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Hidden beauty

Tuesday, 03. May 2016 by Renee Ellison

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Most women—including the gorgeous ones!—wish they were more physically beautiful than they are. It seems to be a universal anxiety for nearly all women. That feeling is not helped by having to see photoshopped and airbrushed pictures of physically perfect women in magazines, or by daily viewing news anchorwomen who have whole teams of people “work on them” before they come on the air. One news-anchorwoman when doing a tour through the TV studio said to her guest: “See this room over here? This is where they turn a sow’s ear into a raging beauty!”

Let’s look at this from a spiritual point of view. How come we all didn’t come out of the birth canal flaming beauties? What might be going on here if we look at the whole phenomenon with a little larger perspective?

The scriptures tell us about our maker/redeemer that He had no handsomeness/beauty, no natural physical draw when He himself visited earth. Hmmmm—Almighty God limited His own physical physique on purpose?

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him…” (i.e., on that basis) (Isaiah 53:2).

Could it be that in this choice, He was making sure that there were no distractions to work through to get to the core of who He really was? It seems that the Father did it with deliberateness in crafting the Messiah, via His incarnation and He then apparently additionally allowed it in the great majority of us, no doubt, for the benefit of other gains to our souls, while on earth, and to His kingdom body, as a whole.

Apparently this is not the TIME of glorification, (‘tis reserved for a future chapter) but rather of humility! This is the donkey chapter; the white steed in us comes later. The whole creation waits “to see the sons of God [blindingly and spectacularly] revealed!” (Romans 8:19). This is the “covered glory” chapter; the UN-covering (the slight tweak of the cheek and nose moved into perfection, the tweak of the character into holiness), shall assuredly yet BE! “Those who look to Him are radiant” (Psalm 34:5) “And those who wait for Him will not be ashamed” (Isaiah 49:23; also see Romans 9:33).

My mother used to tell me, regarding any personal shortcoming: “Remember, people care more about their own headache than if you die!” I’ve noted through the years that exceptional personal beauty (and it is the exception) is important only in the initial ten second introduction of people and even then it is quickly eclipsed in all persons, as the personhood behind the edifice immediately pumps forth. People are first and last drawn to the emanation of love, alone. Many a man (in relationship to a woman) has sadly found out that his enjoyment of a beautiful face turned south after an experience or two with the not-so-beautiful self-absorbed character behind it.

It is important to look as nice as we can, given what we’ve got—being unkempt is no joy to be around, either—but we can safely stop at good grooming, cleanliness, pleasant colors, and well-ordered, God-honoring, modest clothing. If we, as believing women, major yet further on improving our insides and on emanating more love (for, who of us doesn’t still have a ways to go in these areas?), He will see to it that a kind of additional heavenly beauty will manifest upon our countenances. We will have beauty at our core—His beauty. And then, those around us wouldn’t trade that for anything.

A woman bedecked only as an ornament or as a glossy model (i.e. merely used by the world as a coat-stand or as a clothes hanger) can, in a matter of minutes be regarded as a waste of humanity—exerting no real contribution or influence upon a very needy world. Everywhere, the world cries for the gentle impress of a godly woman upon people’s souls and circumstances.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Trouble changing a defeating habit?

Friday, 15. April 2016 by Renee Ellison

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To change a habit, you’ll want to tackle it from both directions—both positively and negatively. This is called the pincer strategy. Here is how it works. You design the worst possible consequence you could think of, relative to that habit as your unpleasant deterrent/punishment, if you sink back into it, and, on the other side, you also allure yourself with the best possible incentive if you go the new direction, by a better choice.

Examples:
Let’s say that you want to stop eating greasy salted chips. If you cave in and eat one, your “self crafted” punishment/deterrent might be that you follow that action of past habit NOW with a 1/4 tsp horseradish! Conversely, if you succeed in going a full day without chips, you give yourself a positive “chip” (i.e. perhaps smaller in size, like a quarter, in an envelope for that day), giving yourself an even larger prize at the end of the week of one used book of your choice on Amazon or Abebooks.

Directions:
List the habit(s) you want changed. Write it down. Then, design your pincer strategy. If you can’t think of a bad consequence, enlist your family’s help. They’ll have NO trouble designing hair-raising consequences that are the perfect fit for you! If you listen to them, OR your better self, you’ll be jettisoning bad habits right and left smile

Are commitments scary or sacred?

Friday, 25. March 2016 by Renee Ellison

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Apparently, making a commitment to anyone, in any direction, freaks out modern man. Engage in anything but a commitment. In effect, commitments seem to be generally regarded as tantamount to suicide, or at the very least, are viewed as traps to avoid. Note that all four of these categories of commitments are falling apart in our current society:

1. Commitment to marriage. We would rather cohabit indefinitely, or drop the difficult intimate relationships we have been in.
2. Commitment to parent children (or even to birth them). We find them a consummate irritation, from the womb to the tomb.
3. Commitment to eldercare. We prefer to abandon them.
4. Commitment to pay our bills. We prefer to make the other guy pick up our slack.

Our behaviors belie that we view commitments as downright scary, a wrong direction for the exertions of our wills. Modern man prefers the slushy place of ambiguity in relation to all other people and contracts.

Some people are apartment hoppers, living in rentals without paying rent just long enough to get kicked out, and then leaving to go do it again somewhere else, artfully escaping any fiscal responsibility. People shack up, or live in “open” marriages with several people, simultaneously. Students demand to go to colleges well beyond their means, get there at any cost, and are surprised and incensed when the bill comes due. Adult business bankruptcies abound. Parents give over their children to be raised and schooled by others. And we hide our elderly in institutions, abandoning them.

Anything goes. Parameters of any sort, in any direction, suffocate our “free” spirits. We want to be able to drink all we want, buy all we want, entertain ourselves all we want, play all we want, work to climb the corporate ladder, etc.—all without being tied down to any relationship, in any direction.

Why do we so desperately eschew commitments? What is it, exactly, that we are afraid of? We know full well that it is a commitment of our future self to a course of direction, and that seems insurmountable to the comforts of our immediate self and its increasing lust for self-soothing. We “handle” our future by refusing to go there—by buttressing ourselves with ways “out” in every direction.

Instinctively, we know that all commitments are a plunge into the unknown, and we simply have no faith in ourselves (and no God to help us, since we dispensed with Him) to “go there.” Instinctively, we know that it will require self-denial, at some level—and we must not deny ourselves.

The Enemy of our soul has broadcast nothing but bad press about commitment. He has convinced us not to go there. He has made “gulping at the thought” the correct response.

What, however, might be hidden in the idea and practice of commitment that was set there by the LOVER of our soul? Surely if it was built into the fabric of “the way life works” by the intelligent design of our Maker, if we jettison it might we lose something that is germane to our happinesses? What if we were to receive commitment as a gift from our God, and lean on Him for the power to do it, all the way through it?

Let’s hold on a minute with that idea of not wanting to deny ourselves. Strangely, if we look closely, we see that cities, communities, churches, marriages all grow out of the fertilizer of self-sacrifice. Without sacrifice we cannot have community. We won’t have any. We end up replacing all community with a dysfunctional conglomerate of isolated individuals, running helter-skelter in all directions at once, loaded with the baggage of endless “personal rights.”

When looked at a little closer, self-denying commitment has silver linings all over the place. When we embrace commitment as a necessary part of human life, we find that it gives us a clear and distinct GPS to one path—forsaking all others, for example—that in turn helps shore up and define our own identity. Conversely, traveling infinite paths in all directions eventually leads us to personal chaos and floundering, because soon we find multiple personal desires at cross-purposes. Falling in love with three people equally, at once, leads us into a nightmare of what to do with tonight. Wanting a relationship with a man but not with a pregnancy with his child leads us to confusion on the way to the abortion clinic. Wanting a classy car but disdaining the self-denial to achieve the finances to purchase one leaves us in a quandary of conflicting self. Wanting to belong to a family, but not wanting the family to belong to us when it ages, plunges us into conflict with ourselves.

When, alternatively, our paths are well-defined by our commitments, the question then becomes what will we do, given this course and no other? What our character is made of becomes evident when we take that path. Commitment brings self-realization; we discover who we really are. Modern man would rather stay out of that spotlight. We would rather walk in delusion about our true identity. We prefer to live in an opium den of what we might have been, rather than experience who we are.

The parameters of limited time, limited finances, limited space and limited relationships (we each have a web of individuals into which we were born, and into which circumstances thrust us) all force our personal priorities to be expressed. And, incomprehensibly, and progressively, somehow, someway, we emerge as better souls, now with depth, in the middle of such limitations. We become—we are in fact, actualized—amidst the limitations.

Of course, if we are not interested in “becoming” or “emerging”, we’ll prefer no fences, and no parameters. We’ll feast upon delusions and virtual realities and there we will sit, banqueting upon hot air, growing fatter, and fatter, and fatter, until we become big blobs of nothing.

Filed Under: Home management tips

The false promises of Unschooling

Sunday, 28. February 2016 by Renee Ellison

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In some circles, un-schooling is all the rage. It offers supposed academic emancipation: just let the child follow after his own curiosities. What its proponents may not be aware of, however, is that unschooling is an experiment that has already been tried, with dismal results. It has been around since the 1960’s.

Unschooling is great for appropriate chapters in life. It is, in fact, what any set of parents does with their toddler up to age five. They run around after the child, giving parental oohs and aahs and affirmations galore. At some hour, though, the application of cognitive discipline is advantageous for a developing human. Just ask any Olympic coach, or a violin virtuoso who has been training since the age of three, or a trainer of Lipizzaner horses. You can be sure that those horses aren’t allowed to change out of their pajamas any time they feel like it, or that they are born knowing how to proceed to dance on their hind legs to classical music at some future hour. They are led by bit and bridle into magnificence. Coaches hover over beginning details, just like misers counting their diamonds. They know, down in their very gizzards, that victory is in every highly disciplined detail.

Another chapter where Unschooling might be a preferred choice, even an advantage, to some, would be college. When a student reaches that age, he has acquired enough skills to be able to chase around after his curiosities, with some real progress, given a gifted mentor or two. (This is not true for some disciplines, such as engineering and mathematics, but surely is true for the humanities.) Apprenticeships, outside of a classroom, are also very expanding at that age. For the in-between years, however—i.e. all of elementary, jr. high and high school—there is a sink-hole in this theory of un-schooling. Students, so trained by the hundreds in the homeschooling movement, or by only “experience-based-novelty” private schools, are now embarrassed at all that they don’t know.

Unschooling lulls its followers into a false dichotomy. It baits its proponents with the misguided idea that if one actually schools a child, that child will not get to chase around after his own curiosities. Huh? How many hours do we have in a day? Does it follow that if we sequentially and progressively train our children in competent cognitive development for 3 or 4 hours a morning, in vital areas like phonics decoding skills, mathematics, and essay writing, that they, then do not have the remainder of the day to chase after anything they would like, be that the biology of butterflies or youthful “brilliant” military strategies? Since when does one limit the other?

Unschooling presupposes that the bulk of Western Civilization training is mostly worthless—that the body of knowledge that has been built up over the centuries and has been meticulously passed down from generation to generation, by conscientious tutoring (even down to basic first penmanship strokes, multiplication facts and historical dates), is superfluous. The root of the one type of education is humanism; the root of the other is revelation. We either start from ourselves and fashion the world as we want it, or receive with humility from God himself the vast unmovable principles of his universe. There is a body of knowledge outside of ourselves that is worth setting our hearts to acquire with discipline.

Is it not arrogant to think that we don’t need to progressively learn geography or real history, even in the hours when we don’t want to learn them? Is it not good for a child to have to put his own immediate will under, to gain a larger long-term self-capacity and objective understanding of the world in which he lives?

Go talk with coaches and see how much of their training is undisciplined and wandering. It will be an eye-opener for some, but wholesomely obvious for others who have been trained by progressively tougher and tougher cognitive disciplines all of their lives. Educated adults are glad they didn’t wind up like their peers who can’t spell, can’t locate China on a map, can’t subtract in their checkbooks, or measure their lumber to cut it accurately.

The sooner you can jettison the unschooling theory and get busy educating your child, incrementally and progressively, the better.

Resolving the conflict between two different theories for how to teach a young child

Wednesday, 24. February 2016 by Renee Ellison

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Today’s topic: resolving the conflict between two different theories for how to teach a young child.

Two vastly different teaching theories are floating around in debates regarding how best to teach our young ones: (1) let the child wander around and discover life or (2) teach meticulously by drill. Here is a resolution of these highly contrasting teaching theories; in this, we can all find common ground. Once and for all, let’s nail this teaching dilemma.

Teaching a child a SKILL is vastly different from teaching a child an academic CONCEPT. The confusion re: theories is cleared up by looking at the definitions first.

A skill:
A skill is the acquisition of a ready, artful, swift TOOL to do REPETITIVE tasks. (Phonics can be labeled a skill, then, under this construct.)

A concept:
An academic CONCEPT is an introduction to, and growth in awareness of, the complexities of realities, systems, emotions, etc. that touch our humanness (i.e., growth in the study of science, history, government, social studies, literature, and all of the arts).

Views, like that espoused by Common Core (which is one more avenue toward the death of our nation) is that they wrongly view teaching the decoding SKILL of reading as an “academic” process (thus the mistaken idea that the way to get at the CORE of what is needed is to just teach that one topic of “reading” in the first year or two). The problem with this view is that there is NO RELIEF from the “skill-drill” of beginning reading. The child is nowhere furnished (at OTHER parts of the day) with answers to the spiritual and intellectual ongoing needs and appetites of a child (who was made in the immense and deep image of God) from the get-go. These parts of a human being don’t WAIT to be developed only LATER!

Reading decoding (i.e. phonics) is a SKILL—to be taught just like piano, cello, tennis strokes, typing, dance steps, tailoring, electrical engineering, cooking, and mathematical times tables. These are all acquired through highly repetitious EXPERIENCES of the same demand, all while under the hovering eyes of a meticulous tutor who is there to require the SAME step by step procedure (with a growing speed and accuracy) each and every time the student encounters that challenge.

Academic CONCEPTS, on the other hand, are taught by FEELING the consequences of a mini-session on capitalism vs. socialism for example, or by broad exposure to the trials and tribulations of a wide variety of world pioneers and explorers. Concepts are taught by providing a WASH of ideas (to continually irrigate the intellect), from which we retrieve meaningful conclusions for ourselves.

Re-write your past points of personal pain

Wednesday, 10. February 2016 by Renee Ellison

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All of us have things that happen to us that were not pleasant memories, perhaps from grade school or Jr. High, or maybe even from our parents (oops, now we are parents—careful—ouch—we all get our day on stage—what is our children’s point of view re: our parenting?) or from clueless peers or thoughtless neighbors or pre-occupied relatives or stubborn cashiers, or overbearing, egocentric bosses, etc. No one is immune from emotional pain; no one is privy to perfect relationships 24/7 for 90 + years!!!

So what do we do with those persnickety episodes that we reeled from, and perhaps still reel from? Well, here is a private personal chess move that practically guarantees release from those vexing re-runs: re-write those episodes with some positive gain to yourself.

Realize that each of us has the potential to grow from negatives, as well as positives. Negatives might even help us grow faster in acquiring discernment and wisdom. That way, when you re-visit the pain it serves you rather than slays you. You have total permission to re-write any episode in the cathedral of your own mind. Ain’t nobody able to stop ya! It is, in fact, soul-enriching to do such a thing. Trust that God did and will use it (no matter what your “its” were/are) for your good.

Joseph in Egypt said to his brothers: “You meant it for evil, but God used it for good” (Genesis 50:20). We can take it a step further, even regarding a clumsy person who didn’t mean us any harm or was oblivious to the hurt they were inflicting. That, too, can be torqued for good. Doing this exercise releases the other person to just be a person—not a perfect person—and fuels you to get past your past! You can move ON, get over it, and say quietly to yourself, “Not My Problem” (or abbreviate that and say “NMP” as you wish). You don’t have to just drive past the crash. Driving through the crash at this point puts positive metal to your own pedal.

As for yourself and your own relational initiations? Determine to look for ways to “inflict encouragement” upon your friends and enemies at every turn. Be head-spinningly positive. Be a lifetime good lover with whomever, and see to it that you do so, wherever. Be fleet-footed and free emotionally and you’ll spill blessings all over scores of “next guys” that you just happen to stumble upon—or stumble over!

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

The false promise of a mortgage

Tuesday, 02. February 2016 by Renee Ellison

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A mortgage is laced with a false promise. It purports to be doing one thing when in reality it is doing quite another. For the first decade or so, new homeowners come to realize slowly and gradually that their principal is hardly budging—despite their faithfulness month after month in paying what is required. The bottom line? The bank will get its money—by using yours. It is rigged to do that. Banks live on floating interest from one investment vehicle to another. But what about you?

Look at it this way. For a good long while, as a new homeowner who didn’t make much of a down payment, you will actually only be renting your house from the bank, with none of the freedoms normal renting allows. All of the house maintenance and improvement expenses will be yours. No one else will cover these costs for you. The yearly taxes and insurance will be yours as well. And you may find yourself trapped in immobility, if you should be offered a better job at more pay somewhere else, until you can sell the house.

In the end, when a “home owner” crunches the numbers on a 30 year fixed mortgage, he may be dismayed to discover that he has paid nearly double what his house originally sold for— because of this steady, relentless, compounded extraction of interest. Debt is never the best scenario—no matter what golden package it is presented in by our culture. The individual pays dearly for this false hope, and the country eventually collapses under it.

The American Dream based on these easily-acquired nothing-down “no collateral needed” mortgages has now turned into the American Nightmare, while a slew of investors became rich on derivatives—worthless mortgages re-packaged in bundles and re-sold. But now the false lie crumbles down around us like a house of cards. Now, as a country (and as individuals) we finally pay the piper. T’aint purty. Our economy is contracting by the day, and the stock market is staggering under the debt load.

So what is a young couple to do, who want to own their home? The only way you can work down that principal on a mortgage is by paying two payments a month. The first will satisfy the bank’s insatiable hungers; the second will apply directly to the principal. Banks won’t let you get at that principal-reduction any other way.

But what is an even better way? If the couple is willing to become “saving-money-maniacs” for a time, working hard, taking on one and a half to two-PLUS jobs each (i.e. working one of the weekend days, and working evenings for an hour or two) and living as frugally as is humanly possible (either in a rental, or in your folks’ driveway in an RV, or in the house that you are buying), not even buying such things as toothpaste or deodorant (make your own—you get the point) for four years, throwing $25,000 a year into savings from their combined earnings—at the end of those four years they can own a $100,000 house debt-free. This saves the couple $80,000 that would have otherwise been wasted in interest via a full term mortgage. Think of the vacations that could have been taken or the second house that could have been procured, that they could instead have re-invested in a second modest house that now earns them rental income for the remainder of their lives.

It is even better to begin this bull’s eye focus in your early teens, making every day count toward building this nest-egg of savings while still living for free in your folks’ home.

Either way, it is best to earn the money before you even make the house purchase. If, on the other hand, you were to follow the American Dream [Nightmare] and take on a mortgage to “buy” a $100,000 home before your four-year stint at “work-mania,” you must realize that you will waste something like four years of payments going only to interest. It is a wash either way, whether you buy or rent. You’ll lose the money both ways. Moreover, if you take the buying route you will incur hidden additional costs for upkeep and improvements—diminishing the speed at which you can save.

Of course, be extremely careful what you buy, keeping in mind these vital house purchase principles:

—Buy a house with a good foundation and roof—a structure that only needs cosmetic repairs. If, however, you are buying it only to improve it and flip it, earning profit from it, use your own free elbow grease to improve it. Concentrate on making the kitchen and bathrooms the best they can be. And put extra effort into making the yard gorgeous for curb appeal.

—Buy the poorest house on the block. That way you can improve it and not out-price it for that neighborhood to be sure to get your “improvement-monies” back when you re-sell it.

—Always counter-bid.

—Wait for a smoking deal. Don’t fall in love with any house emotionally. Stay detached until you get the “deal of the century.” Remember that there will always be another house and a better deal somewhere else. There is a house on every corner. Don’t rush to do this. Watch the market for a while—do research—knock on doors and ask the neighbors what they like and what they don’t like about that house and about their neighborhood—and keep your eyes peeled for the desperate homeowner who must unload his home quickly, at way below market value, because of extenuating circumstances.


Let’s crystalize even further what we are proposing is your best route to long-term financial success. A home mortgage can be a good investment tool IF:

You have the savings to afford it AND all the other expenses. You must be able to make a sizable down payment—i.e., at least a quarter of the total sale price of the house—and STILL have $1,000 saved for emergencies, PLUS all the money you expect to need to fix the house up, PLUS 3 months of living expenses. (If you don’t have enough savings to do all 4 of those, you are NOT ready to have a mortgage.)

You are able to negotiate a screaming deal. There’s a house on every corner, and in between—and you never can make as much money as on the day you make your house purchase, by agreeing on a price that is well below market value, after you have counter offered. Don’t fall in love with a house. Stay committed to your principles and look for God to honor your respect for His principles. Realtors and sellers are not focused at all on those principles. Of course they want you to fall in love with it and give them all your money—and then a lot more.

The house is in a highly re-sellable location, in a non-faltering economy. There are economies that are good to buy in and economies that are not good to buy in. It’s up to you to weigh the outside economic factors. If the stock market is tumbling day after day, that can burst a housing bubble in a hurry. In that scenario, people get stuck owing their bank more on their house than they can now sell it for. This has happened and does happen; you have to watch the news carefully. Remember, the root of the word MORTGAGE is mort (death) and gage (covenant or agreement). Once you sign on the dotted line you become a slave to that mortgage. Therefore, if you are going to have a mortgage you want it to be in an area where you have a high possibility of pulling your investment out of it if and when you must leave it.

You plan to stay there indefinitely—i.e. your income/employment situation there is very stable. Otherwise you get into the nightmare of needing to live somewhere else but you are straddled with a house you can’t sell.

• A building inspection is a necessity. Does it have a good roof and a good furnace? How solid is its foundation? How well is it insulated? Older houses tend to have very poor insulation, which means way higher heating and cooling bills. Ask to see the utility bills for the last three months; those can be hidden bills you didn’t anticipate. When you are a home owner you are on the line for all of these repairs: roof, foundation, etc.

Conclusion?
Work, and work hard while you are young and you’ll gain yourself elderly freedoms and financial advantage galore. Nearly all of your peers will not be on this fast track; most of them will spend a lifetime enslaved to someone else’s agenda for them.

To read more on this topic, read our 10 Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People Who Got Free of House Debt and Sure Financial Steps for Beginners.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Dealing with escape artists and manipulators

Monday, 25. January 2016 by Renee Ellison

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Most of life is filled with two-choice dilemmas. For the most part, which of the two choices we pick will actualize who we are, as we go. Our choices—all of them—begin to define us as people. A creative person may cobble together a combination of parts of those two choices or sometimes compromise parts of those two choices, to achieve a later higher goal, but he (or she) will still reckon with the two choices, i.e. deal with the parameters of reality as is. In other words, a mentally healthy individual won’t try to defy gravity, moonlight, or sunlight. He/she lives in the light of such immovables.

Conversely, your tell-tale sign of dealing with a person who routinely escapes reality will be to note that that person will not reckon with boundaries, at all. He/she will attempt to finagle his/her way around them, live as if they didn’t exist, or delay his/her confrontation with them on purpose, indefinitely. Often this sort prefers to run—either psychologically, physically, or both. Leaving town might be his/her answer to everything—or leaving relationships might do it for him/her, too. If he/she is out of control financially he/she may hurry to take bankruptcy as the path of least personal pain.

He/she is a master at washing his/her hands of any implications or any nod toward even his/her own future. In other words, he/she will not submit to life as it is. His/her bolder methods of escape may include any number of options: drinking, self-sabotage, delay, drugs. (His/her ultimate way of escape, of course, is suicide. For many, though, the self-love is so strong that that avenue of problem-solving is not seriously entertained in his/her arsenal of defenses, except to feign it to exert a manipulation, if needed. For others it is a real option.)

If you know of someone who seems eel-like to deal with, or who flairs (i.e. goes ballistic, or punishes you someway) when coming under real parameters or having to face real boundaries, you no doubt have some of this going on. The best solution is to pit his/her outcomes against himself/herself. Alcoholics may find their last hope in an outside intervention. For other types of humans’ problems, the routes back to health aren’t so clean and obvious. Nonetheless, one thing is for sure: he/she will not deal with himself to please you. It has to sting and sting badly in his/her own psyche to be of any value for a turn-around. Therefore, hunt for nailing those issues and having those discussions. Remove yourself from the middle of their equation; you’ll have more peace of mind and the other person will be forced to face his/her own dilemma sooner.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Marriage advice to newlyweds

Thursday, 21. January 2016 by Renee Ellison

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We go into marriage with all sorts of subliminal expectations—expectations we don’t even know we have. We would, at the outset, classify them as “hopes”—but in the next breath we privately say to ourselves, insistently, that “they’d better be hopes that COME TRUE!” Marriage is full of surprises, however, and the biggest surprise of all is that you didn’t ride off into the sunset with more of “yourself.” You rode off into the sunset with a truly significant “other.” Married, you are literally in bed with that “otherness.” Not only is that other “significantly” hard-wired differently from you, he/she comes with 120,000+ hours of different software, too! His/her background is different than yours, the imprinting was different, the social exchanges within his/her birth family were different—you name it—it’s DIFFERENT!

For you two to “get along” you’d think this different-ness would be a recipe for disaster, but, when you are in the Lord, and you are sure that this marriage is of Him (that He sanctions it because you are both spiritually alive in Him), we find out that it comes with great design. God is starting a new dynasty with each new couple that now somehow influences future generations. He is the one who designed that the new marriage would have a distinct character/difference from the pasts that each spouse brought to the marriage. He actually WANTS this new metamorphosis!

To make this mutual conversion work is, for every couple, a lifetime tussle with our own cocoon. We’d sometimes rather stay in our cocoon (our past comfort levels) than wrestle with the work it takes to emerge as a butterfly. It will take self-denial to make it work—to learn to bevel, to grow together. On the day of my marriage my father told me (with a twinkle in his eye), “marriage is an adventure in adjustment!” And how true that is.

Instead of fighting the adjustment, look forward with eagerness to the adjustment and it will make a far more refined, mature and loving YOU. Marriage is one of God’s finest schoolrooms to teach you how to get past yourself and move into the wide ocean of His huge kingdom. You can’t possibly know now what God is making of you. You can’t dictate how it should be, out there in the future, because you can’t possibly know God’s purposes for it, nor how to get there. Given all the dimensions of the unknown, humility sets in in a hurry. And this is part of the story—a big part: losing yourself in a world that is bigger than yourself.

Therefore, learn to cooperate with the story, readily, at every turn. You will experience surprising delights in marriage, IF you don’t look for them. There will come unexpected wondrous moments that settle in your heart, like the butterflies—elusive to catch, but they come when you don’t anxiously seek them. Instead, keep your focus on going to God for ever new life-giving, coping strategies, and graces for personal relinquishments, if needed, and He will show you how to NOTICE the butterflies when they come gently and unannounced.

Learn to ENJOY your spouse AS HE/SHE IS. Instead of remaking him/her into your image, imagine yourself sitting back in a big easy chair, smoking a cigar, with your slippers on, content to OBSERVE and watch for the evening! Marvel at how different he/she is, and seek to stretch yourself to comprehend what it is like to live inside his/her head. This is a GOOD exercise. It broadens you immensely, helping you to understand life even outside your marriage where another six billion significant others live.

This is the secret to a good marriage: seek to “love” rather than to “BE loved” and you’ll progressively and mysteriously grow to be like the Great Lover above. In the end you’ll find that you traded your smaller self for a far larger better self—to say nothing of the joys and contentments you will have brought to your spouse.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Wish that the big parameters of your life were different?  Think again.

Saturday, 02. January 2016 by Renee Ellison

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If given our druthers, who would design our life best? God, or us?

Even if we were allowed the possibility of re-designing our “lot” in life (a real temptation for many who would like to start over, pick a different spouse, not have children, or at least not have that child, or, conversely, wish that they had had children, but couldn’t, or painfully wish that they could jettison protracted unwanted singleness, or skip the mind-boggling and long dissolutions and loneliness of old age, or miss all bouts with illness, injury and unavoidable surgeries, even live in a different country or a different time in history, and certainly have different neighbors, relatives and/or bosses), would we even want the job?

As believers, serious contemplation might lead us, eventually, to eagerly say, “no!” The reason? —because we couldn’t possibly know, with our finite minds, what is best for the shaping of our spiritually-infinite character for eternal ends. Realizing that we are people who now last forever (and ever and ever, world without end, amen!), we can’t fully (or even feebly) fathom where all of this is headed and what is necessary for the future journey.

However, look at the conscientiousness with which God designed it for us:
If He had not loved me, “...surely He would not have made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part; surely He would not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire” (2 Samuel 23:5).

The following verses, too, indicate a loving sovereignty even over our path withIN our parameters:
• “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).
• “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

What a confidence is ours, as believers, that we wake up and go to sleep (even our final sleep, at the end of life) held securely in divine hands and in divine plans. When we finally “see” the results of carrying each and every perplexing burden, all in hindsight, we might even actually rejoice at our chosen lot, for we will have found that our hard boundaries were, in fact, lined with tender mercies, and our confusions, stumbling and chafings were all understood and marked well by matchless vigilance. “He does not take His eyes off the righteous” (Job 36:7a). For, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10b). What resolute love it all demonstrates. Surely we could never have dreamed of finding human gold in such places.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips