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.