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.