Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Skit for the Whole Family (really simple)

What does loving your neighbor as yourself really mean, as a parent? Well, as I carry tissues around and sneeze and feel the ache in my head, I can tell you what it does not mean.

If your preschooler is snotting up a storm (clear or doesn't matter) and coughing as well, you should not send her to AWANA Cubbies or to the Family Night at church, no matter how much she begs. For if you do, she is surely to pass it to several families, spoiling their Easter at least in part.

Ours was one of the families who caught little Lilly's nasty cold virus, as well as the pastor's family. I had to cancel Easter dinner with our friend Dean, who was our scheduled guest, so he wouldn't get sick. In addition, I have no energy for cooking; I am not pleased with her parents at all!

But that's not why I'm posting today.

I have an idea to share for a simple Easter play your whole family can participate in, as well as your Easter dinner guests. My children and I performed this for the AWANA Cubbies lesson last week and it was a big hit.

Turn to page 302 in your Jesus Storybook Bible. Using pages 302 - 316 as your script, perform an Easter play which includes Jesus going to the Cross, through his resurrection and Mary Magdelene seeing him near the tomb.

I wrote out the script on paper, but you can be the narrator and just read from the Jesus Storybook Bible. When it comes to the dialogue, you can just say it and have the characters repeat it, or you can have them study their lines (there aren't many lines).

This is powerful, my friends! It takes little preparation and your children and all the adults will glean much from the experience.  I promise!

You will need some simple props:

Tomb and Large Rock -  For the tomb and the large stone, we used a storage box, and a trash bag over-stuffed with stuffed animals. We turned the storage box over on its side, to serve as the tomb. It fit my six-year-old daughter perfectly. We used the over-stuffed trash bag as the large stone, pretending it was very heavy.

Cross - We used a straw broom, with the person playing Jesus keeping their hands out to the sides

Scarlet Robe & Crown of Thorns ( used to mock Jesus) - We used a purple towel and a bread basket hat

Toy Hammer & pretend nails - We just pretended we had nails, and used a toy hammer

And that's it. Really simple and yet very powerful. As you read the narrative, you'll use the people in your "audience" to perform other parts as they come up (angels, guards, etc.). Some will get multiple parts.

Just telling the story of Easter is not enough, since only a portion of people are auditory learners. A slight majority are visual, with a smaller percentage being tactile-kinesthetic. The beauty of this idea is, a play engages all learning styles and bonds your family.

Keep this in mind too, for later: many of the stories in the Jesus Storybook Bible lend themselves to simple yet powerful skits.

I know you probably have a lot of other Easter preparations, but this is well worth your time. Your children can gather all the only have to read the passages.

Enjoy! Wishing a joyous Resurrection Day to all my friends!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Praying Old Prayers With New Faith


The AWANA Cubbies' teacher is out of town and in preparation for teaching the lesson tonight, I read the accounts of Jesus' resurrection in all four Gospels. I came across the doubting Thomas passage, which I've read many times before. But the Holy Spirit teaches every scripture in our hearts with a different emphasis, depending on where we're at spiritually.

We can never be done with the Bible, but Satan can and will deceive us into thinking we don't need it, with as much cunning as he deceived Eve in the Garden. Essentially, the serpent told Eve, "You don't need God." And she believed him.

The less we read our Bibles, the less we have of God. And what do we need more than God? What do our souls crave more than God? Nothing.

Don't let the serpent work on you. The Bible is mirror and reveal and wash away our sins and give us a new beginning...a new energy to obey and serve. And a renewed hope in, and love for, the Lord our God.

Without mirror and soap, what would we be? Like filthy, stinky vagabonds, following the serpent blindly.

As you read this doubting Thomas passage, remember the lesson I wrote about on Monday, regarding the power of faith? Here we have another example of how we please the Lord with our faith. Look especially for Jesus' response to Thomas' doubting.

 John 20:24-29

Jesus and Thomas (ESV scripture source here)

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

How many times have I prayed for my extended family's salvation over the past 16 years? More times than I can count, but how many times did I pray with a strong faith that the Lord would answer?

Less than I'd like to recount.

How many times have my husband and me prayed about my headaches over the 14 years we've been married? Countless times, but how many times did we pray with faith that healing would really happen?

I can only speak for myself, but....less times than I'd like to recount.

I have great faith, don't get me wrong. I know the Lord can save, and can heal. I know He's mighty enough...sovereign enough.

But lately scripture has taught me anew that my faith pleases the Lord. If I can't pray a prayer with real faith that it will be answered, why pray it at all?

John 14:13
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Matthew 7:7
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

1 John 5:14
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

Isaiah 55:8-9, below, reminds me that God doesn't have to answer my prayers with a yes. His ways are not my ways and sometimes, a no answer is the best. He answers according to His will, and eventually as we grow in Him, we begin to pray according to His will.

Isaiah 55:8-9
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

Sometimes--this is what I think about perhaps too often--the Lord says no because His grace is sufficient for us, as he taught the Apostle Paul about the thorn in his flesh. My problem is that all too often I pray thinking God will say no, offering His grace instead.

When I pray without faith, who am I fooling? The Lord knows my heart when I pray. When I assume he will offer grace instead of a yes, aren't I being rather presumptuous...guessing the Lord's ways? Even questioning, in a sense, his sovereignty?

I urge you to consider, especially if you have long-unanswered prayer, are you praying with the faith of a little child? An eager, believing child?

Mark 10:13-16 He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all." 16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands upon them.

John 1:12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

We all need reminders of  Hebrews 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please God...

 Please Him today...pray old prayers with new faith.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Multitude Monday: Faith As Power

As we try, especially this week, to grasp the magnitude of the Cross, it helps to look at the Bible as one, whole, cohesive message. Reading the accounts of Jesus' humiliation and pain go far to put gratitude in our hearts, but the Bible as a whole gives us rich context for this defining event of our Christian faith.

That's what I love about the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. It captures what God is trying to say throughout scripture, as He leads up to His Son's suffering and resurrection in the New Testament. This last Saturday at our Children's Bible Study we taught "The Present" from page 62. It's the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering.

It's also the story of what each one of us has to reckon with every day of our lives.  


My son Peter still has trouble with the OCD, and as I converse with another Christian mother who deals with this, I'm shocked and dismayed at the five medications her son needs to reasonably control the condition. Still, he's quirky and lonely, stressed and struggling. When he has violent thoughts he must keep them inside because friends don't understand.
OCD people are not violent or dangerous, but they have horrible thoughts that eat up precious hours of their lives and keep them isolated. This thorn in their flesh costs them greatly. They must daily remember and try to live God's response to the Apostle Paul about the thorn in his flesh:
 2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

The future is uncertain and every day, I have to remind myself of God's promises, especially as nine-year-old Paul develops serious anxieties of his own. I wonder about all my children. We don't have much history of cancer or heart disease in our genes. My family and my husband's tend to live long lives, but we have mental issues galore and it's scary.

Your circumstances? They're surely different, but I'm willing to guess you have at least one situation that seriously worries you, that carries risk and uncertainty and possibly staggering implications.

Every day we have to think about what Jesus calls his people to.  A life of faith.

Every quality that Jesus displayed throughout his 3-year earthly ministry, he wants us to display. Sacrifice, love, gentleness, humility, peace...the whole list. He want us to become like him and only through faith--deep, abiding faith, are we transformed.

When I read the story of Abraham and Issac, I see clearly the one thing we all need to follow Jesus well. Yes, it's faith. We can't give our resources to the poor without faith. We can't deny ourselves without faith. We can't respond in gentleness and humility without faith. We are nothing and can do nothing, without faith. God's promises and His faithfulness to fulfill them, are what keep us alive spiritually on a daily basis. They feed, build, sustain and renew our faith.

Abraham's response here in Genesis 22:1-14 is staggering. Read this account and be amazed, and understand what is needed in your daily life. Our faith is not only credited to us as righteousness, it's also the key to perfect peace. It's the key to finding blessing in each hour. It's the key to a soul that soars in the heavens, while residing on earth.

Genesis 22:1-14
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.  

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Giving Thanks Today:

Dear Father, thank you for these examples and blessings:

~ Abraham having the faith to say to his son Issac, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." Abraham was surely worried for his son, like I am for mine, but he believed God and I will too...that He works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) Like Abraham, I can have this kind of confidence in my Lord. Every day of my life.

 ~ A faithful, loving husband.

~ Being with my girls as I helped in their Sunday school class. I was so proud of them and so happy about the wonderful curriculum our church uses.

 ~ Sharing my thoughts about the Lord and His Holy Word with my children.

~ Teaching my children and others with the wonderful Jesus Storybook curriculum.

~ That our faith is a gift God's renews and feeds through his Holy Word and his Holy Spirit.

~ That God provided the sacrifice and that our faith saves us...not just that first time we believe, but every day.

~ For other mothers who share their faith and their burdens with me, and help carry mine.

~ For my daughters and the gift of their love, and the enjoyment of seeing them blossom.

 ~ For my sons and the gift of their love, and the enjoyment of seeing their faith grow.

What are you thankful for today?


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mothering Daughters: My Perspective at 3 AM

I turned forty-seven this month and still, there's no hint of what's ahead for me as a woman, other than a store-bought hair color.

When I gather the courage.

Did you know the box indicates if you get it in your eye, it can cause blindness? "Do not use to color eyebrows. This can lead to blindness." 

And they let people do this to themselves? What if it trickles near my eye? My husband is not one to help his wife color her hair, and he doesn't paint toenails either.

More about my being 47...

Menopause is defined as going 12 consecutive months with no cycles. I had a close relative finish the entire process by 48.5, but many women won't finish until between 51 - 54. I think my mother was done at 51.

Except for intermittent insomnia (like this week), everything is as usual for me, making it hard to believe I'm this old. I catch my reflection sometimes in a store mirror and the face staring back at me is a shock. The body performs the same for a long time--it's the packaging that goes first and it takes some getting used to.

One positive thing about insomnia is the extra prayer time and the wisdom naturally garnered through our heart-felt petitions before a gracious God.

I've prayed this week specifically about my relationship with my daughters, that it would never fall into that "mother-daughter thing".

That...I'm jealous of you thing...and won't let me be me thing.

As I prayed the Lord gave me a weird summary of who I am as a woman. At the same time he told me I'm raising two unique girls who may or may not be like me in significant ways, and that's to be expected.

Below is a sampling of the everyday me. God sent all these facts flooding by me, in an effort to help me understand the uniqueness of each woman. Each woman is complicated and it takes time to know her.

I rarely wear sweatshirts except while hiking or when sleeping in winter with the furnace set at 60 degrees. Similarly, I rarely wear tennis shoes except for exercising, and right now I don't have an exercise program, but walking and hiking are coming soon, especially now that Beth's arthritis is improved. My muscle tone is the worst it's ever been, since having my fourth child and being busier than ever.

I used to work out a lot...before children.

I'm small-boned, weighing 110-112 for most of my adult years, but right now I'm 114 and hopefully staying there or losing. I don't know what the 50's will look like weight-wise, but I expect to have to exercise or eat like a bird, due to slowed metabolism. Females produce more fat cells in the abdominal area in the later years--the body's effort to produce more estrogen in a body that is making less. Fat = more estrogen production, which is why obese girls begin puberty earlier.

I prefer dresses and skirts but right now my feet can't take heels for very long, possibly because I've worn heels most of my life and my left foot is now deformed and intermittently hurts.

That said--I told you I'm complicated--I wear heels to church and on errands and at indoor gatherings. At home I change into a minimally-heeled comfortable shoe, but I never don slippers after my shower.

In the last year I've been unable to find jean skirts or casual dresses in my size at area thrift stores. Many of my older ones are shabby, having been washed too many times. I'm back to mostly jeans and I like them neat and polished-looking, not frumpy, thank you very much. Not too tight and not too loose. I wear a healed shoe with them and sweaters or long-sleeved fitted tops, sticking to a flatter shoe at home as I said. The look is polished on a budget, which can be pretty nice if you know anything about thrift stores. 

This I've learned over the past 8, low-income years. When God wants me to dress well he puts good pieces in my path at the thrift stores and money in my pocket. When he wants me to look rather shabby but still neat, for some reason, I try to glean what I can from it.

I'm a woman who tries to glean something from every experience. As I age, I look to prayer more and to myself less. As I age, I get how little I know.

Clearly, if I want jean skirts I'll have to locate a seamstress soon, which would be cheaper than a modest Christian clothing site. I wasn't taught to sew, only hem, and I don't own a sewing machine or know of anyone who'd teach me.

And as I hunt for size 6's for my Mary, I can see that modest clothes are less the norm for that age and older.

The ease of clothing my children--my girls anyway--is about to end.

Forgive all these insane tangents. A good writer sticks to the point.

But did I tell you it's 3 AM here and this is my third consecutive night of insomnia?

I shower before ten most mornings and I never skip make-up or let my hair go (but it's low-fuss hair when permed). I'm the type of woman who wouldn't even think of checking my mail without make-up because I don't have the best complexion. I'd gladly forgo it if I'd inherited smooth, healthy skin and good lips.

I'm soft-spoken, introverted, introspective, and shy, but increasingly confident, with evergrowing wisdom to give people room to be themselves, as I've learned to give myself this same room. I'm overly-sensitive and in his graciousness, God gave me a man who doesn't hurt my feelings often; my husband never belittles me.

Tonight we went to a church function: a pizza dinner, egg hunt and egg-coloring extravaganza for the whole family. It was chaotic but fun for the kids, occurring at the AWANA church not our home church. We don't go to that church anymore because the children's program is chaotic and the building has mold problems. Children run the hallways and rooms rather wildly without much the adults scurry to get completely ready.

I view the programs as an accident waiting to happen, but put together with love and attention to the gospel, which is why we still attend the AWANA program and I stay (quietly) involved. We love the children's director's heart; she's a blessed gem who just needs to delegate more.

The chaotic nature of the event left me seriously drained and I couldn't wait to leave. Chaos is not my friend and I prefer small or well-organized gatherings, but that's not to say my linen closet is impressive. I don't have a gift for organization, but I have the will to work at it for my own sanity and for my family's good.

I love to read, think, write, but talking is draining after a while. I regroup when alone. Emotionally, I'm fairly independent.

On personality surveys I'm the submissive type, but my husband wouldn't describe me that way. Nor would he describe me as bossy or stubborn. I'm complicated.

He'd probably say...nervous and not easy going, but capable of faking it when she has to. Nice, kind, loving, but intent on getting her way about certain things. Mostly easy to live with, but a little too ambitious.

I am not the main decision maker. I'm too busy keeping the ship running to make many decisions. That said, I totally dislike making money decisions but prefer to make the scheduling decisions. My husband hardly ever lets us take a day off church, except when one of us has to stay home with a sick child ( I'm the sick nurse here). He will lead family devotions but I have to organize them and make them happen, as his own father didn't take this initiative, thinking his only spiritual responsibility was to get the family to church on time.

But don't look for us on time unless I'm working the church nursery. On those days we're miraculously early.
Don't ask me why we can't recreate this earliness the other weeks.

I guess we're complicated.
I don't spend much time wishing my husband were the ideal biblical husband. I'm not the perfect biblical woman either...but like my husband, I have a heart to improve. I pray for me to grow in submission and him to grow in initiative. I give thanks that when I get the ball running around here spiritually, he takes it on cue and does his job conscientiously, knowing well the Kingdom impact of his leadership. He gets it.

Sometimes I don't get the ball running and I wait to see what happens, thinking maybe men don't take the initiative because we women are too quick to do it ourselves?

But then nothing will happen...or is it that I don't wait enough days, perhaps, for patterns to change?

That's a complicated topic but Dennis Rainey has probably written a book on it. I'll get back to you on that.

Right now anyway, I'm the organizer for family devotions but husband leads them when he's here.

I'm very capable as the woman of the home, but call before you come over. Just sayin'.

One week a month, I'm not capable. One week a month my hormones render me pitiful. I'm a different person emotionally, depressed and anxious and feeling in solidarity with every hurting person the world over. And somehow, angry too. Only I can't pinpoint why.

Yes, I'm definitely complicated.

All this long-windiness to say, I'm complicated with many twists and surprises, as every woman is.

As I raise my girls, I'm to observe who they are...celebrate who they are, while still shaping them spiritually. On non-character, non-spiritual issues, I'm to give them room. They may marry differently than me, dress differently, relate differently, reason differently, express themselves differently.

They might be needy or independent, head-strong or nervous, carefree or uptight. They might be fat or thin, love food or not. They might love to cook or hate it, or be better at it than me. They might use boxed foods and fatty foods, or bake bread daily and make their own yogurt.

They might love to look polished or prefer comfortable and natural, sweats and all. They might take a shower religiously by ten, or skip a day and put their hair up in a pony-tail.

They might be better looking, have better skin, have a better personality...they might be better in a lot of ways, or just different...but if I know who I am in Christ, I can celebrate my daughters, pointing them to Christ always, never feeling jealous but displaying unconditional love and acceptance.

At my best, as I mother daughters, I'm a loyal cheerleader, always 100% for her team.

I'm to regard them as budding flowers, letting them be the women God created them to be, while praying and trying my best to model what God calls all women to be.

Fostering a healthy relationship with daughters, one that will grow in depth and love, is complicated.

But if we ask the Lord for help he is gracious to order our steps and create best friends for us later on.

Doesn't that sound like a beautiful thing? To be able to say..."My adult daughter is my best friend and besides my husband, there's no one I'd rather be with?"

And for our daughters to feel the same?

"What is a daughter?", asks the Lord in my ear: A precious gift.

"How do you treat her?"  Gingerly, never breaking her, always admiring her unique beauty.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Whole-Family Story Time

Now that my children are ages 4, 6, 9, and 11, a whole-family story time is harder to pull off. Paul, age 9, still sits for most of the picture books I read to his sisters; he's a natural cuddler and he loves to giggle, both of which keep him coming back for more (even though he gets a chapter-book story time with Daddy).

But Peter, age 11, is harder to please. I miss having them all cuddle with Daddy and me on the couch, so lately I've hunted for picture books that promise to delight all ages.

Stella, Unleashed; Notes From the Dog House, by Linda Ashman (2008), is just such a book.

 Front Cover

Talk about family bonding time! Reading aloud as a family? Always priceless, as is shared laughter.

Is it just me, or do dog books seem to have universal appeal?

synopsis from the publisher: Stella’s got an opinion on everything: the baby (“cannot be trusted near tail”), her humans, the other pets, her sleeping requirements (“But for a truly peaceful rest, be advised: Your bed is best”), undignified doggie sweaters, and the dull dryness of kibble. She even waxes poetic on the exalted status of pups in Paris, who are welcome everywhere…even in restaurants. And thanks to author Linda Ashman, who practically channels the canine mind, Stella expresses it all in a series of humorous verses that will have dog-loving kids laughing out loud. Add Paul Meisel’s fabulous illustrations, which convey every facet of Stella’s winning, wonderful, and wickedly funny personality, and who could resist?

Yes, truly a gem for the whole family. We were all in stitches and we're not even dog people...not that they haven't asked. These poems are brilliant and hilarious.

What are the favorites at your house?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Intentional Parenting in the Wake of Steubenville Tragedy

A must read from Ann Voskamp today:

After Steubenville: 25 Things Our Sons need to know about Manhood

Boys and men, girls and women have lost their way in our sin-soaked culture. To raise up godly men and women who can and will change the world for Christ, we have to be intentional. That means educating and arming ourselves, both with the Holy Spirit through prayer, and with discipleship materials. We can't afford to wing it because among our youth, Satan is winning.

Proverbs 1:8-9 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.

We all need to make a commitment before God: That we will make discipleship as important in our daily lives as Jesus did. It's so easy to get distracted and spend time on things we deem either more fun or less stressful than intentional parenting. And it's so easy to think...won't Sunday school teach these things? Or the youth group?

How did Jesus disciple? First, he invested his time, living life with his students. He spent three intensive years with them, day and night, and then he sent the Holy Spirit to continue the Counseling.

Deuteronomy 11:19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise

If we sign our children up for this and that program--programs that we as parents are not participants in--as well as send them away to school, how will we have time to disciple them (if the world spends more time with them than we do)?

Add up the minutes you spend discipling on any given day. You might be shocked.

We have to make tough choices...choices the world and our friends and family might not agree with.

Our jobs as parents? To be disciples of Jesus ourselves, and to make disciples of our children.

Deuteronomy 4:9 Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.

What Steubenville teaches? Satan is winning. A distracted generation of parents are spending more time with Facebook, Twitter and Smart Phones than they are with their children. Distraction is a dangerous problem in our modern world...none of us are immune.

The stakes have never been higher. Not since Sodom and Gomorrah have we seen such blatant, rampant sin.

Intentional. To save our children, we have to be intentional.

Dennis Rainey, a very intentional father, took his teenage sons to a donut shop regulary and went through the book of Proverbs with them over and over. He asserts it was the best thing he'd done for his sons. Proverbs has much to teach our sons and our daughters. We would do well to make this Book a regular fixture at the family table.

What other intentional things can we do? How many family meals do we have per week? How can we maximize them? How many Bible reading sessions do we have per week with our children? How can we maximize those?

How many question and answer sessions do we have with our children? Can we write up quick scripts for family meal time, asking them such as...

..."What would you do if someone showed you a nude photo?"

..."If all the girls are wearing tight jeans or low-cut tops, do you feel you have to as well? Why or why not? What does God say about our bodies?"

..."What would you do if someone told you a rude joke?"

..."Or if someone gossiped about another student?"

What life situations might come up for them, at their ages? How can we direct them to biblical truth in regard to these situations? We can make it a family game and they can write up questions for us as well.

What works for you? What intentional things are done in your home?


Monday, March 18, 2013

Multitude Monday: Wrestling With Enough

"I hate my room."
He said that a few weeks ago…and well, it is an ugly room, with its seventies wall paneling and broken blinds and carpet missing under his bed. A humidifier used to treat recurrent bouts of croup years ago left this room with a mildew smell, finally alleviated by pulling up the carpet under the bed.

It was my uncle who painted this house for us before we settled. “You never know what drywall problems lurk behind paneling. Since you have little ones running around and they need to get settled, I recommend we just paint over it for now."

A wise man.

But 10 days ago, for better or worse, we dove in and removed the paneling, wanting the boys to have a room they liked reasonably well.  Not a room fit for a king, mind you--those rooms, I think, give kids a sense of entitlement. We ordered new blinds, sports-themed comforters, and we’re painting it pastel blue to match the lightest color in the comforters.

But, if dirt floors work for our Compassion kids, shouldn't cheesy paneling and broken blinds and missing carpet work for my sons?
Oh, I wrestled with what to do.

They’d taken the Bible the Farmer had in his hand to give to the boy who could read — and these 3 boys in Minotiere who have never owned a book, who have never had a Bible of their own, they’d decided amongst themselves in this grand generous gesture — to split the Bible between the three of them, to tear the Bible down its bloody spine so each of them could carry a bit of the God-breathed home under his arm.

They were going to rip up a Bible so they all had a bit of God.

I’d looked into the Farmer’s eyes and shook my head:  all three of those boys had decided that it was better for them all to have less, so they all had something, than for one to have everything and the rest have nothing.

And at home we’ve got a bathroom in the basement, 2 on the main floor and one off our bedroom, a garage, and 20 Bibles on how many shelves, and who is ready to have less so we all have something, or do we all want everything so most get nothing?

We’ve got all of God. Why not share the rest?

Of course, I read this after we started the money-pit home improvement project. Our friend Dean, who is out of work, is doing it for us with husband’s help. We’re paying him and he comes regularly but it’s slow going. Construction is an exact science. Who knew that as you fix one problem, you create another?
The previous owners expanded the closet and must have run out of money or motivation, because instead of making it right after the addition, they just paneled all the problems up.
And now my boys are still sleeping in the living room, after ten days, and we’re itching for normalcy.
We’d likely have to do this before selling the house anyway, if that becomes necessary someday. And maybe this is God’s way of encouraging and providing for Dean, our Christian brother? He loves this kind of work with as much passion as my husband hates it.

We aren't in plenty and we don't normally buy anything new, but when there is a little money, I will always wrestle with the question of plenty, now that Compassion has opened my eyes.

I think that's God's intention, this wrestling? This constantly reevaluating where we're looking for fulfillment? With each thing we itch for, there's always the reality that things do not bring Life. A nicer room is good, but chasing after God? That's the best we can hope for this side of eternity. Everything else is just a mirage.

The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.
C. S. Lewis

Giving thanks today:

Dear Lord, thank you for these gifts and graces:

- Peter reading Psalms and Proverbs at the dinner table with expression and passion.
- The boys and I loving all our reading this school year. What a reprieve from the mundane, to get sucked into these excellent books to think and dream, smile, cry, and wonder. You know it’s an excellent read when you’re unaware of the clock and everything your housemates say and ask is a bother. To write a story like that…characters you can be passionate about and never want to leave…that’s a rare art and don’t we all need a reprieve from the mundane for an hour or two a day?

- Scripture helping me see straight.
- The beauty and wonder of the nuclear family…what a heaven-sent gift.

- Another discipling tool for raising my boys written by Dennis Rainey of Family Life. I’m now reading Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood 
Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood   -     
        By: Dennis Rainey
Snopsis from
What's the most courageous thing you've ever done?
It's Dennis Rainey's favorite question for men. Men face decisions in life that demand courage. Big or little, complex or straightforward, these choices-let's call them battles-matter a great deal. One courageous choice leads to another; tomorrow's integrity depends on today's bravery.

Author, speaker, and radio host Dennis Rainey tackles the call to living, breathing manhood head-on, offering a simple yet powerful vision for what it means to be a man who truly conquers, and truly wins. Using personal stories and biblical principles, Rainey identifies five stages of a man's journey through life and examines his responsibilities at each step. He calls men to step up to courageous manhood.

- A husband and friends to do life with.

- Precious children to spend my days with.
- A glorious God who has a plan for each of us, if we dare to be quiet and just listen.
What are you thankful for today?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Yours Truly, a Weary Mom

Make me worthy of their kisses, Father?
The springs on the playroom jean couch, they are broken on one side and I came unglued and yelled about disobedience and lack of respect. They've been told over and over not to jump on the couch.

The master bedroom, which for now houses the only decent computer, was put in shambles by two exuberant boys who were following, via the Internet, a local university's basketball game.

I yelled about childishness and lack of respect and made them clean it up. I also banned them from the room for a week, except for when they do their math CD ROM. They've done this act before, too. They've been warned many a time, and again, consequences were handed out.

I'm feeling so low, but not for the reason you'd think. I don't think I'm a horrible mother--I may yell but I don't cuss or verbally abuse. I'm low because I'm exasperated at having to repeat myself. I'm plum exhausted.

1 Corinthians 3:11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

We are responsible, my husband and me, through prayer and diligence, for making this scripture come alive in our children's lives. We can't simply yell and then get over it. We have to act and give consequences to force them to leave childhood behind.

For really, a child doesn't want to leave childhood, do they? Childhood is full of the magical and pressures are few. The parent has to nudge and encourage and even push, at appropriate ages.

It's a good work, but it's weary work. And sometimes I'm so weary I yell and stomp, for I see things that simply don't make sense to me. Why make this mess and then just walk out, as though you didn't notice it? Why simply walk out? Did you think I would clean it up for you, and don't you know me well enough by now?

We won't be replacing the couch and whoever sits on the right side will sink down considerably. Eventually, we'll junk it. And maybe that will remind them not to jump on the living room couch and so ruin its springs? It still looks great after nearly eight years, probably because we have a playroom.

It's not about the couch though. There's nothing fancy here and I'm not attached to furniture.

I find this job so very hard, this parenting. It's so hard to stay calm when they do ridiculous things, but at night after I've blown up and they're all asleep, I think about what I accomplished and how it would have sunk in more, had I said it all without shrieking.

When I yell, they're concentrating not on what I'm saying, but on my ugly-looking face and the stress their bodies are feeling at the I tell them how disappointed I am in their recklessness and selfishness. Most of the things I say are necessary, even if I'm long winded when angry. It's not really what I say, but the theatrics I employ. They're the unfortunate thing.

The days are long and I'm with them alone until 7:00 PM. I'm doing my best.

Seriously, I wish the Holy Spirit would put tape over my mouth. "Be slow to speak and slow to become angry" requires accompanying tape. Lord, may it be so? Will you please put invisible tape over my mouth, so that this scripture is illustrated in my life? I would keep it on until I've walked all around the house and prayed and prayed for the will to say what I have to say, and do what I have to do, without any theatrics.

I think of Jesus' theatrics when his Father's house was being used as a marketplace. He was righteously angry as he turned over tables and gave them a piece of his Holy mind.

Is it okay to employ theatrics when the offense is ridiculous enough, then? And which offenses qualify?

Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger

Is this the scripture for me tonight? Did I do wrong not in being angry, but in letting them fall asleep while I was still angry? It was a ten-minute anger, but then I was quiet and businesslike afterwards, not kissing or hugging anyone.

When I do wrong, I don't get yelled at. Not by my husband nor my Heavenly Father. My husband never, ever yells. Oh, Father, may I be more like You and him.

Search my heart, Oh Lord. Lend me your strength. Carry me through this task of boys to men, girls to ladies. I believe in my children even when they do ridiculous things. I believe in them because of You. I believe You will make them proper, responsible men and ladies. May I convey that well tomorrow, Lord? Will you convey that through me? Will you make me an instrument of your Grace, as I receive it myself and give thanks for it? May I also extend grace, please?

And, Father? Don't forget the tape?

Yours Truly,
a weary mom

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I Am Not Skilled to Understand

He walked into the waiting room today, cane in hand, eye patch in place.

Reading this, you would think I'm speaking of an elderly gentleman? But no, I'm referring to a rheumatology patient at Children's Hospital, where we went today for Beth's JRA check-up.
Seeing a teen walking with a cane reminded me of how mild Beth's JRA is, compared to so many. This disease can affect fingers, toes, elbows, ankles, knees, jaw, neck...and the eyes. Some children have pain in many areas at once and they can't even bend to tie their shoes, or hope to direct swollen fingers to manage such a task.

I smiled at him, as the mother of another JRA patient is inclined to do. All these children deserve a smile and whatever more I can offer in the small space of time I spend with them in that waiting room.
Pleasantly, he smiled back and I marveled at his heart.

As he walked out with his mother, I wondered, what do the other teens at school say about his cane? Do they love on him, or do they snicker when he walks down the desk aisles?
Does he hope to catch a girl’s eye, and did he cry out in anger when a cane became the disease’s prop?
This boy’s cane and eye patch are just one example of the breadth and depth of human suffering I've seen this week.
There are those who simply cannot find work because their skills are antiquated or because they're over fifty or because they have multiple chronic issues like diabetes and bipolar. Or in some cases because they've been on so many interviews and been rejected so many times, they can no longer find hope. Hope lives on a mysterious street and Googling the driving directions doesn’t help.

A neighbor here, a father of four, still can’t find work; it’s been four months. Their van tire blew out and the mother wrote a note and sent it with two of her children, “Do you have a spare tire we can borrow so I can get to work and my children can get to school tomorrow, or can you drive them to school and pick them up?”
This note came after we had helped Compassion children, a friend, a relative, another neighbor. There are needs everywhere and we felt overwhelmed, reading this note. Don’t we have to save some money for our own car repairs, God?  Should we help them regardless, trusting tomorrow to you?

When I feel overwhelmed by giving, wondering what is prudent and what is generosity and how the two dance in harmony, I think of the manna in the desert. God wanted the Israelites to take what they needed for the day only. You mustn’t store up, he warned.
What an amazing concept and isn’t that just like God?

Answers are the same as the manna. God doesn’t want us knowing the answers for tomorrow…only for today.
My husband called around and found a new tire to fit their Dodge Caravan,but by the time we offered to buy it and arrange for it to be put on, they had already located a tire for $40.

Turns out, God just wanted us to be willing to part with our resources. He wanted us to pray for our daily bread and give today’s extra bread to a neighbor.
I am not skilled to understand. These words are from a Christian song. The name of the song and band escape me, but every time I hear it the words echo in my mind for hours. I am not skilled to understand.

God can put canes in the hands of teenagers. God can allow a man to go months or years without a job, so that he loses hope and loses a sense of who he is as a man. God can allow OCD to be so powerful in the mind that a good student can’t remember concepts studied for days and weeks. God can allow some spouses to die and others to betray. God can allow wombs to remain empty and mother hearts to break.

And then there’s grace.

The cane-carrying teenager feels like smiling. The downtrodden man has a new identity in Christ. The OCD nursing student passes the test by one point. The womb gives birth not to a baby, but to an experience of God’s love that inspires millions. The bloodied, dead sister lying on a farm driveway in Canada (Ann Voskamp’s little sister) leads to a book about gratitude that’s slowly changing a generation of Christians.
God is slowly changing me. His promises, they’re beginning to define me. As I take in the sights and sounds of a broken, hurting world, I’m more apt to think…there goes a testimony--rather than, there goes a tragedy and how could God allow it?

I am not skilled to understand.
But my heart knows its task...Obedience.

My soul knows its purpose...Worship.

I wake up and I know how to live and I know why I live and sometimes, by his grace, I love well. And I rejoice at the wonder of this. I rejoice at the wonder of Him choosing to reveal himself to my heart.

My life is wonder-ful because of Him.

I praise you, Lord, for what you're going to show me tomorrow.



Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Parenting Prayer: The Gift of His Favor

The other day, reading some reviews of Christian purity materials, I came across a mother who wrote:

"I used this material with both my daughters, one of whom reached her marriage bed still pure. The other daughter decided not to wait."

She still recommended the material, but I could feel her wounded heart. I'm sure she was forgiving of her daughter, but it still hurts when they choose the wrong path. We never know if they'll stray, or for how long and with what consequences.

We can have the best intentions and read the best materials, but we're still imperfect parents with great days and awful days and many in-between days. It's like the slightly sighted leading the blind.

How do we find the Light and stay in the light? How do we direct them to the Light and keep them on its straight and narrow path, even while we stray at times ourselves?

I lay awake last night after calming a dreaming child.

In the next bed over lay my sleeping Mary, my stubborn one. Oh, how my heart worries over her! Her kisses melt me, her hugs delight, but her stubborn ways frighten me daily. Will she be the one who decides not to wait? Will she be like the stubborn relative on Daddy's side, practically her twin emotionally? Will she pick and choose what she wants to obey in the Bible, stubbornly having it her way?

A teachable heart is not always discernible in her, though I know the Holy Spirit works in the recesses of her soul. For sometimes, much later, she comes up to apologize. It's so hard for her to admit when she's wrong; the confession part of our prayer time really challenges her.

I lay there, praying for her. Pleading with the Father to keep her in the Light. I prayed for a loving, close relationship with her, so as not to provoke her. My reactions will make or break it for the two of us, as the years pass. The other day I read that: it is our loving relationship with our children that allows our teaching to penetrate their hearts.

And isn't this true of the Father's relationship with us? We follow Him readily because of His everlasting love?

A parent's prayers work like this: We pray for an ideal outcome and the Spirit changes our heart to make that outcome more likely. We think we're praying for change in our child, but really, the change must occur in us.

We help deliver His love and truth. We put hands and feet and heart to Biblical truth, making it real for our children. If I want my daughter to be submissive, sacrificial, gentle, humble...I must be those things first. My heart must be teachable because imperfect though I am, He can work wonders through me.

Every time I lay awake, worrying over a child, the truths swirl and whirl, making me dizzy. And I always come back to this:

Parenting is a prayer.

At the very least, the more we pray, the more grace we receive; I can't prove that but I can feel it. And grace is what we really want, what we really need, isn't it?

Forgive me Father...I am trying, but I can't be like you. Cover me. Cover my children. May we have the gift of your favor.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Parenting Tweens and Teens in a Sin-soaked Culture

He was never much of a snuggler, my Peter. At 9 months old he learned to toddle. My lap and arms were no longer a major attraction; he lived to explore, loving the outdoors most of all.

Years went by, my heart struggling to remember his brief babyhood. He would sit next to me while I read to him, all these years, but snuggling held no interest for him.

Who knew that at age 11 things would change?

My boy now needs to snuggle. This was the last thing I imagined happening, but the Holy Spirit quickly prepared me.

Don't pull away, deeming him too old for parental affection...doing so is dangerous.

I remember hugging the few guys who took me on dates in my twenties. They walked me to my door afterwards and if I thought they were sweet, I hugged them...not because I wanted anything to happen, but because I was starved for affection. Absolutely starved.

Tweens and teens are starved for affection too. They've grown to need it, even if they didn't as youngsters. The problem is that right about this time, parents tend to withdraw physically from their maturing children. It suddenly feels strange to hug them, tall as they are.

11-year-old Peter is only 5 inches shorter than me. Eighteen months from now I fully expect to look up at him.

What then? Do I still snuggle with him, letting him lean against me as I read? Do I walk up and hug him spontaneously?

You bet.

Our children have the fight of their lives, growing up in this sin-soaked culture. Let's not make it harder than it has to be by pulling away, either physically or emotionally.

Aggressive girls, clueless boys, by Dennis Rainey of Family Life?

 Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys: 7 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son [and 7 Questions to Ask Your Daughter]  -     
        By: Dennis Rainey

It arrived in the mail today and I'm already on page 35. I'm scared by what lurks out there for my son.

The book begins:

It was just a routine check. When Susan and Tom gave thirteen-year-old Josh his first cell phone, they told him they would occasionally look through his text messages. But Susan was completely unprepared for what she found that Saturday morning.

She waded through a couple hundred short, inane messages, more than slightly confused by the shorthand that kids use when texting. She was struck by the fact that Josh and his friends seemed to text each other more than they actually talked. And then something different popped up. There was no confusion about this message: "If you could have s*x with me, would you?" Aggressive girls, clueless boys, pg. 3

Later in the chapter, Dennis Rainey takes the reader back to Susan's and Tom's situation.

Tom and Susan, the parents in the story at the beginning of this chapter, found themselves dropped in the middle of a minefield. Their son, Josh, had never even been on a date, so they were shocked to find that he had become sexually active. When they met with Josh and told him that they knew what was going on, he tried to deny the extent of his involvement. But the evidence was clear, and he finally admitted what he had done.

Tom and Susan immediately took away Josh's cell phone, shut down his Facebook page, and grounded him from going out with friends for a period of time. They made sure he kept busy with school and sports, so that he wouldn't have idle time. And they moved him out of his downstairs bedroom into a room upstairs with his little brother.

The wounds were still fresh when Susan related the story. "Josh knows this isn't what God wants for him." But the future seems unclear. How do you restore a child to a path of purity after he's already lost his age thirteen? They are praying that God will use the experience for good in Josh's life.

"I wish we had known these things were going on," Susan said. "I wish we would have been more prepared."

My heart aches for this couple and I know one thing for sure. I don't want to be in their shoes...ever

My four children were a gift to me and I will not let them down. I will not be busy with other things while they make big mistakes. I will not give them a cell phone, or a computer in their room, or any other access to unsupervised Internet. They will meet with their friends in our home, or in the homes of other kindred-spirit Christians with whom we have frequent, trusting contact.

Reading the Bible, having discussions? Buying Family Life's Passport 2 Purity?

Passport2Purity® Getaway Kit - Version 3

They are not enough. We need to parent our tweens and teens as carefully as we parented our into-everything toddlers. There's nothing wrong with firm, safe boundaries. There's nothing wrong with giving up our time, to invest in our children's hearts.

Dear Lord, let me never say these words..."I wish I had known theses things were going on. I wish we had been more prepared."

Prepare us, Lord. Prepare us to shape their hearts and escort them into maturity. May we lead them to the Cross, to Your strength, as they battle against a sin-soaked, distracted culture. 

In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Multitude Monday: Our Purpose

Galatians 6:2

Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I think it no accident that I receive the greatest rush of purpose in my life, when I am bearing another's burdens.

These burdens, they bring tears and despair and my heart breaks as I bear them. But along with that grief comes Life Abundant. When Perfect Purpose is lived out, Perfect Peace settles in.

Bearing burdens is the life that Christ modeled through his ministry and at the end, on the Cross itself. He bore it all.

This is the life He called us to...Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ

The burdens take on many different forms, from chronic disease and pain, to grief and loss, to poverty and loneliness, to the consequences of sin. 

As the Redeemed, this makes up our daily work. We don't live for ourselves, but for others. We live to bear pain sacrificially as He did, and in doing so, our hearts grow to resemble His. Our hearts deliver mercy and grace; they bring healing to the suffering, deliverance to the oppressed.

My inward peace and joy are never greater than when I live out this Purpose. It used to be, before Christ redeemed and discipled me, that my purpose was to maximize my leisure time with my family. Leisure time is where life is lived, and the rest is all just work, right? 


My soul and your soul ache to do two things. 1. Fellowship with God; 2. Bear one another's burdens.

Matthew 22:37-40 source here

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

As I've committed more and more to intercessory prayer and to being there for others, I've felt an inner peace rise to heights I've not known before. This is no accident. This is what God intended as the author of my soul. 

Side note: I'm not called to bear burdens in an unhealthy way, allowing myself to be taken advantage of as I allow someone else to remain in sin and bondage. Enabling sin is participating in the sin. Bearing a burden is not the same as enabling an addict (whatever their addiction may be), and we should always pray that God gives us discernment as we serve others.

Giving thanks today, on this Multitude Monday:

I have just one today and it stands alone beautifully! My friend Tesha is pregnant! My soul rejoices! He is faithful! There is joy in the morning, a time when mourning turns into dancing, a time to laugh and a time to cry. Let the dancing and laughing and rejoicing start now! Praise the Lord, oh my soul.

Congratulations, Tesha, my friend.