Monday, February 25, 2008

Closed Doors and Trusting God

My English Mastiff named Abbey walks with a limp. Unfortunately she has bone cancer in her back leg and won’t be with us much longer. Every day she follows me downstairs to my study and sits by my feet while I’m writing. Wherever I am, that’s where she wants to be. She’s my constant companion. If you want to see a picture of her go to my website:

The challenge comes when I need to run upstairs to grab a couple of books or my glasses or any little thing. She always wants to go with me. Now it’s is not in her best interest to follow me up and down the stairs several times a day, especially when I will be returning in a few minutes. Each time I leave my study I close the door, so she can’t follow me. She just looks at me with those big sorrowful eyes that say, “Why are you keeping me in here?” All I can do is reassure her and tell her I love her. Yes, I talk to my dog. Don’t you talk to your dog?

The point is, she doesn’t understand why I close the door on her to confine her. It isn’t because I am trying to be mean. It’s not that I don’t care for her. It is because I love her, that I must limit her. As her loving owner, I have very good reasons for her not to follow me up and down the stairs. I know I will be gone for only a few minutes and then come right back, but she doesn’t know this. She only sees in part, but I know the entire story. She sees a closed door; I see a way to protect her from pain and needlessly hobbling around the house. Similarly, our understanding of the whole eternal picture is limited to only our perspective. Now we see in a mirror dimly, but one day we will see things clearly.

When we experience a closed door in the form of a job loss, a disappointment in life or a rejection of some sort, we only see the bad situation from our perspective. God sees a much bigger and broader picture. Although we may not understand why he allowed this to happen to us, He may be protecting us, preserving us or leading us down a different path for a greater purpose. My dog Abbey doesn’t understand the closed door, but she does trust my love for her. Proverbs 3:5,6 reminds us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Let’s trust Him for what we can’t see, and allow Him to direct our paths toward His perfect plan.

Family Fun: Use a magnifying glass to bring this lesson into focus. Choose several objects that you know may be interesting to observe closer through a magnifying glass (a piece of woven fabric, a leaf, rock, picture from a magazine). Before looking through the magnifying glass talk about what you see and observe with your own eyesight. Now observe the object through the lens and talk about how different the two viewpoints are. You may want to draw pictures to show the contrast and differences. Talk about how when things happen to us here on earth we may not understand or see the whole picture, but God does. He loves us and will care for us through the difficulties.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Valentines Remembered

How was your Valentines Day? I’m guessing it may have included creating treats for the other kids in class, decorating bags and sending kind thoughts to others. If you have younger kids it may have included a sugar high, played out in a hyper kids after school. For older kids there may have been some sort of drama concerning boyfriends and girlfriends and who received a flower and who didn’t. Phew! As moms, there is a little relief when Valentines is over! On the other hand, Valentines does have a redeeming value in that it reminds us to focus on loving each other. Honestly, we should be giving the gift of love all year long, not just on Feb 14. Instead of sending candy, flowers and hearts we should be about the business of showing genuine love to others through our kind words and deeds. Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “Don’t pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.” (Romans 12:9, 10) Paul did not tell Christians to just do this on Valentines Day (actually I’m thinking Valentines Day started a few centuries after Paul anyway). So let’s decide to practice a sincere love everyday; loving both the easy to love and the more difficult to love people. Think of the transformation that would take place in our community if we made love a top priority every day of the year!

Family Fun: Instead of throwing away all the Valentines received by your kids, put them in a box near your kitchen table. Pick out one Valentine every day and pray for the person who sent it. Possibly one of the greatest ways for us to begin to love others is to pray for them. Write out Romans 12:9, 10 on a large index card and place it in the kitchen as a reminder to live loving lives everyday of the year.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Flat on Bunk

Several blogs back I mentioned to you that during the lent season I was going to follow a book called Be Still (Howard Publishing) which leads you through 31 days of meditative prayer. So far I’m loving it! I think one of the most important lessons I am learning is the value of doing just what the title encourages, be still. In our go, go, go culture we tend to feel as though we need to be doing something all the time. Fill every minute! But when we live this way we sometimes don’t face God and ourselves. Being still allows us an opportunity to hear His voice, instead of being distracted by the noises of busyness. Now I know as a mom this is not easy to do. How in the world can you find a quiet moment alone when you are in charge of so many others? I want to suggest an old camp counselor secret. It is called FOB (flat on bunk). You see as a busy camp counselor in the piney woods of east Texas, not only did the campers need a quiet moment, but so did us counselors. So FOB was mandatory every afternoon. Now if we could do it with 8 adolescents in our cabin, I think you can do it as a mom. Try it and see. Tell the kids, every afternoon you are starting a new routine, 30 minutes FOB (don’t call it nap time or it will be rejected completely – a name is everything). FOB can be after lunch or after you return from work. Remember mom, you need the quiet stillness just as much as they do. Set a timer for 30 minutes and tell the kids that alligators will eat them if they get off their bed. No, I’m just kidding, don’t say that, but do tell them how important it is to stay on their bed laying down until the buzzer goes off. Encourage them to look at books, pray or rest. You do the same. Choose a passage from scripture to meditate on during this time. Most importantly I want to encourage you to hear God’s loving voice saying, “I am with you. I will lead you and guide you for I love you my precious child.”

Family Fun: Tell the kids about FOB and talk about why it is important to have a time of stillness. You may even want to write out scripture verses on index cards each week, so you and the kids can focus on the same scripture. Why not start out with Psalm 23: 2, “He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.”

Monday, February 4, 2008

Accentuate the Positive

In 1940, Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics for a song used in Bing Crosby’s movie “Here Comes the Waves.” The title to Johnny’s unique and catchy song was, Accentuate the Positive; Eliminate the Negative. Not a bad theme song for us as moms, wouldn’t you agree? It is our job to bring attention to the positive attributes in our kid’s lives, noticing and acknowledging their good deeds, words and actions. The flip side of our job is to eliminate the negative. We do this through wise and thoughtful discipline which we will discuss in the next section.
Never underestimate the power of your words of affirmation or your expression of appreciation for your kids. Our accolades come in all shapes and sizes. It can be in the form of a hug or a smile or simply being there. The bottom line in parenting is our kids need our time and attention when they are doing something right. All too often kids get their parents attention only when they are doing something wrong. This would be a different song title, “Accentuate the Negative.” As parents we must make an intentional effort to give attention to the positive, not the negative.
When it comes to emphasizing the good there are a multitude of possibilities. Certainly our encouraging words give a big boost to our kids as we talked about earlier. But there are other ways to show our support and attention to them.
Consider the following accent marks for your kids:
· Volunteer as a leader or helper for their favorite activity
· Search for exhibits or shows in your area appealing to their interests or talents and make plans to go together
· Attend their performances and athletic events
· Invite their friends over and get to know them
· Bake their favorite dinner or snack
· Make a special plate or flag to use only for special achievements or occasions
· Give a flower or gift with a note of appreciation
· Visit them at school for lunch or take them out
· Go on a short trip or day trip, just the two of you
· Play a game or do an art project of their choice
· On occasion, join them in doing their chores
· Go for a walk together and tell them how special they are to you

Remember the simple things such as a listening ear, eye contact and a smile can be just the pat on the back our kids need to move forward in confidence. Our ultimate goal is the build up what is good in our children, so they feel noticed for what they are doing right. Just as an accent mark tells us what to emphasize in a word, so our accent marks of attention show our kids what we are emphasizing. Let’s be diligent to emphasize the positive strengths in each of our kids, and watch some of the negatives dissipate in the process. (Excerpt from Bright Ideas for Busy Moms)

Family Fun: Set aside a time this week to bake Valentines cookies together (even boys can get into baking – tell them they can lick the spoon). As you enjoy your time together, talk about some of the qualities you appreciate in each child. Laugh and enjoy your time with one another. Decide together who you are going to give the cookies to in order to be a blessing.