Monday, December 29, 2008

Three Important Things to Do this Week

The Big day has come and gone, and hopefully you enjoyed a healthy dose of laughter and love during the holidays. As we experience the slower, after-Christmas pace we can use this time to initiate a few positive habits with our kids. Here are my top three recommendations for this week.

1. Write Thank You Notes. Help your kids to form a positive habit of writing thank you notes to their family members and friends during the holidays. This is an important activity to establish in your home as it encourages gratitude, thoughtfulness, kindness and consideration of others. You can even make it an activity with the kids to create and decorate cards, or turn on one of your favorite movies and set the Thank you cards out on the coffee table for everyone to write while they watch the show. I always address large white envelopes for the different families to whom we need to send notes, then we all write our individual notes and put them in the various envelopes and send them off.
2. Set Goals. As the new year approaches we want to teach our kids to think about what they want to achieve in the coming year. It is a good time to reignite a fervor for good grades, new friendships, spiritual growth and a healthy lifestyle. Goals help us to think forward and consider where we are headed and what we want to do about it. Goals ought to stretch us and move us in a positive direction. They are not meant to discourage us, so be sure you make them achievable. I usually set a goal in the following four areas: Spiritual, Physical, Social and Mental. My spiritual goals relate to reading scripture, praying and memorizing God’s Word. Physical relates to exercise and eating habits. Social usually centers on my friendships I need to work on and getting together with people on a regular basis. With my mental goals I typically make a plan for reading and learning a new skill each year (this year I’d love to develop a skill in painting and pastels). Teach your kids to set their own goals, and invite them to share their goals with you so you can be their encourager.
3. Clean out the Junk. We all have stuff that has accumulated over the years, and now is a great time to clean out and reorganize. It feels good to start off the new year with the junk cleared out and everything in its place (so you can find it at least for a while). Start with the junk drawer in the kitchen, then the refrigerator. As much as possible, work together with the kids as it makes the process more enjoyable. Provide a box and a trash bag for each child to use to conquer their bedrooms and closets. The box is to be used for give-aways. In our house this year I designated a box specifically for books. We all have books we need to give away in order to make room for the new ones, so use this as an opportunity to clean out and freshen up your library. You can resell the books at Half Price Books or you can give them to a local charity or shelter.

If I were going to add a fourth item to the list it would be, “Have fun!” Don’t make any of the three activities above into a laborious tasks, but rather turn them into fun family adventures. It begins with your example and attitude. Writing thank you notes can be an arts and crafts time (while watching a movie as I said earlier or listening to a favorite CD). Sharing your goals can be a conversation topic at the dinner table and a time to think of a family motto for the year (like “Redefine in 2009” or “Seek the Divine in 2009”). Cleaning out the junk can become a contest of who can give away the most or who has the biggest trash bag. Laugh and enjoy the week together. Be deliberate about investing in family time and enjoy ringing in the new year together! Happy New Year to you and “ May all be fine in 2009!”

Monday, December 22, 2008

No Greater Joy

The big day is just a few days away! So how are you feeling? I know for me, little twinges of worry sneak into my thinking as I consider, “Did I buy the right gifts for people?” “What groceries do I still need to get for Christmas dinner?” “Is there anything I’ve forgotten?” Yes, I’m checking my list constantly throughout the day to make sure I don’t miss anything. How about you?

Joy, it seems fleeting at times. If we are going to experience joy we must be deliberate about it, otherwise the busyness of the season will crowd it out. So in these last few days before Christmas, I want to be intentional about turning my eyes toward Him, rejoicing in the simple and pure fact that Jesus left His throne in Heaven and came to earth to offer His life for us. In all of history there is no greater picture of love. Reflecting on this love and knowing it is directed toward us makes a true joy begin to well up inside of us.

Joy comes from the Lord. Joy is a fruit of God’s spirit. As we abide in Him, that fruit becomes evident in our lives as well. When we turn our hearts in gratitude toward the love God has for us, a joy beyond description begins to grow in our lives. In Psalms we read, “Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”

As Christ’s followers, we can experience that very joy the Psalmist proclaimed. David also said, “Those who look to Him are radiant with joy.” My dear friend, let’s allow God’s love, joy and peace to well up in our hearts to the point of overflowing and blessing those whom He puts in our lives this holiday season. Take a moment to reflect on His love for you and thank Him for it right now. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Three Things to Keep

I know, I know it is the season of giving, but I want to suggest today 3 things to keep for yourself. Last week I talked about 3 things to give: forgiveness, love and encouragement. Two weeks ago I mentioned several things to get rid of such as complaining, gossip and sin. All of these are directed at helping to increase the joy we experience during the holidays and increase the joy we bring to others as well. Certainly the holidays are a time for Christians to rejoice as we celebrate the coming of our savior. Let’s consider the following three things to keep on our minds and in our hearts both now and all year long.

Gratitude. We have talked quite a bit about thankfulness in the month of November, but I want to emphasize the importance of having an attitude of gratitude during the holiday season. When our hearts are filled with continual thanksgiving, it changes the way we act and what we say. A grateful person chooses to look for the best in others and in circumstances. She sees God’s loving hands holding her through her pain. She recognizes that every challenge also carries a blessing and an opportunity to grow.

Proper Perspective. When we step back and look at the bigger picture of eternity, we begin to see that the petty things we tend to get upset over are not really that important after all. We must ask ourselves, “Twenty years from now, will this really matter in the big scheme of life?” More importantly we must ask, “Where does this fit in the big scheme of eternity?” Now I’m not saying that details aren’t important, I’m just saying let’s keep everything in perspective and recognize that some things aren’t worth our anger.

God’s Word. I want to encourage you to not only read God’s word, but to memorize it as well. You can do it! Come on give it a try! Prayerfully ask God to help you. Begin with a small passage. The more you memorize, the easier it gets. It is important to have God’s word in your heart to give you wisdom, strength and perspective when you are going through big and little challenges. Here are some passages to consider: Philippians 4:6 – 8, Psalm 34, Psalm 62, Psalm 103, Psalm 121, Romans 8:28, Colossians 3.

As we approach the final weeks before Christmas, let’s choose to make them into days of joy and peace as we keep our eyes on the Lord. Seek the joy, peace and strength that can only come from Him as you bless those around you this Christmas.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Three Gifts

This month I am writing about the beauty of true joy in the holiday season. I reflected last week on the need to clean out some old and unhealthy actions and attitudes which seem to cloud our joy. This week I want us to examine the beauty of giving and the joy that it brings. Now hold on – I know you may be thinking to yourself, “But I don’t have any money to give good gifts this year.” Well I have good news for you – the three things I want to talk about today won’t cost you anything monetarily, yet don’t underestimate the value of these gifts! If you give them to the people around you, you will find that these gifts are truly priceless and bring much joy to life.

Love and Compassion: A true, pure love is patient and kind. It bears with the other person and does not get easily angered. So let’s be honest, true love is not easy especially toward those who are slightly annoying and difficult. Granted it is easy to love those who love us and those who are easy to get along with, but the Bible encourages us to love our enemies. I’m thinking that includes a lot of difficult people as well. When we choose to reach out in love toward others, a joy wells up inside of us. Hatred and unkindness drain us of our strength and rob us of our joy. If you want to experience a deep and abiding joy, ask the Lord to help you love everyone around you, not just the easy-to-love people. Reach out to people beyond your comfort zone and touch them with your compassion, grace and kindness.

Encouragement: The word “encourage” means to give strength. The root word “cour” comes from the Latin word “heart.” When we use our words to honestly encourage those around us, we are giving strength to their heart. Yet so often our critical spirit emerges, and we drain people of their strength by constantly nit-picking and correcting. Let’s choose to look for opportunities to strengthen others through our words throughout this holiday season. Use phrases like, “I’m so thankful for the way…”
“I was so blessed when you…” “You are so good at…” Give the gift of encouragement and watch the joy begin to rise up inside of your heart.

Forgiveness: Who do you need to give the gift of forgiveness to this year? Is there something you have been holding over another person? A bad memory? A grudge? A disappointment? A deep hurt? Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it brings great joy (to you as well as the forgiven one – maybe more so to you). Forgiveness doesn’t mean you are becoming a doormat and inviting people to walk all over you. It is releasing the right to hold something over another person. Has the Lord forgiven you of all your sins? If you are a follower of Christ, He certainly has! Then we must recognize we have no right to hold an offense over someone else. Ask the Lord to help you forgive those whom you feel as though you just can’t forgive. Then stop playing the “I am hurt” tape over and over in your brain. Release the anger, let go of the bitterness and experience His joy.

Remind your kids about the joy which comes from these three gifts. I encourage you to decorate three boxes and share with your kids (one each night) about the importance of these gifts. Talk about practical ways to give these gifts to their family and friends throughout December and all year long. The wise men brought three gifts to Jesus, and certainly we would be wise to bring these three gifts to others throughout our life. They are not easy gifts to give, but they remind us of our humble need for God’s grace, power and strength each day.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tis the Season

With the Thanksgiving leftovers almost finished off, it’s time to turn the corner and begin the delightful celebration of Christmas. For many people the Holiday season isn’t so joyful or merry. The holidays can bring to our minds sad memories and hurtful pasts. For some this may be a difficult season because you have lost a loved one. For others it may be a financial crisis which is looming large on your mind or you may just feel sad. In these next few weeks before Christmas, I want to visit about ways we can experience some “deliberate delight” during the holidays no matter what your circumstances are right now.

Today let’s consider the things in our lives that tend to rob us of our joy. Think of it this way, when is the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator? Possibly right now you have quite a few items which need to be tossed out of the refrigerator because they have been there too long and no one is ever going to eat the old moldy stuff anyway. You need to make a deliberate decision and a conscious effort to throw out the old, so you can see what you really have to work with and enjoy. We all know the nice feeling we experience when we have a sparkling clean refrigerator. Okay, so to be honest, that feeling comes around about every ten years when we actually do clean it out!

In the same way there may be some habits, tendencies and even sins that need to be cleaned out of our life. They are joy robbers, and they can slip into our lives unnoticed sometimes and stay around in our hearts and minds growing all sorts of ugly mold. Take some prayerful time to reflect on your life right now and see if any of these areas are cluttering up your heart and robbing you of joy.

Critical Spirit
Concentrating on what is wrong in a person or situation
Comparing with others
Self-centeredness or lack of caring and compassion for others
Immorality or impurity
Gossip Jealousy or greed

My friend, as you look at this list I want to encourage you that there is hope in turning from these behaviors. God is a redeeming God . He loves you and wants to help you turn from the old behaviors and experience the joy of new behaviors such as love, forgiveness, peace and thankfulness. Seek His help in getting rid of the old and filling your heart and mind with a renewed joy. II Peter 1:3,4 reminds us, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”

Let’s each do a little “life clean out” as we begin the month of December, seeking God’s love and strength as we progress each day.

Monday, November 24, 2008

With Thanksgiving

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7

The apostle Paul, while being held prisoner for preaching the gospel, gave the early Christians a charge which powerfully applies to our lives today. Don’t be anxious, but instead pray about everything. Then did you notice he added “with thanksgiving?” Now hold on! I can easily be filled with thanksgiving when I’m praying for those I love and when I’m experiencing less stress in my life. But Paul is saying in the midst of anxiety give your cares to God and while you are at it – thank Him! What can we thank Him for in the middle of our stress? We can begin by thanking Him for His love for us and His presence in our lives. We can continue to thank Him for His Son Jesus. We can thank Him for His help and comfort in time of need. We can thank Him for His power to redeem and bring something good out of any situation.

Let’s practice what Paul preaches this week. As we prepare for a festive week of Thanksgiving, worry and anxiety may try to creep in at times. Questions swirl in our heads. How will I keep the kids occupied? How will I get all the shopping and baking done? How will I be kind and loving to everyone? How will I get the house clean? Let’s take each of our personal worries to the Lord and then let’s go the extra mile and thank Him.

Paul tells us that a peace that transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. It’s amazing when we take our minds off of our worries and turn our focus on that which we can be thankful, a peace fills our heart. Paul went on to say, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Each morning as you wake up this week, lay there in bed for just a moment (if you can) and give your cares to God, thanking Him for His help and blessings. Then each night as you tuck the kids in bed, pray with your kids and help them learn this daily practice of thanking God as you give Him your worries. May you overflow this week with the thoughts of thankfulness as you recognize God’s care in your life.

Monday, November 17, 2008

the Power of Thanksgiving

It’s hard to imagine the challenges the pilgrims faced before the first Thanksgiving. They suffered great affliction and faced starvation through the severe winter, only to see God’s hand of provision through the kindness and help of their Native Americans friends. Thankfulness to God overflowed from their hearts as they celebrated together and reflected on God’s goodness to them. Perhaps you have heard the story of the five kernels of corn which the pilgrims placed at their Thanksgiving table as a remembrance of God’s faithfulness. The five kernels reflected the daily rations the pilgrims had to eat the previous terrible winter. They set aside a day to give God thanks for seeing them through. Now we celebrate as well.

What has God brought you through this last year? Take a moment to reflect on the many ways He carried you through the difficult times. Thank Him for His care and comfort during the challenges and don’t forget to thank Him for the glorious and glad times as well. It is good to give thanks continually. It blesses God and us! Our faith is strengthened and our joy increased as we reflect on God’s goodness, faithfulness, love and mercy.

You may want to read the following declarations to your kids this week. Place five kernels of corn at each place setting of your Thanksgiving table to reflect on and share at least five things you are thankful for from the past year.

Psalm 100
1 Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. 3 Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

On October 3, 1789 George Washington issued the following National Day of Thanksgiving Proclamation:
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor…
“Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth of November next, to be devoted by the people of these United States…that we then may all unite unto him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country pervious to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed…
“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace and concord, to promote the knowledge and practice of the true religion and virtue, and the increase in science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone know to be best.”

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gratitude is a Choice

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1

November is the perfect month to reignite an attitude of gratitude. God wants us to be thankful people and live with continually grateful hearts. It changes the way we think and act when we choose to be less grumbly and more grateful. Teach your kids this week that gratitude is a choice. The Bible tells us to give thanks in everything. This month I want to encourage you to start a Thanksgiving Journal with your kids. Every evening before they go to bed, ask them to tell you one thing they are thankful for. If they are older allow them to write it in the journal with different colored markers. Help them think of one new and different thing each day, so they are not saying the same thing over and over again. Younger kids may want to draw a picture of what they are thankful for. This journal is to help both our kids and us to get in the habit of daily giving thanks to God. Even if you don’t have kids, I want to encourage you to do the journal for yourself personally each night before you go to bed. The more we give thanks, the less focus we will have on what is fearful or frustrating in our lives. Look carefully and be creative in thinking about the things for which you are grateful.

I Thessalonians 5:16 – 18 says, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Sounds like a good passage to memorize, don’t you think?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Really Do it!

Talk is cheap. It’s easy to say we are going to pray about something, but it is another thing to actually do it. I want to urge each of you to get down on our knees today and seek God’s help for our nation. Let us humbly seek God’s guidance and ask Him for protection. Pray for God’s mercy and for hearts to turn to God in repentance.

In this great country we are afforded the privilege to vote for the candidates we feel will best serve our country. This week I want to encourage you to take the opportunity to teach your children about the principles of freedom and the right to vote. We also have the important call from God to pray. Pray for our nation. Pray about your vote. We must take our right to vote seriously, and we must prayerfully cast our ballot.

Wisely and prayerfully vote on Tuesday. Bring your kids with you if you can so that they may learn by your example that as citizens of the United States we have the blessed honor to cast our vote. Thank the Lord for the freedom we are given in this great nation. Pray for His mercy. You may want to read Daniel’s prayer for his nation found in Daniel 9. Here is a portion of the prayer. Notice Daniel’s humility and repentance.

"Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you…all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him. Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cheer my Soul

Psalm 94:14, 17 – 19 (ESV)
For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage…
… If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.When I thought, "My foot slips," your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

One of the greatest truths we can teach our kids (and grand kids) is that God will not forsake His people. We are not alone in our challenges and battles. God’s presence in the lives of His followers is a constant source of comfort. Even when bad things happen, we can be reassured of His comfort and care. Instead of fretting we can look to the Lord as our help. Let’s live out this principle of trust in our own lives, so our kids will learn by our example. Circumstances may not cheer our soul, but as the psalmist said, “Your consolations cheer my soul.” In other words God’s comfort (which only He can give) brings joy and delight to our inner being.

Do our kids see a mom or grand mom who trusts God for help? Or do our kids see a woman who frets and worries and complains. Put your hope in God and His help and comfort in your life. This hope, this comfort is what separates us from those who do not believe. May the world see an inner peace and joy in our lives because we can say with the psalmist, “When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’ your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” My friend in Christ, God is with you and will never leave you. Look to Him.

Monday, October 20, 2008

He Cares

This past week I had the privilege of going to Amarillo, Texas to speak at a fundraiser for an adoption agency called Special Delivery. My friend Jennifer (whose words of wisdom you will find in several of my books) serves on the board and asked me to give the keynote address. It was truly an honor to celebrate the blessing of life not only for the new born baby, but also the adoptive families and the birthmother. Special Delivery Adoption Agency lovingly cares for both the birth mom and the adoptive families to ensure a smooth and joyful transition. I was blessed to meet the founder, Cindy, whose loving heart sincerely shines the love of Christ. Please visit to learn more about the blessings of adoption through this agency.

The lesson God has been teaching me this week is the fact that God dearly cares for His people. He cares about our worries, our hurts and our challenges. In Amarillo I was reminded He cares for the adoptive family, for the new born child and for the birthmother. Sunday morning back in Dallas the sermon was based on I Peter 5:6 – 8, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Now I’ve mentioned this passage before in earlier blogs, but this weekend my eyes were opened to a new focus. Here are the lessons I learned:
1. God sincerely and lovingly cares for me. It is a beautiful and humble act to fall into His loving arms, giving my cares to Him.
2. Satan wants me to forget that God cares for me. Satan wants to devour me with anxiety.

You see, this past week I have been feeling rather anxious over a number of obligations in my life. I was carrying all the anxiety myself, even waking up at night consumed with worry. I Peter 5 reminded me once again to give my worries to God and trust His care for me. My friend will you do the same? What are you worried about right now? Remember God cares for you. Let’s encourage one another to turn our cares over to our loving God moment by moment, day by day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

God Weavings

It’s 6:30 in the morning and Curt and I are headed back to Dallas from Austin. It was a great trip to get away from the cares of our busy lives for just a little while. We visited a wonderful church just outside of Austin called Pedernales Bible Church. The preacher referred to God weavings several time in his sermon. A God weaving is when God puts together a situation which only He could have orchestrated. Some call it a coincidence, but as we recognize God’s work in our lives we see that God weaves these moments together.

I experienced a unique God weaving this weekend. Curt and I decided to go to a fun music festival in the precious little riverside town of Gruene, Texas. We walked through shop after shop “just looking” and enjoying the adventure. I observed a dear couple walking through some of the shops – both were blind. My thoughts raced back to trip I took this past March to Nashville where I sat next to a wonderful blind man named Brian who played the piano for a rather famous band. Brian and I had the opportunity to visit for an extended amount of time as our flight sat on the tarmac for 5 (yes five) hours to be de-iced. When the flight was over, I helped Brian through the airport to find his ride. I had made a new friend that day in Nashville.

Now here in little Gruene, Texas I’m thinking of my old friend when I grab a flier to see what bands are playing at the festival. You guessed it – Brian’s band from Nashville is playing Saturday night at the Gruene Hall. I said to Curt, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if I happened to see my friend from the plane here?” We both agreed it probably wouldn’t happen especially since we weren’t able to stay until the 9:00 concert.

Curt and I had a delightful day, but then it came time to hop in our car and return to our place in Austin. Just then I looked ahead of us and sure enough there was a blind man being led across the street. It was Brian! I ran up to him and asked him if he remembered a flight in March in which he sat for 5 hours with a “positive lady” named Karol. Who can forget a 5 hour wait on the tarmac? Brian was just as excited to greet me as I was to greet him. We caught up a little then parted and went our merry ways. It was a God weaving to be sure!

The Bible reminds us that the Lord orders our steps. He ordered our steps that day. In the midst of hundreds of people in a little town in Texas we met up with Brian. I don’t know the reason why. Maybe so I could encourage him, maybe so I could pray for him, maybe just as a reminder that God is at work in our lives.

Do you recognize the God weavings in your life? Some call it God-moments or God-incidence. These are opportunities to thank God for His work in our lives. Encourage your kids to recognize God’s work in their lives. Make the most of every opportunity to thank God for His beautiful weaving. These weavings form a divine tapestry that we may only understand one day when we are at home with Him

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Texas State Fair

This weekend my daughter Joy and her boyfriend Adam came home from college, so while they were here we decided to visit the state fair. I love the fair! We ate corny dogs, Belgium waffles and roasted corn. We looked at exhibits, listened to several bands and watched the fireworks. Adam even won a stuffed animal on the midway (a stuffed dog that looks like a mastiff - love it).
I must admit, the thing I enjoy most about the fair is watching the people. It’s a broad cross section of humanity all mixed together in one place, offering a rich picture of our diverse culture. Yes, the fair is all about the people and learning to appreciate the beautiful variety of God’s creation. As we adventure through life, we must always remember to continually love and appreciate the variety of people God has placed in our lives.
It’s easy to love people who think, act and look just like we do, but it takes a genuine love to open our hearts to those who do not necessarily fit in our nice little circle. The sincere love of God looks beyond outward appearances. It is abounding and gracious. I don’t know about you, but I want to have that type of love toward others.

The Bible reminds us, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (I John 4:7-10)

Let’s ask God to shed His love abroad in our hearts as we pour it forth to the people around us. May we seek to continually love, not only when people treat us nicely or act just like us, but when it is difficult to love. Our love shouldn’t look like a roller coaster; up one minute when circumstances or people are nice, and down the next when people don’t act like we want them to. Thankfully, God can give us a love like His which is constant and unchanging. Open your eyes to the people God wants to love through you today.

Monday, September 29, 2008

God Confidence

Do you or your kids deal with confidence issues? It’s safe to assume that most likely someone under your roof (if not everyone there) desires to walk with more confidence and fewer feelings of inadequacy. Let’s consider what the word confidence really means and how we can encourage our family members and ourselves to walk with greater confidence in life.

Confidence means to have a firm belief or trust. The root word, fidere, is the same root we find in the word fidelity, meaning faithful or faith. To have confidence, then, means to have a strong trust or faith in something or someone. Self-confidence is obviously trusting in self. Confidence in people or circumstances can be shaky, but confidence in God puts us on a firm foundation! The Bible reminds us continually that God is a rock and a refuge and worthy of our trust.

Consider the following passages from the Bible that specifically talk about confidence:

For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.—David (Psalm 71:5)

Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared. Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.—Solomon (Proverbs 3:25 – 27)

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.—Solomon (Proverbs 14:26 – 27)

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.—Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17:7)

Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. —Paul (2 Corinthians 3:4,5)

Each of these passages offers a powerful reminder that we experience confidence when we place our trust in the Lord. A God confidence can help us take that first step forward. A God confidence can help break the chains of fear which so easily hold us back. When our confidence rests in him we can walk forward knowing we are loved and not alone. As Thomas Merton said, “I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
When David fought Goliath, his confidence wasn’t in his slingshot and stones; it was in the Lord. When Gideon fought against a vast army, his confidence wasn’t in his little army of three hundred men; it was in the Lord. When Esther went before the king to plead for her people, her confidence wasn’t in her own power of persuasion; it was in the Lord’s power to save her life and the life of her people.
Let’s help our kids remember that as we put our confidence in God, we can stand tall and walk confidently knowing the God of all creation is able to be our help, hope and strength in time of need.

Monday, September 22, 2008


This past week created perhaps a slight cause for some to worry. As we watch several of our nation’s largest financial institutions struggle to stay afloat, it’s easy to become concerned about the future. I want to encourage you today to allow this to be an opportunity to trust God with your future. This is also a time of teaching our kids to seek God’s help instead of being consumed with worry and fear of the unknown. Certainly there are lessons to be learned about financial responsibility, prudence and wisdom as well.

We want to teach our kids to live wisely and responsibly, and most importantly we want to teach them to continue to find strength and hope in the Lord during both good times and bad.

A good passage to reflect this week comes from the Old Testament prophet named Habakkuk:
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.”

Notice that although the prophet described a dismal and bleak picture he summed it up by saying “Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord.” How can he rejoice in the Lord? Because his strength came from God who gave him the surefootedness he needed to scale the difficult mountains ahead. Habakkuk didn’t ignore the challenges, YET he said despite the challenges he would look to God for strength.

Whenever we face difficult times let’s remember to say, “Yet, the Lord will be my strength!” We aren’t promised a perfect life, but we are promised that as we turn to God He will be our strength

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Blame Game

Currently there is a lot of blame going on in the news. Blame for the economy, for the Hurricane recovery effort, for healthcare and on and on. You name it, someone is pointing the finger with blame for it. This is one game we don’t want to teach our kids. In fact we want to help our kids think and react differently than wasting valuable time blaming others. The Blame Game has been around since the beginning of time, from the Garden of Eden until present day.

My thoughts go back to the Biblical account of Mary and Martha who had a houseful of people to entertain. Martha is overwhelmed by her challenge of feeding all the people, while Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus. Remember that Jesus recently fed over 5000 people with a few fish and loaves of bread. Martha’s solution for her challenges was to walk in and point the finger at Mary. Martha was going to the wrong source, for it was Jesus who was able to handle the situation. Martha should have sought Jesus’ help first and listen to His instructions. He may have told her not to worry about it since He could handle the food issue, or He may have told her to sit down for a while and then instructed Mary to help Martha in the kitchen. We don’t know how the rest of the story played out, but what we do know is that Mary had chosen the better plan to sit at Jesus’ feet.

How can we teach our kids (and ourselves) to be positively proactive rather than negatively reactive? Here are some questions to ask ourselves when we feel as though an injustice has taken place or an opportunity for grumbling has arisen.

Have I prayed and talked to the Lord about this situation?
Is there any responsibility I need to take for what has happened?
Is my blaming, complaining or grumbling helping or doing any good? (Most likely there is a two-letter word which answers this question and it begins with an “N”)
What glimmer of hope can I see in the situation?
How can I be a part of the solution?

Let’s teach our kids instead of pointing the finger and saying, “It’s your fault,” rather to ask, “What can I do to help make it right?”

Monday, September 8, 2008

Gratitude is Huge!

I must admit I often forget the significance of giving thanks to God, yet I was reminded of the importance of gratitude as I was reading my Bible this past week. Psalm 50:14 says “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and perform your vows to the Lord, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.” Later in that same Psalm we read, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.”

God is serious about thanksgiving! And it makes sense that as we turn our eyes toward Him and acknowledge His blessings, He is glorified and we are changed as well. When we live with an attitude of gratefulness for what God is doing in our lives, our eyes focus on what is good and we humbly recognize God as our Provider.

Take a moment right now to thank the Lord for at least five blessings in your life. Your list may look like mine:
Thank you for Jesus who died on the cross on my behalf and rose again to give us hope of eternal life.
Thank you Lord for your Spirit who dwells within us, comforting us and guiding us.
Thank you Lord for the ability to be alive and reading this blog right now.
Thank you Lord for the family and friends you have given me.
Thank you Lord for the purpose you have for my life, and for the provisions you give me each day.

A friend of mine, Denise, says that turning her heart toward thankfulness has literally transformed her attitude and her life. She even a created a journal to simply write down five specific things she is grateful for each day. It’s a great practice! I want to encourage you to do the same. This is a great idea for your kids as well. On the way to or from school name five things for which you are grateful.

Gratitude is a choice. We can choose to grumble and complain or we can choose to thank God for all His many blessings. Guess which choice makes you a more joyful person! The apostle Paul summed it up best in his letter to the Colossians, “Whatever you do in word or in deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Monday, September 1, 2008

Through Challenges and Tragedies

Today as we watch Hurricane Gustav make landfall, my prayers are with those whose lives are directly touched by the storm. My heart goes out to the displaced families along the coastline who may be experiencing fear, anxiety and fatigue.

Dear Loving Heavenly Father,
Thank you for providing help and hope in time of need. I pray for the victims and displaced families who are affected by this storm. Please give them a calm and a peace in their hearts as they weather the challenges ahead. Help the many workers who are tirelessly providing direction and support to the families. Lord, please watch over the precious people who are facing difficulties due to the storm and help them to know your presence and love. Provide for their needs. Give them strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. In Jesus Name, Amen

Pray for the storm victims with your kids and talk together about the challenges the families face as they leave their homes and businesses and travel to a different place. In the coming days look for ways you can help. This is a time when we can teach our kids to care about others needs, and become a little less focused on our own.

Whenever we face a difficulty or challenge, let us turn our eyes upward and seek God’s help. He provides for our needs in a variety of ways; sometimes through people and organizations, sometimes through circumstances and sometimes through unexpected blessings. Look to Him, and be watchful. Psalm 34:17 reminds us, “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.” Yes, we will have troubles, but God is our sustainer in times of need.

Last weekend, Curt and I were on our way to a wedding when a severe car accident happened just infront of us. We stopped to help. As we ran to the scene we saw a woman who had been thrown from her car, and we were the first ones to reach her. She was moaning and breathing, but not moving as she lay face down on the pavement with a pool of blood by her head. We knew we shouldn't move her at the risk of further injury, so I just placed my hand gently on her back and spoke comforting words to her until medical help arrived. I prayed for her by name (we found her name from info scattered on the road) and assured her we would stay with her until help came.

Help did come, and we eventually left knowing she was in good hands. Our hearts were deeply moved to pray continually for this dear woman. We couldn't help believe that God had us arrive on the scene just at the specific moment after the wreck, so we could be there to minister and comfort this woman. Although we can not understand why tragedies happen, we can know that our loving God will provide comfort and help in time of need. Look to Him through all life's journeys.

One last little side note: Please, please please, always wear your seat belt and encourage your family members to do the same. Most likely, the woman in the accident would have had a much better outcome had she not been thrown from the car and onto the pavement.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Start the School Year Bright

It’s time to get back in gear for another school year. I want to offer some encouragement and support for both you and your kids as you face these first few days of getting back in the swing of things. Along with the excitement of a new school year comes the anxiety of what the year will hold. Recognizing your kids may have a few start-of-school-jitters, consider the following.

Pray with your kids. Take a moment before you start the first day of school to ask the Lord to bless the coming year. Seek God’s peace, wisdom and strength as the kids engage in new friendships and experience new classes and teachers. We want our kids to recognize they can pray about anything, and praying together on the first day of school helps them learn by example as well as calms their spirits. Continue this as a routine throughout the year.

Celebrate the Beginning of School. Make the beginning of school a happy and exciting time by celebrating the first day or first week. Bake the kid’s favorite treat and serve it up after they have finished their first day of classes. Allow them to talk about their day. Ask them if they made any new friends. Encourage them to tell you about their teachers, their classes and even the school lunches or playground. Let your kids catch your excitement about school and the potential for growth, both in knowledge and relationships.

Create a Fun Homework Environment. Designate a certain spot that will serve as the homework or school work area. Make it fun and inviting with all the supplies your kids may need (paper, pens, pencils, sharpeners, etc..). Talk about schedules and how you all will handle the schoolwork routine in the afternoon. This is a good time to think through television and computer times, and establish some boundaries in these areas. You may also want to designate a delightful and cozy reading nook area in your house where kids can go to have some comfy and quiet time to relax and read. A big cozy chair, a bath tub with pillows or a window seat can all make a special place for reading.

Guard the Calendar. Each new school year offers new opportunities to fill the calendar. Prayerfully consider both yours and your kid’s involvement. Put a limit on the amount of after-school activities for each child and choose wisely which activities are best suited for each of your kids. Don’t do everything, do the right things. Just because everyone else is doing certain activities or sports, doesn’t mean your family must do them too. Lean toward volunteering for activities which utilize your gifts and talents. Take one year at a time and realize you don’t have to sign up for everything this year.

Proverbs reminds us, “Trust in the Lord with all your hearts and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” These are good words for us to keep in forefront of our minds as we lead and encourage our kids for another year of school. Most importantly remember that God is your refuge and your strength, a very present help in time of need. Help the kids to hope in Him, by continually sharing verses like this with your kids.

May God bless the new school year for you and your family!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Go for the Gold

Gold! That’s all that is on their minds right now. They swim for it, run for it, shoot for it and jump for it! Each athlete has singleness of purpose and a focus to do their best in the Olympics. I don’t know about you, but at our house we are glued to the television each night as we watch with anticipation and delight to see the athletes compete and go for the coveted gold medal.

Just as the athletes have singleness in purpose for their event, we too as followers of Christ have an eternal singleness of purpose. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (I Corinthians 9:24 – 27)

The writer of Hebrews gives us another illustration of the race we are running, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith, Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:1, 2)

What keeps the Olympic athlete going? Her eyes are on the gold. What keeps us going? Our eyes are on Jesus, who gave his life for us. He loves us and forgives us and equips us for the journey. The Olympics offer us a great opportunity to talk with our kids about our eternal goal and honoring Christ with our life. Just as an Olympic athlete represents his or her country, so we represent Christ. May we live lives of singular purpose as we love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength.

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's all about Relationships

This weekend was a busy one, but a blessed one. It was filled with the beauty of relating to one another. Saturday I spent a few hours with a small reunion of campers from a Joni and Friends Family camp. It was a joy to see the precious, angelic faces of the special needs campers. They were thrilled to see each other. They hugged, and smiled and laughed; they simply enjoyed being together again. Oh the beauty of the pure love these dear campers have for one another! It wasn’t about who has what or who shops where, but here in the center of Dallas all they cared about was relationships. My heart is always filled with joy when I am surrounded by special needs people!

As I arrived home from the Joni and Friends gathering, I was able to spend some time with my college daughter Joy and her friend Kimberly. Sitting and visiting around the kitchen table is one of my favorite past-times, yet in the hustle and bustle of daily schedules I don’t make as much time as I should for these refreshing moments. Before we knew it, we realized it was time to get going and get dressed for a wedding we were all to attend.

Aynsley and Jason’s wedding was not only a celebration of their love for each other, but of their mutual love for Christ. It was obvious through the music and testimony in the ceremony that Jesus was the center of their lives. The decorations and bouquets were all creatively and lovingly made by the bride. It was a beautiful event in every way, but most importantly it glowed with love for each other and for Christ.

After the wedding, Curt and I rushed over to a dinner party for a wonderful missionary couple who serve in Northern Italy. Okay, now you may be thinking Northern Italy, wouldn’t we all want to be missionaries there? It’s not an easy job. The coldness to a relationship with Christ which pervades Europe is a barrier few of us would choose to face. Hillary and Terrence Luker are an incredible, faith-walking couple. As they build relationships with the people in Italy, they share Christ’s love and the message of a relationship with him. Please pray for their work. When Curt and I finally left the dinner party near the midnight hour, we both reminisced with joy about the conversation around the dinner table (thanks to Kelly Cunningham, our incredible host), and the miraculous work the Lord is doing in the lives of the Luker family.

I told you it was a busy weekend, and yet it was a glorious weekend about relationships.
Often we get caught up in schedules or rules or whatever distracts us from loving others and we don’t really look at people, listen to them and love them. This weekend was a tangible reminder to me of God’s two greatest commands: love God and love people. Let’s keep those at the forefront of our hearts and minds this week as we deal with life, kids and agendas.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Dog Days of Summer

How’s the heat in your neck of the woods? Here in Texas it got up to 107 yesterday and we can expect more of the same today. We are definitely in the midst of the Dog Days of Summer. It’s during this time of they year that the heat seems to wear us down and make us perhaps slightly irritable (okay more than slightly – we can become down right mean). I want to encourage you to be sure to stay well-hydrated during this time, and I mean hydrated physically as well as spiritually.

Please make sure you are getting plenty of water every day to help you survive the heat. Let’s also make sure we are getting plenty of Living Water as well. By that I mean let’s spend some time daily in God’s word and prayer. As we abide in the Lord, the Bible tells us we will bear much fruit. Just as the summer foliage begins to wilt when it doesn’t have water, we also tend to wilt or become short-tempered without the help of God’s Holy Spirit.

The fruit of God’s spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Now when I’m hot and tired, those qualities are not my natural tendency – how about you? But they are God’s natural tendency and we can ask Him to help us. The apostle Paul said “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Not only are we to seek God’s help in having these qualities, but we must also intentionally pursue them.

Today, let’s deliberately choose to clothe ourselves with kindness, and let’s encourage our kids to do the same. What does kindness look like? Sharing a smile with someone who needs it. Bringing water to someone who is thirsty. Listening to another person. Offering a word of encouragement. Holding the door open for others. Writing a kind note to a family member. Asking the question, “How can I help you?”

As we act kindly toward others, looking to God for the ability and strength, our souls are refreshed. May God pour his kindness through us to help others. Our kindness can be a cup of cold water to bring joy to a thirsty soul this summer.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Blessing of Books

Let’s continually encourage our kids to love reading. During the summer months we can take a little more time to enhance their interest in a good book. Take a weekly visit to the library with the family. Most libraries offer a summer reading program to motivate young readers. Every once in a while, just for fun take a trip to a half price book store in your area. I used to hand each of my kids a $5 bill and tell them to pick out what they wanted. This not only helped them with math and budgeting, but also made a bit of a game out of finding prize books for a good price. When we got home we showed each other our purchases and gloried at how much we were able to buy at a small price.

You may want to create some new and different reading areas in the house. A bath tub filled with pillows, or a large box with blankets can make fun and unique reading nooks. At times we draped a sheet over the kitchen table and made the area underneath the table our “Reading Castle.” You can also give your kids rewards for reading, just like the library does. They can earn play money or tickets for a certain amount of books or reading hours. The play cash or tickets can be used for new books or a movie day or television time.

Consider playing the “Choose 4 You” reading game. Put each family member’s name in a basket, and then allow everyone to draw a name. The assignment is to choose a book for the other person to read. Explain that they must think about finding an age appropriate book according to their interests. You can either go to the library or a bookstore to pick out the book for the other person. After an allotted amount of time, meet together as a family and tell about the books which were received and read. This little game encourages not only reading, but caring about other’s interests.

Declare a “Stretch Day” where you encourage each of the kids to stretch out of the genre they typically like to read and explore another type of book. For instance if your daughter is a big fiction reader, then encourage her to stretch into reading a biography or a book about horses. If your son only likes to read books about baseball, then encourage him to stretch himself and explore books about hiking or a fiction book about outer-space. Help your kids to see there is a wide variety of books to be explored.

Think about theme weeks for your family reading. Choose a theme for the week and focus on books around that topic. One week you could choose bugs or animals, then plants and flowers, then kings, queens and castles. As you center on a theme you can also do other activities, games and field trips which enhance the theme. As you share your enthusiasm for reading, your kids will catch it. Let’s be deliberate to make reading fun.

Lady Montague said, “No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.”

Happy Reading!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Avoiding God Complacency

Today I’m in the hill country of Texas on vacation. We love to come here every once in a while to retreat from city life and enjoy the beauty of God’s great creation. One of the things we enjoy seeing is the lovely and quiet deer which inhabit much of this area. In past years, we would see them here and there and rejoice in a deer sighting. This particular trip we have seen deer everywhere. Every time we step out our door, there they are. Although I love seeing them, I must admit the excitement is gone since we see them all the time. Now we think to ourselves, Oh it’s just another deer. I guess you could say we have become “deer-complacent.”

As Christians we can be in danger of being “God-complacent” thinking to ourselves, Oh I’ve heard that Bible story or read that verse a million times. If we are not careful we can lose our zeal toward the things of God, because as we relax it all becomes so familiar. Let’s determine to continually go back to that first love and enjoy God’s word afresh. The Bible is a living and vibrant word and there is always something new we can learn, even from those old familiar stories. Ask God for a fresh wind and a renewed desire for what his word can teach you. One way to grow deeper in love with his word is to meditate on it and memorize it. I encourage you to take one passage today and really grapple with it in your heart and mind. Memorize it, chew on it, and share its profound truth with your kids.

Possibly one of the greatest examples we can show our kids is our own renewed interest and love of God’s word. So instead of having the attitude of Oh this story again, we can say to our kids “I’m so excited! Let me share with you what I learned from God’s word today!”

Psalm 42:1-2 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Learn Something New this Summer

Not too long ago my daughter and I went to park with blank canvases and paint brushes in hand. Side by side, we began painting pictures of the beauty which surrounded us. The last time I can remember trying my skill at painting was in Junior High art class years and years ago (and no I’m not going to reveal how very many years ago that was!)

It honestly felt good to try something new and unleash an area of creativity that I had not explored in a while. Now I’m hooked. I love to paint. Since I express myself through words day in day out as a writer, painting gives me an opportunity to unleash thoughts through art. It is a stretch for me, and I’m not very good but I’m enjoying learning something new.

When is the last time you stretched yourself to learn something new? Allow summer to be a time to explore a new skill, sport, craft or talent. As a family, why not try a new sport? Kick around a soccer ball, play tennis, go hiking or climbing, consider skating. Think about a new craft such as drawing, scrap-booking, knitting or sewing. Stretch beyond your comfort zone and consider learning a new language, developing your photography skills, writing an article for a local paper, taking piano, guitar or voice lessons.

Don’t be afraid to explore the hidden talents which are waiting to be unleashed in both your kids and yourself. During the school year, life becomes hectic and busy, but the change of pace during summer allows us to stretch, learn and grow in new areas. So step out of your comfort zone and into new possibilities. By the way, I purchased the Rosetta Stone Spanish program and plan to download it today. Gracias!

A few motivating quotes:
“Don’t stand shivering upon the bank; plunge in at once, and have it over with.” Sam Glick

“He who doesn’t climb the mountain cannot see the view.”

“The business of life is to go forward.” Samuel Johnson

“Progress is the only alternative to falling. We must advance or we shall decline. To prevent decay we must grow.” John Wilmot

Monday, July 7, 2008

Joy of Serving in July

Summer makes a wonderful time to teach our kids to reach out in compassion towards others. Talk together about ways you want to serve people in your community and abroad. Prayerfully consider some of the following ideas:
Visit a local homeless shelter and help serve meals.
Offer your help to a local food pantry or charity resale shop.
Help out with Special Olympics in your area.
Put together lunches to hand out to homeless people or those asking for money.
Offer to help tutor or read to kids at a local summer school program.
Visit a nursing home and bring artwork or flowers to give away.

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking. It’s easy to get wrapped up in how we are going to have a fun and busy summer, but there is great joy in stepping beyond ourselves and caring for others who need a lift up or a helping hand. Our children’s unselfish love for others will grow as we give them opportunities to put their love into action. So use the opportunity you have with your time this summer to move out of your comfort and into the joy of loving and serving others.

I John 3:18 “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Monday, June 30, 2008

Star Spangled Week!

The week of Fourth of July is one of my favorite times of the year as we celebrate our Independence and the freedom we so enjoy in this great nation. Use this week as an opportunity to teach your kids about the sacrifices our forefathers made so we may enjoy our present freedom. Read books about Americas fight for Independence. There are many excellent picture books for younger kids, and for the older ones I suggest The Light and the Glory (youth version), by Marshall and Manuel. Over the years I’ve bought several patriotic picture books about our flag and our forefathers, which I set around the house to serve as decorations and inspiration for family and friends.

Be sure to fly your flag. You may want to do a flag art project, using a large piece of white construction paper. Cut out a blue square of construction paper for the upper left corner. Use star stickers to decorate. Then color red stripes or cut out strips of red construction paper. You may even want to cover the finished project with clear contact paper or laminate so you can use them as place mats at your breakfast table.

Create a patriotic breakfast or desert using blue berries, strawberries and whip cream. You may enjoy making a patriotic flag cake by baking a vanilla sheet cake. Cover with white icing or whip cream, then use blue berries for the upper left corner and use sliced strawberries or raspberries to create the stripes. The kids love to join in the fun of making this creation.

Fourth of July Parade - Organize or participate in the neighborhood Independence Day parade (just hand out fliers to neighbors and see who comes). Decorate bikes, trikes and strollers with crepe paper, flags, pin wheels, etc. Place flags along the parade route. In our neighborhood we choose one house for the beginning and end of the parade. We played patriotic music on a jam box, provided lemonade, water and doughnuts and asked one person (usually with a red car or convertible) to be at the head of the parade. It was simple and special, and provided a wonderful gathering for neighbors.

Patriotic Prayer: This week is an opportunity to celebrate our country’s freedom and to thank God for our country. Ask Him to help us and take care of us as a nation. Pray for the upcoming election. Pray for God to heal our land and bring us back to Him. Thank God for providing the ultimate freedom from sin and death through His son Jesus.

Have a great fourth!!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Deliberate Relaxing vs. Boredom

As a former camp counselor, I saw the value of an intentional R & R time. We called it FOB (flat on back or flat on bunk). This was a time when campers and counselors took a break form the normal schedule and routine of the day and simply enjoyed some downtime. The time could be used to rest, write a letter, read, plan and think. I found it to be such a valuable time that when I became a mom myself, I instituted FOB during the summers when my daughters were young and elementary school age. It was a healthy time of rejuvenation, and allowed them to see the value of relaxing. It also allows time for thought and creativity.

Possibly one of the most valuable boredom busters is one of the most obvious, easy and simple ideas. Encourage a love for reading great books. My philosophy for kids as well as adults is: you will never be bored if you have a good book to read. Consider making a trip to a discount or half price book store as a family. Give each child a few dollars, and encourage them to find their own treasures. Once you ignite the joy of reading in a person, they will never use the “B” word again.

Our job as parents is not to fill each waking moment, so our kids won’t be bored. Rather our job is the teach our kids how to be creative and resourceful, so that they don’t depend or blame other people for their happiness. This important life lesson begins under our roof as we inspire our kids to use the gifts and talents God has given them. Consider the following family devotional:

Read: Proverbs 26:13 – 16, Also read the definition of bore or boredom in the dictionary or in this chapter.
Discussion questions:
What do people really mean when they say they are bored?
In what ways are lazy people similar to people who say they are bored?
How is laziness different than relaxing? What activities do you enjoy most when you are at home with nothing scheduled?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Boredom Busters in the Kitchen

The Kitchen can offer a wonderful way to cure boredom during the summer. Cook some of your favorite recipes together and enjoy the results. Here are a few ideas.

Magnificent Mac
Take the tried and true macaroni and cheese recipe to a new level. The fun is not only in the making but in the adding of a variety of ingredients to personalize this mac and cheese recipe.
2 cups dried macaroni or pasta (choose your favorite shapes)
12 oz. American Cheese (3 cups shredded)
2 Tbsp margarine or butter
2 ½ cups milk
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
dash of salt and pepper.
Cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain and set aside. While pasta is cooking, grate the cheese (allow older kids to help). Melt butter in a medium sized pan. Gradually stir in flour and pepper. Add milk. Stir and cook over medium heat until slightly thickened and little bubbly. Slowly add cheese and stir until melted. Add pasta to the cheese mixture. Place in 2 quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 uncovered for 25 or 30 minutes.
Now that you have your wonderful cheesy noodles, consider adding your favorite extras to the top. Consider cubes of ham, little wieners, potato chips, carrots, another type of cheese, fried onion rings, shoe string potatoes, gold fish crackers.
No Reason Cake
Most of the time we have a reason to bake a cake, whether it is someone’s birthday or a shower or special occasion. It’s a good idea to have a box of cake mix and a couple of cans of icing in your pantry at all times as a potential boredom buster. Making the cake is always fun, especially if you offer to let the kids stir and lick the bowl and spoons. Then comes the joy of icing the cake! Once the cake is iced by all of your little helpers then allow everyone to come up with ways to decorate the top. You may want to choose a random theme. The possibilities are endless (as long as you clean them well): toy soldiers, rubber duckies, small plastic dolls, candies of all sorts, little paper umbrellas, plastic flowers, etc.. Enjoy making and eating your innovative creation.

Breakfast Pizza
2 cans crescent rolls
1 – 2 lbs sausage
6 – 8 eggs
Shredded cheese (your family’s favorite)
Pre-heat oven to temperature on the crescent rolls can. Smooth out crescent rolls over an entire cookie sheet, making sure all seams are smoothed together. Brown sausage, then crumble into small pieces and sprinkle over crust. Scramble eggs and distribute over crust. Sprinkle cheese over pizza. Bake for 16 – 18 minutes or until browned. Serve with salsa or ketchup.

Sensational Summer Salad
One 7 oz package of bowtie pasta 1/3 cup green onions sliced
Two 6 ½ ox cans tuna ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 medium tomato (chopped) ¾ cup Italian dressing
1 green or yellow pepper (cut into strips) 1 – 2 tsp Dijon mustard
½ cup whole pitted black olives ½ tsp salt
8 -10 radishes (sliced) ¼ tsp lemon pepper
Prepare pasta according to package. Drain. Combine pasta, tuna, tomato, pepper, olives, radishes, onion and parsley. In small bowl mix remaining ingredients. Add to pasta/tuna mixture. Toss gently. Cover and chill.

Happy Face Ice Cream Sundaes
Favorite flavors of ice cream
Variety of Candies and marshmallows
Chocolate or Carmel syrup
Place a large scoop of ice cream in a bowl. Squirt or drizzle syrup at the top of the scoop to resemble hair. Place candy or marshmallows to create eyes, nose and mouth. Allow each family member to create their own. Vote on the most creative work of art before eating them.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Boredom Buster Arts and Crafts

How is your summer going so far? As you enjoy (I use that word lightly) quantity time with your kids I want to encourage you to stimulate your their creativity. Go visit a museum or art gallery together. Get a few books about famous artists and artwork from the library. Allow the kids to create their own works of art throughout the summer. You may even want to take some time to do scrap-booking with the kids. Here are a few simple and inexpensive ideas to do at home or you may want to go to an arts and crafts store where you can pick out a project to do together.

Morning Sketches - A large, blank sketch or art pad can allow our kids to open up their minds to draw new ideas or express thoughts and emotions. Just after breakfast while the mind is fresh with new thoughts and ideas is a good time to hand out sketch pads. A variety of markers, crayons, colored pencils and water colors adds variety to art. You may choose to use a different medium each day or each week. I’m always on the look out for nice sketch pads or art paper on sale in the clearance section of hobby or crafts stores. You can also purchase special watercolor art pads and paper.

Trash Art - Don’t throw away those cereal boxes, plastic jugs and aluminum cans! They are works of art in the making. You can use them as building blocks to create a castle. You can spray paint them and decorate them with sequins and jewels. You can cut away the top of the jug to make a planter or a knick knack bowl. Take a giant box outside and let the kids paint it. They can paint the whole thing one color or they can paint pictures all over it and create a collection of master pieces.

Duct Tape Creations - One time for a long car trip we gave each of the girls (and their two friends) a roll of duct tape and scissors and told them to create something. We encouraged them to think outside the box and design some sort of usable object with the duct tape. One girl made a wallet (which she still uses to this day), one made a pair of flip flops, and two of the girls made the most unique purses you have ever seen. Loads of simple, inexpensive fun from a roll of tape!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Summer Start

For many years we had a tradition in our home. On the first day of summer vacation we gathered around the kitchen table, ate doughnuts and made our plans for the next few months. We started with a big poster board bearing the words Super Summer 200__. Then using different colored markers we would write down some of the activities we wanted to do during the summer. Go to Six Flags, play Putt Putt golf, ice-skating were some of the ideas. We also wrote down some of the obligations of the summer like Read for 45 minutes each day, computer time for designated amount of time and only 1 hour of television per day. I, of course, established the obligations but introduced them in a semi-pleasant way as we created the poster together.
Then we would pull out the Boredom Buster can. This was an old coffee can which we decorated together. It had a slit in the top of the lid in which we could place boredom busting ideas. My daughters and I sat around the kitchen table with little pieces of paper and talked about the different things we could do if we ever felt the “B” word (boredom) coming into our minds.
As we thought about ideas we would write them down and put them in the can, so that at any time we could pick one, read it and remind ourselves of things we could do. We wrote down things like bake cookies, shoot hoops, jump on trampoline, call a friend, go swimming, write a letter to a relative, read and so on. It was a great exercise because it made us realize with a little thought and creativity there was plenty to do, always.
Oddly, we never had to open the can during the summer because we had proven to ourselves that we could create our own fun. The can served as a reminder that we were never at a loss for something to do. The fact is, boredom is in the eye of the beholder. If you let yourself mope around and declare yourself bored, then you are. But boredom is simply a perspective. Samuel Butler said, “The man who lets himself be bored is even more contemptible than the bore. There is always something positive to do with your time, even if it is a planned time of relaxing.
Certainly there is a danger of over-planning the summer as well. It’s healthy and good to have unplanned space in order to allow our kids to create their own fun by using their imagination. The important thing to teach our kids is they don’t have to depend on someone or something else to entertain them. They have the ability to enjoy life and make the most of their time. They never need to be the slave of boredom again.

Family Fun: Celebrate the start of summer by having a little fun family breakfast and talking about the plans for the next few months (as well as some of the rules). Then create a Boredom Buster can like the one I described.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Summer Teachable Moments

Summer is upon us and you may be thinking, “How am I going to get through it!” Summer can be a wonderful time, but it can also be a bit of a trying time as we adjust to a new and different schedule. During the month of June I will be giving you ideas for Boredom Busters to help you enjoy your family instead of getting annoyed by them. Before we embark on my June Boredom Buster Blogs, I want to remind you of the precious opportunity you have for teachable moments during the summer time. Martin Luther said, “Family life is a school for character.” Certainly as we spend more quantity time with our families we have more opportunities to embrace some lessons for life.

How do you spot a teachable moment? First pray, asking God to open your eyes to life lessons all around you. Each encounter and experience is an opportunity for learning. Now don’t go around making a lesson out of everything you see and do. You don’t want your kids to roll their eyes and, with exasperation, say, “Not another lesson from Mom!” On the other hand you do want to light a fire for learning as you spark their interest and offer wise words or important life lessons. Here are five everyday occasions that offer a lesson waiting to be taught:

Going Places Together — Whenever we go somewhere together as a family—on vacation or to a local park, the zoo, a restaurant, the movies—there are opportunities for growth. Patience, self-sacrifice, an appreciation for God as our Creator, and contentment are just a few of the lessons to be learned on a family outing.

Mistakes — We grow and learn from the “oops” in life. Forgetting, misjudging, or miscalculating can be frustrating and painful, but those times do offer lessons to be learned. We learn, first, that no one is perfect—not us nor anyone we are around. We also learn the importance of forgiveness toward others (because we need it ourselves), being careful, taking responsibility, and not rushing through a task.

People in Need — What do you do when you see someone holding out a hand begging for money or food? Do you pass by shaking your head, or do you use it as a teachable moment? You may want to buy some food for the person and even have a conversation. You can teach your kids loving-kindness when you reach out and care for another human being who is hurting.

Wins and Losses — When our children don’t perform as well as they’d like and struggle with the pain (whether in sports, piano competition, or grades in school), we can make these teachable moments. First allow your children to grieve and cry over the loss, but eventually help them discover something they can learn from the situation. The lesson may be as basic as we will not win or come out on top in every situation in life. There may be lessons to learn about forgiveness, dealing with anger or jealousy, or creative ways to do things differently next time. Winning can present growth opportunities as well.

Discipline — It may seem like a negative setting for a teachable moment, but we can’t overlook the opportunity to teach and train our children whenever we must discipline them.

Let’s look forward to a wonderful summer, loving, teaching and enjoying our kids. I’ll be back with you on Monday with Boredom Busters! Until then, happy summer!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Movie of the Week

Movie of the Week

This past weekend we went to see the newest Narnia movie, “Prince Caspian.” As you probably know I am a huge C. S. Lewis fan, and I have loved the Chronicles of Narnia since I was young. The “Prince Caspian” movie was wonderful in every way! I was amazed at the cinematography and the quality of the production and the actors. Most of all I was blessed by the reminder of the powerful underlying lessons which can be drawn from the story.

As we (Curt, Joy who was home from college and I) talked about what we loved about the movie, we each mentioned different aspects which encouraged our faith. Here’s a few life lessons we personally gathered from the story.

God has a plan and He is with us, even when we don’t see Him.

Seek God’s help and direction before running in and trying to solve problems in our own power and strength.

God is both powerful and approachable.

He is ruler over all creation. Even the wind and the water obey Him.

It is in our most desperate moments that we recognize our dependence on Him.

He is our rock and our refuge and our very present help in time of need.

God uses the most unlikely characters for his service. It’s the size of the heart that matters. I adore Reepicheep!

Now I know there are many more life lessons you can take away from the story of Prince Caspian. I invite you to share yours. Most importantly, may we all be inspired to be salt and light in our culture, just as Lewis was. Tell others about the movie and let’s encourage Hollywood to make more great films like this one.

Family Fun: If your kids are old enough, then go see the movie. If they are not old enough I would encourage you to see Prince Caspian with your husband or friends. Curt loved it. The movie does contain some violence and a few scary creatures, so if you have young ones you may want to read the Prince Caspian book instead. Reading the book is a great way to prepare even the older ones for the movie. After you see the movie or read the book, take some time to discuss what each of your family members learned about life and faith and God.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Faith Steps

Recently we added a new puppy to our home, and she is no small pup. She’s a nine month old English Mastiff named Bentley. She’s sweet, gentle and loveable, but she is also extremely fearful. It’s almost humorous to watch her as this giant, 120 lb. puppy is afraid to go through a door, or down a step or across a floor. Not too long ago she bravely followed me upstairs to the second floor of our house. That was all well and good except for the simple fact that she was too frightened to come down the stairs. She just couldn’t seem to figure out how to navigate the first step down.

We couldn’t allow her to live the rest of her doggy life on the second floor of the house, so I tried to gently help her down. All she wanted to do is sit there and bark at the steps. After 45 minutes of coaxing her, I finally got her to take the first step down. Once she accomplished the first step, the second wasn’t too bad. Then the next and the next and finally she was free on the first floor again!! What a relief for us all! She obviously had the ability to go down the stairs safely, she just didn’t have the courage to take that first step.

The Bentley scenario made me think how often I nestle safely in my comfort zone and resist moving forward because I just don’t know how to make the initial move. Sometimes I don’t know what to do, and sometimes out of fear of the unknown I prefer to just stay put. Instead of taking steps in a positive direction it is sometimes easier to just sit there and bark (or in human terms - whine and complain). Certainly there are times to be content where God has placed us, but there comes a time when we must step forward in faith and go where God is calling us to go.

For most of us, the first step is typically the hardest one, as well as the most significant. We hesitate to take that first step because we don’t know what is down the road. Fear of what the future holds, fear of making a mistake or fear of making our new circumstances a reality can seem to stifle us and prevent us from moving forward. Stop for a moment and consider what may be keeping you from moving in a positive direction. You may need to begin with little steps day by day, but the important thing is to not let fear get in your way.

God said to Joshua, “This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” As we prayerfully follow God’s direction do not be afraid to take that first step. Walk in faith allowing God to increase your faith as you move forward and accomplish what He has called you to do.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Rising above the storms

Are you weary? Have you been wounded? Do you feel as though you lack the courage to continue? Have you reached a point of defeat? There is a strength that defies human understanding. A hope and determination which can only be supernatural. It is the strength God gives our soul, to help us make it through one more day. Don’t focus on three days from now, or three weeks from now, or even how you will do Christmas ever again. Today trust him for the strength he can give. Then tomorrow do the same.
Sometimes we worry about how we will make it in the future, when all we need is the strength for our soul to push forward today. Perhaps you are aware of the unique ability of the eagle. These fine birds know have a God-given sense about when a storm is approaching. Instead of avoiding the storm, they fly to a higher spot. When the winds come they set their wings to pick it up and allow it to rise above the storm. It actually uses the winds from the storms to lift it higher.
My friend you may not see how your storm could lift you up quite yet, but as you turn to the Lord for strength, he will give you the lift you need to rise above the storm. We can allow the storms of life to weigh us down, or we can allow them to lift us up to a new level of strength, hope and faith. I’m reminded of God’s encouragement to the Israelites found in Isaiah 40:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”[1]
Strength of soul is a God thing, not a me thing or a you thing. It’s that determination to get back on the surf board or return to the work place, or simply to re-enter life again. God has enriched each of our lives with meaning and purpose. He has a plan for our next step and He will give us the strength to take the next step. The Lord is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of need. As he calls us to do a certain work in this world, he will give us what we need to carry it out.

Family Fun: Find a picture of an eagle, print it out and put it on a small poster board or even in a picture frame. Write or print the words from Isaiah 40:28 -31
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Place this picture someplace where you will see it each day. Use it as a reminder of the strength of soul only God can give as you face the storms of life.

Monday, April 28, 2008

God's Strength

This past weekend I had the blessing and privilege to be with the wonderful women of Christ the Rock Church in Wisconsin. We stayed at a beautiful resort called the Osthoff resort at Elkhart Lake, a relaxing and refreshing getaway near Appleton. I was the women’s retreat speaker for the weekend and gave four talks altogether; one on Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday morning. I must tell you that physically I was very weak with one of those awful colds coming on, plus I was experiencing a terrible ache in my neck which kept me awake at night. With little sleep and feeling physically depleted I knew I was not up to teaching four times, as well as visiting with and encouraging the ladies.

But where we are weak, God is strong. It was quite apparent I need God to be my source of strength and speak through me. Before each session, I asked God to take over and completely teach the lesson, because I was physically and mentally unable to do it. I was amazed at the work He did in the women’s hearts. He spoke powerfully through my meager mouth, and many of the women told me they needed to hear exactly what I had to say.

How perfect is God’s work! All praise to Him. I left Wisconsin knowing God taught the women, and He used what little I had to offer. When I boarded the plane for my journey home, I opened my One Year Bible to the daily reading for April 28. It took me to the story of Gideon where God paired down Gideon’s army in order for Gideon to know God was the one who would win the battle and not Gideon. Yes, Gideon’s army was made weak, so God could show forth strong. In my weakened state, I too, was able to see it was God who did a great work this weekend and not me.

Perhaps our weaknesses have a purpose. Could it be that God allows us to be weak and inadequate for the task, so we can see His mighty hand at work? All glory to Him who is able to do far more than we ask or imagine!
Family Fun: Read the story of Gideon found in the Bible in book of Judges chapter 7. You may even want to act out the story, making a rams horns out of empty paper towel tubes and use a plastic jar with a flash light in it. Pretend you are sneaking up on the enemy, take away the jar and allow the kids to shine their lights and blow their trumpets. Talk about how the Lord fought the battle for Gideon using only a small army. Remind your kids that when you feel weak or inadequate, you can look to God for strength and ask Him to help you. God is able.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring Cleaning

This weekend I drove down to Waco in a rented pickup truck filled with things we don’t need and want to get rid of. You see my daughter at Baylor was having a garage sale and I wanted to bring “just a few” items for her to sell as well. We both agreed that it felt good to get rid of all the junk we had accumulated over the years. It’s amazing how much unnecessary stuff we keep, from clothes to furniture and everything in between.

Just as it is a good idea to deliberately and regularly clean out the closets of our unwanted items, it’s also important for us to do a little clean out with some of our unwanted habits. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians talked about a little personal closet clean out and getting rid of a few things in our lives as Christians. He said, “But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander and dirty language (Colossians 3:8).” He also says, “You must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

Any thoughts on old habits you may want to clean out of your life? I know I am slightly convicted as I read Paul’s admonishment. But the good news is we don’t have to clean out the closet of our hearts alone. God has given us His Spirit to help us not only recognize some of the things that need to go, but to help us and strengthen us in replacing the old junk with beautiful qualities like kindness, humility and patience.

Time for a little closet clean out of our hearts don’t you think? Consider doing some Spring Cleaning this week asking God to help you get rid of useless unwanted habits and bring in some fresh new lovely ones.

Family Fun: Together as a family, clean out a junk drawer or closet in your home. Trust me, it can be fun when you do it as a family. Use one box for giveaway items and a bag for trash. Rearrange and straighten the place, so it is once again useful and nice. As you sigh and look at your accomplishment talk, about how the Bible says we need to get rid of certain bad habits in our life. Read Colossians 3:8 and talk it. Pray together as a family asking God to help you recognize old junk that needs to go. Ask Him to renew your heart and help you to reflect His love in the home.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Friendships in the Fast Lane

In the busyness of being a mom, often our own friendships can fall by the wayside. Yet as moms, we need those dear relationships which give us encouragement as well as a shoulder to cry on at times. How do you juggle life as a mom, and building relationships? Three principles in friendships come to mind which can ease into any routine and be helpful for both friends and family members. Here they are:

Take a genuine interest in others. Remember that each person you meet is a beautiful creation of God. Listen to them, learn form them, find the treasure in them. As you take a sincere interest in others you will find some “Aha’ moments where you recognize you have something in common. Build on it and help an acquaintance to become a good friend simply by showing them you see their value and honoring them.

Be a giver not a taker. Now don’t get worried here. Being a giver doesn’t need to take a lot of time and energy. In fact it usually is a natural outpouring of taking a genuine interest in others. You can give a smile or a hug. A listening ear or help with the kids. You can give encouraging words or sound advice. Look for simple ways you can bless another person and build them up. Learn to be a gracious receiver when you need to be too.

Forgive. Possibly the greatest gift we can give to others is forgiveness. Overlooking faults and annoyances. Sure we get our feelings hurt sometime. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we let people walk all over us. We need to communicate and set up healthy boundaries. But forgiveness means giving up the right to hold something over another person. It is a constant process, and a supernatural one. Ask God to give you the ability to forgive and move on. After all He is pretty good at it! Remember you have been forgiven of all your sins through Jesus, and so we as Christians ought to be the most forgiving people on the planet.

Take a genuine interest in others, be a given not a taker and forgive. If we apply these three principles to our relationships this week we will see them bloom and grow. Take heart fellow mother. Even when you feel all alone, you have the perfect friend with you, Jesus. He loves you, forgives you and will never leave you.

Family Fun: Talk with your kids about their friendships. Learn who they consider to be some of their closest friends and who are some of the acquaintances they want to know better. Then share with them each of the three principles above. Tell them a smile is a gift they give to other people to encourage them. Talk about some good conversation starter questions they can ask their friends. I want to practice giving by sending the first 10 people who contact me my book Table Talk free. It offers conversation starters around the dinner table. Email me at with subject line “Table Talk.”

Monday, April 7, 2008

Are you Sinking?

Float with me back to a boat on the Sea of Galilee, a body of water 680 feet below sea level and surrounded by hills. The topography lends itself to creating violent and unexpected storms as winds blow over the land and intensify close to the sea. As evening approaches, Jesus gets in boat and says to the disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” Shortly into the journey, one of those fierce storms comes upon them. High waves break into the boat, filling it with water.
I’m already relating to this story, how about you? It’s interesting how quickly storms can hit our life. We may be merrily rowing along on our pleasant little journey and without any warning an unexpected storm changes everything, and we feel as though we are sinking fast. Been there? Perhaps you have had several little storms, or maybe you have had a major life-changing storm which will mark your life forever. Whatever your storm, great or small, don’t forget Jesus is in the boat with you.
The gospel of Mark goes on to tell us that Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The desperate and frantic disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are going to drown?” In the middle of your storm you may have prayed that same thing. I suppose it is hard for us to imagine that Jesus allows us to go through the storm. “Don’t you care that this is happening to me? Where are you? Why are you sleeping?” we say to the Lord. Even though it seems like Jesus is sleeping, he does care about your situation, just as he cared for the disciples in the boat.
Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Quiet down!” Suddenly the wind stopped and there was a great calm. Jesus then had a question for the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still not have faith in me?” I believe the disciples were filled with anxiety and fear because they still didn’t seem to understand who Jesus was and what He could do. After Jesus calmed the storm, they proclaimed, “Who is this man, that even the wind and waves obey him?” Jesus, the Son of God and creator of all, was in the boat with them. They had a choice to be filled with terror or to trust the power of God. We too have a choice to panic or to pray when we face fearful and unexpected storms. Jesus does care and He is in the boat with us. He may not take away the entire storm, but He can give us a peace and a calm in the midst of it.
In my simplistic way of seeing life, it seems to me that if Jesus is in charge of the weather, couldn’t he have just made it smooth sailing the whole way? Wouldn’t it have been easier on the boat and on the disciple’s nerves to just skip the storm altogether and travel safely to the other side? Yet, how could the disciples’ faith grow unless they experienced God’s miraculous power themselves? Because of the storm, the disciples were able to see the mighty hand of God at work. They learned more about who Jesus was and what He was capable of doing through the storm, not the calm. They also learned that they could depend on Him no matter what happened for they knew He was able to handle it.
Unexpected storms will come in our lives. The question is will we try to ride it out on our own in a state of panic, or will we go to Jesus first seeking his peace and help? Jesus is in the boat with us and will never leave us. As we get to know Jesus better through studying the Bible and abiding in prayer, we begin to recognize and trust His mighty power and His ability to save us.