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.”