Monday, January 23, 2012

Resolve To Be Involved

By Kim. M.

In my morning quiet times, I follow a reading plan and then often journal what I am learning. This morning I was reading in Matthew 9. I have a friend from another town who is going through a particularly hard time. When I read verse 36, I thought of her. I was moved by how Jesus saw the multitude and felt compassion for them - because they were distressed and downcast like a sheep without a shepherd. And so I journaled my thoughts:

Jesus has compassion for the distressed and downcast -He knows they need a Shepherd - He is the Good Shepherd. In John 10:10-18 and Psalm 23 - The good Shepherd protects His sheep; even to the point of laying His life down for them; He is concerned for His sheep; He knows His sheep and they know Him - it's a relationship. He guards, leads, and feeds His flock; He knows their condition; He provides for what they need - they are not in want. He restores their soul; He guides them in what is right; even in the most difficult of times, they don't have to be afraid - because He is with them; He comforts them. There is hope when He is the Shepherd; SURELY, CERTAINLY - goodness and lovingkindness will follow His sheep all the days of their life and after! It is relationship for NOW and FOREVER when He is our Good Shepherd. Thank You, Lord that I have this forever relationship because You laid down your life to pay for my sin that I might have a relationship with You.

Such good words from the Word… and I thought my quiet time lesson was over. Sometimes though, the Lord surprises me with how quickly He gives me just the place and situation to practice what I am learning.

After my journaling, I opened Facebook to send a message to my hurting friend. When I opened the news feed, I noticed a post from Arkansas Tech to their students. The title caught my attention: "Resolve to Get Involved." I didn’t even read the article, because my mind took an immediate detour and connected that thought with living life in the body of Christ. (I bet Arkansas Tech didn't think God would use them in my quiet time this morning!)

What a challenge those words were to me: Resolved to Get Involved. Sometimes I don’t want to be “involved” any more than I already am. I can be tempted to stay immersed in my own world and my own list of "to dos.” I want to justify my actions or lack thereof by how full my plate already is, or how tired I am, or a hundred other reasons that I could rattle off for you. But because I know the Good Shepherd, I can’t keep the good news to myself. I need to “resolve to get involved” with His flock and with those who don’t know Him! I need to engage in service, to reach out to the needy, to listen to the hurting, to encourage the downcast and distressed, to learn from the Word as it is taught, and to be willing to share the good news with a hurting world.

I don’t believe “involved” means “more busy.” It is much more purposeful than that. Sometimes being “involved” may actually mean slowing things down. It may mean doing less so I can listen more. Or it may mean I need to do more, but just in another place or another way. Being involved may require evaluating what I am doing to see if I am “involved” where God wants me. I need to discover where God would have me serve and then resolve to serve there…with a happy heart.

While my family is certainly to be my priority, so is my extended family - the church. I am to share the good news of a Good Shepherd in word and deed in my home, in my church, and with a hurting world. I KNOW this truth. I know you do, too. But I needed a reminder this morning.

So it is back to my journal...I need to add to my entry: May the Good Shepherd lead me; may I be attentive to His voice through His Word, and may I may RESOLVE TO BE INVOLVED.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Help! Series Book Reviews

by Deborah H.

Perhaps you’ve noticed a trend lately in Christian literature. In addition to publishing full length books, publishers are also coming out with their new “series” books – publishing shorter, easy-to-read booklets designed to help struggling Christians navigate life’s complicated issues.

Day One Publishing, out of London, England, has come out with what they’re calling the “Living in a Fallen World” series. By the end of February, 2012, there will be 22 booklets in this series. Each one is about 60 pages long, with four short chapters plus a conclusion, followed by personal application projects. Each one boldly proclaims the gospel and would be appropriate to give to unbelievers, even though most are geared toward suffering Christians.

Instead of reviewing all 22 books, I thought I might write a short synopsis of my favorites. Since I have written two books in this series, I’ll begin and end with those.

Help! Someone I Love Has Cancer, by Deborah Howard. This is not especially for those who have struggled with cancer for years. It is written for newly diagnosed patients, those who don’t yet understand the lingo and who need a short, clear tutorial on cancer. The first and last chapters provide the theological comfort and perspective people need when they find that someone they love has cancer. But the middle two chapters are very practical and informative, dealing with the questions of what cancer is, how it spreads, what the stages of cancer are, treatment options, and prognosis. It’s hard to walk along this journey with someone you love, but it is my prayer that this little book can help you along the way.

Help! I’m Drowning in Debt, by Dr. John Temple. For those seeking valuable, practical information about money management, this is a terrific little booklet. Dr. Temple is clear and concise in his analysis of why people get into debt and offers practical, measurable solutions on how they can get out of it. I like the way he uses Scripture in this book, utilizing appropriate verses in their proper context to accentuate the principles he proposes. Whether you’re drowning in debt or just want to learn more about sensibly managing your money, you’ll appreciate this one.

Help! Someone I Love Has Been Abused, by Jim Newheiser. This booklet is sensitively written, not only to those who love someone who has been violated, but for the ones who went through the ordeal themselves. He does a masterful job of coming alongside the abused, then spiritually leading them past the hurt, the loss, the sense of guilt and into freedom. His last chapter says it all: “How Victims can become Overcomers.” I found this book very poignant, with a great use of relevant Scriptural principles.

Help! My Marriage Has Grown Cold, by Rick Thomas. A common heartache among Christian people is that sometimes a union that begins with such warmth and intensity of emotion can drift into an uncomfortable relationship becoming increasingly chilly and unsatisfying. It’s not that you don’t love each other, but that your love has grown cold. Again, this helpful booklet uses Scripture beautifully as the author finds you where you are and helps you rediscover the warmth in your marriage, especially if you actually take advantage of the personal application projects.

Help! I Have Breast Cancer, by Brenda Frields. Whereas my cancer book deals in a clinical way with the issues of cancer, Brenda Frields, a breast cancer survivor herself, takes a more personal approach. I found her warmth, sensitivity, practicality, theological soundness, and writing style very appealing. She doesn’t address breast cancer itself as much as the experience of going through the scary, dark times trying to keep Biblical perspectives in mind. She describes what it takes to demonstrate to a watching world how to maintain a godly attitude even when life gets tough.

Help! My Toddler Rules the House, by Paul & Karen Tautges. As parents of ten children, Paul and Karen know what they’re talking about. In our society, we find too many parents, even in Christian homes, allowing the children to rule their households. Yet God did not give this authority to the kids, but to the parents. This book carefully reminds the reader just who the boss is supposed to be, and describes what that leadership looks like in a peaceful, orderly, God-centered household. Very helpful!

Help! My Spouse Has Been Unfaithful, by Mike Summers. This booklet takes an example of an unfaithful wife and the struggles the husband wrestled with in recognizing and then implementing godly responses to this heartbreaking situation. The author, as counselor, uses the Bible as the source of comfort, pointing out Biblical principles that enabled this husband, and by extension the readers, to overcome the pain of this most intimate betrayal. Not every situation will have the same ending, but every situation can benefit from the application of these Biblical pointers.

Help! Someone I Love Has Alzheimer’s, by Deborah Howard and Judy Howe. I’m treating my books as bookends of these favorites. This one deals with the baffling, frustrating, heart-rending topic of helping someone you love through the battleground of Alzheimer’s disease. In clear, understandable language, it teaches about Alzheimer’s and describes the warning signs and the progression of the disease, as well as providing practical, helpful suggestions for managing the care of a dementia patient. With our aging population, we will see more and more of this devastating illness, so I pray this book will be intensely helpful to all.

The other booklets in the series are helpful, as well, some more than others. And, at $3.50 each, they are inexpensive enough to buy multiples to have on hand as a helpful gift when someone you know is going through tough times.

A couple of the booklets aimed at defeating some sin or other seem to leave the idea that the solution to these problems is salvation, and do not provide much help for believers suffering under the bondage of sin. But most of the others are fine booklets.

The only one I cannot recommend is Help! My Baby Has Died, by Reggie Weems. I did not find this helpful and in some ways the comfort it seeks to provide is not Biblical, and the passages used do not support his claims.

I haven’t read the new booklets due for release in February, but of the existing ones, feel free to ask me about any specific ones in which you are interested.

Here is the complete listing of titles:
Help! Someone I Love Has Cancer, by Deborah Howard
Help! My Baby Has Died, by Reggie Weems
Help! My Spouse Has Been Unfaithful, by Mike Summers
Help! I Have Breast Cancer, by Brenda Frields
Help! My Marriage Has Grown Cold, by Rick Thomas
Help! He’s Struggling with Pornography, by Brian Croft
Help! My Toddler Rules the House, by Paul and Karen Tautges
Help! Someone I Love Has Been Abused, by Jim Newheiser
Help! I Can’t Get Motivated, by Adam Embry
Help! I’m a Single Mom, by Carol Trahan
Help! I’m a Slave to Food, by Shannon McCoy
Help! I’m Confused about Dating, by Joel James
Help! I’m Drowning in Debt, by Dr. John Temple
Help! My Teen is Gay, by Ben Marshall
Help! My Teen is Rebellious, by Dave and Judi Coats
Help! She’s Struggling with Pornography, by Rachel Coyle
Help! I Am Depressed, by Carol Trahan
Help! I’m Living with Terminal Illness, by Reggie Weems
Help! I Feel Ashamed, by Sue Nicewander
Help! I Can’t Submit to My Husband, by Glenda Hotton
Help! Someone I Love has Alzheimer’s, by Deborah Howard and Judy Howe
Help! I Can’t Handle All these Trials, by Joel James
Help! I Can’t Forgive, by Jim Newcomer

Monday, January 9, 2012

The ABC’s of Evil toward Your Husband

By Jennifer R.

I found this while going through some old files. I have no idea where it came from, so I apologize that I can't give credit where it is due. (EDITED: Since this was published, I found out it was written by Beth Quinn.) However, I thought it would be beneficial for us to examine our hearts and attitudes to make sure we are not doing anything on this list.

The ABC’s of Evil toward Your Husband

“She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:12)

A - Act with anger

James 1:20 – “For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”

B - Be bitter

Hebrews 12:15 – “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”

C - Compare him to other husbands

Proverbs 31:26 – “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

D - Display discontent toward your husband

1 Timothy 6:8 – “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.”

E - Excessive focus on external beauty

Proverbs 31:30 – “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”

F - Find fault with your husband

Proverbs 21:9 – “It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”

G - Gripe

Philippians 2:14 – “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”

H - Hate housework

Proverbs 31:27 – “She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

I - Insist on your own way

Philippians 2:3-4 – “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

J - Justify jealousy

1 Corinthians 13:4 – “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,”

K - Keep a record of wrongs

1 Corinthians 13:5 – “does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,”

L - Love laziness

Proverbs 6:6-8 – “Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest.”

M - Manipulate matters

Psalm 25:21 – “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You.”

N - Nag, nag, nag!

Proverbs 27:15 – “A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike;”

O - Ostracize his family

Matthew 19:19 – “Honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

P - Patronize your husband

Ephesians 5:33b – “The wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”

Q - Quit kissing

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 – “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

R - Resent your husband

Proverbs 21:19 – “It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.”

S - Speak sarcastically to your husband

Proverbs 21:23 – “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.”

T - Tell your husband’s faults to others

1 Corinthians 13:7-8a – “[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

U - Uncover his sins with an attempt to cover your own!

Matthew 7:3 – “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

V - Vacillate on your commitment

Matthew 5:37 – “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”

W - Window shop and want more “stuff!”

Proverbs 19:14 – “House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.”

X - Exasperate your children

Ephesians 6:4 – “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Y - Yell often!

Proverbs 15:1 – “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Z - Zero hospitality

1 Timothy 3:2 – “An overseer, then, must be … hospitable…”

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Helpful Couponing Websites and Laundry Detergent Recipe

By Gina E.

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post about using coupons to save money on groceries.

Helpful Blogs:
  • Money Saving Mom – Crystal Paine, believer, wife, mom of three, husband went through law school with NO DEBT. Paid cash for their home near the end of 2009. I love one of the things she said on her blog: couponing doesn’t need to take over your life and eat up your time!
    It’s imperative, in seeking to be better home economists, that we value our time as well as our money. It is easy to get so caught up in trying to pinch every penny, that we lose sight of the big picture. We can become so focused on trying to save money that we end up spending hours and hours and hours of time to save a mere few dollars.
    (from the post, “Why I Don’t Make Homemade Tortillas”)
    Also, check out her series: 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget.
  • Common Sense With Money – Mercedes, wife, mom of three, originally from Honduras. This is a great blog to visit if you want to do the “Walgreen’s Game” (combine coupons + register rewards). She also has affiliated with other bloggers who match coupons with ads for the major grocery chains (the only one we have here is Kroger). She also does some Target and WalMart coupon/sale matching.
  • The Krazy Coupon Lady - This is the coupon organization system I use now (binder with baseball card sleeves). She has a printable PDF for her organization system (in the right sidebar of her site, scroll down until you see “Free Downloads”). Eventually, I’ll reorganize this system to have my coupons in the order of the store where I do the bulk of my grocery shopping; but for now, this works. Also does coupon match-ups and “scenarios” to get the best deal(s).

Store/Manufacturer Websites:
  • Kroger – Register your Kroger card, load coupons directly to the card (note: ecoupons do NOT double and cannot be combined with paper coupons), some special saving events where you can “play a game” for free grocery items (Deal of the Day currently going on); print paper coupons
  • Procter & Gamble – Sign-up for coupon booklets (in addition to those that are in the paper), register for “freebies,” get samples
  • Vocal Point – Procter & Gamble’s viral marketing site – “try and tells”; often receive samples and high value coupons
  • Kraft First Taste – “Try and tells” from Kraft Foods – samples, coupons for free items or high value coupons
  • Kashi – Also do “try and tells” some, high value coupons through the mail

Print Coupons at Home:
Note about printing coupons at home: all of the sites below require installing a plug-in to your computer. You will need to read over their privacy policy and decide if you want to do that or not. These plug-ins enable the ability for the manufacturer to set a limit for how many coupons you can print from a given computer (usually 2 per computer). You’ll also want to consider how much ink and paper you’re using by printing coupons at home.

  • Target – has Target store coupons + manufacturer coupons (usually can’t tell which is which until you print them). Target store coupons CAN BE combined with manufacturer coupons for extra savings. Target also puts coupons on their site for Up&Up (store brand) products.
  • Coupons.Com – great site for manufacturer coupons
  • Smart Source – great site for manufacturer coupons
  • Red Plum – great site for manufacturer coupons

Be aware: very few manufacturers use PDFs for coupons. If you receive an email attachment that is a PDF for a coupon, research it before you print and use it. A great resource is Coupon Information Center (the bar at top right called “counterfeit notifications” is the place to check). 3M Corporation is one of the few companies that does still use PDFs. Also, not all stores will accept internet coupons, and some have limits to what you can use.

A couple of other websites mentioning:
  • The Grocery Game - Check with Karana for her email address to list her as the person who referred you if you decide to join.
  • Hot Coupon World – This is a forum that discusses coupons and coupon deals. They also alert people about fraudulent coupons (as does the CIC listed above)

Laundry Detergent Recipe:
From the Duggar Family

4 cups HOT tap water
1 bar Fels-Naptha soap
1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*
½ cup Borax
hot tap water

Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with hot water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap is melted and dissolved. I add the soap in small amounts to keep it from lumping.

Fill a five-gallon bucket half-full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to the top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

The next day, it’s ready to use. Stir (I just stick my arm in) and fill a clean, used laundry soap bottle or other bottle with detergent mixture and water in a 1:1 ratio. (Yes, that 5-gallon bucket is the concentrate…you’ve basically got 10-gallons of laundry detergent.) Gently mix before each use (it will separate) – I just tip the bottle back and forth a couple of times. But, take my advice… make sure the lid to your bottle is screwed on well before you do that!

Optional: you can add essential oils to scent the detergent once the soap has cooled. Use 20-30 drops in a 5-gallon bucket. Be sure to use the oils made for soap.

Top-Load Machine: 5/8 cup per load (approximately 180 loads)
Front-Load Machine: ¼ cup per load (approximately 640 loads)

TipNut has compiled a great list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about homemade laundry detergent here. She addresses HE machines, washing diapers, sensitive skin, etc.

Monday, January 2, 2012


By Gina E.

I am not an “extreme couponer” by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t want to be a shelf-clearing hoarder, but I do want to be a good steward of our family’s household budget as the Lord calls me to be. I’m the average person in this economy looking to make our money stretch as far as I can – as I seek to feed, care for, and clothe four rapidly growing children in addition to a husband with special diet requirements. I want to share with you a couple of ways I’ve found to do that.

I haven’t always been consistent at using coupons. There were many weeks that I threw them away without looking at them…thinking, “It’s all prepared foods, brands I don’t like/won’t use; it’s only 25¢ off a $900 package of toilet paper…” The thought of pairing them with a sale never crossed my mind, and if it happened, I considered it a ‘happy accident’. Then I had a baby. And another. And another. In 35 months I had three children – and a $100/month bill for diapers. Nothing will drive a family to coupons like buying diapers!!

I’m an engineer. I research things to death before I try doing them. So, I started following Money Saving Mom and reading all I could on how to save money using coupons. The frugal blogs are a great source for savings in stores and online. SKIM them because they post A LOT (sometimes 50+ posts a day). I use Google Reader and when I read the frugal blogs, I put them in “list view” so I see post titles. That way I don’t have to scroll through 50 posts about things that I don’t need, don’t want or stores that aren’t near us. Another option is to use a service like The Grocery Game that does all of that for you (for a fee).

So, how did I get started using coupons once I read up on it? First, I had to CLIP the coupons! I only clipped the ones I knew I’d use – but if I didn’t organize them, I knew I wouldn’t use them. Some people use a small accordion file, like a check file. Some use an index card file (Rubbermaid has a photo/media storage box that works well and gives more room than an index card box). Some use a binder with page protectors, some use a binder with baseball card protectors. Initially I used the Rubbermaid photo box with index dividers; but, recently I switched to a binder and baseball card sleeves using Krazy Coupon Lady’s system. There are all sorts of You Tube videos and blog posts that discuss coupon organization systems if you’re interested in it. The main thing is finding what works for you and knowing it may change over time.

Target, Walgreens, and Kroger will allow coupon “stacking”: that means you can use a STORE coupon + a manufacturer coupon for an item. You can get items for a great price – sometimes even free – by coupon stacking. If you don’t have a Kroger card, consider getting one. Yes, it means they track what you buy – but they also send coupons and for every $100 spent, you get 10-cents a gallon off on gas. I get free eggs four times a year from Kroger – sometimes I get other free stuff, too (deli meat, chips, butter). Who can’t use free stuff? Target has printable coupons on their website – some are manufacturer coupons and some are store coupons – and you can’t always tell which is which until you print them. They also include coupons for store brand (Up&Up). Up&Up usually ranks very high in Consumer Reports testing (their laundry detergent beat Tide). I’ve stacked Target and manufacturer coupons in the past to get Shout pre-treater, light bulbs, and toothbrush heads for my Sonicare toothbrush very inexpensively.

I take my coupons with me EVERY TIME I go to the store. And I take them ALL…the whole big binder. There have been times that I’ve happened upon something on clearance or a special markdown and had a coupon for a great deal!! I was in WalMart a month or so ago and they had bottles of Dawn dishwashing liquid in apple and pineapple scents marked down to 50-cents each. I had several 25-cents off coupons in my binder. I got four bottles of dishwashing liquid for $1.00. If I’d only taken the coupons I was planning on using that trip, I’d have missed that deal – and I’d have been kicking myself! (I’ve done that before.)

It’s okay to be brand loyal, but I know I’m not always going to get a great deal or have a coupon. I used to be loyal to Crest toothpaste – until we got 8 tubes of Colgate for 38¢/tube. You know what? My teeth have not fallen out!! However, I’m only going to buy Heinz ketchup - I don’t care how cheap I can get Hunt’s - and my teeth might fall out.

Besides coupons there are a couple of other things I do to save money on our household budget: I buy store brands and I make things at home.

All of us spend a lot of money on toilet paper and laundry detergent. We want clean bottoms and clean clothes. I hate, hate, HATE spending a ton of money on something I’m literally sending down the drain!! I recently decided I wasn’t going to buy name-brand toilet paper for my kids’ bathroom. They waste more toilet paper than they use because I find it all over the floor (unused) and they use it like paper towels. So, I bought Great Value (Wal-Mart brand) Soft & Strong toilet tissue (12 double rolls for less than $7). I discovered that it’s just a soft as Northern or Charmin! If you can get name-brand on sale and/or with a coupon, do it (I got 12 double rolls of Northern for $5.99 last week thanks to the Kroger ad). But if not, don’t be afraid to buy the Great Value Soft & Strong. I promise it’s not sandpaper. And it won’t clog the toilet like Charmin!

Laundry detergent… ugh! $13 for a bottle of soap to wash my clothes?! There are six people in my house. Four of them are little people who can dirty up some clothes in a heart beat. I was spending $60/month on detergent! Um, no thank you!! I started making my own detergent in May, 2010. I’ve made four or five batches of Duggar liquid laundry soap since then and saved a ton of money. You make a five-gallon bucket of detergent that is actually a concentrate. You end up with TEN GALLONS of laundry detergent. It is safe for front-loading machines that call for HE detergent because it is low-sudsing. However, know that using it in an HE machine when your manual says only use HE detergent could void your warranty.

I have not found an acceptable homemade dishwasher detergent – I’ve tried. Everything leaves a film on my glasses and I can’t stand that. So, this is also an area where I stick to a couple of brands. I use Cascade or Finish – whoever has the better coupon. Though I’d also be willing to try Target’s Up&Up brand – I need to check their site for a coupon.

Being good stewards of our household budgets will also allow us to serve others – another thing we are called to do in Scripture. By saving at the grocery store, perhaps we can buy a few extra items and donate them to the church food pantry. Or maybe put the amount saved on a gift card and send it to a struggling family so they can buy milk, meat or other perishables or put gas in their vehicle. Some people use their savings to enable them to give more to the church or missions – whether toward general giving, a gift to the building fund or a Christmas in October gift. Any of these ways to serve others through our grocery savings are a blessing – to both the giver and receiver!

TOMORROW: Helpful Websites & my laundry detergent recipe