaim not just Christ's birth this Christmas but also His death and resurrection. Choral music might not be your thing or fit into your church's culture, but the message of His coming and taking on flesh definitely ought to be. Take some time to plan out your holidays and feel free to let me know what your planning this holiday season.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Managing Mondays: Recipe - Hot Cocoa Mix

This mix makes a great gift, but is also great just to have on hand for your family or just yourself.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups instant nonfat dry milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

Mix all the ingredients together and then working in small batches pulse the mix in a food prcessor until the white chocolate chips are finely ground and the mixture is uniform. This can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

To make Hot  Cocoa put 1/4 cup of mixture in a mug and stir in 1 cup of hot milk.

You can top this with whipped cream of mini marshmallows.

You can also substitute milk chocolate chips for the white chips, or even use mint chips for a real treat.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fun Fridays: Getting Crafty with Snowmen Mason Jars

We have more craft fairs coming up so I'm once again painting mason jars. This time I decided to create snowmen.


These were "painted" using paint pens. They are really easy to use and provide a level of control that I can no longer get with regular brushes due to my fibro. I then place the painted jars on a cookie sheet and place them in a cool oven. Next, I turn the oven to 350 and bake for 30 minutes including preheat time. Finally I let them cool in the oven. 

These jars are going to be embellished with ribbons and filled with homemade Hot Cocoa Mix. I'll be sharing the recipe for that on Monday.



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Worship Wednesday: Lift Me Up

Okay, maybe trying to get back into writing as I head into the busiest time of the year isn't the best move on my part. I'm sitting here trying to gather my thoughts and figure out what to write about, not that I don't have a lot of ideas, more like too many ideas. Where do I start!??

Pray

I forget that all important first step much of the time. I'm a very impulsive person with a bit of impatience thrown in for good measure. Put that together with being creative and having limited energy due to chronic illness and it's a wonder I finish anything. I either lose interest or become discouraged with the results (I'm a bit of a perfectionist as well.) With that said, some time spent with God in prayer puts everything back in perspective. It allows me to reconnect with the creator and be even more creative. It helps me to refocus my priorities on what is really important. I'm also reminded that I don't have to do things in my own strength and ability. As a matter of fact I shouldn't. I should be relying on God more and more.

Like a child holding his father's hand as you walk along, eventually you will tire and your father will pick you up on His shoulders. Not only will you find rest but also a new perspective on the world.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Managing Mondays: Mason Jar Crafts

As I said last week, we have been very busy around here. Part of that business is due to some upcoming craft fairs we will be working. With that in mind I thought it would be fun to show off some of our wares.

These are just a couple of the mason jar luminaries we have been working on. the first one is a fall themed one. I stippled yellow, orange, and red paint in vaguely leaf like shapes and then attached a silk leaf using jute.

The next one I used paint pens to draw snowflakes and added a blue snowflake ribbon and blue stones around the candle.


I hope this gets you inspired. You might even want to try these with you kids.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I’m Back!

So we've been very busy around the Neary household the last few months, and I have neglected my blogging for far too long. I have really missed it. So anyway to bring you up to speed we have started school (already into the fourth week here), my wife has us signed up for at least three craft fairs in the coming weeks, and my daughter has a sleepover at church and I’m going camping with the boys all in the next few weeks. Wow, I feel tired just typing all that.

Anyway watch for more to come in the upcoming weeks. I have some great ideas to share (I recently discovered Pintrest!!!), so until then, I’ll see ya!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Worship Wednesdays:It Is Well...

So, I was trying to plan out my set lists for the upcoming month (I like to plan ahead, though the lists often change before the actual service.) but was having a hard time quieting my thought and focusing on what God wants to say to His people through worship. My problem was I was distracted, distracted by worry. You see my daughter is away at summer camp for the first time. She is currently a three hour car ride away from home staying at a church camp where she know absolutely no one. Now, this was her idea, and she seems content to experience everything the camp has to offer, but my wife and I...we are nervous wrecks.

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like seabillows roll;
What ever my lot, Thou hast thaught me to say,
"It is well, it is well with my soul"

Those simple words of that very familiar hymn came crashing through the cacophony of my thoughts and just like that my thoughts became captive once again. You see it is human nature to worry about things that we often cannot control, but as the hymn writer notes God has taught us to say "It is well". The Holy Spirit is the comforter. He brings peace to our hearts and souls.

I've often said that worship is all about our service rendered unto God. Sometimes the greatest service we can render is trusting Him.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Worship Wednesdays: Saying Goodbye?

So, I had to say goodbye to someone last week that, without realizing it, had become one of my personal heroes of the faith. My wife's grandmother passed away last Monday evening in the same house she was born in surrounded by her family. She and her late husband were an inspiration to me and my wife in so many ways. Grammie, as we called her, was a sweet spirit. As gentle as the day is long, full of love and kindness that seemed to fill the very air of her house.

I remember the first time I met my wife's grandparents. We had just started dating and she had invited me to go with her and her family for a visit. From the moment I met them they welcomed me not only into their home but into their hearts. Looking back I realize that they were simply following Jesus's command to love their neighbor.

Over time they became as close to my heart as my own grandparents had been and now that they are gone, my soul mourns their passing but at the same time rejoices in that they are with the Father in heaven. It is a bitter sweet feeling that cannot be put into words, for although my wife and I will miss her terribly, we also rejoice with the angels of heaven as they welcome her to her true home. There is great comfort in knowing that we will see Grammie and Grampie on that shore in the sweet by and by.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Worship Wednesdays: To plan or Not to plan

There is much debate about the idea of planning, or at least a lot of debate in my own head. So, I thought I would share my thoughts on the subject.

I really think planning is an essential part of preparing for a worship service. How else will the musicians be prepared for Sunday morning if they can't practice ahead of time. Most musicians and especially those leading worship want to bring their best. They can't do that if they can't practice.

Now, God doesn't require our worship to be perfect, but He does require excellence. If we are not bringing the best we have to offer then our worship is not acceptable to the Lord (remember Cain and Abel?) So what are some reasons we don't plan ahead?


  1. We don't have time to practice. Really? I mean even if you can't get together each week you should be practicing as individuals. How else are you going to learn new songs or become better musicians?
  2. I don't have time to plan. If you don't have the time to commit yourself to what a ministry needs in terms of time, then maybe you need to step down. 
  3. We don't want to miss the Spirit moving. However you want to put this, it is a valid point but it doesn't negate the need for planning and practice. When we approach our worship services, we need to remember the idea of balance.
  4. My Pastor doesn't tell me the theme or Sermon topic until the last minute. This is a though one. In my case my Pastor hardly ever tells me the theme or topic of his sermons. After all if we are both going to the same well then we should be on the same page. There are a few things you can do in this case: Ask you Pastor to give you the theme or topic sooner, or ask your Pastor if you can select the songs ahead of time. His answer in both cases may surprise you. You could also limit your song selections to a small list of songs that your worship team knows really well. They should also be practicing those songs during the week.


So how do I plan? I send out the song list for Sunday a week in advance and try to have at least a months worth of set list planned out. I also try to remain flexible as God may put a specific song on my heart at the last minute. We also have practices every Thursday night where we go over the songs for Sunday as well as any new songs we will be introducing in the next few weeks. This year I will also be challenging myself as well as our worship team to learn ten songs by heart that we can play in case the spirit begins to move or if we are called to play at the end of the service. When planning a month out I try to remember any special holidays or service and incorporate songs that fit those themes (i.e. Communion or Missions Sunday.)

In the end, if we are serious about our worship we need to plan. If we don't plan ahead we can't prepare. If we don't prepare we can't bring our best.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Teaching Tuesdays: To Snow Day or Not to Snow Day

That is the question isn't it? As homeschoolers do we keep going when everyone else has no school due to the snow or do we allow ourselves to take some time off to enjoy all that wonderful white stuff?

I don't think there is any right answer to that one. It really all depends on what works best for your family, and that may even vary from year to year. One of the joys of homeschooling is the flexibility it gives us to do school around our lives and schedules and not the other way around.

So if you feel you need to do school even though public schools are closed then go ahead, (that is what we are doing this week as we have a big family vacation coming up next month and our homeschool co-op is also staring up next month so I don't want to fall behind anymore than we already are (-: ). On the other hand if you feel it is more important to your children to go outside and make a snowman or go sledding then by all means do that. We've done both and we have even taken a snow day or two even when the public school is still in session.

Our days off don't have to line up with the days the public school are taking off. We can manage our school schedule to fit the circumstances of our own individual families. So go ahead and do what is best for your family and stop worrying about what other schools and families are doing, and remember you can even do "school" while having fun. Field trip to Sea World anyone?

Like I always said when I worked as a Training Facilitator "Let's have fun and learn something!"

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Worship Wednesdays: The Name of the Lord (Part 7)

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.
                                                 
-Genesis 22:13-14

In Genesis chapter 22 we see Abraham being tested by God. God wanted to see if Abraham feared Him and if He would withhold his only son from God. Abraham was obedient and Isaac was spared, but a sacrifice was still needed so God provided. The name for God in this passage should be a familiar one it is Jehovah-jireh (pronounced je-HOE-vah JIE-rah) and means literally The LORD Will Provide. God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice in place of his son Isaac. And years later God would provide His Son to be a sacrifice in our place.


It is important to note that the offering that was being made was a burnt offering. It was a voluntary offering made in love as an act of worship. It was specifically done as an atonement for sin. It is not meant to be an empty ritual or something done out of obligation. It was done voluntary out of love. Jesus became our offering willingly because He loves us. Should our worship unto Him be any less. 



God has provided everything we need up to and including a willing atonement for our sins, if that doesn't move your heart with gratitude to the LORD then I'm not sure anything truly will.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Managing Mondays: Keith's Famous Apple Pie

Okay, It's time for my famous, award winning apple pie!

Ingredients:
     Pastry for 2-crust 9-inch pie, unbaked
     Sugar
8   cups pealed and sliced tart cooking apples
1   teaspoon ground cinnamon
1   teaspoon ground nutmeg
2   tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1   egg, slightly beaten

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Mix 1 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour. Add to apples and mix well. Cover and chill for 30 - 60 minutes. Line 9-inch pie pan with pastry. Heap chilled apples in lined pan. Adjust top crust and cut slits for steam to escape (I like to use a cookie cutter to make shades in the crust before positioning on the pie. I then   offset the pastry cutouts over the holes.) Seal edges a flute.  Brush the top with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 50 minutes or until crust is well browned and apples are cooked through. Serve warm or cold topped with whipped cream or ice cream.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Worship Wednesdays:The Name of the Lord (Part 6)



Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation.

                                                               -Exodus 3:13-15

God refers to himself as I AM in this passage and The LORD. The word for The Lord here is YHWH sometimes written as Yahweh or Jehovah it is closely related to the Hebrew verb meaning "to be, to exist." This isn't the first time this name is used though. It first appears back in Genesis 2:4.


This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

                                                              -Genesis 2:4

Now the word for God in the above passage is Elohim, God the Creator, but look at the name that comes before God: LORD. This is the name Jehovah or Yahweh. This name implies a being who is absolutely self-existent. That means He always was, is , and always will be. He doesn't need anyone or anything in order to exist. 

He is also the same yesterday, today and forever. Let that sink in. The attributes that make Him God never change, also He is never taken off guard or by surprise. Nothing happens that He isn't aware of. It is a pretty awesome thought that God allows us to have free will, and yet He is already aware of our choices and has planned accordingly, in order to fulfill His will, and He does this on not just a global scale but a universal scale.

When we worship Him we should take time to reflect on this amazing mystery, that as Christians the great I AM is now dwelling in our hearts. He is the hope of glory.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Teaching Tuesdays:Board Games

Who doesn't like games? Why not use that love of games to help our kids learn things?

Some of my favorite games also teach some basic and not so basic concepts. Today I want to go over a few of my families favorite games and what makes them so special.

Carcassonne


My daughter began playing Carcassonne at age 6, though much of the games mechanics were lost on her at first (she really liked to complete roads so that they looked pretty.) No at 14 she can give me and my wife a run for our money. So why is this a great learning game? Well, let's start with the whole scoring system that involves basic addition and multiplication. Then there is the spacial reasoning and also the ability to plan ahead. Resource management is also something to take into account. You could also go extra geeky and look up the actual city of Carcassonne on which the game is based.

Made for Trade

So my next pic is Made for Trade. This game is designed to be a learning tool, but unlike most games of this nature was actually entertaining to play. The game includes 4 different levels of play and is based on collecting items in a barter economy. This is definitely a great addition to any study of colonial America.

Stone Age

The last game I want to mention is Stone Age. This has fast become one of our families favorite games. The game revolves around collecting resources in order to build your village and develop tools and agriculture in order to survive. This game makes the list due to its involved scoring system in which makes use of multiplication and division as well as addition. It can also spark conversations about history and the development of civilization.

This of course is just a sampling of the many games that we have used, usually without my daughter realizing it, in teaching.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Worship Wednesdays: The Name of The Lord (Part 5)

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.( Jeremiah 32:17)



So after a long hiatus we are back with our series on the names of The Lord. If you want to get caught up or refresh your memory you can check out Part 1 here.

So this week I want to focus on the name Adonai (pronounced a-doh-NIE). It first appears in the book of Genesis in chapter 15 verse 2. Lets look at it in context:


After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying,
Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great.”
Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6 NASB)



In verse 2 Abraham addresses God as "O Lord God" in the NIV it is rendered as "Sovereign Lord." What Abraham is saying here is that he acknowledges God as Adonai, or Lord, Sovereign, or Master if you will. It is interesting to note that later in this passage it says Abraham believed and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. You see Abraham received salvation(righteousness) through believing God, but he first had to acknowledge that God was sovereign. God He recognizes Him as his Lord and Master. The owner of his life.

As worshipers and especially worship leaders we need to remember to include an acknowledgement of God's sovereignty in our worship sets. I'm a firm believer that our worship can be used by God to convict of sin and lead someone to salvation just as much as the preaching of the word. That's why I feel it is so important that our worship be focused on God and His saving grace, but if we fail to express that God is the master and creator of our lives then why would people believe that He has any say in how we live those lives. We give glory to God not just because of what He has done for us but also because of Who HE is.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Worship Wednesdays: Are You Willing?

When I sat down to write this article, I found it difficult at first to decide on a topic. Nothing seemed to feel right and there were too many distractions, and that is when it hit me. I should write what I know.

Sounds simple and well it is. You see, I'm not some great theologian or philosopher, gosh I'm not even that great of a musician and singer. But, what I am is willing. I was willing to step up when our church needed a worship leader. Strangely enough it was because I was literally the last man standing. I never really wanted to be in charge, and I would give it up in a heart beat if I felt God was moving me someplace else. the reality of it is that I just want to serve him. God in turn has placed me in a position not only where I can best serve Him, but also where I can do what I love.

Don't get me wrong, I love to sing, and I thoroughly enjoy leading worship every Sunday, but I was willing to do anything God called me to do, and remain content singing in my pew. God called, I answered, and He provided me with the ability to get the job done. Also, I don't want you to think that I think I'm all that. I know my strengths, but I'm also painfully aware of my weaknesses. I'm far from perfect, but God doesn't require perfection. If He did, none of us would measure up.

So, here it is, another challenge. Would we be willing to give it all up and do some other less than desirable job in the church, maybe one with little or no recognition. If God told us to give up being worship leaders and go clean toilets, would we? Are we willing to do everything God has called us to do?



Monday, January 14, 2013

Managing Mondays:Meatless Mondays

So my wife and I have decided to do the whole Meatless Mondays thing. So, to that end I thought I would share some of the meatless meal ideas we come up with.We started last week with cheese and spinach filled tortellini with broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots in Alfredo sauce. It was really good, then of course cheese makes everything better.

this week I'm going to be making spinach and ricotta stuffed crepes with roasted chickpeas. Sounds ambitious I know, but I've been dying to make crepes for a while and this is an excellent excuse.

I'm very curious if anyone else has tried Meatless Mondays, and if so what meal ideas you might have.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Worship Wednesdays: Are You Ready?

So after a brief hiatus and a week of being laid up with a bad chest cold, we are back.

This past Sunday our pastor presented his theme for the new year, "READY."
He defined Ready as follows:

Ready 1. Standing in the place of anticipation 2. Having a made up mind 3. Poised for action.

Being a worship leader I of course began to think about this in the context of my ministry, and I began to ask myself, "am I ready?"

First, am I standing in a place of anticipation? Do I approach Sunday mornings with an attitude of an obligation that I need to fulfill or do I come expecting, anticipating great things every Sunday? There is a great song by Matthew West called The Motions, that sums this feeling up.

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me.

the second definition really made me think about the songs we sing. Do they convey what we believe? Do they present a clear and honest picture of the God we serve? As a worship leader, I take my job extremely seriously. I spend hours in prayer when selecting songs for our worship services, but I still scrutinize every song we do. Also when I sing a try to think about the words and their meaning, allowing the emotions those words stir inside me to be evident on my countenance.

The last thing is being poised for action. Am I ready to respond to when the Spirit moves? Do I allow room for Him to move? Is my set list more important than what God is doing in the service? I like to believe that if God begins to move in our service that I would be sensitive enough to His Spirit that I could change my set list on the fly.

So, this year I'm going to challenge myself to be READY, and I want to extend that challenge to my fellow worship leaders. Are you willing to be READY?