November 6, 2015
"Unlocking the Treasure"
October 23, 2015
What kind of atmosphere or environment is displayed in your home? How do your children see you, as a parent? Do you have a "yes" home or a "no" home? Have you ever been around another mom or dad who constantly says "no" to their child? Is creativity present in your home?
I have always been perplexed when I see parents who can never say "yes" to their child. No matter what the child wants to do, there is always a "no" answer. As a mother of three children, I learned a lot about being a mom from my own mother. She was always creative in raising me and my two sisters. She was also very creative as a grandmother. I remember one day when my boys were 6 and 7 years old. They begged her to get a swimming pool for them to swim in her backyard. Instead, she dug a hole in the ground, at least 4 feet deep. She lined it with plastic and filled it with water. "There", she said, "there you go!" They played in that hole in the ground until the plastic tore and the mud came through. She had a mind for saying "yes", even if it caused her to have to do more.
I quickly learned, with my own children, that their most fun times happened when we did something that usually did not cost much, like camping out, or had a creative element to it...times when they could just be "children"...times when they could use their imagination...times when they could actually help with "adult" kind of chores.
When you think about it, all of God's promises say "yes" to His children. 2 Corinthians 1:20 states, "Every one of God's promises is 'YES' in Him!" The Lord says...
- "Yes", you can ask Me for wisdom. (James 1:5)
- "Yes", I will never stop loving you. (Romans 8:37-38)
- "Yes", you can do all things through Me. (Philippians 4:13)
- "Yes", I will forgive you. (Ephesians 1:7)
- "Yes", you will spend eternity in heaven with Me. (John 14:1-4)
The list goes on and on. When you parent with a "yes" attitude, it helps your child have a more positive attitude and it also helps build confidence in them. God has given beautiful gifts to all of our children. We should be careful that we do not "squish" them by saying "no" all the time.
There are many blessings found in developing a "yes" home for your family.
- A "yes" helps everyone feel involved.
- A "yes" empowers a child to use his/her gifts.
- A "yes" builds confidence and self esteem.
- A "yes" helps children feel valuable and important.
How can we, as parents, develop this attitude in our homes? We must first determine in our hearts that we will let our child have a part. We must at least consider our children's ideas and not immediately turn them off with an instant "no". We must be consistent with our thought process, also. Then, in those times when "no" has to be the answer, our children will feel valued that you did at least consider their idea. No matter what, always be respectful toward your child, even when you have to be firm.
Our "yes" answers should always be filtered through God's Word. In doing so, we can teach our children about God's principles and His discipline. As we consider the Word of the Lord, we can spiritually impact our family for eternity.
Educator Shinichi Suzuki once said, "Children learn to smile from their parents." When children only hear "no" all the time, they develop a negativity in their hearts that is hard to turn around. Appropriately saying "yes" to your child will one day help him/her say "yes" to Jesus!
Here's to the journey...make your home a "yes" home!
October 16, 2015
"The Place in the Road"
How often do we remember God's faithfulness? How often do we stop and think of all He has done for us and our families? Do you thank Him daily for all of your blessings?
Just a little over two months ago, my son totaled a van in an accident at the bottom of the hill where we live. Everything about that accident "says" that he should not have lived through it. Even in his own words, "Mom, I should have died!" When I first thought about passing that "place in the road" several times a day, I felt like I just couldn't stand to deal with it on a daily basis. However, as I have prayed and dealt with the Lord's workings over the past two months, I have come to realize that I need to see it every day. It has become a "place of remembrance" for me. I thank God every time I pass that place. I thank Him for saving my child. I thank Him for reminding me that He is working...even when I can not see Him!
Through the years, I remember over and over reminding my children to give thanks to the Lord for His blessings and for His provision. However, I look back and wish we had made a family altar with stones to represent His goodness and mercy on our home and on our lives. I would have made our altar outside in our back yard...a place of remembrance. It would have been such a blessing to add stones when we saw Him work.
One of my favorite Old Testament stories tells of Joshua and the priests crossing the Jordan River with the ark. Afterwards, Joshua set up twelve stones that they had taken out of the Jordan. "He said to the Israelites, "In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them, Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground." For the Lord, your God, dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord, your God, did to the Jordan what He had done to the Red Sea when He dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord, your God." (Joshua 4:21-24)
So, parents, how will building an altar impact your family, especially your children? It will create and instill in them the sense that God is always at work. It will build their faith in knowing there is purpose in God's plan and that His hand is always working to benefit their well-being. Most importantly, it will let them know the importance of giving thanks and remembering His faithfulness, from generation to generation. They will see time after time when the Lord has rescued and redeemed them.
"Your faithfulness continues through all generations; You established the earth, and it endures." (Psalm 119:90)
You know, I am thinking it's never too late to build an altar. I may just begin that this weekend...there are many stones that need to be set.
Here's to the journey...set your stones today!
October 13, 2015
"The Hand of God"
Just this morning, I was reminded of an old gospel song written by Donny Hathaway, "Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man from Galilee"...
"Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water;
Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea;
Take a look at yourself and you will look at others differently;
Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee."
In the past eight weeks, my family has dealt with an extremely difficult situation with one of my sons. It has been a time when I have had to totally depend on the Lord for guidance, wisdom, and discernment in making decisions for his best welfare. On his behalf, I prayed for protection and complete submission to God's will and purpose in his life. As a mom, I realized that, once again, I needed to fully relinquish my own selfish will for God's perfect will and plan. I needed to fully hand him over to the hand of God.
Many times, as we are raising our children, we have a tendency to want to hold them back...to keep holding on to their hands and not let them be what God has created them to be. We have a tendency and desire to only see what we want for them and not what God wants for them. It can be difficult for parents to totally trust God and transfer that "holding on" into the hand of God. However, the Lord clearly states His care for His sheep in John 10:27-30, when He says, "My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father's hand, I and the Father are one." It is in the act of doing this that we begin to see our children mature and grow dependently on the Lord. There can be no greater joy than knowing your child is in God's hands and is protected and guided by the mighty hand of God. There is also immense joy and fulfillment when you see your child become what God intended him/her to be.
I can now tell you that after four weeks into the plan for my son and my full reliance on God's plan, my heart leaps with praise for what the Lord has done, is doing and will continue to do in the life of my precious son. I can not see the future, and really would not want to see it. However, I know God is in control and I know He has freed me to let Him do the work.
Give your child over to the Lord...hold their hand to cross the street, hold their hand to pray, hold their hand to help do a task, but spiritually, release their hands, and their life, into the hand of God. If you are struggling with your child, remember, the blessed assurance is there and will comfort you and your child all the days of his/her life.
David, the psalmist wrote in Psalm 63:8, "My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me."
Here's to the journey...put your hand in The Hand!
October 2, 2015
“How Do I Help My Child With Fear?”
In a world that faces crisis and destruction daily, how can I help my child live a life that is free of fear? You and I both know that every day when the evening news comes on television, there are many things to be fearful of. Children hear and see situations daily that could cause them to be fearful. So, how can we help our children cope with these things that will come their way?
I have always felt that children should be protected from certain issues of life at certain ages. Preschoolers should never have to sit around and fret over the issues of the world. Their little minds and hearts can not comprehend the fearful issues that you and I think about. At the same time, I do believe that our children should be prepared to live in this world.
- Always remind your child/children how much you love them. That is one thing your child should never doubt. With proper discipline, love and guidance, you can raise a healthy child who knows how to love others.
- Help your child build his/her trust in the Lord. Does your child see you praying and trusting? “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
- When something comes about in your family that is fearful, give your child the confidence that it will be ok. Help them understand there is a solution…even if there is a process involved. Encourage your child to pray about it and to pray with you about it. “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” (Psalm 56:3)
- Be sure to keep adult problems and situations away from your child. In other words, do not expose them to those issues and situations that are too mature for them to understand.
- Let your child know that you are always there. Help them understand that there is nothing too hard for the Lord. “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
- Talk, talk, talk with your children. They should always feel comfortable sharing with you.
When David faced Goliath, the Lord gave him courage and boldness. His trust in Almighty God gave him the power to face Goliath and the other fears that came into his life.
Jesus spoke these words in Mark 5:36…”Do not be afraid, only believe.”
Here’s to the journey…walk it with courage and faith!
September 25, 2015
“Just Part of the Journey”
The moment you and I are born, we all begin a journey. A journey through life. Every day, our lives step one day closer to eternity…whether it be heaven or hell…we all face eternity. In just the same way that we journey on through life, as parents, we begin a journey with our children when they enter this world. Every part of their journey will be important…some stages will be easier, some will be hard, tough and possibly, even scary. As parents, there is no way to face this journey without the help and guidance of the Almighty God. There is no way to guide your child to be who the Lord has created him/her to be, without the strength and power of God.
We have begun a new year at Pals and have seen children and their parents who are on a new journey, a new adventure of preschool. There have been tears, both from children and parents, there have been newfound behavior issues, there has been a new discovery of gifts in children, as well as, newfound joys! This is part of life. There will be many stages for you and your child. This is just part of the journey!
When I think of the many journeys written about in God’s Word, I know we are to “journey” on.
· The Israelites journeyed in the wilderness for forty years before entering the Promised Land.
· Abraham journeyed up a mountain, in obedience to God, to sacrifice his only son.
· Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus, the Savior. (Luke 2:4-7)
· Mary and Joseph took Baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.
· The Lord spoke to Saul as he journeyed to Damascus. (Acts 9:3)
There are many other journeys mentioned in the Bible and every one of them had serious and important purposes and conclusions. Life is a journey.
In light of our responsibility as parents, how will we cope with this journey? How will we guide our children? How will we withstand the eighteen years (or longer) of parenting within our homes?
Choose who you will serve. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Begin each day praying that God will guide every decision you make or contemplate for your family/children. “Seek the Lord, and His strength; seek His face continually.” (1 Chronicles 16:11)
Stand strong and firm on the Truth of God’s Word. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, a light
unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
Keep God’s commandments in front of your children every day. Talk about Him as you go through the day. Show them concrete examples of the love and grace of the Lord.
The Lord spoke, "And, these words which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and daughters and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. And, you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead." (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
Pray with your children daily and all through the day. “Pray without ceasing.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Take advantage of Godly wisdom from other parents who may have walked before you.
Never underestimate the power of God. Keep trusting His promises. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
Always keep an open ear. Listen diligently and without distractions as your child shares his/her day.
Do not be afraid to ask questions. The Lord gives parents an intuition and a discernment about their children that others may not have about them.
There will be days when the parenting journey will seem very long and hard, but so worth it. This is just part of the journey! As you establish that parental relationship and trust God with it, joy and blessings will abound like none other. “Children are a gift from the Lord.” (Psalm 127:3)
Here’s to the journey….trust it and walk it with the Lord!
February 27, 2015
“Have You Set Your Rainbow in the Clouds?”
In Genesis 7, God instructed Noah to build an ark that would house his family and a certain number of other living creatures on the earth at that time. For forty long days and forty long nights, it rained. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. Every living creature that was not on the ark, was wiped away. God spoke to Noah when it was time to come out of the ark. He told him to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 8:17). Noah built an altar to the Lord and it was pleasing to God. God declared that never again would He destroy all living creatures as He had done with the flood. He established a covenant between Him and the earth that would be for all time. The sign was a rainbow. “I have set My rainbow in the clouds and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember the covenant and never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” (Genesis 9:12-17)
The sign of the rainbow is certainly a sign to be remembered as far as waters and floods. However, I believe it is much more. I believe it is a sign of God’s highest standards for His children. As He instructs us to look up, I believe He is asking us to trust Him and look above the things of this world…to look at eternity! When I see a rainbow, it encourages me. It lifts me up and reminds me of God’s immense love and care for His children. It reminds me to set my sights above…keep the focus on the Lord!
For the past several weeks, I have made it a goal to “look up” daily…to look above the clouds, to look above the sun…to think of that higher dwelling place. As I trusted God to help me and guide me in raising my three children, I wanted high standards for them. I wanted them to seek after the best…to not settle for less than the best…to walk in a right relationship with God, and not walk with the world.
Today, I would like to share a few pointers for you, as parents.
1) Expect the best of your children. That does not mean perfection, but it does mean to help them to have high standards. When we set high standards for our children, we can equip them to successfully accomplish them. Talk about their standards for good citizenship, good grades, respect for others, cleanliness, habits, health and high standards in the friends they choose.
2) Help your child keep an open mind when they think they have failed or not accomplished what they set out to do. Talking about successes and failures in your own life will open the door for them to feel free to talk about their own.
3) Talk about making good choices and having wisdom in decision making. Help your child weigh his/her options. As your child gets older, he/she will be on his/her own to make those decisions that can and will affect their future.
4) Help your child set goals at least twice a year…goals for school, goals for friends, goals for health. Also, help them, most of all, to have a spiritual goal…one that will help keep them on track with the Lord…prayer and Bible study. Help your child attain those goals by positive reinforcement and sensible rewards.
As we all set our sights above, and see the rainbow instead of the mud, we will live lives that are pleasing and acceptable to the Lord! Keep your eyes on that rainbow. His promises are true!
Here’s to the journey…look above!
February 6, 2015
“Can Your Children Be Friends to One Another?”
I was very fortunate to have a “stay-at-home” mom. She insisted on doing that. My dad worked three jobs for many years so that she could stay home with me and my two sisters. My sisters and I are very close in age…actually 14 and 15 months apart…I was only two and a half when the third sister was born. Mother had a rule in that house…”no fighting, no fussing!” If we even thought about fussing with one another, she would get the switch out. Our friends always asked, “Do you and your sisters ever fuss, argue or fight?” Our answer was always, “Oh, no, Mother won’t let us!” Today we, now all of us in our fifties, are best friends and always have been. What a blessing!
So, you might ask, “how did that happen?” Well, first of all, Mother was and is a Godly woman. She put her “parenting” trust in the Lord, knew what God said about it and put it to work with her daughters. She was very consistent and firm in her discipline…never wavering back and forth. Also, never allowing us to change her mind. And, parents, it was hard work. She would tell you that. However, she would also tell you there was nothing she desired to do more. When she made a decision about our discipline and young lives, there was no changing it! Our dad went along with it because he knew Mother was right. And, I must tell you that I never doubted the love Mother had for me and my sisters. She disciplined with love.
How about your home? Is there fussing, arguing, even fighting among your children? Do they, even at times, shout out, “I hate my sister/my brother!” If this kind of action, this kind of shouting out hurtful words is going on in your home, it is time to stop it! You can, my friends. It will take work and working at it one day at a time. It will take both mom and dad agreeing on it. It will take prayer and knowing God’s Word. It will take discipline on your part. But, oh my, what a blessing you will receive knowing that you have taught your children to be best friends with each other. Sit your children down one evening and say, “From this day forth, you all are not going to fuss and fight! We will help you find ways to work out your differences. We will help you learn to respect and appreciate each other! There will be consequences for the fussing and fighting!” For one thing, you want your children to love one another when they are adults…they will need each other!
Also, you want your child to be a strong example and testimony of love that comes from your home…one that is known with all of those who know you! This kind of love will transfer and “catch on” with their friends and before you know it…wow, your home will be one of peace and understanding. Focus on honesty and forgiveness in the home. Always be quick to forgive and say, “I love you”! “A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17) Be careful not to let bitterness grow and be manifest in your children. Each of your children have very special gifts and talents given by God. Help your children learn to celebrate those gifts with one another. As a family, learn to be excited and celebratory when one succeeds and always encourage each other.
A wonderful key verse for your home: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each another, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Here’s to the journey…”peace in the home is always pleasing to the Lord!”
“Train Up a Child…”
January 22, 2015
There are many precious promises in God’s Word…many that I have claimed all of my life. Those promises have kept me solid and at peace in my walk with the Lord. However, there is one promise that I have held onto now for almost 29 years. My oldest child will be 29 in March. From the time he was born until this day, I have asked the Lord to help me hang on to that one promise for all three of my children. There have been times when I have wondered if I would ever see it come to total fruition. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Psalm 22:6)
There will be many times in the lives of your children that you will need an anchor to hold onto. You will need a foundation to be firm. You will need a word that can rest peacefully in your heart…for me that is the Word of God…the infallible, true, never-wavering Word that comes from God, Almighty. You see, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you desire it, your child will test his faith, he will test you and he will push the boundaries just to see what will happen. So, will you stand firm? Will you trust God to see you through and give you divine wisdom and guidance? How will you combat the world in the life of your child? You must and I mean MUST pray daily for your child and stay in God’s Word daily. You must rely on God’s promises and you must allow your child to see you standing firm.
I know there are many parents who feel they have made mistakes in raising their children. There is always that battle between being a parent or being a friend to your child…it is a fine line. You see, though, you can not be your child’s friend while he/she is still under your roof and under your supervision…as a child should be. When you try to be your child’s friend instead of parenting and being that solid figure in their lives that God intended you to be, he/she will not and really can not respect you and trust you as he/she should. This does not mean that you can not have fun with your child. There will come a time when you can be a friend to your child…when he/she becomes an adult and has his/her own responsibilities of living. When that time comes, it will be such a joy! Many times when you see a parent trying to just be his/her child’s best friend, you will find a rebellious, disrespectful child. You see, it is not what God intended. He intended for you to be the respected authority figure and know that you are in charge of your home and your children.
It excites me to see parents who discipline, their children, with firmness and love. For, I know that those parents are in for a great relationship with their children when they become adults. Even if your child strays and wanders away from God, he will return…if you have raised him with the Word of God on the tip of your tongue!
“Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” (Proverbs 29:17)
“He who spares the rod, hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” (Proverbs 13:24)
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
It’s never too late to discipline and get your house in order. First, take time to seek God and His Word. Then, both parents need to agree on what changes need to take place in the home. Sit down with your children and discuss the changes you expect to see happen. Give them details of how they can help. Tell them what will have to happen in their lives. Talk about consequences of disobedience. Allow them to ask questions and give feedback. Then, take time to pray with your children…asking God to give His blessing and His strength to make it happen. You will never regret it! The Lord will favor and honor your decision to build a God-led home. He will honor your decision to follow Him in all things.
As a mom of three adult children, I can tell you, there have been many times when mom was not the most popular person in their lives, but to this day, they all respect and love me…and always want to come home!
May it be said of you, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:15)
Here’s to the journey…trust and rely on God’s promises…He never fails!
"Be Still, My Soul"
December 12, 2014
In the midst of this hurried, harried and fast season we are experiencing, there is a serious need to be still...to be still and rest, to be still and listen, to be still and love, to be still and ponder...but most of all, to be still and know...to know that God is God, Ruler and King of this universe...the place He created for us to live. As I ponder this year, I think about where I might have been today if Jesus had not pursued me as a young child. As I ponder the day I accepted Him as my Savior, joy filled my heart and exaltation expressed itself...knowing I had become His child. He laid out a perfect plan for my life...if I would be still and know His guidance, know His leading. I think upon the day I felt He was calling me to a career in His ministry...the church...His mission field. I waited, I listened, I longed for His answer.
There have been many moments of being still in my life. As I lay still, recovering from my first back surgery, I listened intently to God speaking to me. I knew I needed to stop, listen and rest before Him. Through those weeks of recovery and healing, He had a lot to say to me. I remember praying for a discipline problem with one of my children. I asked God to guide me and then, I waited before Him to answer. Many times, God speaks peace, joy and understanding into my heart...at just the right time. However, if I am not listening and being still to hear, the noise of this world gets in the way! Too many distractions, too much to do...it all gets in the way of God's plan for His children!
In the stillness of the night, you can hear the whistle of the wind, the coo of the dove, the hoot of the owl...and the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. Listen, listen...listen. Even Samuel as a young boy, heard the voice of God calling "Samuel, Samuel!" After the third time, Samuel replied, "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening!" (1 Samuel 3:10) Will that be the reply of your heart today? Will you go forth as a servant of God and follow Him? How about your children? Are you teaching them and giving them an example of listening to God and being still before Him? The Lord gives us a command, "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10) Quiet moments alone with God should be part of your daily schedule. Train your children to do the same. They will learn by watching you. If listening to God is important to you, it will be to them, also.
"Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." (Psalm 37:7)
As Moses was leading the Israelites, he said to them, "The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still." (Exodus 14:14) He still does that today...fights for His children as we wait in stillness...in the quiet of the night..at the break of dawn...He is there. Listen, listen...listen.
Here's to the journey...be still, wait and listen to His voice!
"For Unto Us a Child is Born"
December 5, 2014
"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Every year, when it is time to decorate for Christmas, I begin thinking and planning where all of my decorations will go...the tree will usually go in the same spot each year, but the pretty, delicate and sentimental decorations must have the perfect spot. I have several Nativity scenes...just simple ones, but each with three main characters...Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus. "Now, this year, where should these go?" I ask myself. You see, the baby in that scene is what it's all about. If we miss Jesus this season, we miss it all. So, this year, particularly, I found myself looking deep into that "baby" figure. It may sound a bit silly, but it was as if the Holy Spirit was saying, "Will Jesus be the center? Will this Baby be at the forefront of everything, every day? Cynthia, will your focus be on Him this season?"
How about you? Will Jesus be the center of your holidays? Will you talk about Him daily with your children? Will you show God's love in your attitudes? Will you share His love every chance you get? Will you give, from your own resources, to one who's in need?
As our children grow, mature and really learn what is needed to live and survive in this world, they must know Jesus...not just as a character in history, not just a man talked about in church, not as a name in a prayer, but REALLY know Him. Certainly, in the life of every child, there comes a time when he or she will or will not accept Jesus, as Savior. And, as parents, you can not determine that time...it is up to God, the Holy Spirit's workings and the condition of your child's heart. However, you can certainly create a home filled with God's love. A home where, every day, the name of Jesus is heard and is so much a part of your day that to your child, there is no question. You can live a life of godliness, every day, where your words and actions speak nothing but truth and love. You can minister to others, every day and step by step, where your child can see that daily testimony and witness...of God's Truth and His love. For the sake of our children and their salvation, we must not mislead them in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. He is to be their Counselor, their God, their Father and their Prince of Peace...as well as, yours.
There's a beautiful, simple chorus that is a prayer for me...
"Jesus, be the center, be my source, be my light, Jesus. Be the fire in my heart, be the wind in my sails, be the reason that I live, Jesus, Jesus. Be my vision, be my help, be my guide, Jesus. Be my source, be my light, Jesus."
I ask you today, Is He the reason for your season? Is He the center of your life? Is Jesus the reason that you live?
Here's to the journey...center Jesus in your life!
"Give Thanks...in All Things?
November 25, 2014
Yes, God's Word firmly tells us to give thanks in all things. "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God." (1 Thessalonians 5:18) One translation replaces "everything" with the word "circumstances". Come on, now, you say...all circumstances? When I am suffering, give thanks? When, all of a sudden, out of the blue, my child is diagnosed with a fatal disease, give thanks? When my neighbor's son is killed tragically in a car accident, give thanks? When a sweet, young couple loses a child at birth, give thanks? When a bright, young college student commits suicide, give thanks? When the President of our strong nation makes decisions I do not understand? Give thanks? You've got to be kidding! Actually, no, I am not kidding! In God's eyes and according to His plan, all things work to carry out His divine plan in our lives, in the lives of our family, in the lives of our children and in the life of our nation. You see, He has that eternal plan in mind. He has our best interest at heart. He has His children in the palm of His hand! God never makes a mistake...never!
So, I ask you today, are you blessed? Are you teaching your children every day to thank God and give Him the glory for all things? He is good...all the time! He is Almighty! He is God! Make it a conscious effort to give thanks and share that with your children on a daily basis. Make a prayer journal with your children and when God answers those prayers, mark it off and give thanks! Let them see you and hear you giving thanks...in all things! It is a journey of faith, a journey of thanks! Famous author, Ann Voskamp, has been on this journey of thanks for quite a while. She wrote the book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Every day she adds to the list of counting gifts, of counting blessings. She writes, "Thanksgiving...giving thanks in everything...prepares the way that God might show us His fullest salvation in Christ. The giving of thanks allows God to work miracles."
In the giving of thanks, we become more aware of our surroundings, we take the time to notice, we really slow down to see what God has for us! When we do that, we can see His grace and His goodness...all around us! I ask you to stop this week...give thanks, see the glory of God, take note of His love and beauty! Make this a challenge for your family...talk about it each morning, talk about it in the car, talk about it at night...make it a part of your everyday living! Your heart will change, your attitude will change...and guess what? Those around you will change, also.
Here's to the journey..."It is a good thing to give thanks!" (Psalm 92:1)
November 14, 2014
Do you find that you favor your child who has the sweet, soft disposition...more than your others? Do you find it hard to treat all of your children the same? If you have two or more children, you will find that at least one of them is easier to deal with than the other(s). It is just plain old "human nature" to find favor with your child or anyone, you come in contact with , who loves on you, behaves well and is always compliant. How many times have you even seen, what we call, a "teacher's pet" in a classroom setting? And, really, it is not a positive trait, as a parent, to favor one child over another.
In the years that Jesus walked on this earth, He never showed favoritism or partiality. There are so many instances where Jesus chose to show no partiality. For instance, think about the "woman at the well", even though He was not supposed to speak to her, He offered her living water. (John 4:1-42) Then, there was Zacchaeus, a hated, wealthy tax collector, who stole from his clients. Jesus called him down from the tree, that day, to have supper with him. (Luke 29:1-10) Jesus went about healing the sick and never showed favoritism to those in need. (Matthew 4:23, 9:20-22) Jesus walked among sinners, and those who were oppressed, so that He might heal them from sin and the devil...a spiritual healing. (Mark 2:15-17, Acts 10:38)
I want to encourage you to show equal favor between your children...treat each one with the same love and the same respect. Be sure to spend equal time with all of your children...give them equal time to talk and share their feelings with you. If you have one child that is always grabbing you for attention, help him/her have respect for the sibling(s) who never demands attention. When a child is favored more than another, in the home, there can be lasting effects that will damage that child's self-esteem for a life-time.
Certainly, there are positive effects for that "favored" child. He/she will usually have a bolstered self-esteem and self-confidence. He may also have a feeling of power with an attitude of, "I can do anything! I can make things happen!" However, he/she might also have a very proud attitude and see himself as better than others...even selfishness that always wants his/her way. An attitude of self-sufficiency...not even needing God in his/her life.
The "unfavored child" will usually grow up with a chronic need to feel special to "someone". In so doing, he/she may make bad choices in just seeking love. This child may also experience depression and anxiety. Many times, this child grows up trying to find love and attention in worldly things that can damage his/her life. This child will, also, usually grow up with no relationship to his siblings. In young children, this child usually "shows out" a lot and misbehaves because he/she wants attention. Let's face it, many times, this "unfavored" child is even disciplined inappropriately for misbehaving when really he just wants his parents' attention.
Let's seek wisdom from God and treat all men fairly and justly...especially our children for whom we are responsible. "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (Acts 3:17, ESV)
Here's to the journey..."walk with love and favor to all"!
"Is Your House...a Home?"
November 10, 2014
How often have you made a trip away from home and returned home saying, "Oh, there's just no place like home!"? I think that even in some of the worst situations, most of us prefer to be home and to sleep in our own beds. However, there is a lot to be said about a home where you know there is a conscious effort being made to make it a warm, loving and secure home. I am sure that one time or another, you and I have visited a home where you felt very uncomfortable...really kind of like, "uninvited". I can still remember the many ways my own mother made our house a home...loving touches at the dinner table, homemade cookies after school, prayer and the constant reading of God's Word...the list goes on and on. She had a determination that home would be home...and would be different from the outside world.
Anyone can build a house, you know! In Psalm 127, the psalmist writes, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it." It has always been my heart's desire to build a home where my children always wanted to be there, my husband could not wait to come home, and one in which my guests did not want to leave! You see a house is just a structure or building with really no feelings. However, a home is a place where memories have been made (and will be made every day), where there is no pretense of fakeness and has an atmosphere of peace and contentedness. Our homes usually have an emotional attachment in our lives if it is really home.
So, you may ask yourself, "How can my house become a home?" It takes work and cooperation from the entire family. It also takes a mom and dad who have a united heart's desire to build a home for God...one where "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" takes precedence in all things. moms, you are usually the ones who set the tone for your home. I will tell you it can be tough at times. It always seems like the mom is the one who gets blamed when things don't go right and never gets any praise. However, moms, don't let that deter you...keep the faith...work hard at it! Dads, you should be the spiritual leader of your home, as well as, lead your wife spiritually. When God is first priority in your home, all things will fall into place. Now, this does not mean you won't have problems that arise or conflict that comes. It means that when those do arise, you will have that spirit of godliness to deal with them. In dealing with issues that are hard, you will see your faith and strength in the Lord grow day by day!
So, parents, begin today...make your house a home! Season it with love and admiration. See to it that there is one thing you can raise your spouse and children for each day. Pray together and read God's Word together! Little by little, you will see your house...that structure you live in...transform into a home where love and praise abide. "By wisdom a home is built, and, by understanding it is established; by knowledge, the rooms are filled with precious and pleasant riches." Proverbs: 3-4
Here's to the journey..."there's no place like home!"
"Have You Looked Up Lately?"
October 31, 2014
My husband, Ed, and I went camping last week at Mount Cheaha. Oh, how beautiful it was! How peaceful! How restful! As we sat by the campfire that first evening, I could hear the creatures in the woods...scurrying around and sounding out their voices. I leaned back in my chair and looked up at the sky...oh my! The stars were brilliant! There were thousands upon thousands. I have never seen the stars like that before. They glistened through the treetops...some were even brighter than the others. I could not stop looking at them. Immediately, my heart breathed a prayer..."Oh, God, why don't I look up more? Please help me to do that in my everyday life."
So, today, parents, I want to challenge you to "look up"! It is so easy to get discouraged and downhearted in our daily lives. Satan pulls at us in every direction to tempt us to move toward him and keep our heads down so that we can't and don't see the heavenly vision of simply "looking upward". If you and I have this problem, don't you think our children do (or will), as well?
I would like to encourage you to have the posture of "looking up". Today, I am consciously reminding myself to raise my head and eyes toward heaven. This is an exercise that I will be working on daily, and it will make a difference in my life.
1) As you walk down the street or sidewalk, lift your head and show positive body language. Walk with assurance!
2) As you talk with your children about problems that arise, remind them that God is there, ready to intervene..."look up".
3) I know that most of us have been taught to bow our heads to pray. However, I want to ask you to just try raising your head as you pray...even lift your hands and arms to the Lord in prayer and in praise. It is amazing the release you will feel as you do!
God's Word mentions this exercise of "looking up" and "lifting our heads" many times in scripture. In Genesis 9, God commanded Noah to build an ark to save two creatures from every species of animals and birds and to also save his own family. The entire earth was flooded by the rain that fell. After the flood, when Noah came out of the ark, God gave him a promise. The sign of that promise was a rainbow. God gave mankind the promise..."Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood to destroy the earth." (Genesis 9:11) That is why I love to see a rainbow. It reminds me of God's promise and His love for us. And, you know what? You can't see a rainbow without "looking up".
When in times of trouble, "look up"...Psalm 121:1-2 states, "I lift my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."
In praise to God, David exclaims, "Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." (Psalm 24:7)
In times of discouragement, "look up". "You are a shield around me, O Lord; You bestow glory on me and lift my head." (Psalm 3:3)
The most life-changing event is spoken of in John 3:14-15. Jesus was speaking to His disciples and said, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life." In this, Jesus was speaking of the cross and His crucifixion. How amazingly wonderful it is that at Jesus' birth, man "looked up" to hear the angel proclaiming His birth. Then, at His crucifixion, mankind "looked up"...at the cross.
So, parents, do not become weary, do not be discouraged...God is near..."look up" and know that He cares!
Here's to the journey...you must "look up" to see the rainbow!
October 23, 2014
I am sure you have noticed a certain fear that is creeping across the country...really across the world. You can not turn the evening news on without hearing of the dreadful things going on...whether it be Ebola, ISIS, school bomb threats, suicides, moral decay in the church...the list goes on and on. So, how do we parent and raise our children in such a world? How do we encourage them in the future? How do we help them keep the joy down deep in their hearts? What good news will they pick up from you as their mom and dad?
On the evening that Jesus Christ was born, an angel, of the Lord, appeared to the shepherds saying, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for ALL people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you: He is Christ, the Lord." (Luke 2:8-12) From the very beginning of the life of Jesus, He was a sign of strength, courage and not of fear. Our children must be taught about this Man, the Son of God. For, He brings life to them. He brings courage and peace...in the midst of evil and calamity. He brings love and joy...in the midst of hatred and chaos.
I would like to mention several things to you today.
1) Keep negativism out of your home. Make your home a "haven" of peace and rest.
2) Only allow your children to watch TV programs that are healthy and play games that will only build up instead of tear down.
3) If your child has friends who are always bringing him/her down, help your child to find new friends. Talk to your child about making good choices in friends. As a parent, it is your responsibility to know your child's friends and the homes from which they come.
4) Spend quality time with your child (children). Find ways to have consistent family outings/activities at least once a week where everyone is together. Take the time to talk about your child's day. Give your child a chance to express his/her concerns about the things he has come in contact with, during the day.
5) When your child is troubled, do not rest until you find out why. There will always be a reason. Make time to answer your child's questions...do not put them off. Keeping the lines of communication "open", with your child, is a must!
6) When trouble and chaos happens in your own family, be sure your child has an understanding of it...at least enough understanding that he/she is not distracted and worried by it. Young children, and even older ones, are not mature enough, many times, to handle the "tough" things of life. Ask the Lord to give you discernment in these areas.
7) Remind your child daily..."giving up is not an option"!
8) Pray consistently on a daily basis...with your child. Many fears come to rest when a child prays and knows that you, his mom and dad, realize the importance of it.
9) Study God's Word together. The Bible is full of wisdom, knowledge and answers for fear.
"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
"When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose Word I praise. In God I trust; I will not be afraid." (Psalm 56:3-4)
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong." (1 Corinthians 16:13)
"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7)
So, parents, stand strong, take hold and do not allow fear to rob you of the joy so freely given by the Savior of the World...Jesus Christ! He is the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father, the Great I AM!
Here's to the journey...God is there...ready to fight the battle with you!
"Are We Preparing Our Children?"
October 17, 2014
Is preparedness a skill you are teaching your child (children)? Are you helping them learn independence? Are you raising them with an assurance that they will and can survive in this world? Yes, I know that, at the preschool age, it is hard to think about these things. However, it must begin in the "early", formative years in order to take hold. There are so many ways that you can teach your child, even now, to be prepared. I believe that in preparing your child to survive, you will find peace and comfort as his/her parent.
Many parents have the desire to just cling to their child and really want him/her to cling to them. Certainly, we all love our children and want them to "want" us...it is fulfilling for your child to run to you with open arms of love. However, even more fulfilling is to know that your child has learned some independence and can be happy even when you are not around. If your child separates from you easily, then pat yourself on the back...you have helped him/her gain something that will go a long way. There is a good balance that your child can learn and pick-up just from how you prepare him/her to deal with the day ahead.
1) Begin early, even at two and three years old, teaching good hygiene and sleep habits. Be consistent...make it part of the day.
2) Talk to your child about order and how important it is to be ready! Let your child help you with his/her backpack as you prepare for his preschool day. Talk to him/her when you pack his lunch. As you look at teacher notes and worksheets that come home, let your child see how important that is to you.
3) When preparing for the next day, talk about the weather and what he/she needs to wear to school the next day.
4) When illness arises in the family, talk about those good health habits that need to happen. Help your child understand about good exercise that comes in a good "playtime".
5) Model kindness and courtesy for your child. He/she needs to learn, from you, how to respond to others...this is being "prepared".
6)Talk about managing your time. When there is not enough time for certain activities, share those thoughts with your child. Help him/her learn about managing time at an early age.
7) A child can also learn to manage money early on. Give your children a small allowance as they do chores...let them earn it. Then, talk about saving and how to spend wisely.
8) Maybe you, as parents, can even talk to your child about setting goals. This usually comes when they are a little older and more mature, but be ready to do that.
9) Prepare your child socially. When his/her feelings get hurt or a friend disappoints, walk your child through the dilemma and help them learn how to handle their friends and peers.
10) Remind your child that he/she is responsible for himself and must be self-disciplined in life. As a parent, be sure that the rules in your home are clear and understandable...most of all, consistent. Children know when you are not consistent and they will try their best to get their way when they see this in the home.
11) Prepare your child to love God! This must begin as early as a newborn. He/she has the capacity to know the love of God and feel his warmth as you share it through your love and warmth. Be very constant in your sharing about the Lord! Talk to your child about Creation and how much God loves him/her. Share how special your child is...tell him/her that God made them just like they are...He has a plan for them!
None of us know when the day will come, but the Lord says, "I will come quickly!" (Revelation 22:12). "Like a thief in the night..." (1 Thessalonians 5:2). In all areas of our lives, we must be ready! Take inventory today, in your life and the life of your family. Take strong measures to tighten up on preparing your child for the world ahead. None of us want to be caught "off guard". The Lord is a compassionate and loving God. He will see you through this parenting adventure...marching before you and with you...ALL the way!
Here's to the journey...a true soldier is always prepared!
"Be a Blessing"
October 10, 2014
Have you ever experienced a tremendous blessing in your life? One in which you truly knew was heaven-sent? One that had God's name written across the top? Did it have a tremendous impact on you? Did you think about it for a long time? Was it encouraging to you?
I have begun to think upon blessings in new ways. At this point in my life, I can certainly look back and remember many blessings, both personally and in the life of my family. In fact, when I focus on the blessings in my life, I realize there are many. It is my heart's desire to "be a blessing" to someone every day. I am purposefully seeking and searching for anyone that needs a blessing. I have asked the Lord to guide me in this effort, for I certainly have no idea of how He will use me in this endeavor.
I would like to encourage you today, as parents, to begin this exercise with your children. It will be amazing to see how God will use them in the lives of others. You see, when we begin focusing our efforts on others and not ourselves, our whole outlook on life changes. I would also like to believe that even the atmosphere and dynamics of our homes will change.
There are several ideas I would like to share with you.
1) First, pray daily with your child and ask the Lord to help him/her to "be a blessing".
2) Always watch for opportunities, in your neighborhood, to help others. You might take cupcakes to your next-door neighbor. You might encourage your child to help the neighbors rake their yard or help with their pets.
3) Encourage your child to write someone a card once a week. Go out and purchase some note cards and stamps. You might create a "mail corner" in your home where your child can easily sit down and just write a "thinking of you" card. Then, when you pray, remember those whom you have helped.
4) Encourage your child (children) to not only think of those outside of your home, but help them realize that it is important to "be a blessing" to each family member in the home. When we love on one another and pray for one another, God can do astounding works among us.
5) As you go about your daily walk, be constantly ready to talk about your blessings...those which God is giving you daily and those which come your way so unexpectedly!
The Lord wants us to be blessings! He delights in those attributes that come from the heart...love, joy, peace, patience and understanding!
Take the challenge...begin your "blessing" journey today! You will begin to have that expectancy that will make you try harder and harder...just to see what our mighty God can and will do through you and your family!
"Every good and perfect gift is from God!" James 1:17
Here's to the journey...be a blessing today!
"Are You Listening?"
February 28, 2014
Are you listening? Am I listening? Are our children listening? What questions! Isn't it amazing how much the skill of listening can affect our relationships? It is so frustrating to me when I think someone is not listening to me. First of all, it is disrespectful. Secondly, what if I have something that person really needs to hear!
Let's think about our listening skills, today, in relation to our children.
1) Listening to your child helps build a strong relationship.
2) Listening to your child helps him/her really feel like they are special to you!
3) Listening to your child helps you know what is going on in his/her life. You can gather information by listening.
4) If your child has a problem, listening to him/her will be the first step in solving that problem.
5) Listening to your child helps him/her learn how to listen to you.
6) Listening to your child requires your full attention. Make time to listen so that you will not be distracted.
I learned a quick lesson, on listening, from my youngest son, when he was about 13 years old. We were sitting at the Sunday dinner table and he really wanted to tell me something. I think he really knew I would disapprove of his story, but he still needed to tell it. At the end of his story, I quickly and very strongly overreacted and really burst his bubble, so to speak. Afterwards, he looked at me sadly and said, "I knew I shouldn't have told you!" WOW! Needless to say, those were strong words. I immediately apologized and told all three of my children..."You never have to be afraid to tell me anything! I will always be listening!" You see, if you cut your child off when he/she needs to speak, you run the risk of closing them up where they will never want to tell you anything! One of the most valuable gifts you can give your child is to listen to the little and big things in his/her life. Begin at an early age and the "lines of communication" will most likely always be open!
Now, let's talk about our children and their listening skills to us, as parents.
1) Your child must learn that you are to be respected as his/her parent. Colossians 3:20 says it plainly, "Children, obey your parents, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord." Your child must learn that he/she must always obey you, even if he/she disagrees with your answer. As parents, we are given the responsibility of raising our children.
2) Pray with your child as you are working together to solve problems or find answers. He/she needs to know that God is the ultimate answer in all things.
3) Give your child a chance to discuss the problem. This helps your child explore his/her own thoughts and feelings. It may also help you to understand his/her passion about it.
4) You will not always be able to rationalize with your child. There will be times when you just have to tell them that you are the authority and that's how it goes! Remind your child that God favors an obedient spirit and attitude.
"Hear, my son, your fathers instruction, and, do not forsake your mother's teaching; Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head, and ornaments around your neck." (Proverbs 1:8,9)
Here's to the journey...keep an open ear!
"The Holly Bears a Crown"
January 1, 2014
Earlier this morning, I was reading my Bible and drinking my first cup of coffee. I was reading in Proverbs about the wisdom God gives to His children and how we can be stronger followers of Him in that wisdom. I looked at my beautiful coffee mug and there were the words to the first verse of the beautiful, ancient English Christmas carol, "The Holly and the Ivy". It has always been one of my favorite carols. I love the beauty of the simple melody and the picturesque text. I will have to say, though, today, the words really hit me.
"The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown."
The holly and the ivy, along with the mistletoe, have earned respect, and a place in tradition, from the early English country-dwellers, for years. These three plants are the most prominent green plants in British native woodland during the season of winter. The beauty of the holly and the ivy in English Christmas decorations has stood out since the 15th and 16th centuries. In many homes and churches even today, you will see this same beauty.
As I ponder God's Word and the words of this carol, I can not help but think about my own growth, my own maturity...spiritually! When I am full-grown, fully mature one day...will I bear a crown? Of all those around, "of all the trees that are in the wood", will I stand out in the crowd? Will I stand out as one who knows the Lord, of one who has followed with great commitment? God's Word tells us that we will not be fully mature until we meet Him, face to face one day. Is that when He will recognize His children and their faith? Is that the goal of Christianity?
The Lord rewards wisdom. In Proverbs 3: 1-4, 13: "My son, do not forget My teaching, but let your heart keep My commandments; For the length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man." "How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding."
What will make a difference in my life and in yours? How will our children "look" as they grow, as they mature...in the Lord? What will we, as parents, do to see to it that our children walk wisely and in understanding of the Lord and His precepts? The Lord promises favor and great benefits to those who stand out, to those who "dare" to stand...for Him, in this world. In Proverbs 3:21-23, Solomon goes on to write, "Keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck. Then, you will walk in your way securely and your foot will not stumble."
When I picture the beautiful holly in the woods and how it stands out above the rest, I can not help but think of the beautiful picture of redemption and how our Lord wore a crown...first, a "crown of thorns", later, a "crown of glory"! He promises that crown to His children, to those who are redeemed by His name...the name above all others! "In the future, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but to ALL who have loved His appearing!" (2 Timothy 4:8)
Why wait until that day to think about that crown? Fix your eyes on the Lord today...look for His appearing...stand tall above all... as one counted for HIM!
Here's to the journey...anticipate that crown...live for Him today!
"I Found a Blessing!"
December 13, 2013
Have you ever just found a blessing? I was talking to one of our substitute teachers the other day and telling her how much I appreciate her work with us. She replied, "Thank you! I have found a blessing in a job!" That really hit me! As I pondered that response, I wondered just how positive we would find ourselves if we found more blessings in what we do! How would life look if we found blessings in our surroundings and in the people we are around? Do we only "look" for blessings around holidays or special events?
I believe that if we gave ourselves the challenge of "looking upward" and "finding" blessings, our whole outlook on life would be different! This particular character trait could transform our entire being! This venture on blessings could change the atmosphere of your home, your children's attitudes, your relationship with your spouse and your friends...it could really be a positive explosion in your life! If you really worked on "finding" a blessing, in those things that are hard for you, wow, imagine what could happen!
Today, I want to challenge you to begin "finding" blessings! First of all, our first responsibility as children of God is to know the blessings of the Lord. When we are faced with anxiety and uncertainty about our lives, the Lord says, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For, My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:29) Allow God to take your worries and anxiety. Lift your hands to Him and focus your eyes on the Lord!
Second, look to the good in everyone you see. Now, I know you are saying, well that's not going to work. I say to you, give it a chance! Instead of immediately thinking the worst in someone or in a certain situation, try to "find" the good! I believe that in so doing, you will find that God may have a mission for you. He may be ready for you to give the blessing to another or to pass one along! Make it a habit to give of yourselves to others. Let your children see you in this act of service. "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:38) As you give blessings to others, God will, in turn, bless you!
Third, listen for the quiet voice of God! He may be giving you a blessing in the quietness of your heart! He may be speaking a truth to you or giving you words to live by! You know, most blessings do not come in the material sense...they come from the very hand of God and sometimes, they come packaged as love and care from someone. Be ready to instantly obey God and walk those blessings out in your life! There is nothing like living in the will of God and watching Him find favor with you!
This very day, you can find a blessing, you can give or be a blessing and you can receive a blessing...from God! He is the Giver of all blessings!
Here's to the journey..."find those blessings and name them one by one"!
"A Puff of Fog"
October 25, 2013
Early last Sunday morning, Ed and I were headed to church. It was a cool, brisk kind of morning! The drive was beautiful! It had not been too long since the sunrise and there were patches of fog along the way. As we talked about the fog, we noticed one patch in the far distance. It looked like it was simply all alone there in the atmosphere...barely lurking above the trees. I commented, "Well, look at that puff of fog!" Then, I actually got tickled at myself...I mean really, a "puff of fog"? You try to say it...it's a mouthful and kind of a tongue twister! Needless to say, that phrase stayed with me through the week. In my mind, I went over and over that term. However, this morning, it really resonates in my heart! I could not help but think about time and the brevity of it! For, you know, that puff of fog soon began to dissipate...just like time!
As I watched moms and dads yesterday at our Orange Parade, I wondered if they really realize just how quickly their children are growing up! I wonder if they realize that within the "blink of an eye", they will be young adults on their own...making decisions all by themselves! Wow, really how much time do they have? Parents, I probably do not have to remind you, but, you have very little time. When you think of your busy schedules and just how quickly a 24 hour day goes by...you have very little time! Proverbs 22:6 reminds us of a command from the Lord; "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it." Think of every day as a gift and realize that it is one more day the Lord has given you. Parents, you must use each day as a time of instruction, a time of sharing the wisdom the Lord has given you. Share with your children. Give them boundaries and guidelines for successful living..share it with love! Do not let moments slip from your fingers...every day should count!
As God spoke to Moses, he spoke to the Israelites as they were going in to possess the land which the Lord had given them. He gave them life-changing words from the Lord, "Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words, which I am teaching you, shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and daughters and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. And, you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." As hard as it is to believe, your child will imitate you and will always draw from the years he/she has been under your care and supervision.
As Paul wrote to young Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5, he gave witness of the faith he saw in Timothy's life. He made mention of the years Timothy had experienced as a boy growing up. The faith of Timothy's mother and grandmother stood out in his life. "For, I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you, as well. For, this reason, I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands."
Take each day anew. Look at it as a chance to instruct and teach your children in the way of the Lord! Be confident that God is working! Know that He is on your side and wants your children to succeed and stand firm in this world! Your children are gifts from God...He has entrusted them to you and to me! "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they shall not be ashamed, when they speak with their enemies in the gate." (Psalm 127:3-5)
"Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow." (James 1:17)
Here's to the journey...don't let that puff of fog get away!
October 21, 2013
When we look at our nation, it is pretty clear that American Christians have not stood up for Godly principles and Godly values. We have let morality slide and allowed evil to reign and take over. We have relinquished the power God has given us as His children. We have not been faithful to stand up for righteousness. How will our children survive in such a world? For, they are the future leaders of America. If we, as parents, do not teach values and live morally in our homes, our children will grow up to be adults who have no convictions and no strength of purpose for their lives.
In 2 Chronicles 7:15, the Lord spoke to Solomon, after the Temple was dedicated: "Then, if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their lands." The Lord gives stipulations to His people regarding prayer. It is serious business. We, as God's children, can not flourish and succeed without prayer. It is our sole communication with our Father, Almighty God!
In the verse mentioned above, there are four lessons we can teach our children about prayer...
- "My people who are called by My name"...it is a privilege to be called by God's name. It is also a responsibility. When our children come to know Christ, they must realize that their lives must show witness and testimony to that name. When they decide to follow Jesus, they have become heirs with His kingdom and should be committed to walk accordingly.
- "Humble"...we must teach our children to have a spirit of submission and humility. Help your child learn that he/she must not boast or have an arrogant spirit. Show your child how to pray with humbleness and sincerity.
- "To seek His face"...every decision your child makes should be made through prayer. The best way, he/she can learn this principle is by watching you seek God with every day living!
- "To turn"...never be afraid to turn from wrongdoing, evil or a bad decision. A person who can repent and say "I am sorry" has strong character and will be admired by those who know him/her. However, the most important concept of "turning and repenting" is that it is the way of the Lord. God calls us to turn completely and to make a full change in our hearts...daily asking for forgiveness.
The most important decision you or your child will ever make is to follow Jesus, to believe in Him and trust Him with your life. After making that decision, you are called to stay in His Word, live by it daily and to always be in an attitude of prayer. The Lord speaks in so many ways and you do not want your child to miss out on that beautiful relationship that comes from knowing God in all His fullness!
Here's to the journey...call upon, seek and turn...He will hear your prayers!
October 11, 2013
Have you ever planted a fruit tree and year after year waited for it to bear its fruit? Have you ever tried to teach your child a new life lesson and day after day waited for it to take hold in his/her life? It is really the same basic idea of bearing fruit. I have often wondered how God, my heavenly Father, must look at my life to see if there is much fruit developing in my heart and in my day to day life. Am I filled with the "fruit of the Spirit"? Are you filled with the "fruit of the Spirit"? Galatians 5:22-23 states, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." These fruits are major qualities in our life that are freely given as gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, they must be cultivated. What a beautiful sight it is to see one who has blossomed into a "fruit-filled" life!
How can we teach our children to live the "fruit-filled" life? First of all, we, as parents, must seek to grow this fruit in our own lives. The main cultivator of the Spirit's fruit is God's Word and constant communication with Him through our prayer lives. As we daily model these qualities and attributes, our children will learn from us.
Parents, as you go about your daily lives, give your children tests and learning experiences that will grow fruit. For example, plan an outing where you can actually help someone in need. Talk about loving those who are less fortunate. Plan a service project. You will know for certain that you can talk a lot about love, joy, kindness and gentleness when you are helping others.
If you are a parent to more than one child, give your children tasks and little jobs around the house. Through these activities, you can teach patience and self-control. Talk to your children about having patience with their friends when they get their feelings hurt or when a friend makes them mad. Talk to them about the importance of being faithful to their friends. Then, as the Lord blesses and blesses your family, speak to your children about His faithfulness and your faithfulness to Him! There should be plenty of stories and testimonies to God's faithfulness! A day should not ever go by but what your children hear you giving thanks to God for His never-ending faithfulness! He is faithful to His children!
When it comes to our attitudes, every fruit becomes involved! Simple and consistent teaching can grow these fruits in your child. Pray that God will take every ounce of your godly parenting and use it to grow fruit in your child's life!
"If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." Galatians 5:25
How about you? Will you trust the Lord to guide you as you lead your child to a "fruit-filled" life?
Here's to the journey...bearing fruit all along the way!
September 14, 2013
"Abundance"...what is "abundance"...really? "Abundance" is defined as "an extremely plentiful or over-sufficient quantity or supply; overflowing fullness". In America, we are blessed with an over-abundance of many things...wow, what blessings God has bestowed upon us! However, as I mature in the Lord and my relationship grows in Him, I am convinced that "abundance" is all about learning to enjoy and making manifest the abundance of God and the benefits of knowing Him! There is nothing wrong with an abundance of material possessions, but oh, the joy of the abundance in your heart when you totally give the Lord everything and allow Him to manifest His goodness!
We all know the character, Paul, in the New Testament, who came to know Jesus and totally gave of himself to minister and serve the Lord! Even Paul knew the abundance of the Lord. As he wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy, chapter 1, verse 14, he describes the grace of the Lord in dealing with him..."and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and the love which are found in Christ Jesus." I believe that Paul had learned what was most important in life and that was knowing the abundant grace and love of his Savior.
How about our homes, our children, our families? Don't we want an abundance of all things for life? Yes, we do! However, I believe that the best prayer for our children should be for an abundance of the love of Christ, the wisdom of the Lord, the gifts of the Spirit and the list can go on and on. The Lord, my friends, wants to grant to His children a powerful abundance in all of the spiritual gifts so that we may live a life of fruitfulness. It is absolutely impossible to live in this earthly home without the power, the strength and the abundance of the Lord! A walk without Him can not be walked!
The story of the boy, and his fish and loaves of bread, is found in John 6:5-15. Most of us know this story very well. When the young boy offered his small lunch, Jesus blessed it and provided an abundance of food for over 5000 people. The power, that is illustrated in this story, is the same power that God wants to bestow upon us...even today! Do you lack faith in what God can do? Do you hold back in asking God for that strength, power and abundance? It is yours for the asking! We have not, because we ask not!
I am asking for a abundance of overflowing guidance, wisdom and grace from the Lord! How about you?
"Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. AMEN!" (Ephesians 3:20, 21)
Here's to the journey...walk in abundance!
"The Cutting Edge"
July 16, 2013
The "Cutting Edge"...Humm, what is the "cutting edge"? Well, it might be the name of a knife company, a hair salon, or even a fabric store. Is it just a catchy phrase? There are many companies, today, who will use this phrase in their top advertising schemes. They will use it to play against their competition and try to get a company's business. They will use it in their interviewing process with perspective employees. Many top executives believe that simply using this phrase, in today's business world, will get the attention of those who are really wanting to make a difference...whether it be a difference in their product, the difference in their employees or even the difference in their clientele.
I want to suggest to you that we, as parents can help our children and even teach them how to be on the "cutting edge" of life! Over the past several months, I have watched two of my own children apply and interview for various job openings. Every time they went for an interview, they were concerned about how they looked, what they would say, and how the interviewer would perceive them. Of course, they were always anxious before and after the interview. And, of course, they always wanted to talk about it...just to see what mom and dad thought. This morning, as I look back on these months and on the talks we had, there was one thing in common about my dealings with both children. Before the interview, we always talked about God's plan and we always prayed about the interview and the outcome. After the interview, we prayed that God would show them His plan and that in His time, He would answer! As the past few weeks have unfolded, one child got the job, the other did not. As a mom, I know that the moments we spent talking about God's plans and timing have not gone in vain. I know that, even in disappointment, there is confidence in knowing that God knows best!
As your children are maturing and growing, you should instill in them the principle that everything in their life should be on the "cutting edge". To me, the "cutting edge" is not being perfect, but it is excellence in knowing the heart and mind of God. It is excellence in knowing that whatever your child throws his/her energy and gifts into should be done with excellence and to the best of their abilities. I think it is very important to help our children discern between the "best" and the "better"! Where they may think one concern may be the best to think upon, there may be something out there that is even better! As my children grew into adulthood and began making their own decisions, I have always reminded them that it is ok to "take your time". Sure, there may be those situations or concerns that have a deadline. However, I would remind them to keep their emotions in check and take the time needed to make a wise decision. And, always...always...seek God first! Make every matter a prayer concern! You know what? When they are taught to pray at an early age, it comes natural to them!
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might!" (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
"Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward for the inheritance. It is the Lord whom you serve." (Colossians 3:23-24)
So, here's to the journey...walk it on the edge...the "cutting edge"!
June 21, 2013
Three weeks ago, one of my cousins fell into a diabetic coma and was placed on life support. She was in a coma for several days with very little brain activity. Finally, her brothers had to take her off of that life support and almost a week later, she took her final breath. Wow, I imagined how hard that must have been for her brothers and how hard it was to watch, through those following days, as she slowly slipped into eternity! Yes, eternity! For you see, what a blessing it was that she was a believer and knew she would see Jesus! She just slipped out of this earthly life into eternal life!
I wonder how each of us feel about our children. Are we secure in the "life support" of their lives? Do we know that, as we are raising them, they will have abundant life...here on earth and there one day...in eternity? It is so important to lead our children to know the Lord! So many believe that they can not have abundance here on earth, yet, the Lord wants us to experience the power He has for us...right here, right now! I pray daily for my own children to experience that! I have to trust that as they were growing up under my roof, they came to know how much the Lord has for them! I do know they each professed Him as their Savior, yet, I know how hard it is for all believers to understand the abundance of that life! I pray daily for the Lord to draw them close to Him!
It is my desire that, as you read this blog, you will make new commitments to your children and the way you love them and the way you teach them about the Lord. For, "life support" is more than being hooked up to a machine when life is ebbing away. "Life "support" is for all the years of your life and the lives of your children.
"You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand." Psalm 16:11
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His One and Only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life!" John 3:16
"Life support" for our children is support when trials and tribulations come; support when friends don't want to be friends; Godly advice when your children doubt their faith and doubt the things life brings their way; correction and discipline when they have done a wrong or made a mistake; and yes, even encouragement for the daily tasks! "Life support" is unconditional love no matter what you go through and understanding even when you don't understand! "Life support", through God's Word, will help you and your children have the confidence and assurance that tells you eternity is there...for the long journey of life! "Life support" will give you freedom from self doubt and confusion.
On one occasion, in the Scriptures, an expert in the law asked Jesus, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" To which Jesus replied, "Love the Lord, your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your strength and will all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:25, 27)
God's Word gives us assurance that we, as His children, will always be His. "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:28)
Be encouraged..."life support" is there for the asking! Trust the Lord, He is always there...providing life, strength and power for the journey!
Here's to the journey...don't pull the plug...keep THE Connection alive!
"Now, That's a Power Walk!"
May 10, 2013
My husband, Ed, and I were out walking the other afternoon and I looked over at him and exclaimed, "Wow, that's a power walk!" It was our second walk of the afternoon and I just felt like it was faster and more powerful than the first one. Do you ever feel that way as you are raising your children? Maybe you are working on one parenting skill and as you work consistently, you get better and better at it! Or, maybe you are not as consistent with your skills and the walk gets harder and harder!
Whatever you are facing today with your children, it will get easier. However, consistency is the key! If you are an avid walker or marathon runner, you know that daily and rigorous physical activity is key to getting you in shape and staying that way! When I think about parenting, I compare it to a daily rigorous work-out! And, by the time your child reaches the age of eighteen and graduates from high school, he/she should be ready to take off, spread his wings and fly! There will still be a lot of issues that you will deal with and things you will teach them. For the most part, though, wherever your child is at this point will make the difference in whether or not he/she will be successful!
Let's compare the characteristics of a power walk with the characteristics of successful parenting.
1) Stand up straight to walk. Be confident in your parenting! Don't get side-tracked by those things that do not matter!
2) Look forward, not down. Do not look back at past mistakes. Look to the future!
3) Hold your head up high. When pain comes, face it head on. Deal with it and move forward!
4) Relax your shoulders! Parenting can be tiring! Be sure you have deliberate times when you can relax and unwind! You will need it and so will your children!
5) Hold your body firm to the task of your physical activity. Be firm with your children! Keep them at task and help them gain confidence in your decisions because you are not "wishy-washy"!
6) Avoid rocking from side to side! Help your children know that you have convictions and that you do not just "straddle the fence"!
7) Keep a steady bodily rhythm as you walk! Be sure your home has an atmosphere of peace and contentment! That will come with strong spiritual emphasis and the reinforcing of biblical principles. Do not waver in your beliefs and in the principles of parenting that will help your children grow into strong, successful adults!
As you walk along this journey, remember that the most important things you will teach your children are the love of God, love of humanity and to be committed to their convictions. It is not a "cake walk" or a "walk in the park"! It is a power walk and quite a marathon!
As Moses shared the Word of the Lord to the Israelites, he proclaimed, "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You must love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your strength. And, you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again. Tie them to your hands as a reminder, and wear them on your forehead. Write them down on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
"Listen, my child, to what your father teaches you. Don't neglect your mother's teaching. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and clothe you with honor." (Proverbs 1:8-9)
"Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments." (Psalm 112:1)
The Lord has such a desire for us to thrive as parents and enjoy the lives of our children! "My child, listen to me and treasure my instructions. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight and understanding. Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure. Then, you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For, the Lord grants wisdom!" (Proverbs 2:1-6)
Be encouraged today, parents, and know that the Lord is with you...throughout the journey!
Here's to the journey...make it a successful power walk!
"Are You Teaching Your Child to be a Role Model?"
May 5, 2013
In a magazine today, I saw an adorable picture of a two-year old boy lying on top of his baby brother and looking him face to face...eye to eye. The caption above the picture was very clearly stated..."You're always a role model to somebody." That is so true! No matter how old you are, no matter what stage of life you are living, there is always someone watching and someone who wants to be like you! I believe that it is so important for parents to help their children understand this principle of life. I believe that when children understand this principle, it helps them really "think" about their behavior...good or bad! I believe that as you are teaching your child right from wrong, this principle will help build their character and make them stronger human beings.
The Bible is full of beautiful examples of children who were used of God and who were looked upon by others. I would like to share some of these with you today.
- Samuel - Samuel's mother, Hannah, prayed and asked the Lord to give her a son. She promised God that if He did, she would give that son back to Him. When Samuel was born, Hannah went to the temple to offer Samuel to the Lord as His servant. At three years of age, Samuel stood before Eli, the priest, and served the Lord daily in the temple from then on. He grew up to be a prophet and ruler of his people whom God used mightily!
- Miriam - Miriam, Moses' sister, was used of the Lord to care for her baby brother and hide him from Pharaoh. Moses was taken into King Pharaoh's palace and raised by Pharaoh's daughter. However, when he grew older he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Instead, he chose to suffer affliction along with God's people and was used by God to deliver them!
- Timothy - We see Timothy in the New Testament. Timothy was a disciple and young friend of the Apostle Paul. In his childhood, he was led to know the Lord and to know God's Word by his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice. It is said of Timothy that he "became wise unto salvation" because he knew the scriptures. God used him powerfully as he served alongside Paul.
There are many children that I see day to day. I love to watch their interaction with their peers. It is fun to see them following the actions of other children. And, it is also fun to watch some of them be "leaders" among their friends. You can be sure that in their "small little world", there are already "role models" being established! I hope that as you teach, discipline and nurture your children, you will realize the great importance of teaching them to walk in the light of the Lord and help them mature into young people who will be Godly role models for others.
"Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." (Ephesians 5:1-2)
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
Here's to the journey...someone is always watching!
"Can We Control the Chaos?
April 27, 2013
Can we control the chaos? Yes! Absolutely! We can control the chaos! However, it is not an easy road each day to do that in a world so "out of control"! And, if you think you can do it on your own without the Lord...you are so wrong! Satan is alive and well and desires to tear your home down, to help you cheat your marriages, and to undermine your children! Our homes are to be "havens" of rest, of peace, of comfort. When you find that your day is spiraling out of control, take a deep breath, proclaim the name of Jesus and believe in His Word. "God is not a God of confusion, but of peace." (1 Corinthians 14:33) He conquered the waste and darkness. We see it in Genesis 1:2-3. "The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then, God said, 'Let there be light', and there was light."
I was saddened the other day when one of my older piano students said to me, "I love to be home by myself, so I can sleep...when my brother is not singing all the time, my dad is not hollering and my mom is not screaming at the dogs!" Do you see your home in this shape? Do you wonder why nobody gets along? I know that there will be problems that have to be worked out. I know that everyone in your home is not always going to just smile and get along. However, it is up to moms and dads to set the tone and atmospheric mood of the home. Children will get enough confusion and chaos among their peers and their activities outside of the home. This world offers plenty! I want to share several things, for you to think about, that I believe will help you have discernment in this area.
- Pressure to perform. I know this one hits you on your job, but did you know that even very young children today are already feeling like they have to perform and compete to get what they want? Talk to your children about just plain old "being themselves". Help them to understand their talents and gifts. Remind them to just do their best!
- A desire to please others. There is really nothing wrong with wanting to please others. It is really a nice sentiment. However, when it gets in the way and your child begins to tell little lies and tries to keep up with the other children by pleasing them, that can be a real problem!
- Departure from God's Word and Prayer. It is hard to fit in reading and talking about God's Word, and praying each day with your family. However, you will find that when the day begins without it or when trials arise and problems just can't be fixed (you think), you will ask yourself why you departed from it. God's Word should be in our hearts and minds at all times...and in your children's hearts and minds! Satan, the Evil One, loves to find you departing in such a way! The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:7, "Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything."
The Lord wants us to be bold and courageous. Do not fear, for He is on our side! His heart's desire is that we live joyful, stressless lives! "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7)
Choose joy for your homes! Make a decision to stay in God's Word on a daily basis! Ask God for the answers...He will provide! Be sure your home has a peaceful fragrance! And, remember, God's Word takes our lives from beginning to end and one day that last triumphal note will be sounded. "Then, I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And, I saw the Holy City, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband, and I heard a loud voice from The Throne, saying, 'Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them'!" (Revelation 21:1-3) Oh, what a day that will be! And, I know you want to be there!
Here's to the journey...can't we just have a "little heaven" on earth?
"Do I Look Pretty, Mommie?"
April 21, 2013
I have shared with you before the story of my daughter when she was three years old. One morning, she ran into the bathroom, and asked, "Do I look pretty, Mommie?" I, of course replied, "Yes, darling, you look beautiful!" However, I instantly knew this was a lesson the Lord wanted me to teach. So, I began to share with her that true beauty comes from within. When your heart is beautiful, clean and pure, you are gorgeous on the outside! I shared, with her, that it is the matters of the heart that truly "matter" the most! In the story about David, the shepherd boy, as Samuel was looking to anoint a king, God had a profound message about our appearance. "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'" (1 Samuel 16:7)
Several weeks ago on one of our preschool mornings, several of our teachers heard a tapping sound. We finally found it. There was a beautiful bird perched upon the handle of an outside door just pecking away at the glass. First, when we found him, I thought he might be hurt. So, I went outside to check on him and found that he was looking at himself in a mirrored reflection in the door. It was so funny because it was very clear that he really liked what he saw of himself! Continually, this little bird would come to that door and gaze at himself! A month or so later, one of our teachers, saw this same bird on the windshield of my car. He would fly down onto the top of my windshield and then, slide down...the whole time, seeing himself in the windshield. To me, it is a perfect picture of really how most of us look at ourselves...pretty important and very prideful!
So, how does your heart look? How does my heart look? In Matthew 23:28, Jesus gives a strong reprimand: "So, you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within, you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." We must bring our children up to know the Lord and to know that He looks on the heart. We must help them understand that even though we need to be cleaned up and nice-looking in our appearance, we must not make it a prideful and vain part of our being. Our focus must be on loving and serving the Lord with a beautiful heart! After all, don't you think the world is looking for those Christians who look like children of God...those whose hearts shine outwardly for Him?
"Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." (Proverbs 31:30)
"Do not let your adorning be external...but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." (1 Peter 3:3-4)
Here's to the journey...shine from within!
"Guilty or Not Guilty?"
April 16, 2013
Do you ever wonder if the world all around you feels "accountable" to anyone? Do you ever wonder what your child is thinking when he/she has that "guilty" look on their face? Have you ever thought about the fact that it is up to you to help your child learn accountability and how to handle guilt? If you know and believe God's Word, it teaches that we are all born as sinners and that in order to know Christ as our Savior, we must accept Him and call Him "Lord"! We must confess our sins and turn from our wicked ways! So, how do you help your child understand this principle and truth of the Bible?
You must begin by teaching your child that sin (unacceptable behavior) has consequences. Then, you must be consistent in administering those consequences. You must also help your child understand that he/she must always tell the truth. Your child should grow up with the understanding that he/she will make mistakes, but, that you are there to help him correct those mistakes. We all know when we see a guilty face on a child. Some children have a hard time looking you straight in the eye, while others will cry when they are guilty. One of the hardest things to do, sometimes, is get the truth out of a child. I believe that when a child really believes in the love of his/her mom or dad, he/she will confess much sooner. Children should have a healthy fear in the knowledge that their parents will consistently discipline them. Confusion usually happens in a child's life when he/she does not know when or for what he will be disciplined. Keep things on the "up and up" with your child. Be sure that he understands all the boundaries and consequences. At the same time, teach your child the Godly principles that show how all of us are accountable to the Lord God!
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
Day to day living, with your child, gives you, as parents, many opportunities to teach truth, confession and forgiveness! It is a must if your child will come to know the Lord one day! And, you certainly do not want to raise a child who always hollers "not guilty"!
"Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)
When the Lord was speaking to Israel in Isaiah 43:25, He said, "I, even I, am the One who wipes out your transgressions for My sake; And, I will not remember your sins."
Here's to the journey...give it to the Lord!
"Walk in the Light"
April 7, 2013
"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105)
When the preschoolers come to music each week, one of their favorite songs is "Walk in the Light". We stand up, step our feet back and forth, as if we are walking, and snap our fingers to the tune. They love the concept of walking in the light. We talk about what it means to "walk in the light".
"Walk in the light, walk in the light. Walking in the darkness, we'll go bump in the night!
Walk in the light, walk in the light; Come on follow Jesus, we'll go walking in the light!"
We know that light dispels darkness...be it a dark room, a dark corner, darkness in the mind, and darkness in the soul! Is it important, parents, to help your children understand and live by this principle? Absolutely, yes!!! There will be many times in your child's life, where he/she will feel like the day is not the brightest or his/her friends have left him out in the cold. As your children grow older and mature, they will experience different types of darkness...hurt feelings, rejection by peers and possibly even, depression that overwhelms their world! Christian parents should focus strongly on being sure that their children come to know the Lord at an early age. In knowing Christ, the Giver of Light, His love will dispel many of the dark times and dark feelings your child may have.
I want to encourage you, today, to use every opportunity you have and can think of, to show examples of light in your child's life. Be prepared to help the dark, sad times. Be ready to encourage and lift your children up so that they can know light overcomes that darkness! Introduce them to the Giver of Light...the God of the universe. Bring Him into every situation your family encounters! Be sure that God is not a stranger in your home!! He is THE Light and in Him, there is no darkness! "Let the light of Your face shine upon us, O Lord." (Psalm 4:6b)
Every day you can pray this prayer with your children...make it a habit. "Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me." (Psalm 43:3a) The confidence and security your children will experience can make a difference in their lives!
"You are my light, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light." (II Samuel 22:29)
Here's to the journey...always walking in the Light!
"The Easter Bunny or Not?"
March 29, 2013
We had so much fun, this week, with the preschoolers! They were so excited as they brought their Easter baskets in for the Easter Egg Hunt! You could see the excitement in their eyes. Over and over, I heard them exclaiming, "We are going to hunt for Easter eggs!" Fortunately, the weather got warmer and the sun shone so bright and beautiful! I have heard many parents say that they just really are not sure if their children should believe in the Easter Bunny or not. The same goes for Santa Claus at Christmas. Every parent has to raise their children according to their own convictions. However, I have always felt that the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are just characters of childhood. In a healthy, home atmosphere where parents believe in the Lord and raise their children to believe in the Lord, both the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus can have a part! To me, these characters are just a part of childhood. I believe that if you try to keep these characters from your child, you can almost do more harm than good! You have to keep that healthy perspective and keep your priorities in place...first things first and that is the spiritual, eternal view!
I did some research and was very intrigued when I read about the origin of the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny is to Easter what Santa Claus is to Christmas...both bringing goodies and treats to the homes of children. The Easter Bunny has roots that go back to pre-Christian, Anglo-Saxon history. The holiday was originally a pagan celebration that worshiped the goddess, Eastre. She was the goddess of fertility and springtime. Her earthly symbol was the rabbit. Then, years later, when the Anglo-Saxons converted to Christianity, this pagan holiday, which occurred around the same time as Jesus' Resurrection, was combined with the Christian celebration and given the name "Easter". Because Easter is celebrated in the springtime of the year, we are drawn to think of the new birth of creatures and the beauty of creation!
Many times today, we get lost in the commercialization of this sacred and holy holiday. We must keep the truth and sacrifice of our Lord in the forefront of our minds and in our celebrations. We must teach the truth to our children...by the Living Word of God! Whether your children believe in Santa Claus or believe in the Easter Bunny is not the point! The focus in all of our homes must always be the Truth of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior!
Jesus said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26, NAS)
Here's to the journey...teach the Truth of God's Word all the way!
"Give a Lesson on Planting and Watering"
March 22, 2013
Children love to plant, water and watch seeds grow. I know our preschoolers do! Have you ever experienced that? Now that it is springtime, it is such a great time to teach the valuable lesson of how God's Word planted in the hearts of men, then, watered through prayer, reading His Word, sharing and love from other believers blooms into a new life committed to the Lord! Take time this season to teach this valuable lesson...not only about God's creation of growing and harvesting, but that lesson of His provision for His children to come to know Him!
I remember watching several of our four-year-olds as they planted grass seeds in their little cups. They covered the seeds with dirt, then watered them and placed them in the window sill so they could receive sun to grow. Every day, they watered their seeds and looked anxiously for the first sign of growth! One day, it happened...the dirt broke and the grass began to show itself! Little by little each day, the grass grew taller and stronger and finally, one day, it was at least six inches tall and the children took their cups home.
I can not miss this opportunity to share just how you, as parents, can use this little example to teach a huge spiritual lesson to your children. First, you must help them understand that only God can cause that growth...He is the Creator! Second, help them to know that God is the one who plants the seed in the hearts of His children. Those seeds are planted from His Word, from the sharing of others who know Him, and through various avenues of life that God will use. Third, the growth in the life of an individual, can not happen without water...and, what is that water? That water is Jesus...He is the Living Water...through Him a life can be added to that great Garden of Salvation where one by one, God's family grows. Fourth, the growth must also have The Son to grow...a relationship with Jesus, God's Son, day after day maturing and growing in faith!
As parents, we are held responsible for sharing Jesus with our children. Make a new commitment in your home to share that new life...and do so, with the help of the Head Gardener...Jesus, Himself! In the beauty of this season, you will have numerous occasions to share this lesson! The ground will always be barren without the seed and a garden without water and sun will not grow!
Here's to the journey...plant seeds and watch them grow!
"Love...Pass It Along!"
March 15, 2013
Is your home filled with love every day of the week? Is there genuine care and concern written on each moment of your day? I want to encourage you today to teach love, to your children, in everything you do! When your child learns how to love others, it will be one of the strongest traits in his/her life that is so easy to pass along! True, Godly love is the very essence of who we are in Christ! As a child, one of the first verses of scripture I learned was: "God is love". Love is catching! When you cast it forth into the lives of others, you are obeying the very commandment that says to love one another as Christ has loved you.
Love is cast forth into my life, on a daily basis, at the preschool. The other day, one precious four-year-old boy looked up and asked, "Mrs. Burke, when is your birthday?" I grinned and said, "Well, funny you should ask! My birthday is next week!" He grinned and put his hand on my cheek and said, "Do you love me enough to let me come to ALL of your birthday parties?" My heart melted and I replied, "Oh, I do love you enough, I just don't have birthday parties like you do any more!" You see, most of the time, children respond very naturally to being loved and to loving others. It only magnifies their ability to love when it is taught and made a part of their lives on a daily basis!
1 Corinthians 13:8 shares four points about love...
1) Love always protects. Help your child learn that every other human being is important and special to God. If God loves that person (and He does), then we are to love them, too.
2) Love always trusts. When you love someone, you are really putting yourself out there to trust them, too. Trust in the life of a child is a huge thing to learn.
3) Love always hopes. If your child learns to love others, he/she will hope in them, also. He/she will learn to want what is best for that person.
4) Love always perseveres. Love will stand the "test of time" as far as perseverance and patience goes. I learned at a very young age, that if an adult loved me, then, he/she was willing to wait on me to learn and to persevere while I learned the lesson or matured, so to speak.
Martin Luther King wrote some very strong words when he said, "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend." When your child comes up against a peer who does not want to get along with him or really dislikes him, help your child love that person into a friendship! It can happen. And, while the process is taking place, your child will learn perseverance!
Make a habit, in your home, to pass love along with everyone you meet...and most of all, your family!
Here's to the journey...love one another and pass it along!
"Love and Obedience...Hand in Hand"
March 8, 2013
Have you ever seen an unruly child? Have you ever seen a child with a rebellious attitude? Have you ever seen a parent who has totally lost it with his/her child? I know we all have. It does not take much "looking around" to see uncontrolled children and uncontrolled parents in this world today! It really is a sad picture, for God did not mean for it to be that way! The reality is that "love and obedience" go "hand in hand" like a tightly fitting glove!
The most beautiful picture of "love and obedience" is that of Jesus on the cross...obeying His Father's will and plan for humanity! It is the picture of Jesus humbling Himself as a man and being obedient to the point of death! This picture of "love and obedience" is one that should give a full example to parents and their children. It is also one that should show us the example God has given for those He calls His children! In loving and obeying God, we learn to love and obey those who are in charge of us here on earth. The parent/child relationship is the "number one" relationship that should exhibit this kind of "love and obedience". In all actuality, "love and obedience" belong together. In John 14:15 (NASB), Jesus speaks and says, "If you love ME, you will keep MY commandments". 1 John 5:3 states, "For this is the love of God, that we keep HIS commandments".
Obedience in the lives of children is crucial for many reasons and it must begin in the home. Parents, if you truly love your child/children (and I know you do), you will see to it that they obey you. Obeying you is the first step to your child obeying God. And, there are benefits to that obedience. Ephesians 6:1-3 states, "Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth". Teach your children this commandment. There is no wavering...it is very straightforward! Remind your children that the Lord takes pleasure in obedience...both to Him and to you!
As your children begin a relationship with the Lord, teach them that it is impossible to please God without obeying you, as their parents. It is a part of the Christian life. Obedience brings about discipline and discipline brings about joy! Many times, when you see unhappy children, you will see that there is very little structure and "call" for obedience in their life. Parents, let your children know you love them by requiring obedience! Be consistent with it so that your child feels confident and secure with you and with himself!
Proverbs 29:15 (HCSB) reads, "A rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a youth left to himself is a disgrace to his mother". God created the universe in an orderly fashion. He expects us to live our lives in an orderly fashion. His desire is that we raise Godly, obedient and loving children!
Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it!" What confidence, what beauty...children who obey their parents, thus, learning to obey God, the Almighty One...their Creator!
Here's to the journey...travel it with "love and obedience"!
A Heart Pleasing to God"
March 1, 2013
Have you ever just sat and observed a group of children? They have such cute little ways of relating to one another. You will see some who can easily play by themselves and as they do, you will see them pretending with the objects of their playtime. Then, there will be others who are constantly trying to get their friends to look at them and see what they are doing. They will actually try to impress and please their friends with their actions. And, there are times where they will even look over at their teacher and almost "ask" for a nod of approval. It amazes me to think that I see adults like that. As adults, we really try to do the same. Many times, even in our "grown-up" relationships, we try to please and impress one another. Why is that? Why do we think we need to impress and please others? I believe it is mainly because we feel some insecurity and we really want to be just as "good" as the person next to us. Or, maybe, we just want to keep up with the social climate around us.
As parents today, I want to suggest to you that you help your child focus on pleasing God and developing his/her own gifts and talents the Lord has given. As you parent your child/children, work on applauding them for the things that matter the most. Try to get in the habit of asking yourself if your approval will make a difference in your child's eternal perspective. Will it build Godly character? Will it develop your child's sensitivity to God and His workings in your child's life? Will the things you teach help him/her learn to love others and want to have a sharing attitude? Will the things you teach at home and in your everyday walk give your child security in himself...so that he in turn can help others feel good about themselves?
I observed three children the other day in preschool. One was trying to get the other two's attention. He had brought a toy for "show and tell". As the other two friends kept talking and looking the other way, he could not stand it that they were not noticing him. All of a sudden he jumped up and plopped his toy right in between them, thus causing the other two to holler. He exclaimed, "Look at me!" Of course they had no other choice but to do just that. However, they were not happy about it and gave him a very disgusted look! I could only think about the fact that really that sweet little fella had not accomplished one thing but to alienate himself from those two friends. Now, I realize that so much of this is just plain old childhood stuff. However, you and I, as parents, can do one of two things. We can put our children high up on "pedestals" all the time and in praising everything they do, raise children who only want to please man! Or, we can help them understand the importance of pleasing God in everything they do. In teaching them the principles and wisdom of the Lord, we can help them recognize their gifts and abilities and through experience, help them develop a loving, giving heart! In so doing, they will have a strong desire to please God!
As the apostle Paul had endured ridicule and suffering, he continued preaching and teaching, to the church, in 1 Thessalonians. In chapter 2, verse 4, he writes, "As we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God, who examines our heats." Truly what counts in this life is that our lives please God. Then, as we please Him, others will be drawn to Him because of our faith!
Here's to the journey...please God as you go!
"A Tree Planted by the Water"
February 15, 2013
Do we raise our children to be grounded like a tree whose roots go deep? Do we raise our children to be grounded in such a way that every season of their lives will thrive? I picture a tree in the winter whose bare limbs stretch out boldly...ones which are strong, full and ready to begin the process of bearing fruit and leaves in the spring. A tree that can stand tall, in the winter, amid the hard winds, rain and even snow of the season is one who could represent a child who has been taught that trials and troubles come. Yet, when he/she is grounded, he will be able to withstand what comes his way.
The tree in the spring bursts forth with little buds and blooms of life...waiting to take in the sun, rain and temperatures that the spring brings. Its roots take in the water that the streams offer. It does not fear what may come...heat, storms, heavy rain...this tree is ready for the new life that will take its full form in summer. The child who comes into the spring of his life is ready, also, for the lessons that the new life will bring!
Then, the tree takes on summer...full color, full bloom, full foliage...the newness is there. This child is ready to learn, ready to experience...ready to take this life and grow it to its fullest...knowing that God has plans and he/she is ready...for he has taken in the nourishment of the spring that gives this new life! He does not fear the heat, for he/she knows it is a necessary element for growth! The summer of your child's life will be fulfilling for you, as parents. For during the summer of your child's life, you will learn exactly who he/she is...there you will see that child in his truest form!
The autumn will come and the color will fade...the leaves will wither away, but you will know that he/she is ready for that! You may even see your child take on new endeavors, new interests, new ways to live his/her life. However, you can trust and know that within the autumn, your child will once again look forward to the spring when he/she will once again send out his roots to be established.
Every season, every stage, of a child's life, is important. Every stage is necessary...although sometimes painful. God will ground your child by the waters whose roots are sent out to do great things in life! He will establish your child in His plan and "whatever he does prospers". (Psalm 1:3)
Our God is that Water! He is Life! He is the foundation for whom your child craves! Trust God to grow and mature your child by the Water whose roots go deep!
"He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the streams. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:8)
Here's to the journey...plant by the Water!
"Teach Your Children to Share"
February 8, 2013
It is such fun watching children interact with each other. Most of the time, they really look after their friends and want to make friends. However, there are those selfish moments and times when it is all about "me". Teaching your children to share is a fundamental part of parenting and can be hard at times. Preschoolers, especially, have the mindset of "mine" and "no, I don't want to share"! When a child is playing, just having to let a sibling or friend even "look" at his/her toy can be overwhelming and daunting. You can quickly see this when you are observing a group of children. It is a natural instinct for all of us...we are born that way. Some children will learn to share sooner than others. Whichever way it happens, it has to be a part of every parent's "parenting" and must be taught consistently. It is important to work on this character trait early in life, so that it will not get "out of hand".
There are several things to consider when trying to train your child to share.
- Model good "sharing" behavior in your home. For example, let your child see you share things that are important to you...your cell phone, your Bible, a magazine/book, etc.
- Create opportunities for your child to share when he/she is in a group like a play date.
- Take advantage of the support systems you have at your fingertips...teachers in school, teachers and leaders in church and extended family members. Allow them to help you.
- Be sure you know exactly how you will handle your child with discipline if he rebels against sharing. At the same time, award his good behavior when he shares with love.
The more experiences you have to teach sharing, the better!
We all know that the best model of a person who shared is Jesus. He gave the perfect example to show us how to love...and love is sharing! Hebrews 13:16 says, "Do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased."
It is also a wonderful trait to teach our children that there are many in need in this world today! To teach them to have a benevolent spirit will go with them throughout their lives. In Acts, chapter 2, Paul teaches this principle as he writes, "They began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need".
Loving and sharing children will be admired by all who know them! It is a beautiful character trait! And, remember, parents, that goes for adults, as well. Let us all be devoted to loving and sharing with others...at all times!
Here's to the journey...share it along the way!
"Are You in a Battle With Your Children?"
February 1, 2013
As long as Christians live on this earth, there will be a battle that Satan is trying to win! As long as your children live under your roof, Satan will try to win their souls and their wills for his pleasure! I want you to know that you can win that battle! You can win as a parent and as a child of God! Your children are gifts from God given to you to raise in a Godly home and by Godly principles! So, why do some of you constantly battle your children?
First, your children must learn, at an early age, that you are in the position of parenting them and that God has given you that wonderful privilege. You must establish a "love" relationship with them, but, also an authoritative one. When a child realizes his/her parents expect obedience and respect in all things, he/she will come to know "love" in the truest form! For, that is how God established the parental relationship! Don't you think God, as our heavenly Father, expects that from His children? "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord!" (Colossians 3:21)
Second, you must establish boundaries for your children that they can follow. Help them to understand those boundaries and know the consequences if they do not follow them. In obedience, there is security for your child! And, in that security, there is joy for your child! He/she will grow into a positive young man or woman when they are taught to obey, respect and follow the guidelines. For, even as adults, they will have guidelines and rules to follow!
Third, as your children get older, give them responsibilities that will help them understand your responsibilities! As they come to understand these responsibilities, it will help them mature and respect you more and more! When they succeed in this area, their self-esteem will grow and grow!
The bottom line is this, parents...you are the parent and your children are just that...children! It is up to you to keep the line of authority in place as God has ordered it to be!! I always smile and my heart feels great joy when I recognize that a child has learned to love, respect and obey his/her parents! You can always tell!
Remember, the battle is the Lord's and it is up to you to trust Him with your child! Do not allow Satan to have a foothold in your home! Stay in God's Word and teach your children His Word! Pray with your children every day! For, in prayer, there is great confidence and security in the Lord!
Here's to the journey...do not give Satan a chance to steal your child!
"The Bare Necessities"
January 25, 2013
"The Jungle Book", produced in 1967, is one of my favorite movies that Walt Disney created. It has so many life lessons which the story teaches. It is also full of great music, which you know I like. Probably my favorite character, in the whole movie, is Baloo, the big, clumsy brown bear who takes a liking to Mowgli, the young orphan boy who had been found, by a band of monkeys, deep in the dark jungles of India. Baloo tries to keep Mowgli to himself and works hard at showing Mowgli the fun of having a care-free life! In thinking about this character, Baloo, I have considered that thought myself..."living a care-free life". I know he was an animal in that jungle and I know he was a fictitious character, however, I really liked him in that story. I am wondering how and why we let ourselves get so worried and anxious with this life that we hardly ever have those care-free moments. Have you ever thought about how your 24 hours are spent each day? Have you ever tried to just have a few minutes of care-free time away from the worries and anxieties of the day?
Many of our worries and anxieties come from a feeling of not being able to make it financially or whether or not we can provide for our family's needs. In this world today, there are a lot of uncertainties...jobs, careers, education for your children, keeping up with society...all of these things can really make you anxious. When our children see us in this frame of mind or feel anxious about their own parents, they have a hard time "just being kids".
My husband and I tried to raise our children in such a way that they would not want everything they saw or everything their friends had. We tried to parent with a perspective of meeting their needs and honoring their achievements along the way. When making decisions about those needs, we always considered how we could help build their character and how we could help them keep perspective even in their own desires. I do not believe that any parent ever wants to disappoint their children. However, I do believe that parents need to have the strength to say "no" when the "wants and desires" are just that..."wants and desires".
I believe children should learn to work for those things that fall under the "frivolous and unnecessary" wants. Help your children learn the value of hard work and the value of a budget. When your child wants a certain toy, game or expensive object, show him/her how to work for it. When he/she reaches their goal, the sense of being responsible increases in their life and you are able to see maturity taking hold!
We tried to encourage our children to have "care-free" moments in their day! Laughter was a huge part of our home. When problems arose, we always talked it out, prayed about it, tried to find a solution and then, hopefully, laughed about it and put it behind us. As far as the spiritual teachings of worry and anxiety...well, those aspects seemed to really take hold. If a solution did not come quickly or if there was uncertainty about the problem, our whole family could not wait to see how God would work! In those times, teaching about trusting God really came to the forefront!
You may remember the song Baloo made popular from "The Jungle Book". It is titled, "The Bare Necessities". It is what I call a "catchy" tune with a "catchy" rhythm. However, what I liked the most about this song are the words.
"Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities;
Forget about your worries and your strife.
I mean the bare necessities...Old Mother Nature's recipes that bring the bare necessities of life."
The lesson of this song teaches me that there is nothing wrong with the "bare necessities" of life. We think we have to have it all! We worry when we don't have what others have! We get anxious if we think our children are not going to have certain friends if they don't look a certain way! Listen parents...first, be concerned about their spiritual welfare and help them have those care-free, happy moments in life! Be satisfied with just the bare necessities! Teach your children to let the Lord take care of those necessities! And, let your children be children!
"And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)
"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And, which of you being anxious can add a single cubit to your life's span?" "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:26, 27, 33, 34)
Here's to the journey...the "bare necessities" will come to you!
January 19, 2013
Several weeks before Christmas and all the way up to Christmas Day, I noticed young people, and even some adults, wearing t-shirts that said, "Believe". Those shirts really caught my eye and really penetrated my heart! The fun and imaginable tradition of believing in Santa is definitely a part of childhood that I "believe" in! However, I do feel, as parents, we need to keep it in perspective and be sure that our main focus is still the celebration of Jesus' birth. It really got me to thinking though. What are those things we truly believe in? What are the things in life that we want our children to believe in?
Even though there are numerous principles and family customs in which you will train your child to believe in, I feel strongly that there are two beliefs that will make the difference in your child's life.
1) You must show your child/children the way of the Lord! You must instill the values and principles that are put forth in God's Word. Your child must be presented the Gospel and the way of salvation! In this cold, dark world, no man, no woman, no child will be able to live the abundant life without accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior of their life! We all need a Savior and there is only one...the Almighty Son of God, our Maker and Creator! Acts 16:31 states: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household."
2) Help your children believe in themselves! Encourage your children. Show them that trusting love that will build self-esteem. When the time comes, expect your children to step out on their own. Let your children see that you have great expectations for their lives! If you constantly nag and tear your children down, they will grow up with negative attitudes and feelings about themselves. Be positive and be accepting! Famous American basketball coach, Jim Valvano, once said, "My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me."
Life has its ups and downs as we all know! However, you and your children can conquer those trials and adversities with the Lord! And, when those joys come your way, be ready to celebrate!! Just think about it...when your children reach that age when they are adults and out on their own, imagine them wearing a t-shirt that says "Believe". Then, you can know you have accomplished your job as a successful parent because they believe in Jesus and believe in themselves!
Here's to the journey...only believe!!
"Let Us Go into the House of the Lord"
January 11, 2013
"I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord'." (Psalm 122:1, KJV)
As a young child, my mother and father were very diligent about our family attending church on a regular basis...in fact, every Sunday. One of the Ten Commandments expresses that command from God..."Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy!" (Exodus 20:8). From the convictions and love in my parents' hearts, we lived by the commands and guidelines of God's Word. I am very thankful for that! As an adult, I realize more and more that God's Word is alive and very relevant today!
God makes it very clear, in the scriptures, that we, as humans, need to assemble together in worship and in fellowship with one another! He also makes the mission of the church very clear! It has been through the ministry of the church, that I have found faithful friends, godly, loving prayer warriors and even, diligent, strong leaders and mentors for my life! Through joyful times and sad, hard times, the people of God's church have been there!
Parents, I want to encourage you and remind you today! Your child needs a church home! He/she needs a haven "away from home" where he/she can feel safe and secure in the love of God's people. You and your family need to bond with the fellowship of believers and experience corporate worship. We are blessed to have so many congregations where we can choose a place where we feel comfortable. However, that should not be the first priority in finding a church home. Be diligent and careful to know what that congregation believes and if they follow God's Word, preach it and teach it! Let the Lord lead you to that place! Be sure that the children and youth leaders are sound, godly men and women. Be sure the church believes in prayer, evangelism and missions. Be sure there is an atmosphere and attitude of "uplifting" worship! Then, make that commitment to be in God's house...regularly! Your child needs that consistency!
It will be exciting for you to watch your family grow in the Lord! You will be thankful for the friendships your children will make...that can last a lifetime! And, remember, the church is not perfect...people are not perfect! However, it sure is great to know that there are those who really desire to know God and experience Him through weekly praise and worship!
By the way, the verse I referenced above was a sweet, little primary song I learned as a five-year-old...and, guess what? I can still sing it today!!! "I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord'."
Here's to the journey...make that journey to the house of the Lord!
"Making the Most of Serving the Lord"
January 4, 2013
In light of all we hear and see, in the news these days, and in light of this new year, I feel an urgency to really get busy serving the Lord...I feel this more than ever it seems! I have always wanted my life to count for Christ! I have always wanted to know He was calling me to be where I am! Yet, even in the midst of this knowledge of His will and calling, I have this strong urging and desire to do more! I have been encouraged in recent months as I have seen younger children taking part in service projects and seeming to "really care" about other human beings. I believe that we must continually encourage our children to get involved. We must help them learn to care more about others than themselves.
How can we turn our homes into "mission stops"? How can we help the world know we care and that we are willing to do something about it? I believe we must begin with the simple, little tasks that are put before us each day. I know that if you begin asking your children if he/she knows someone with needs, he/she will immediately reply, "Yes, I do!" With that reply, you are given an open door to find out who has those needs and the extent of their needs. I believe that if your child has noticed, then, he/she will want to do something about it! God has a way of showing us where we can serve by allowing our eyes to see and our ears to hear. And, parents, if you ask the Lord, He will give you the discernment to know how to help!
Mother Teresa once said, "God will not ask how many books you have read; how many miracles you have worked; He will ask if you have done your best, for the love of Him!" Begin today...ask yourself..."What is my best?"..."How can I make a difference?"..."How can I teach my children to be servants of God?" One of the best ways to teach your children this truth is for them to "catch you" serving!
When Jesus was speaking to His disciples in Matthew 25, He speaks to them about the Judgment and says, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you". Then, Jesus speaks of how these have entered in..."For, I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me." The disciples then asked Jesus when and how did they see Him in these situations. He answered to them, "Truly, I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me!" Parents, it can not be any clearer!
Romans 12:11 says it well, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality".
Oh, by the way, if you are wondering about the definition of a "mission stop"...well, it is a home full of love with an open door for service...serving God through every endeavor!
Here's to the journey...let's serve together throughout this New Year!
"Believing the Impossible?"
December 29, 2012
We have just celebrated a beautiful, holy season where, in Christmas, we believe in the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, through a virgin girl named Mary. This story is told, through the announcement of the angel to Mary, in Luke, chapter 1. Mary even questions this angel as to "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel then tells Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth, has conceived and will bare a child, in her "old age". The angel's reply to Mary is one of my favorite verses in the Bible and one of the most powerful ones..."For nothing will be impossible with God!" (Luke 1:37) What a beautiful statement! If only we, as God's children, would believe in the impossible! Even though, for over 700 years, Old Testament prophecies foretold of this birth and the coming of The Messiah, many still could not believe it!
As parents, we must lead our children to have a healthy belief in the "impossible" which comes from God! If you read and study God's Word, you will find example after example of God's power perfecting that belief! I feel very strongly that we, as God's children, do not take advantage of the total power that God offers us. We do not step out of our comfort zones to trust that through God it can happen. The Bible talks about faith over and over! The story is told of the disciples bringing a man to Jesus who had a demon-possessed son. The disciples could not heal him because of their disbelief in the power they possessed through Jesus. When the disciples asked Jesus why they could not drive out the demon, Jesus chastised them in Matthew 17:20 saying, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there', and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you!"
I have wondered many times just how strong our children would be if we encouraged them daily, built them up and prayed over them with the authority God gives us! What if we were all about that positive attitude of "You can do it!"? Even when we might question their dreams and ambitions, what if we helped them believe in themselves? What if we at least let them try? What if we did not say "no" every time they wanted to do something that was just a "little bit out on a limb"? What if we gave them room to grow and really know themselves? What if we found ourselves saying, "I know you can! Go, child, go!"? What if we were the best cheerleader for our own children? Remember the story of Thomas, the Train, who did not think he could? "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can"...and finally he did!
I want to encourage you to take on some fresh and new feelings for this coming year! First, believe wholly in the life-changing power of God. Secondly, know what His Word says about this power and the faith that comes from seeing the impossible become possible! Third, believe in your children...pray daily that they will have a positive attitude and that their faith will grow...and give them that room to grow! I am convinced that the positive power of God and the power of parenting with this positive power can make a difference with our children, thus, making a difference in this hard, cold, negative world!
"For with God, nothing shall be impossible!" (Acts 9:1)
Here's to the journey...believe in the impossible...believe in God and believe in your children!
"O Little Town of Bethlehem"
December 21, 2012
"O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by;
Yet, in thy dark streets shineth, The Everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years, are met in thee tonight!"
When I hear the name "Bethlehem", I instantly think of Baby Jesus and the night He was born. As the people were coming to Bethlehem, to pay their taxes, and the town was busy and noisy, I believe there was still a quietness and stillness that the words in this song represent. Even though the stable was noisy with the sounds of all the animals, I believe there was a reverence in the air as The King was born! I believe the stars twinkled above with a clearness and beauty of no other night! I believe the song the angels sang was triumphant and bold! In fact, I see a city much like our own, yet, without the beauty of The King, The Savior whom we fail to recognize. Why don't we recognize Him...why don't we sense His presence all around?
When Jesus was born that beautiful, holy night, I believe His presence was known. I believe that city was never the same! I believe that when the sun rose the next morning, there was a feeling of Hope that could be felt, if only...if only...if only those in Bethlehem would take notice! How sad it is that we don't, as they didn't, take notice!
I have always wanted my children to take note of their mom...not only for my values, not only for my ethics, not only for the lessons I have tried to teach them. I have wanted them to take notice of my faith...my beliefs...my convictions! Prayer and Bible study have always been very common and "at home" in our home! I believe that the best way for your children to learn of and know your faith is for you to live it, ever-presently, before them! They must see a faith that takes life...one that is not fake and one that is truly "believable"!
How about you? How about your home? Is your faith "believable"? Is God's presence known? Do you live your faith before your children? Our world is in a such a state of ungodliness! It is in a state of such trouble, such fear! How will our children survive it? To whom will they turn when their troubles get out of control or their trials become too hard to handle? As they get older and more mature, will they look back and see the quiet reverence of "Bethlehem" in the place they call home? Or, will they see the noisiness and hustle and bustle of the world there?
I encourage you, as parents, today, to find some quiet solitude for your family! During this beautiful season of celebration, find some restful, quiet moments to spend with your Savior and Lord! You may want to gather your family together and talk about how God has blessed you. You may want to let your children give testimony to the wonderful things they know He has done in their lives! You might be surprised at how, even, young children know of God's wonderous works!
"O holy Child of Bethlehem! Descend on us, we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today!
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!"
"Be still and know that I am GOD!" Psalm 46:10
Here's to the journey...He is Emmanuel...God with us!
"Who is This Christ?"
December 14, 2012
In the aftermath of a terribly tragic school shooting and being the director of a wonderful preschool, I have found myself feeling so heartbroken tonight! I know that it is only by the grace of God, that we work and teach, protected, each day! All afternoon, in my mind, I have seen the faces of the boys and girls who attend Liberty Pals and I have felt so blessed. So blessed to be a part of such a family of teachers and students. So blessed to be able to share my faith with all of them on a daily basis. So blessed to be a part of Almighty God's divine plan. Yet, I know there are many who do not know this Christ. There are possibly many of those parents in Newtown, Connecticut, tonight, who do not know Him! And, being this time of year, this season when we celebrate the birth of the One and Only Son of God...the One and Only Way to Salvation and Eternal Life...I know I must share His message with a fervency and an urgency that will make a difference in this sinful world.
So, who is this Christ? Who is this Baby we see in a manger in our homes, in our churches, on the shelves in the stores...who is He? Who is this Christ whom we see on a cross at Easter? Who is He whom they say rose from the dead and lives today as a Risen Savior? He is Peace, He is Rest, He is Comfort, He is Eternal Life...He is Salvation. Salvation from this world of sin, salvation from the depth of hell, itself! When all else fails, He is there! When the darkness seems more than you can stand...He is there! When death knocks, unannounced, on your door, as it did today for those parents in Connecticut...He is there! When you have question after question and do not understand...He is there...when you can not see His Hand...trust His plan, for, He is there!
I say strongly to you, parents, today...do not risk your child not knowing Him! Do not be so consumed with life and with this season of gifts and parties, that you do not recognize Him as the Child in the manger...as the Man on the cross. We can not protect our children from this world, but, we can give them a foundation of faith so that they can stand up to the trials and tribulations they will face! No matter how diligently you try to protect and hide your children from danger, they must learn how to persevere. And, the only way they can survive this world is knowing Christ and knowing He has a plan for all eternity!
Look at the manger today! Look at the cross! Neither one of those events in history can stand without the other! For God's plan began before Jesus was born. He held the world in His Hand and still does today! As you look at both of those historic events, don't neglect to see the Risen Savior...the One who holds your future...the One who knows you like no other! For, it is there, you will find life! Take time to know Him! Take time to recognize Him as the only Salvation! Take time to share His message with your children! He is the only Way!
Here's to the journey...He is the Christ!
"Come On Christmas!"
December 7, 2012
I just found this fabulous new Christmas song titled, "Come On Christmas", sung by Matthew West. WOW, it is so much fun! Ed and I even found ourselves rocking out in the car as we played the CD. The words portray the "waiting" for Christmas and how he has anticipated it since July and never even took his lights down! He sings of the reindeer and how he hopes they don't get lost! It is already a huge favorite of mine and I will probably play the CD numerous times this season! It did get me to thinking, though. Do we all have that anticipation when Christmas is just around the corner? Do we thrill when we hear the beautiful carols and see the glimmering lights all around the town? Do we stand in awe when we see the Nativity scenes with Baby Jesus at the center? Do we get those goose bumps when we hear that classic song, "O Holy Night"? Do we get excited when we think of our children and how their eyes light up as they anticipate Old Saint Nick? Oh, I hope we do!
The children at the preschool have already been talking about Santa and about those cute little elves that invade their homes on December 1. Who would have ever thought little elves would become so popular? Every time one of these little preschoolers talks to me about this magical season, I get this feeling of joy that just wants to burst forth! I love to hear their stories and see their expressions! The cutest, sweetest thing happened in Mrs. Lindsey's class this week. Her class had talked about Noah and the ark for the entire month of November. As she transitioned to Christmas and the month of December this week, she asked the children to look at the manger scene and the baby. She asked, "Now, boys and girls, who is that baby?" And, just as innocently as they could be, several of them shouted, "Baby Noah!" Oh my! How precious!!
I can not help but think about that gorgeous carol, "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus", which presents yet another longing of Christmas! I believe this longing is one of the heart. For even as much fun as we have with Santa, gifts, reindeer, decorations...we have a deeper longing! The one for a Savior! The Messiah was promised for over 700 years before His birth. The people looked for Him and longed for Him! He was to be the One who would make the difference in their lives. He would be the One who would take away the bondage of sin and wrong! And, even little children who do not yet know of this Savior have a longing in their hearts that can not be filled until they know Him...until they experience the love of such a Savior!
When Jesus was sharing with the woman at the well in John 4, she said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming, He who is called Christ; when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you, am He!" Even in the Old Testament of God's Word (Isaiah 9:2 and 6), He is promised, "The people who walk in darkness, will see a great light." "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."
So, as you long for Christmas, take time to access your feelings and realize that your deepest longing is for Jesus, The Messiah, the "long-awaited" One!
"Come, Thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free!
From our fears and sins release us! Let us find our rest in Thee."
Here's to the journey...Come on Christmas, now!
"...and a Little Child Shall Lead Them"
November 30, 2012
At what time in a person's life does "influence" begin? Influence of others on one or one's influence on others? At what point does the world press its influence on one...whether child or adult? How are we led through life? Why does God choose to use certain influences on our lives to mold us more than others? These are questions that I really do not know exact answers for. However, I do know that my life has been influenced by many people over the years...my parents, my siblings, leaders, teachers, pastors and even, children! Yes, for 37 years I have worked closely with children through the ministry God has called me to. And, yes, they have led me!
I have seen countless examples of children leading children and even, children leading adults. Have you ever known of a child who actually led his own parents to the Lord? I have seen children lead their friends to do wrong. I have seen children lead their peers to share the joy of giving. I have seen children even lead adults to make decisions they would otherwise have not even considered. If you ever get a group of 10 to 12 children or more to agree on one thing they really want, you will have a hard time changing their minds! I have seen it over and over!
So, how is it that we, at this beautiful time of year, can not seem to see The Child who led the world to know the Messiah? It was prophesied in Isaiah 11:6 that "a little child shall lead them". This was the Promised Messiah who would bring love, peace and forgiveness to mankind. This was The Child who would reign with glory and majesty! Yet, we choose not to recognize or remember! How can it be? How can we be so blind? Even Moses was led by a child. His sister, Miriam, saved her brother and made sure he went to live with Pharaoh, so that one day, God could use him to "set His people free"!
Through The Child, Jesus, we were brought out of darkness to see a great Light! (Isaiah 9:2) Our gloom was turned to joy! God's beautiful plan brought this Child to the world to walk and live as a man, so that we would have that influence...the One and Only influence that would make any difference in our lives...the influence of the One and Only Son of God!
The three-year-old class was in music with me the other day. We were singing "Away in a Manger" and watching a Nativity scene where Jesus was in the manger. I announced, "Ok, boys and girls, watch for Baby Jesus!" As soon as I said it, one precious little girl looked up and said, in the sweetest, most innocent little voice, "He's in my heart, Mrs. Burke! And, Mommy and Daddy, too!" Well, I was speechless and once again, I knew, my life had been led...by many precious, innocent, unassuming little ones! Ones whose hearts have not been tarnished by sin, hate and the ugliness of the world. Ones who love with the same love that The Child, Jesus, loved...many, many years ago on that starry, holy night when He was born!
My life has been changed by "little children"! They bring love, joy, innocence, free spirits...a leading so loving that it could bring even the hardest soul to the Lord! I have been led by them! I have lived my life so that they would know Him! And, yes, I have been led...by the only Child who could save the world...His name is Jesus!
"For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!" Isaiah 9:6
Here's to the journey...hold hands with the Little Child...let Him lead!
"Time for Thanks-giving?"
November 26, 2012
I have wondered many times how God must feel when His children ignore His blessings and neglect saying "thank You". He has blessed us with so many gifts......beautiful gifts, perfect gits...gifts of bounty, gifts of love, gifts of nature, gifts of family and friends. The list could go on and on. Yet, many times, we do not stop to say "thank You"! Instead, we race around in our own little worlds, on our own timetables, and never have time to "stop and smell the roses" and to simply say "Thank You, God! You are so good!" If we, as adults, as parents, do not model "thanks-giving", how will our children learn the absolute necessity of the abundant giving of thanks?
I would like to remind you of a beautiful story found in Luke 17, of God's Word, when Jesus cleansed ten lepers. They were ecstatic, they were amazed..."this" Jesus had made them whole again. He had cleansed them of that dreadful disease. Yet, do you remember how the story is told? Only one of those ten turned back to thank Jesus! In fact, he fell at Jesus' feet with love and adoration, recognizing the Giver of that wonderful blessing! How many times do we neglect to recognize Jesus? How often will we speak of giving back to Him in thanks? Will we teach our children the generous spirit of "thanks-giving"?
I found out, many years ago, that in my life, having a grateful, thankful heart molds my attitudes, mends my hard feelings toward others and causes me to bow before Almighty God, my Maker, with a humble heart! Will you consistently remind and teach your children the gracious art of "thanks-giving"? Teaching the simple etiquette of saying "thank you" can make a huge difference in this cause for "thanks-giving"! Remember to remind them, not only to thank God every day, but, to also thank others whose paths they may cross. Make it a practice to thank Him all the time...even for the little things! A thankful heart goes a long way! I promise you, it will be worth the effort!
"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God through Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Here's to the journey...the road of thankfulness is a beautiful thing!
"That's a Church Song!"
November 16, 2012
It has been an extremely busy week...our women's ministry "Christmas in November", Wednesday night activities, and then, two days of the preschool "Thanksgiving Feast"! WOW, so busy, lots to do, lots to think about...yet, so many blessings! In the midst of all of this "busyness", I have sought to keep myself encouraged and thankful! I have found that with a thankful heart, you can really keep your head above the craziness and keep your heart warm and safe! It seems that every time I almost have a down moment, some precious child comes up and gives a hug or a smile, and gets me right back on track!
Several months ago, as I began teaching the children the songs for the "Thanksgiving Feast", I was reminded of how much they love to praise God and give thanks! If you want to be reminded of God's thankfulness, just ask a child what he/she is thankful for! It is astounding how they find thankfulness in the smallest details of life! One of my favorite hymns of thankfulness is "For the Beauty of the Earth". It has such a beautiful melody with such demonstrative words. I asked myself, "I wonder if the four-year-olds could learn the first verse of that hymn? It sure would be pretty at the feast!" So, we began line by line learning the words and the tune. The first time I played the tune, several of the four-year-olds hollered out, "That's a church song!" To which I quickly replied, "Yes, it is! You have heard it in church!" We worked, for weeks, on that hymn and every time we sang it, at least one child hollered out, "That's a church song!" I was very encouraged, for not only does that mean that they are in church on a regular basis, but it also means they really like that song! And, they sang it with such beauty and such meaning!
"For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies.
For the love which from our birth, over and around us lies.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise!"
I would like to encourage you to be sure you and your family have a church home...a place where believers meet to worship, serve God and joyfully fellowship together! A place where your children will "feel at home" to worship and a place where they will "want" to be! Make worship a consistent practice in your home and lift up the name of Jesus every day with them! Churches are not perfect and the people there are not perfect, but every child needs that opportunity to learn about the church and be a part of its ministry. God calls us to worship and gather together in His name!
As you celebrate this season of Thanksgiving, remember to praise God, worship and focus on the blessings that He so abundantly bestows on us all! Give your children a chance to voice their praise and thanks! Make it a time of remembrance, of memories that will last!
Most of all, remember the verse David proclaimed in Psalm 92:1. There is such truth..."It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises to Thy name, O Most High!"
Here's to the journey...live it with a thankful heart!
"Life's Adventures and Surprises"
November 11, 2012
Life is so full of adventures and surprises...sometimes exciting, sometimes sad and sometimes just totally shocking! And, are we ever ready for them? No, many of them we are not! And, there will be times when there is no way we can be prepared! How do we try to prepare ourselves and our children for those times that come out of the "blue"...from nowhere? How do we prepare our children for those times that will literally just about "knock them off their feet"? This week, we, as a nation, have faced a very serious shock...the re-election of a president who most of us believe needed to be voted out of office. However, in the days closely afterwards, we have come to realize that, if we have a strong faith in God, the Almighty, we know His plan is best and sometimes He allows these things to come to pass to use them to further His kingdom. In our family, we found out yesterday that our 15 year-old lab, Bridget, is very sick and will either pass away or have to be put to sleep within two weeks. A precious pet loved by all of the family and our daughter's only dog to ever name...Bridget came to us at 8 weeks-old. How do you prepare for these things?
First of all, I believe that you should always be very open with your children...sharing daily in your home and making sure that your children feel a part of the "goings on" within the home. Certainly, there will be topics and serious matters that a child, at specific ages, can not handle. However, you would be surprised at how important you can make your child feel just by sharing and talking about "life itself"!
Secondly, prepare your child by consistent prayer and the use of God's Word. Every child needs the foundations of a Christian faith! Learning the simple truth of "For nothing will be impossible with God." (Luke 1:37), gives them an understanding that "With God, all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26) This verse builds courage and boldness in your child to know that God is always there "pulling for them" and always "on their side". Encourage your child using this principle by praying for them and with them each day!
Third, use adventures, shocking news and challenges in life to teach them that God has a plan and His ways are best and perfect. Show them how to pray for His will and His divine plan for their life. Then, when they have a hard time understanding or they ask the question "why", help them commit Romans 8:28 to their heart's understanding and encourage them to trust God with all things. "For, we know that all things work together for good, to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose."
Fourth, teach your children that God has a time for everything and His timing is perfect...no matter what! Ecclesiastes 3:1 states, "To every thing there is a season." The New American Standard translation uses the phrase "appointed time". The chapter goes on to list times for everything. Then, verse 11 states, "He has made everything beautiful (appropriate) in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart!"
Shielding your child from the truths of life only makes a child fearful and many times have distrust in his/her heart. If you spend time with God yourself, He will direct you and He will prompt you as to when your child needs that understanding! Take God's Word, share it and take the time to talk to your children! You will be glad you did!
Here's to the journey...one day at a time!
"From the Rising of the Sun"
November 2, 2012
The Lord speaks in Malachi 1:11, "From the rising of the sun, even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations."
God provides so many blessings for us in His beautiful creation. There are so many details that blend so perfectly together as the world revolves. We were on our way home from a trip to Arkansas last Saturday evening (which is the reason I did not have a blog post last Friday), and I noticed the sun going down on one side of the highway and the moon slowly coming into sight on the other side. I even remarked to Ed how amazing that is! And, if you take a moment to really think about that, you will realize the perfect picture of God's love that is there. There is such a constant there reminding us that He is always there. He never leaves us or forsakes us.
I hope that you, as a parent, have chances every day to share the love of God with your children. I hope that it is part of your daily conversation and that you take every opportunity to tell them just how much God loves them! Paul writes of this deep love of the Lord in Romans 8:38, "For, I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord."
Also, remind your children that God never changes...He is always God and always the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow! God speaks in Malachi 3:6 and says, "For, I, the Lord, do not change." No matter what we do, no matter what our attitudes display, no matter what we put before Him as other gods, He is God and will never change...neither His character nor His love!
Through the years of children's ministry that God has so blessed me with, I have seen lonely children and those who feel like they don't "have a friend in the world". Every time I see a child or young person with this kind of disposition or fear, I always remind them that God will constantly be by their side. When your child faces failure, opposition about his/her convictions, trials, testing, even "put downs" from friends, be sure he/she knows that God will never leave him and that God is always there. The love of God soothes the angry, calms the confused, bring light to the dark, befriends the friendless and saves the sinner! Oh, that we all might know Him and the love He bestows so freely. Proverbs 8:17 catches the very heart of God, "I love those who love Me, and, those who diligently seek Me, will find Me."
Here's to the journey...God is always there...loving, teaching, listening!
"Did You Hear Me? Are You Listening?"
October 19, 2012
Have you ever been in a home where the parents did not require obedience of their children? Have you ever been in a classroom of young children and the teacher had trouble with certain children obeying? Have you experienced a parent in a store who could not get his/her child to obey? Have you seen "grown-up" children who have no respect for authority? Well, I sure have and I know you have, too. And, how sad that is! I would have to say that a large part of the population of America has no regard for authority. It shows up in our schools, in our government and in our prisons. I have strong convictions about the fact that our prisons are full of "grown-up" and yet, some "still young", human beings who never learned to obey authority. Parents, your children must learn to obey! There are so many "good" reasons a child must learn to obey. You and I know that. And, most important of all, God's Word says so.
Today, I would like to list for you 6 reasons children must learn to respect authority.
1) Authority is ordained by God. Fathers must take the role and responsibility of being "head" of the home and the family must respect that. "Now, I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." 1 Corinthians 11:3 "Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching." Proverbs 1:8
2) Respect for authority, in the home, produces cooperation and organization. Confusion and chaos have no place in the home when respect is there. Many problems arise when no one knows who's boss! "Now, He went down to Nazareth, with them (His parents), and was obedient to them. But, His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And, Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man." Luke 2:51-52
3) Respect for authority allows children to benefit and gain from their parents' wisdom and experience in life.`
4) Learning to respect authority molds your child's character, habits and lifestyle. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn (depart) from it." Proverbs 22:6
5) Proper respect for parental authority teaches children the proper attitude toward ALL authority.
6) Most importantly, teaching your children to respect you, as their parents, will teach them that God is the ultimate authority! It will teach them to love and respect God, their Maker, Creator and Lord! They will learn to answer when He calls and know He cares about them!
So, how many times a day do you have to ask "Are you listening? Did you hear me? Who's in charge here?" Let me encourage you to begin today...sit your family down and go over the rules of the house, and give them the "whole scoop" about authority! You will be much more at peace in your home and guess what? Your children will love you for it!
Here's to the journey...authority rules!
October 14, 2012
Heartitude...now that's a new one! I am sure that is not even a word. However, I really like it. If I were Webster and was giving it a definition, this would be it. "Heartitude"...an attitude that comes straight from the heart; one that is loving, unselfish, generous and full of humility. In fact, that is an attitude that I hope would describe my heart and the heart attitudes of my children. So, how do our children learn heartitude? How can we teach them the traits of one whose attitude reflects Jesus?
I love to watch the children at the preschool. It is especially fun to watch them when they do not know I am peeking! I see so many wonderful deeds. Most folks really want to picture little ones as being selfish when it comes to sharing toys and helping one another...and they do have those moments occasionally. However, frequently, I see a different picture. Many times, I see a child giving his toy to his friend. I see a child hugging one who is sad. I see children rushing to help their teachers. In fact, when I teach a music class, there are always several who want to help give out rhythm sticks or help me with the CD player.
Our homes must be homes that are generously filled with love and sharing. And, we must help our children face each day with positive attitudes of hope and rejoicing! Be sure to model these attitudes before your children and give opportunities for them to thrive in generosity and sharing. As these traits are established in our homes and thus, in the lives of our children, we will produce individuals who are thoughtful, gentle, honest in spirit, and servant-hearted. As we teach our children, let's have an open mind and heart, not only toward home, but, also for all people. God's plan encompasses everyone...every nation...every race...all cultures. His message is unprejudiced and unlimited!
Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regarding one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."
Here's to the journey...straight from the heart!
"Two Masters or One?"
October 5, 2012
"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You can not serve God and man." Matthew 6:24
As I thought about that verse this morning, I could not help but think about a dog and his master. Can you imagine how confused a dog would be if he tried to obey two masters? He would constantly be trying to obey one and then, the other. And, he would be so confused with the commands which were being given him..."sitting" with one, "shaking" with the other...running from side to side. How about you? How about your children? Imagine if you were trying to raise your children with not only you, as their parents, but they also had to obey another set of parents? My, how confusing that would be! And, I will have to say that your children, and mine, would probably not have any core values or strong convictions about anything in life!
I also thought about the confusion children must feel when their own parents do not agree on how they should be raised! Have you ever seen parents who do not agree on core values and discipline for their children and all they do is fight in front of them? The household only has confusion and arguing all the time! When this happens, parents, your children will feel insecure and threatened in their daily lives. You must provide that security and peace that comes from a home that knows who is the master! I encourage you fathers to take hold of that responsibility. Ask the Lord to help you be the spiritual leader and hold those reins of high respect and authority! And, as the prophet, Joshua, proclaimed in Joshua 24:15, "Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!"
Ultimately, it is the Lord who has to be the Divine Master of ALL things! Our priorities must be ordered and we must teach our children what matters most in this life! Truly, if they see you modeling that love and respect for God, the Divine Master, they will follow and know who holds the future!
It is never too late to establish this truth in your home. However, the younger your children are when they learn it and see it modeled, the sooner their lives will follow suit with respect for authority and the master of the home...and ultimately, THE Master of their lives!
Here's to the journey...have you committed to one master?
"That Light Bulb in the Sky"
September 28, 2012
And God said, "Let there be light", and there was light. Genesis 1:3
This past Wednesday night, as we were about 30 minutes into choir rehearsal, at the church, and the lights went out! The sanctuary was totally dark, yes, very dark, indeed! There was a power problem close by. One by one, our choir members began taking out their phones to shine a little light "on the subject", so to speak. Those little lights gave off enough light so that we could see to leave and it was a beautiful sight! However, when I went outside, true beauty really "shone". I exclaimed, "Wow, it is so much brighter out here!" Then, I looked up and gazed at that gorgeous light bulb in the sky! Yes, the moon...created by our Divine Creator Himself! It was all the light I needed to see and get to my car! It was breathtaking! In my heart, I thanked God for the beauty of His creation. Not only did I thank Him for the moon, but I gave thanks for the Light that Jesus brought when He came to earth to save the souls of all mankind!
Do our lives shine each day, parents? Do we teach our children that the true light of their lives must be the Light of the Lord, Jesus? Do we share that light with others around us and witness to the world? This dark, dark world needs a Savior...and it is Jesus, the One and Only!
God knows every part of our being. He knows everything about us. Daniel 22:2 says, "He reveals the deep and hidden things, He knows what lies in the darkness and light dwells with Him." Do our children realize that God sees and knows? As we walk through daily life with our children, we must teach them that their conscience matters. We must help them know how to recognize that still, small voice of the Lord. They must know that His light will shine in their darkness.
It is the sole desire of God, our Father, that every man live in the Light. God does everything He can to keep us out of that darkness. However, the ultimate decision and choice is ours. If you, as a parent, have already given your life to Jesus as your Savior and Lord, do not stop praying and seeking wisdom until every child in your house comes to know Him. To live in the Light gives hope and peace like no other! To live in darkness clouds every part of a person's life!
Jesus said, "I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness." John 12:46
Here's to the journey...be a witness...live in THE LIGHT...let it shine, let it shine!
"A Bumblebee's Perspective"
September 21, 2013
Have you ever thought about a bumblebee? According to science, the bumblebee should really be unable to fly. Because of its size, weight, the shape of its body, extended out to its total wingspread...should make flying for this creature impossible! But, somehow, the bumblebee never studied science, he never heard it said and so, he flies! The bumblebee has a "can-do" attitude and perspective on life! Amazing that such a small creature could say so much to human beings!
Do we teach our children to have that "can-do" attitude and perspective in their daily lives? Do we help them have that kind of outlook? In watching children on a daily basis, (which by the way, is so much fun), I see all kinds of young little attitudes. Some come in and the only thing they care about is which friend sits next to them. Others come in and immediately check out their peers' "outfit "for the day'. And, yet, there are some who come in with a huge smile and just sit down with a happiness that just swells from their little bodies! What makes the difference? How can we steer our children in such a way that they will know what is most important and know the true meaning of "joy" in their lives? How can we help them have that overcoming spirit that will help them sail through this world with great hope and confidence?
You and I know the answer to that question...it has to start at home. It has to be a lifestyle of prioritizing and teaching the absolutely most important things to them...and it is not going to be "what they wear", "what sport or activity they find fun", or "what peer group they hang out with"! It is the teaching of God's principles through His Word, the Bible. We must teach them sacrificial love, joy, forgiveness, unselfish ambition, contentment, thankfulness and humility. It will also be helping them build self-esteem in knowing that even the "insurmountable" task can be possible!
Jesus said, "These things have I spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world." John 16:33
"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
The next time you see a bumblebee, talk about its perspective and that impossible thing called flying that the bumblebee does even when all of his "dynamics" work against him!
Here's to the journey...soar like the bumblebee!
"Do Our Prayers Protect Our Children?"
September 14, 2012
Do you constantly and fervently pray for your children? Do you trust God to use your prayers? Have you ever asked God, "Are you listening, Lord?" As your children get older and older, thus, facing new adventures and dangers...are you on your knees asking for God's divine protection. In the lives of my children, there have been many times when I have had to take a deep breath, swallow really hard and trust that God heard and would answer my prayers, as they were needed, in the life of each of my children. You know, when we pray, we do not know at what moment God will need to take our faith, our trust, our dependence on Him, our prayers and apply it where it is needed.
I thought about all of those thoughts this week, when our daughter was faced with a potentially dangerous situation. When I heard about her coming "face to face" with danger, I shook first, then, I cried and then, I remembered how over and over in her 23 years, I had called her name to my God and Savior for protection. In fact, her daddy said to her, when she called, "That's why I pray for you every day!" Parents, I believe, with all my heart, that God watches and listens as we pray, and then, when those moments come, uses those prayers, of that faithful, loving mom and dad, for that child's needs. We do want our children to develop faithful and mature relationships with God, but, as they are growing and maturing, the Lord expects us to pray for every area of their lives. And, parents, we must pray with unfailing perseverance and run that race with prayer...God does hear and He does answer! And, He enables us with power and strength to meet the demands that a strong, daily prayer life requires! As God's children, we have the wonderful avenue of prayer...the act which produces a dependence on Him to do His work...in a mighty way! After all, HE is GOD and there is no other!!
So, how is your prayer life? Do you call to God every day...naming your children one by one?
"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrew 11:1
"Lord, teach us to pray!" Luke 11:1
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2
So, "do our prayers protect our children?" Absolutely...a huge resounding "YES"!
Here's to the journey...do not miss a day of it...praying and seeking Almighty God!
September 8, 2012
Last night, Ed and I picked our daughter up from the airport. She is home for a weekend visit and it has been 8 and 1/2 months since she has been here. Oh, the excitement! The boys will come home today for an overnight stay and I will have all three of my children under one roof...once again! Now, moms, that is fun! We painted the kitchen and spruced up the house...all for this weekend! I even checked their rooms to be sure their favorite things were in place! Wow!
I have heard it said many times and I have said it myself..."there is nothing like coming home"! The smells and aromas from the kitchen, the loving atmosphere, the extra "TLC" you get, the family pets who greet you at the driveway...all of it represents home. I have often said to Ed, "Well, thank goodness our children want to come home. They actually love being here!" You know, a "home" doesn't just happen. It only takes a moment to establish that home...the place where love abides. But, it takes years of trust and confidence to be sure that home is protected and grounded...a place where the world can not enter...a haven where your children feel they can run when the storms of life invade. And, best of all, a place where God lives and breathes!
I would like to share some quotes from famous people who really have this idea of home in their hearts...
Best-selling poet and author, Kathleen Norris, wrote, "Peace...that was the other name for home."
The Chinese philosopher, Confucius, wrote, "The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home."
Bill Cosby warmed our hearts with his love for family and contagious humor. He put a different spin on home when he said, "Human beings are the only creatures on earth that allow their children to come home!"
Mother Teresa had so much love in her heart that she probably felt "home" everywhere she went. Her love for the poor and lowly inspired the world. And, her heart truly spoke when she said, "Love begins by taking care of the closest ones...the ones at home."
So, parents, how about your homes? Will your children run there when things get tough? Will they find trust and hope in that place they call "home"? Even now, when your children are very young, be sure "home" is home!
Here's to the journey..."there's no place like home"!
"A Peaceful America?"
August 31, 2012
Is it possible? Can we look forward to peace and rest in our country? Should we work toward peace in our homes? Should we encourage our children to make peace? I believe that the answer to all of those questions is a resounding "YES!" Certainly, we should work toward peace! If we don't, then, I believe that we are giving in to war and violence! And, there is enough of that without us giving in to it!
I guess I am just really emotional this morning. Ed and I listened to Mitt Romney's speech last night as he spoke, at the convention, and it really made me think. It made me think of those times when our families felt secure and restful...times when we felt like our children's futures would be prosperous and full! I thought about those times when we could actually turn on the TV news and hear "good" news, "positive" news, and not only heartache, crime and violence! You and I know that one thing we have always hoped for our children is that they could live peacefully in this world! We, as parents, always try to help our children with stress and with heartache! We try to shield them from evil and unrest even though it is all around us!
As I have grown and matured in my relationship with Jesus, my Savior, there is one thing I know for sure! The only way to be at peace...whether it be in our homes, outside our homes, with our families and with our peers...is to be at peace with God! There is nothing more comforting and more restful than knowing "it is well with your soul"! As we walk through this world, as we raise our children one day at a time, He will keep us at peace, if our eyes are focused on Him! He will keep us at peace if we trust Him!
Now, how do we relate that to our children? Once again, my friends, we have to live it before them! If our children can not leave a peaceful, restful home each morning as they head out to school or off to their activities...how then, will they relate to their teachers, their peers and even, their enemies...in peace, in love and without resistance and hatred? Stress and strife will only cloud their minds and hearts, thus, keeping them from having that freedom of perfect peace and love!
God desires for His children to live and thrive in peace! He is the "Prince of Peace", the "God of Love and Unity"!
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee." Isaiah 26:3
"Great peace have they who love Your law, and nothing can make them stumble." Psalm 119:165
Here's to the journey..."peace", brothers and sisters!
August 25, 2012
Are you wise with your words? Do you realize just how much power your words have in the lives of others? Jesus said, in Matthew 12:34-35, that our words are the "overflow of our heart". In other words, what we have nestled in our hearts, usually overflows through our mouths...and sometimes? Yes, sometimes, those words are very hurtful and harmful! Sometimes, those words can bring encouragement and healing, as well!
I witnessed a disturbing situation, a while back, between a mom, dad and their precious four-year-old. This little child was standing, listening and behaving very well. However, the father continued to chide him and ridicule everything this little boy did or, in this case, did not do. This father was fully expecting his child to act like an adult...using adult manners and so forth. My heart was aching for this child...for truly what was happening, right there before my eyes, was a father...quenching the spirit and childlike-attitude of his own child! And, doing so...with his words! How sad! It was almost more than I could stand!
So, parents, how do you correct this? How can you "check" yourself and your words before they become "life" and harm or hurt your child and those around you? First of all, you and I must realize the depth of our words. When we speak, we must do so with a knowledge of knowing full well that our words are serious! I believe that we all can develop the habit of learning to "think before we speak". Remember Disney's Bambi, when that sweet little fawn spoke those piercing words, "If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all!"? Now, parents, that does not mean that we are not to discipline and correct our children. It means, though, that it can be done without harming and quenching your child's spirit.
Second of all, parents, we can conquer this problem with the grace and mercy of the Lord. If we ask God, our Father, to "flavor" our words and help us build up instead of tear down...He will be right there doing just that!
I encourage you to study your words...take inventory. Think about how your words affect others, especially your spouse and children. You can know, in a second, just how your words have influenced your child...you will see it in his/her face...you can see it in their body language. A child, who has been encouraged, will have an extra spark in their step. One, who has been chastised with words that have torn him down, will slump over and walk away with a "limp".
"A wise man's heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction." Proverbs 16:23
"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24
Finally, parents, there is one thing you can know for sure...we will be held accountable for our words, on that day...the day we see our Father, face to face in eternity. Jesus spoke these words in Matthew 12:36-37, "I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."
Here's to the journey...and, a "word to the wise"!
"Will the Truth Set You Free?"
August 18, 2012
What is truth? What does it mean to be known as a "man (woman) of your word"...one who keeps to the truth? I was watching a TV show the other night and was surprised when I heard that phrase..."The truth shall set you free". I looked at Ed and remarked, "Wow, I like that!" It was actually a father speaking to his adult son encouraging him to speak the truth. You see, in this world of lies, of sin, deceit and falsehood, we must teach truth to our children and admonish them to always tell the truth. Lies and deceit only cause harm and hurt to their lives. And, if we teach this trait to them, at a young age, they will grow up strong and confident in knowing it. "Truth" is just what the word calls it to be...truth!
How then, will we teach them truth? It must come from an honest life that is lived before them...both parents, leaders and family in their lives. As your child begins a new school year, a new preschool year, I want to encourage you to talk to him/her about the truth. Your child will see truth or dishonesty and his/heart will know the difference. Show your child how to learn to recognize the truth. First, he/she must be taught what is right and what is wrong. Then, he/she will have that conviction in his heart. Go about your day talking about God's truth...as the scripture says, "Write them on their hearts...when they lie down, when they wake up". (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) Be sure that you have conversations on a daily basis about the character traits that you require your child to possess. I always found, with my children, that it was wonderful to have these conversations in the car. I always loved the mornings...as we drove to school, I would try to give them at least one little "nugget" of wisdom, one that possibly could help them that day! I would ask them questions that would prompt their thoughts and would help them be ready for that struggle or that contest that could really challenge them.
As parents today, we all know that our children will be challenged, they will be tested. Many times, it will come as a contest or, may I say, a competition that will test them to be someone they are not, or to act in a way that is not truthful or becoming to their own reputation. Your child must be ready. He/she must have that inner strength that first of all, comes from knowing God's expectations and second, comes from knowing your expectations, as his/her parents. Develop this lifestyle in your home. Let truth reign there. Remember, if you tell one lie, you have to tell another, and before you know it, a whole scheme has been woven in deceit. And, you and I know that is hard to correct. Even though truth hurts, at times, it is the only way to freedom. Remember, too, that the ultimate Truth is the Lord and He is the Only Way!
In John 8:31-32, Jesus said to the people, who believed in Him, "You are truly My disciples, if you keep obeying My teachings, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."
Here's to the journey...here's to the truth!
"Fruitful or Fruitless?"
August 10, 2012
We have three Bradford Pear trees in our front yard. The oldest one was planted about 14 years ago and is considered to be "mature" in its growth. A few years later, we decided to plant a second one and it did not do as well. Immediately after we planted it, one of our dogs, who was then a puppy, chewed on its fragile trunk until it almost died. Ed and I watched and watched as that tree tried to survive....the trunk was so scrawny! One day, we began to see a little growth...the trunk seemed sturdier and there were some little green leaves sprouting...maybe it would survive after all. A year or so later, we added a third Bradford Pear tree and it grew beautifully as the first one had. Now, these three trees are all Bradford Pear Trees, but one of them looks quite different...in fact, many of you would argue that it is not a Bradford Pear. However, when the beautiful, white, lush blooms burst forth every spring, it is quite evident that these are all the same tree. For you see, their fruit is the same!
You know, God, our Father beckons us, as His children, to mature and produce fruit. Galatians 5:22-23, 25 states it well: "But, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Verse 25 goes on to say, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." God also refers to "fruit" when it comes to our sharing the Gospel and bringing others to Him. He is the Vine and we are connected to Him. If we do not bear fruit, He will cut us off. And, the believer can not bear fruit apart from the Father. (John 15:1-4)
So, how will we teach and guide our children to produce this fruit, which will mold them into the image of Jesus and thus, develop these characteristic traits of a Godly life? All of your children will not look the same...they will have different personalities, different desires for their lives, want to focus on different activities and studies for their futures. However, their fruit should all look the same. God, in His Word, refers to fruit in different passages and uses it as a symbol of the product that is produced from either a good life or an evil one...an obedient life versus a disobedient life. Remember the "fruit of the garden"? There was one tree that produced evil fruit and Adam and Eve were not to eat from it. (Genesis 3) Then, in Exodus 23, God promises His care upon the Israelite people and, in so doing, He promised that the women would not be barren or "fruitless in the womb". He promised their life span would be long upon the land.
You see...fruit in the Christian's life is very important. It is the evidence of Godly character and also maturity in the Lord! To live a "fruitless" life, of course, would be quite unproductive I would say! As you teach these characteristics to your children, let them know that their fruit is important on God's vine! Go ahead teach them the traits...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control! You will be glad you did!
Here's to the journey...living by faith...producing fruit all the time!
"How's Your Conscience Today?"
August 3, 2012
I remember the first time I used the word "conscience" with one of my children. He had disobeyed and he knew it. I looked at him and asked, "What is your conscience saying to you?" He gave me a very bewildered look and exclaimed, "What?" I knew as soon as the word came out of my mouth that he did not know the word. So, I immediately knew this would be one of those "life" lessons! "Your conscience is that little voice inside of you that lets you know what is right or wrong. If you will be open to it, your conscience will always help you know the difference." In my heart, I also knew that one day his conscience, combined with the Holy Spirit, would guide his life! He looked at me and asked, "But, Momma, how will I know?" I replied, "Oh, son, you will know!"
As Christians, we learn very quickly that the Holy Spirit is really God's conscience in our lives! The Holy Spirit does not react or teach unless it comes from the Lord. His prompting, in our lives, will only guide us according to God's plan and wisdom. I knew that if my children could learn to follow their conscience, one day they would follow God's conscience...the Holy Spirit! Isn't it amazing how that works? I remember the Sunday morning worship service when I accepted Christ as my Savior. I was nine years old and we were singing the invitation hymn. My heart began to throb and beat...so hard that I felt as if it was coming out of my chest. Mother had taught me and my sisters about how the conscience would lead. And, that day...it was leading. I immediately stepped out and walked down the aisle to tell my pastor that I wanted to accept Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord. As soon as I accepted Jesus, my heart calmed and I felt an assurance that nothing can compare with...I had a Savior! From that day on, the Holy Spirit took my conscience and spoke to me over and over...and still does, of course. To this day, if I have done something wrong or feel strongly about something I need to say, my heart will beat unceasingly until I deal with it! God is so good to have left us with the Holy Spirit!
So how about you...how's your conscience today? How is the Holy Spirit working? Have you taught your children about their conscience and how the Holy Spirit works? After all, Webster defines the "conscience" as a noun. And, God defines the "Holy Spirit" as part of the Trinity!
I hope that I have been able to encourage you to teach your children about this subject. After all, in this world today, we all need prompting and we all need that ability to decipher between right and wrong. The world is going to try to push your child into evil and temptation. The world will try to "own" your child! They must have a guide. They must know their heart and realize when their God is speaking through the Holy Spirit! There is great joy in living according to God's plan through His Holy Spirit! "Let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. Then, you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts." Ephesians 5:18-19
The conscience is real and the Holy Spirit is a distinct person of the Godhead...three in One! He empowers us with gifts of ministry, gifts of love, He comforts, He convicts...I don't want to be without Him! How about you?
Here's to the journey...live it with a Godly "conscience"!
"Calm or Anxious?"
July 27, 2012
I am sure that most of you have experienced those times when you "sprung" something on your child...maybe a surprise or a trip...maybe something just totally out of the ordinary! If I remember correctly, my children did not respond to those times very well. They would immediately begin asking questions and making comments..."Why, Mom?"..."Do we have to?"..."You did not tell us we were going to do that!" I would usually respond with, "Well, now, hang on a minute!" or "Just relax!" The anxiousness in their voices and bodies really told me a lot. I learned very quickly that they did not do well with those "last-minute", "on the spot" events or moments.
Well, in just a week or so, you and your children are going to be getting ready for a new school year. The anxiousness, for some, has already begun! And, you know what? It does not really matter what age you are dealing with...preschoolers, elementary age, middle-school age, or even, high school age...they will be anxious and nervous! The questions come to my mind..."How can we help them handle these new beginnings?"..."What tools can we give them to help them relax and enjoy "the moment"?..."How can we be there for them?"
I would like to remind you of those tools that many of you use already...
1) A hug, a pat on the shoulder, an approving smile!
2) Give them the Word of God. Remind your children that God is always there!
3) Give them the exercise of prayer! Pray about everything...even the smallest details in life!
4) Give them limits and boundaries. These will help their confidence and security.
5) Be open with them. Be sure they know when they will see you or when you will be home again!
6) Give them your trust...be sure they know that they can share anything they need to!
7) Be ready to listen! Keep the lines of communication open!
8) Help them establish goals and then, celebrate when they achieve their goals!
9) Help them find a friend that can be close to them...one that you know will help support your child when times get rough!
I assure you, if you can help your child be calm instead of anxious, he/she will be much more successful! If you constantly remain calm and trusting with your child, he/she will follow the lead!
As a parent, the more you can focus on your Lord, the more your child will know your steady spirit and have that security himself. "I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds." Psalm 77:12
"He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed." Psalm 107:29
Here's to the journey...you can lead a calm and productive life!
"Reality or Fantasy?"
July 21, 2012
On the brink and aftermath of a very tragic week in our country, my heart ponders the question "why" and "how can we change things"? Every time you turn on the TV newscast, there is tragedy after tragedy. My heart aches and hurts for American families who have become victims to those whose lives are out of control or taken hostage by the evil that surrounds all of us! I feel very fortunate...my children are now young adults (even though it happened too fast). The raising is done and they are on their own. I have to trust that all of the parenting, Ed and I have done, will "take hold" and really work! Even though, I know our children will continue to need our advice and guidance, they are totally responsible for their decisions and actions from now until eternity!
Those of you who have preschoolers, elementary, middle school and high school-aged children have a ways to go! You must realize that every day you wake up and parent your children, there are choices to be made. You are their authority and they have no other parents than you! So, what will you choose to be the most important priority for your children? What will you choose to do in order to be sure that your child will not be "The Joker" in a tragedy that would or could take human lives? How can you be secure in knowing that your child will not randomly choose to take off on a shooting spree? How will you help your child live in a real world and not a fantasy? And, how can you help your child understand those who are less fortunate and know that God created them equally...just like themselves? The truth is, parents, you can not know that for sure. However, you can take daily steps to let your child know just how much you love him/her and just how important they are to God Almighty, their Maker!
Today, I would just like to remind you of the priorities that can make a difference...
1) Teach the love of God from "day one"! Be sure that God is part of your family and your home every single day! Express to your children just how important it is to trust the Lord as their Savior!
2) Model that love and be an example to your children! Do not give them a chance to see someone else as a better example! Give yourself totally to the plan of God...for the sake of your family.
3) Remember, you are your child's authority here on earth. As long as that child is under your care, he/she must honor you and obey you. It is the command of the Lord! That does not mean that you do not give your child the chance to learn or grow up. It means that as you give him/her opportunities for growth, the ultimate decision and final word is yours.
4) Do not give your child everything he/she wants and desires. There should be goals for your child. There should be special times to honor good behavior, good grades, etc. Be sure your child does not live in a "fantasy" world...expecting everything to be given to him/her or handed out on a "silver platter"! Expect your child to live in "reality"!
5) Always have time for your child! He/she must know, without a shadow of a doubt, that he can come to you with anything...even if it is a difficult situation or a hard topic to discuss...or even if he/she knows he has messed up! There should never be a time when your child would have difficulty sharing his/her life with you! If you do not talk to your child and if he/she can not talk to you, how will you know your child! How will you be able to help your child when he/she gets "off track"?
6) Allow your child's friends to be a part of your home! Find ways to invite your child's friends/peers into your home! There's a lot you can learn when your children bring their friends home.
7) Believe in your child and always encourage him/her to be themselves. Help your child discover his/her talents and gifts for God has bestowed each of us with such! When your child finally discovers his/her own identity and abilities, it is a beautiful masterpiece!
8) Always pray with your child! Prayer, in your home, should be just as much a part of your day as the meal you put on the table!
9) Have a game plan! Be sure that you know how you will handle the times when your child rebels and wants to have a "power struggle"! It will happen, so be ready! And, be sure that you and your spouse are on the "same page"!
10) Be prepared and ready to endure and persevere...it will take great patience and strength to "run the race" of the parenting adventure! And, to be prepared, you must know God's Word, study it daily and spend many hours on your knees asking God for divine guidance!
11) And, when you are tired and want to give up...remember He will hear your cry..."Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to Thee, when my heart is faint; Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For, Thou hast been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Thy tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings." Psalm 61:1-4
Be encouraged today, my friends..."He rules by His might forever; His eyes keep watch on the nations; Let not the rebellious exalt themselves". Psalm 66:7. God will win the victory! Today, the choice is yours..."As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15
When the time comes, open the door to let your child "fly" and "soar" with the eagles! You will have done your job and the Lord will honor you for it!
Here's to the journey...let it not be a fantasy...but a reality!
"When Lightning Strikes!"
July 13, 2012
I am always amazed at our dogs, especially our older dog, Bridget, when there is a storm on the horizon! Many times, she knows a storm is coming before you see a cloud in the sky. She gets nervous and has a certain look in her eyes. And, the sooner we can get her inside the basement, the better off she is! Most dogs just seem to have that kind of sensitivity! When our daughter was younger, she would always fear the lightning and the thunder when a storm was brewing! Storms are not to be ignored. In the past several years, our country has surely had its fill of storms that have devastated many areas of our land.
What about the storms of life though? I am sure you will agree...life is full of them! There are storms in relationships, storms of illness, storms of financial crisis, storms of uncertainty...maybe with a job, your children, your spouse! One of my favorite pastors once said, "At any point and time, you are either coming out of a storm, right in the middle of one, or going straight into a storm!" That is just the way life is! So, how do we handle these storms of life? How do we respond to them? And, after the storm has calmed, how do we feel?
As king of Judah, Hezekiah, praised God, in Psalm 46, when He delivered his city (Jerusalem) from the Assyrian army. In verse 1 of that psalm, Hezekiah says, "God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble! So, we will not fear, even if earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea." This same psalm inspired Martin Luther to pen a hymn, which is one of my favorites..."A Mighty Fortress is our God". Jeremiah wrote of the hope that is in God and prayed this prayer in Jeremiah 16:19..."Lord, You are my strength and fortress, my refuge in the day of trouble."
I ask you today, parents, how will we teach our children to "weather" the storms of life? How will we help them to be strong when the lightning strikes all around them and the thunder shakes their very foundation? I believe that it can only happen through a parent's example of a strong Godly life...lived before them and letting them see that parent's faith in the One and Only God, who truly is our fortress. We, as parents, must model that faith. We must know God's Word and speak it into their hearts daily! And, most of all, they must see us faithfully coming before our Lord...on our knees!
The writing is on the wall, so to speak...our children will face storms that we have never had to face in the world as it is today! Will they be prepared? Will they have that solid foundation that will not shake when the storms come to threaten? Will they be the light when the power goes off? Will they be able to see triumph and proclaim as Isaiah did..."This is our God. We trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice in the salvation He brings!" (Isaiah 25:9-10)
Here's to the journey...face the storms with the One and Only God!
"Is Life a Challenge or a Chore?"
June 29, 2012
It is so much fun to watch preschoolers and we can learn so much from them! Usually at the end of the day in our preschool rooms, the teacher calls on her class to "clean up". Many times, they will sing that cute little "Clean Up" song that I am sure most of you know! Some of the children will see a challenge in cleaning up, while others will see it as a chore! Those who are challenged will rush over and try to please their teacher by getting it done quickly so they can be praised. Other children will whine and just pout at not wanting to help! Usually, they will have to be reminded to clean up and do their share.
I just wonder what we teach our children at home...do we teach them to take on a challenge and make the best of it? Or, do we let them whine and pout and get by with it? Do we allow our children to look for the rainbow or search for that silver lining? Or, are they heavy-laden with clouds hanging over their head...thinking that everything is a chore?
I have thought, this morning, about Jesus, my Lord. From the Bible, the Holy Word of God, I have always seen Jesus as a victor, an encourager, an overcomer, a bright light for everyone He encountered. In fact, I am sure He did not walk around whining, pouting, and having a bitter, sour-puss attitude about life. It is for sure, Jesus had a mission and He went about His Father's work with great anticipation, with great joy and with great purpose...He was ready for that challenge His Father had put before Him! You know, I am sure, too, that Jesus would certainly have run to help "clean up"!
Proverbs 17:22 says, "A joyful heart is good medicine!" Let's help our children run, with joy, to their challenges and help them see life as that! Let us not teach life with negativity as if it is a chore to be done with great resistance!
Here's to the journey...life is full of abundant challenges!
"Fruit on the Vine?"
June 23, 2012
For a couple of months now, Ed and I have been watching this small, spindly blueberry bush grow and develop its fruit. This bush is amazing! It was first planted in a pot, just as a bare root, late last spring...spring of 2011, that is. It grew somewhat, but by the end of summer it looked quite dead...no life at all! So, I took the pot off of the porch and placed it at the edge of the driveway...thinking I would just empty the pot at some point. Forgetting about it, that pot stayed as it was all winter and through the early spring. Every now and then, Ed would pour the rainwater out of the pot. Just a few months ago, we began to see life coming to that dry, dead-looking twig of a bush. It developed small buds, green leaves were growing and a few weeks later, the buds began to bloom into small, delicate blooms. We decided to put the pot back on the porch and just see what would happen! Well, believe it or not, this morning, I picked two blueberries from its vine, washed them and ate them! Yum! Fresh blueberries! Now, there are a lot of lessons we could learn from this "forgotten" blueberry bush...this bush that was thought to be "lifeless"? Yet, the best lesson is the one that tells me...no matter how "forgotten" we may feel, no matter how "lifeless" our lives may seem...many times, God, in His awesome divine power chooses to make something of the vine that has grown...the life that has matured...the life that seems discouraged!
Have you ever felt that way about your child? The child that you have worked with, disciplined, encouraged, prayed for and taken care of for years in your home? Parents, let me encourage you today! Let me remind you of the Hope that compares with no other! God is there to see you through this parenting journey! He is there to put it all together! I assure you that if...you have given your child godly discipline, prayed for and with your child, spent time with your child...ultimately raised your child in a godly home...He will see that life "come to life"! Children develop and mature at different times in their lives...some at early ages, others at even adult age. They will blossom and bloom when God brings it all together for them. And, remember, sometimes you and your child have to go through some winters when nothing seems "alive"!
The Lord has great wisdom about the fruit and the vine. It is a beautiful picture...quite amazing imagery! In John 15, "I am the true vine, and the Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that does not bear fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so that they will produce even more. Remain in Me and I will remain in you. For a branch can not produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you can not be fruitful apart from Me."
Do not despair...God is there! In your moments of discouragement as a parent...remember He will bring the fruit...He will bring the springtime...He will harvest the fruit that you have sown through the years! God is an amazing Gardener!
Here's to the journey...plant the seeds...water the bush...watch it grow!
"A Noble Man"
June 15, 2012
It is a special day when we celebrate "Father's Day"! It gives us a chance to focus on our fathers, even though we should lift them up all through the year. I feel like our world has lessened the importance of the "man of the house", the "leader of the home", and thus, has little respect for what God meant for the man or the father to be. When Moses came down from the mountain with God's commandments, God had given children a direct command in relation to their fathers and mothers: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord, your God, gives you." (Exodus 20:12)
As we think about the fathers of this world...the men we look up to...do we see noble men who live with respect, honor and righteousness? Do we see men who stand by their word? Do we see men who live with honesty and integrity? Do we see men who raise their sons to be the same? Malachi 1:6: "A son honors his father." Do fathers live in such a way that their sons can look up to them and honor them?
In working with preschoolers, I have the wonderful opportunity to hear children talk about their homes. And, it always encourages me when I hear the little ones talk about their fathers in an honorable way. You might think that they are too young to know. However, I want to say to you...they know! They know when Dad is paying attention, they know when Dad has time for them, they know when Dad is teaching them...and, most of all, they know when Dad loves them!
We look at "nobility" as a position for kings, queens, princes and princesses. Webster defines the word "noble" as "morally good; superior in character or nature; of high quality or class". I want to submit to you, today, that "nobility" is a position for fathers. Isaiah 32:8 reads, "A noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands."
Fathers and Dads, I want to encourage you to pay close attention to how you live your lives. For, a man of honor is hard to find! A man of integrity and moral excellence is hard to find! A noble man is hard to find!
Let us encourage our Fathers and Dads this weekend and pray that we can recognize the "nobility" in their character and lives!
Here's to the journey..."Happy Father's Day"!
"God's Amazing Teamwork!"
June 8, 2012
WOW, what a week! And, what a team! God has blessed us all week long at Liberty Park Baptist Church's VBS! You know, you take the position to teach, guide, help, babysit or just do whatever is needed. Sometimes you are excited about VBS! Sometimes folks say they dread getting started, maybe others are stressed about it...but by the end of those five wonderful, yet tiring, days, you have seen God work with "amazing power"! Actually, that was the theme this week..."God's Amazing, Awesome Power"!
He blessed every person who had a part in VBS. And, the children...WOW, the stories we have heard...incredible! One child comforted another with a hug...one helped another one find his way...one offered another her snack...yet, another said, "Mommy, we are singing some beautiful songs at VBS and I think the "Lamb" we are singing about is "Jesus"!
Let us all be encouraged to tap into God's amazing power! As His children, we just don't get it sometimes! God has so much for us...yet, we don't ask or we just don't see the need! God has power over nature! God has power over our circumstances! God has power over sin! God has power over death! God has power over all of our life! He knows all! He is in control of it all! And, the best part of it all is...the HOPE we have because He conquered death...we have the hope of eternity!
Ask God to have control of every area of your life! Ask Him for wisdom, guidance and complete peace! He so desires for you to trust Him and to count on Him to be in control! Psalm 53:3 says, "God looks down from heaven on the entire human race. He looks to see if there is even one, just one, who truly understands, and one who truly seeks for God." Oh, to be that one! Oh, to know Him so well and to understand His plan, even when there is no understanding...just trust...just faith!
God will reveal Himself to us in our familiar surroundings...in the norm of every day...the trees swaying in the breeze, the shadows that cast themselves about, the trampled path that many have worn. He reveals His presence in the beat of our hearts and with every breath we take. As His children, we have access to Him anywhere and everywhere...just call out the name of "Jesus"! And, you will find, the more you delight in the backdrop of your everyday routine with His presence all around, you will discover yourself more alive, more satisfied and more grateful to feel the touch of the Master's hand! You will not want to miss a day...a minute...a second of your Lord!
Greet every day with a thankful heart and a spirit that is alive in Christ because of His amazing, awesome power! It is yours for the asking!
"So, live in Christ, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." Colossians 2:6-7
Here's to the journey...live it by God's power!
"Make Sunday a Special Day!"
June 1, 2012
This past year, the younger three-year-old classes (older twos and those who just turned three) learned a simple reading of the "Ten Commandments". It was so sweet to hear them recite these verses from Exodus 20 in God's Word. My favorite one to hear was "Make Sunday a special day!" I guess it was just the way they expressed those words when they said them. It just kinda resounded in my heart! God's Word clearly states: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days shall you labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord, your God." Those verses go on to say that even as the Lord created the world in six days, it was the seventh day that He rested, thus, blessing the Sabbath day and making it holy. (Exodus 20:9-11)
So what do we do with our Sundays? Hopefully, Sunday is a restful and special day in your home. However, the world has continually taken that away from Christians. It is nothing to see all the stores open on Sundays. It is nothing for coaches to schedule practices and even games on Sunday. In many homes, the father has to travel so much that Sunday is the only day he can truly be with his family for quality time! Do you remember to spend Sunday with the Lord? Is Sunday worship important to your family?
In Deuteronomy 5, Moses speaks once again to the Israelite people and reminds them that God gave them specific commandments...He gave them face to face, out of fire, on the mountain. And, in verse 15, Moses reminds them when he says, "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord, your God, brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord, your God, has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day."
It is my conviction that God expects His children, His people, to love and honor Him so much that we are to give Him that day...the Sabbath day and keep it holy. I do not believe that we have to just rest and do nothing, but, I do believe that we need to make it a day of worship and enjoyment...and let the work wait until another day! I want to challenge you to think about what you do on the Sabbath! Between both parents, remind yourselves, together, to keep that day set apart and make it different from the rest of the week! Be an example to other families by saying "no" to the worldly things that might come your way! God will honor you for it! He will remember your commitment!
I am reminded of how Hannah prayed in 1 Samuel 2:2, "There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides You; there is no Rock like our God!"
Here's to the journey...make Sunday a special day...for the Lord!
"God Bless America"
May 25, 2012
One of my favorite parts of the 4K graduation last week was when the graduates sang "God Bless America". It was beautiful...those young, innocent, precious little voices singing about their country...WOW! They sang it with such conviction and enthusiasm, yet, their little hearts and minds can not begin to fathom the needs of our country, the needs of our citizens...the dilemma that America faces. As I was teaching these children this song, they loved to sing the phrase: "through the night, with a light from above". And, they added an extra punch when they sang it...almost a staccato touch! As I stood there before them directing that night, my heart almost burst with emotion as I thought about them being the next generation. I prayed as they sang..."Oh, God, make them good leaders, give them conviction so that they will stand strong for You and for what is right!"
I ask myself these questions and I ask you: "How can we instill conviction and strength in our children? How can we help them understand pride in our country? How can we help them understand freedom? Will their lives make a difference?" If you really stop to think about it...it can only come from teaching them God's Word and consistently teaching them to be leaders and to listen to their heart...their convictions...which really comes from the Holy Spirit.
I encourage you to be careful to share positive opinions and attitudes that will help your children love America! If they grow up hating government and hating our leaders, how can they learn to have the love for man and country that America needs? Of course, we need to share truth with them...but do it in such a way that they will not build up bitterness. For, if they have hatred and bitterness in their hearts, they will not be able to discern God's plan and if given the chance, they will not be able to share an opinion that will really mean something to our world! I believe that God is looking for leaders with pure hearts that count on Him for guidance and wisdom to lead!
This weekend, being Memorial Day weekend, is a good time to share your thoughts with your child. Give words that will help him/her develop a strong patriotic spirit that will really count for generations to come!! As you think once again about those words: "through the night, with a light from above"...I believe that light is God and He "stood beside Her, to guide Her!"
Here's to the journey..."God Bless America...my home, sweet home!"
"Do You Rely on God's Protection?"
May 19, 2012
Well, yesterday was the last day of preschool for this year at Liberty Pals! We had such a fun week this past week...with our exhibitions, our 4K graduation, our end-of-the-year parties and last of all, water play days! The children (and the teachers) had so much fun! It is always hard to see these little ones go. When they return in the fall, they will look different, they will behave differently and we will start another year of learning! God has been so good to us this year!
This past week, I have heard lots of parents talking about summer camps, VBS, vacation trips and summer activities! WOW, it all sounds like such fun! At the same time, I have heard some comments like, "Oh, it is so hard to let them go...two weeks at summer camp! I am always a little nervous!" Then, there have been other comments like, "Well, it is only two months and my son will head off to college for the first time! And, he's my baby! I just really have to trust God to take care of him and protect him!"
You know it really is ok to get a little nervous and anxious about these times...times when you really have to let go...times when you need to let your child grow a little...times when he/she needs to face the world! I think that is very normal and I believe our God understands. But, I also believe that He encourages us to trust Him, to let go and let Him do the work of protecting, guarding and keeping our children. In Psalm 11, we can read His promises and His precepts..."I trust in the Lord for protection." (vs. 1) "The Lord is in His holy Temple; the Lord still rules from heaven. He watches everything closely, examining everyone on earth." (vs. 5) Psalm 31:19 reads, "Your goodness is so great! You have stored up great blessings for those who honor You. You have done so much for those who come to You for protection, blessing them before the watching world." In Psalm 32:7, David testifies: "You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble. You sourround me with songs of victory!"
I believe that as we pray for our children everyday, God takes those prayers and is ready to use them in those times of trouble and those times when our children need His divine protection! A few weeks ago, my oldest son had a very scary wreck with his work crew. He could have easily died but God's hand of love and protection took him in close and saved him! I believe God used my prayers at that time. I believe God honored my faithfulness to pray for my children.
Do not wait until there is a serious injury, a serious conflict or a serious need...pray daily for your children. Pray for them so that God will know how much you trust Him and pray for them so that God can have the chance to calm your heart and soothe your spirit...He wants the chance to do that! And, remember, that as you do, He is ready to go with them on that summer camp and even as they move away to college!
Here's to the journey...let Him do the work!
"The Special Gift of Motherhood"
May 11, 2012
This Sunday will be one of the favorite holidays in America...Mother's Day! It will be celebrated in many homes, in restaurants, at picnics in the parks...anywhere there is a family with a mother! God really knew what He was doing when He created mothers. In fact, even Abraham Lincoln knew the value of mothers when he said, "The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world!" Mothers have so much influence...of course, every mother would love to know that her influence is a positive one, however, sometimes mothers have a highly negative influence on their children. To be a mother is a serious responsibility!
During the past several decades, the confidence of mothers has been shaken by society. Mothers seem to be blamed for anything and everything that goes wrong with their children...that is, by society. Those who have never raised children cast critical and hard blame from the view of society. It seems that if you can not raise the "perfect" child, your parenting skills are held under great scrutiny...from issues with potty training to issues of "letting go" of your teen. Dr. James Dobson refutes these opinions by saying that "there is no higher calling than that of a mother to raise her children to love God with all their hearts and to serve their fellowman".
If you are a mom today, I want to encourage you, to lift you up and to remind you that your job as a mother is of utmost importance. Your child can not grow into a mature adult without the guidance of you and his heavenly Father! To teach your child to obey, love and live for God will be the greatest lesson ever and you owe it to your child to give it your very best! Do not allow this world to break your spirit or to cut down your confidence...stay strong, stay in God's Word and mainly, stay on your knees for your child...go before the throne of God daily for your child! Be careful when you deal with the contest of wills with your child, watch out for the perils of adolescence, try not to "burnout" when the going gets tough and stay ahead of those stress points that will tear you down and depress you...if you allow it!
Look at each day in a new light...do not let the yesterdays wear you down! For, "children are a gift of the Lord" (Psalm 127:3) and He will see you through!
Here's to the journey...Happy Mother's Day!
"The Gift of Independence"
May 7, 2012
I am a few days late writing this post. I wanted to share with you about our trip to see our daughter, Bethany and her husband, Richard, in Lubbock, Texas. They have been married for almost 5 months now and you can only imagine the anxiousness a mom and dad could feel traveling to their place for the first time after the wedding! Well, yes, we were anxious...excited and so emotional...all at the same time. However, probably the one thing you want to see in your child when he or she has grown up and married is that gift of independence! Now, I know that some of you are probably thinking...no, I never want my child to be independent...that means they do not have a need for me, their parent, anymore...that means they really are on their own! That means, they can really make decisions on their own and that they really have to be accountable for those decisions! Then, you ask yourself all kinds of questions...did I raise him/her right? Did I give them enough advice about life? Did I show them how life can really kick back at you? Can he/she really do it by himself/herself?
You know what? That gift of independence is one of the best you can give! Now, how do you really give that gift? You begin when your child is young...very young...preschool age. He/she learns how to take his backpack to the car. He/she learns how to unpack it at preschool. Then, the day comes when he/she goes to the potty by himself. The morning comes when he/she can tie his own shoes. You help your child understand the meaning of "doing it on his/her own". And, you actually let them! The days come when he/she is off to "big" school, middle school, junior high, high school...and then, moves off to college! To some of you this is a hard concept...to some it is easy. I have always felt that it is such a good thing to see a child that can separate from his/her mom and dad with calmness and confidence. Sure, it feels good for your child to cry for you, but, just think of it...how sweet it is when he can actually "go it alone"!
We watched Bethany grow up and mature into independence. We tried to let go "little by little" so she could learn and know herself. There were times when we tried to protect her and she would say, "I really am ok, Mom and Dad! I really can do it myself!" I will have to say that the reward was great seeing her as a wife and watching her take care of her home there in Lubbock! We were amazed to see the independence she has as an adult and yes, we were proud! It really feels good to know she can do it and to know she feels good about herself! What a joy! What a prize!
I want to encourage you to let your child go...let him/her develop independence...let him/her learn to know himself/herself! Give them a chance...give them that gift! You will be glad you did! And, God will honor your "letting go"! Remember, it is the order of our Creator...parents raising their children to grow and become adults...making homes, building families...being who God made them to be!
Here's to the journey...let them grow!
"Are You Fighting a Battle?"
April 27, 2012
Do you feel like you are fighting a battle? Are you frustrated and discouraged with your parenting skills? Do you feel alone in this journey as a parent? Do you feel like the "enemy" is attacking your home? I am sure that every parent, at one time or another, has felt like the battle was raging and they did not know where to turn. Take heart, my friends, be of good courage! The Lord will fight the battle for you! He wants to be in your life. He does not want you to "go it" alone!
One of my favorite Bible stories is written in the book of Nehemiah. He had the faith to see deeper and further than his people. He led them to see deeper spiritual realities. He taught them, with great persistence, to know that God is bigger than any enemy and that He would strengthen them to finish the task at hand. He encouraged them to persevere and shared over and over that God had a plan! In Nehemiah 4:9, 14, 20, Nehemiah speaks: "But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes." "Our God will fight for us!"
Times can be very hard when you get frustrated and discouraged with parenting. You may have a two or three-year-old who "pushes your buttons" all the time. He/she may throw temper tantrums at "the drop of a hat". You may have a ten or eleven-year-old who is right on the brink of puberty or adolescense and their mood changes three times a day! You may have a rebellious teenager who refuses to follow your rules and stay inside the boundaries you have set! Whatever you are facing...pray to Almighty God, stay in His Word and open your heart to His guidance. As long as you are a parent, and that is forever if you have children, you will always face decisions, both great and small. Corrie ten Boom once wrote: "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to an unknown God."
What situation has brought you to tears today? How tough is that battle today? Follow Nehemiah's pattern and lifestyle: Ackowledge God and remind Him of His promises to you as a parent. When you do these things, you can rest in knowing that God "hears the prayers of a righteous man". Proverbs 15:29
Here's to the journey...fight with God's strength...He will come through!
"Special or Not?"
April 20, 2012
"Special, special, I am very special! God made me that way! Special, special, I am very special, God made me!" What precious words...how beautiful...especially when you see and hear sweet, little two and three year-old children singing those words as loud as they can! It is such a simple little chorus with a simple little tune...but oh, the profound truth that rings out from it! My heart longs to know that every child feels that way! And, yet, I know the world tears children down every day! And, as sad as the truth is...there are parents who do the same!
I would like to remind you today of God's Word, as written by the psalmist, David, in Psalm 139.
"O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. For, You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know them well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them even came to be. How precious are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with You!"
What a beautiful picture of how much God loves His creation...we were created out of the love of the Father and He designed each of us with great purpose and with the ability to do great things! You are special, I am special, your children are special...do they know that? Do they feel that in your home? Will they grow up knowing that you, as their mom and dad, are proud of who they are and who they have become?
Spending time with your children and really letting them know that you are attached to their lives makes such a difference. Parents should work at helping their child with their self esteem, self-confidence and self-image. Encourage your child to use the gifts that God has so graciously given them. Help them find ways to bring out those gifts in a positive manner. Show them the importance of asking God to bless those gifts and traits in their lives that make them who they are in the Lord! One of the most important jobs of a parent is to help your child become a secure and hard working adult, with a positive attitude on life...and with a specific purpose for life!
So, special or not? All children are special! Treasure that fact and take the time to help your child develop to be the best he/she can be!
Here's to the journey!
"So, How Then Should We Pray?"
April 13, 2012
This is a question we ask God many times..."how should I pray, Lord?" The Lord teaches us to pray...through His Word, through testings, through trials and tribulations. Have you ever been so full of life's hardships, disappointments, and discouragements, that you just did not know how to pray? There have been many times that I have looked up to heaven or bowed my head, and cried out to God, "Lord, I do not even know what to ask for or even how to pray! Teach me, Lord! Show me Your will!" When, Jesus returned to be with His Father, after the resurrection, He left a beautiful gift...the gift of the Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit has been so alive in my life and in my heart through the years. It is this Holy Spirit that convicts, counsels, encourages and leads my soul day after day! Sometimes, the Holy Spirit just stops me in my tracks! He gets my attention and then, quietly, shows me the way of the Lord and what His will is for me at that moment!
This week, the community of Liberty Park has been called upon to be "prayer warriors" for a sweet, precious girl named Lauren. Her family is a family of faith and have a strong relationship with their Lord! However, God has called His people to stand in the gap for them. It was very evident, early in the week, that the Lord was calling out to His children. So, I asked the Lord, "How, then, should we pray, Lord? What words are there that we can say to You, Almighty God, that will make a difference? How can we stand in the gap for Lauren? How can we really be Your people at this time?" He quickly answered, "All I am asking of you, my child, is that you be faithful and that your prayers be fervent and steady! Leave the rest to Me!"
There are a multitude of examples of faith, found in God's Word, where God heard the cries of His children and answered. We see where Hagar cried out to God and He provided water for her and her son in the desert. (Genesis 21:17-19) God blessed Rachel with a son when her womb was barren. (Genesis 30:22-24) God showed mercy and concern for the Israelites in their time of slavery. He heard their groaning. (Exodus 2:23-25) Moses cried out to God for his people in the wilderness and even though they grumbled, God provided food. (Exodus 16:12) When God had purposed for Hezekiah to die, God heard his plea and changed His mind. God healed Hezekiah and blessed him with another 15 years of life. (2 Kings 20:1-6) God is THE God of love, of grace, of mercy and of miracles!
When God calls His children to prayer, He expects us to not let up, to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:16), and to wait expectantly for His answer. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6) "We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words can not express." (Romans 8:26) "Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective!" (James 5:16)
It will be amazing to see how God will work as this community of faith stands in the gap and prays fervently and relentlessly! God will work and we will see His awesome deeds! And, what a time it will be when we can praise Him as the psalmist did in Psalm 66:16-20!
"Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me. I cried out to Him with my mouth; His praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me."
Here's to the journey...stand firm and pray fervently!
"Is 'Good Friday' Really Good?"
April 6, 2012
Picture this! A class full of four and five-year-old children sitting quietly, listening to their teacher explain the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord. They are listening so intently that you could hear a pin drop! She is trying to choose words that they will understand. Then, they begin questioning her..."Why did Jesus have to die?" "Why would God do that?" "Would He have died just for me?" She continues to choose her words and answer their questions so that maybe they can understand. Then, on the back row, one little girl, sweetly and very timidly asks: "Teacher, what is good about 'Good Friday' then?" The other children turn around and stare at their friend as if to ask the same question. "Yes, what is good about 'Good Friday'?"
The teacher takes a step toward her class, takes a deep breath, and then, answers: "The good in 'Good Friday', children, comes from the fact that God loved us so much that He sent His ONLY Son to die for our sins and to give us eternal life. And, that meant that it would take a sacrifice...one so close to the heart of God that it would make a difference! If it had not been for this sacrifice, we would not live forever as His children! To us, death is not good, but God made His Son's death good because He raised Him up on the third day! For God's children, those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior, 'Good Friday' is good because we know that Sunday is coming...the Day of Resurrection!" Once again, there is silence in the classroom. Some of the children are smiling! The teacher can tell that some are still confused about it all! Then, she sweetly says, "You know what, children? You do not have to worry about understanding all of it! God only wants us to believe, trust Him and live for Him! Leave the rest up to Him!"
How about your household? How do you believe? What do your children understand? What have you told them? What will you tell them? Will you live the life of a "child of God" as a pattern for them to follow? Will you trust Him with your life and everything in it? Will you trust Him with your children?
Today is "Good Friday"! And you know what? To me, as a believer and child of God, it is good! It is beautiful! I do not understand how God could love me so much, but I do know Sunday's coming! It is coming as a glorious day! And, one day He will come...gloriously, triumphantly, joyfully...to take His children home to be with Him forever and ever....AMEN!
Jesus said to him, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father but through Me!" John 14:6
Here's to the journey...God is good!
March 30, 2012
I know we probably all feel about the same...mornings are tough! Whether you have had a restful night or a restless night...it is usually hard to get up in the mornings! We hear comments like..."I am just not a morning person!" Or, "I just don't do well with mornings!" When asked how he was doing, one four-year-old boy replied, "My mommy says that 'mornings are hard'!" Mornings, however, are so beautiful and so fresh! I have gained a new appreciation for mornings and especially, the wee hours of daybreak! With spring in the air, you can hear the birds chirping and the woodpeckers pecking! And, if you rise really early enough, you can hear a gorgeous "orchestra" of creatures singing their beautiful "morning melodies"!
The Lord has a lot to say about mornings in His Word: "Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to You and wait expectantly!" I do understand about mornings...rushing about, getting everyone ready and running out the door...trying to be "on time" and keeping the day's schedule. However, I want to encourage you to take advantage of the mornings. Commit the day to the Lord, God of all Creation! Find something special to say about the mornings. Encourage your children to look for the creations of the day! Look at the new day with great expectations and renewal! I guarantee you that your family will relish that treasure as they bask in the "Son's light" of a new day!
Cat Stevens sung a beautiful song titled, "Morning Has Broken". The text was written by Eleanor Farjeon. Hear these beautiful words that are so picturesque and alive!
"Morning has broken like the first morning, Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!
Praise for them, springing fresh from the Word!
Sweet the rain's newfall, Sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dewfall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass.
Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning,
Born of the one light Eden saw play!
Praise with elation, Praise ev'ry morning,
God's recreation of the new day!"
Oh, that we could greet each morning with His praise on our lips and His power in our steps!
Psalm 30:5 powerfully says, "His anger lasts for a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning!"
Here's to the journey...travel with joy in your mornings!
"Are You Going to Talk to Me?"
March 23, 2012
It was carpool time one morning a few weeks ago. Our three and four-year-olds, who come in downstairs, sit in the hall and wait while the other children come in. A few minutes had passed and as I walked by the children, one little three-year-old called out to me: "Mrs. Burke, are you going to talk to me?" I quickly said, "Yes, of course, I said 'Good Morning'!" He then replied, "I know, but are you going to talk to me?" So, I knelt down beside him and began to have a conversation with him. He was so excited and began to talk and talk!
I thought about that incident several days later and that question, "Are you going to talk to me?", really pervaded my heart. I could not help but think about how our Lord must feel when we do not communicate with Him...we simply do not talk to him. And, all the while, He is waiting to hear from us...He is waiting to just know we love Him....to just know we want to know Him! Do you think God looks at us and asks that same question..."Are you going to talk to Me?" I feel sure He does.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul writes to the church and says, "Pray without ceasing!" In other words, pray continually! All the time! I have wondered many times, through the years, why we do not teach our children to do that! What could be more important than teaching our children to pray all the time? It should be a very important discipline in their lives. Don't we discipline them to do homework, to do chores, to be disciplined in sports, to practice their instrument, to be highly skilled with their gifts and talents?
When you and I have a close relationship with God, our Father, and can commune with Him any moment of any day, we have a treasure that compares to no other! When trials and tribulations come...when sorrow crosses our doorstep...when the world seems to get in the way, we have the treasure of knowing Almighty God and having the opportunity to communicate with Him! "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." Ephesians 6:18, NIV
"Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of You, 'Seek His face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek!" Psalm 27:7-8, NIV
Here's to the journey...teach them to pray!
"Fine Gentlemen Never Go Out of Style!"
March 16, 2012
It was a special honor to play for the memorial service of one of our precious members this morning! He entered into his eternal home earlier this week and is with the Lord now and forever! Mr. Bill Perry was a godly man, a man of courage, a friend to all, a servant of the Lord, a family man with quite a personality! However, within all of these qualities, there was a fine gentleman! Mr. Perry was one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known. And, he had such a sweet spirit! As I thought about him this week, I remarked that I sure wish all of our young boys could have known Mr. Perry! What a treasure!
Dads, I would like to speak to you today! I would like to encourage you to be the man God has called you to be. And, if you have a son, there is so much you can teach him...for you are his most important mentor and model for life!
- Teach him about the Lord. Take time to read and study the Bible together. Pray together! "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Proverbs 1:7
- Show him love...the love the Lord wants us to show one another. Let him see it when you love others, as well!
- Don't be afraid to let him know you make mistakes, too. He needs to see you handle failure so he will know how.
- Show your emotions! It really is ok for boys to cry when their emotions are touched or when they have been hurt!
- Teach him sensitivity. Let him see that in you and help him understand your sensitivities...you know we are not all sensitive about the same things. Help him to learn his strengths in that area!
- Show him how to be a man. Be an example of a protector, a provider and a strength for your family so he can model it!
- Teach him respect by being consistent with your life and by how you discipline him and any other children in the house. He will respect what he sees!
- Help him learn how to be courageous by standing for what is right and good in the sight of the Lord!
- Teach him manners. Use them at home and instill them in your children. Show him how to be a gentleman by being one yourself.
When I look around and see how the world has lost its "polish", its shine, its concern for morals and values...it astonishes me! We, as God's children and parents to our own children, must seek godliness, purity, and high values for them! It is our responsibility!! And, remember... there will always be a lady looking for a gentleman!
Here's to the journey!
"If You Snooze, You Lose!"
March 9, 2012
It was time for carpool the other day and one of our three-year-old boys was sitting in the hall. I called his name and said, "Come on, you can come on out to the foyer, now. Let's get going!" He did not respond to me, so I asked, "Are you day dreaming?" He quickly replied, "No, Mrs. Burke, don't you know? If you snooze, you lose!" What an answer! Yes, you do...if you snooze, you lose! I had not heard that phrase in a long time, but it really pricked my heart and mind!
I wonder how many of us, as parents, challenge our children to stay "on top" of things? Do we teach them to not wait until the last minute? Do we teach them not to procrastinate? Do we help them meet the deadlines in their young lives? Do we encourage them to make the most of each day? The psalmist tells us in Psalm 118:24, "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it." Do we help them manage their time each day?
I want to give you some simple guidelines that I believe will help your children stay focused and work on being at the "top of their game", so to speak.
Get plenty of rest. When our children are tired, they have a hard time focusing.
Focus on those details that matter the most each day. Do not get bogged down with the unnecessary!
When you learn of a deadline for your child...whether it be a homework deadline, a project deadline or even an extra-curricular activity deadline...handle it right then and there...make plans to get it done on time.
Make a schedule for your child and try not to make it a stressful one. With my children, they always came in from school and had 30 minutes of free time...a snack and a little R&R. Then, we got right to the homework. That usually gave us time later in the evening, to have family time and even, eat supper together...I am really big on that!
If your child needs extra help with his/her work, be sure you can fit that in without making it a chore or a hassle to deal with.
Speaking of chores, for those of you who give your children chores to do, help them know how to manage those...a calendar is good for that...or a checklist.
Always remember to put God first in the life of your family...He will make the difference! Be sure you schedule family time for prayer and Bible study!
These are just some ideas that I hope will help. For, you do want your children to be the best they can be! And, you want them to have the self-discipline it takes to be successful in this world. Watch out! Don't get caught snoozing at the wrong time!
Here's to the journey!
"A Boomerang of Love"
March 2, 2012
I have had so many wonderful experiences of love with preschoolers for many years. I was just 18 years old when I directed my first preschool choir at church. Through all of these years, there is one thing that is obvious and stands out to me about preschoolers...they love with a love that has no boundaries! It comes so natural for them...even those who are kind of shy about their expressions...they love with their own little ways!
Sharing love is one of the most precious things that occurs, quite often, in my music classes at the preschool. I sit at the piano to teach and lead many of the songs we sing. Many times during class, one child will walk up to me to share a hug. Then, two or three more come up...and, before I can say, "Now, let's get seated and continue with our music", I am covered up with two, three or four-year-olds hugging me! It happens so quickly and the entire time they are hugging me, they are giggling and laughing at the "top of their lungs"! It is so beautiful! What a sight! In those moments, I feel like the most-loved teacher in the world! How can you beat that?
As I was thinking about the kind of love those precious children share with me, I thought about a "boomerang". You know, a boomerang is a flat, curved missile that is shaped in such a way that when it is thrown, it returns to the thrower! Well, I guess that is what I have at the piano bench when those times occur. I throw my arms open as wide as possible and gather those little ones in together for a great big "group" hug! And, love fills the room! We laugh and laugh and then, I tell them how much I love them!
You know, Jesus loves without any "boomerang" effect! He loves us no matter how we love Him! However, can you imagine how He must feel, though, when we throw out the "boomerang"? Can you imagine how your children feel when you throw out the "boomerang" of love? Do you love them that way? And, are they quick to return that love? Does it come natural? Even, as your children grow, mature and experience some of life's hardest lessons...will you love them naturally and without having to think about? Will that love continue to come natural? Will they know without a "shadow of a doubt" that their mom and dad love them?
I like to remember the "Parable of the Prodigal Son". It is such a beautiful expression of a father's love. When that son returned home, from a life of sinful living, his father did not hesitate to throw out the "boomerang" and love his son. The scriptures say: "While he (the son) was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him". John 15:20 The son asked his father to forgive him and they celebrated his returning home!
I encourage you to open your heart and love with a Godly love that has no reservations, no boundaries...seek to love as Jesus loves!
Here's to the journey...go ahead, throw out that "boomerang" of love!
"Is Your Home a Peaceful Home?
February 24, 2012
In a song of praise, Isaiah writes in chapter 26, verse 3: "You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You." Do you ever stop and ask yourself this question: "Am I providing a peaceful home for my children? A home that is full of peace, rest and contentment?" Most of the time, it is easy to sense the climate of a child's home just by observing him/her and the amount of joy that exudes from within. Children who experience a lot of anger and chaos in their home life will have a hard time being happy with very much else around them. There will be turmoil and unrest in his/her spirit.
Kay Arthur, a very popular author and speaker in women's ministry, once wrote: "Rejoicing is a matter of obedience to God - an obedience that will start you on the road to peace and contentment." Popular evangelist, Billy Graham, once wrote: "Like a spring of water, God's peace in our hearts brings cleansing and refreshment to our minds and bodies."
One of the most important things you, as parents, can do for your children is protect their hearts and spirits. I believe that helping them attain peace, hope and contentment is one of the strongest ways to do that. And, I must say, it takes work. As parents, you will control the climate in your home. If you continually focus on the Lord, He will help you keep that perspective of peace. He will guard the hearts of your children. He will give you rest from a world full of confusion and chaos. He will help you keep that evil from your home.
My heart ached one morning, when a preschooler came in with a very sad face. As I watched this child, I knew that something had happened to make him feel so sad. I went over and tried to make him laugh. I tried to give him a hug. I tried to console him and get his mind on being at preschool. But, nothing mattered to him that morning. I finally got him to talk and when he did, he shared with me that his parents had had a fight and in his words, "Mommy and Daddy don't love each other anymore!" I wanted to cry! For, I know that reality touches our children. I know there can be relationship problems. But, I also know that children...very young children don't understand those things and need to be protected.
I want to encourage you to seek God and seek to know His peace...it is the only peace that is true and lasting! Ask the Lord to grant peace and rest to your home. And, as a family, seek that peace together...stay focused on Him!
"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7
Here's to the journey...stay at peace!
"Jesus, the Perfect Example of Obedience"
February 18, 2012
As a mother, teacher and leader in preschool education, it is so exciting to me when a child immediately obeys his/her authority! I want to challenge you, today, as parents, to really work on consistent obedience in your children. When you call your child's name, he/she should immediately respond or react to your leading in their lives. As hard as it is to be consistent in disciplining your children, it is far better to handle it now, than to have rebellious children who later will be hard to "reign in"!
Jesus, even though He was the only Son of God, was very obedient when He walked this earth as a child and later, as a man. The story of Jesus, in the temple, at twelve years of age (Luke 2:41-51), is a beautiful one! Jesus had been with his parents at the Feast of the Passover. When Mary and Joseph left to go home, Jesus was not with them. Three days later, when they found Him, He was in the temple...sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. As His parents questioned Him about why He did what He did, He could not understand why they did not understand. Even with this misunderstanding, however, Jesus went back home with them to Nazareth and the scriptures tell us: "He was obedient to them." (verse 51)
One of the strongest ways to love your child is to discipline him/her and see that he/she is obedient to you...not just every now and then, but every time. Just as we, God's children, must respond and obey when we hear God's voice, our own children must respond and obey when they hear their parents' voices. What would happen if your child was in danger, and you called out to him/her in order to save his/her life, and he/she did not respond or obey? What if your child were to grow up and really not know your voice? What would happen if every time you speak to your child, he/she just looks the other way? It is up to you to provide that love and discipline in your child's life. For, in obeying and hearing your voice, he/she will learn to distinguish the voice of the Father, Almighty God! Don't you think He will have a lot to say to your child? Don't you want your children to respond to and obey their Lord?
It will be a rewarding experience one day when you can say that your child is ready to face the world. In thinking of Jesus, Luke 2:52 says it well, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man". Do you have the desire for your child to grow that way? Is it your daily desire to seek God's guidance to help you be consistent and patient as this growing process happens? The bottom line is this: "How much do you truly love your child?" Enough to call for obedience on a daily, consistent basis?
Here's to the journey...it is a daily process!
"The Treasure Box"
February 10, 2012
Have you ever noticed how excited children get over little treats or little treasures? It seems like just the smallest little surprise really thrills them! I love to watch our four-year-olds when they go to the treasure box at the end of the week. If they have had a really good week, it earns them a "trip to the treasure box"! On Fridays, they will sit and look at their treasures, over and over, at carpool time. And, many times, they will exclaim, "Look, Mrs. Burke, look at my treasure!"
I have often wondered how we, as adults, feel about our treasures. Are our homes filled with treasures? Do we look at our children as treasures? Do we hold God's Word highly, in our lives, as a treasure? Do we count our blessings as treasures? Those are some very thought-provoking questions. Today, I would like to talk about our homes. In God's Word, He speaks through Solomon, the son of David and king of Israel. In Proverbs 24:3-4, Solomon writes..."By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." I asked myself, "What are those rare and beautiful treasures?" And, after pondering that question for a while, I believe God is speaking of those treasures that are of "eternal" value, not earthly ones. Treasures of love, joy, caring, trust, and generosity...giving to one another...over and over. Treasures of time, unity, respect, peacefulness and unselfishness. Those treasures of which only the Lord can direct...only He can make complete. It is these valuable treasures that I believe Jesus is speaking of when He was teaching the disciples..."Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21.
Have you ever considered those treasures being a part of your home? Think about going from room to room and looking deep into the corners there. Can you say that these treasures are fully immersed in the atmosphere of those rooms? Does God permeate every crook and cranny of your house? When a visitor comes into your home, do they sense that something is different?
I would like to encourage you to work at making your home...heaven on earth! A place of love, rest and peace...where your family can "come in from the world". Matthew 13:44 reads: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." Oh, that our homes could be heavenly places...protected from the caress of the world...protected from evil itself!
"In Christ, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Colossians 2:3. Ask the Lord to help you and trust Him to give you wisdom to have that sweet aroma of valuable treasures in your home! It will be His desire to do so!
Here's to the journey...fill it with treasures!
"I Can See Clearly Now!"
February 3, 2012
I remember being in the second grade and having a hard time seeing the blackboard. My teacher moved me closer to the front of the class , but I still could not see. She talked to my mom about it and after a visit to the eye doctor, we knew I had to have glasses. I had inherited my dad's weak vision. However, when I got my glasses, it was amazing how much better I could see! Everything was so much clearer!
Do you have a hard time seeing your child clearly? Do you ever wonder if you have blinders on and just really can not see his/her problem? Why do we have such a hard time facing reality with our children? I think that, somehow, we think that if our children are not perfect, we have to hide it and have a hard time asking for help! I think, sometimes, we feel it looks bad if we have anything less than perfect with our families! Listen, the best thing you can do for your child is to get help for whatever he/she needs. Your child may suffer from a behavior problem. He/she may have a physical disability. He/she may have a learning disability. Take charge, face that reality, be truthful with yourself and your child and get the help he/she needs!
Through the years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to listen to parents as they have shared about the needs they have with their children. I have heard heartbreaking stories of parents who have been devastated when they found out their child had special needs or a learning disability. Many times, they have blamed themselves for not seeing it sooner or they have been ashamed for not facing it sooner! Be strengthened and encouraged today! Your child is not perfect, and you, as a parent, are not perfect! The Lord will be there to guide you and give you wisdom with your children! It is yours for the asking! As a family, you can face your problems head on and with clarity! Ask the Lord to show you professionals who can help you. Ask your friends to hold you accountable to do what is right and press on! Whatever the need is, the worst thing you could do is not face the reality of it and just let it go!
Remember, it is always freeing to know and see the truth! So, go ahead, put those glasses on and see the "clear" picture! You will be glad you did!
"There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan, that can succeed against the Lord." Proverbs 21:30
Here's to the journey...see it clearly!
"What's Your Hair Doing?"
January 27, 2012
I love the humor and curiosity of children! In fact, I probably have one of the best jobs in the world....to just get to be with children all the time! WOW! My own children used to say, "Mom, you really love your job, don't you?" "Yes", I would reply, "I do!" Children are so honest and so innocent...there are so many times that I have wondered, "What must he/she be thinking?" They can say some really funny things, but many times, they just plain old tell the truth and it can really "stop you" in your tracks!
I have often thought that I wish I had taken the time, through the years, to jot down all the cute little things children have said...it would be quite a book! I remember, one day, walking down the hall with a serious look on my face and one of them looking up at me and exclaiming, "Mrs. Burke, are you mad?" Then, one day, after I had colored my hair with a new color and added some highlights, one little boy looked up and asked, "Mrs. Burke, what's your hair doing?" Yet, another day, one little girl asked, "Why is your hair so gray?" One of the cutest questions was in music one day when one asked, "Who's the daddy at your house?" And, "Mrs. Burke, do you sleep at the church?" I love the times when they try to get my attention just to say, "I love you, Mrs. Burke!" Oh my, how precious and what treasures! I can not imagine the world without the beautiful gift of children that God has given to us! They love to talk to us and share their little stories, their little imaginations...and have you ever thought about that twinkle in their eye and the cute, little smirk on their face when they are trying to express themselves?
I just want to encourage you and remind you today that God has truly put joy in your life, if you are a parent. Yes, there will be trials and hard times, but, rest in the Lord, be at peace, for your child is one of the most joyous treasures you will ever have! Take time to listen and share with him/her. Laugh together, love together and live together in harmony! When you share quality time with your children, your heart should burst with joy! What an opportunity! What a responsibility!
My prayer for you is that you will rejoice in the Lord and lift your heart in thanks for the "bundles of joy" you have in your children!
"I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High!" Psalm 9:1-2
"In Him, our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name!" Psalm 33:21
Here's to the journey...take joy and delight in it!
"Is There Spaghetti on Your Stationary?"
January 20, 2012
Is there spaghetti on your stationary, is there a dirty spot on your skirt or are you dressed to perfection and don't want to be touched? Those are kind of tough questions and may be quite confusing, but I think you will understand them when I share with you what is on my heart today. I certainly hope so.
I had a conversation with a wife and mother of four children one day. She was even a minister's wife. As we were talking about our children, I picked up on some real harshness in her voice...thus, coming from her heart. She shared with me about how she really did like for the children to help around the house and do chores, but she usually had to go behind them and straighten it up or do it over after they completed their part. She actually said, "It was never really good enough for me. You, see," she said, "I am a perfectionist!" Then, she continued to share with me about how she would let the children help with the Christmas tree, but always had to go back and move the ornaments...when they were not looking...it was never good enough for her!
I remember thinking, "WOW, that's really something!" I always really felt like my mom loved for me to help around the house and if it was not perfect, that was ok...the fact was that I had helped! My mom always felt like those were times of teaching and bonding with her children. I remember hearing her say, "Well, if you don't actually do it, how are you going to learn?" And, my sisters and I loved to do those chores together. And, the Christmas tree...oh me! That was a work in progress...it seemed that every year, our skills got better and better!
May I ask you? What and how is your child going to feel if he never gets to help? Or, if when he does, you have to do it over again? How about the times when you are fixing things up for company or maybe even writing a card and your child wants to be so close to you that he/she gets spaghetti on your stationary...or whatever there might be on his/her face at the time! What about the times when you are getting really dressed up and your child runs in for one more hug before you go? And, when you look down, there's a smudge of chocolate chip cookie on your dress or skirt? Or dads, maybe a spot on your tie? How do you react?
I want to challenge you to take a deep breath and realize that things don't have to be perfect. Life is life! And, you know, it is so much more important for your child to feel comfortable in loving you, touching you and even helping you...much more important to them than having the feeling of "not being able to touch you at certain times" or " just plain old not being able to be himself"! Be sure your child feels and knows his/her importance in your life. Be sure you do not push him/her away...just because it has to be perfect or because you just don't have time for him/her. And, when he/she does a job or chore for you, make him feel proud of his work.
I had much rather have spaghetti on my stationary or a smudge on my skirt, than a fresh-pressed, spotless dress anytime! Just think about it! You will be glad you did!
Here's to the journey...share a little spot or smudge!
"Do You Rock or Do You Stand Firm?"
January 13, 2012
I love to watch children and their actions, especially when they are with their peers and close friends. It is so easy to see those who want to control and those who have strong self-confidence. Control can be a positive thing or it can be a negative thing. However, self-confidence should be positive for a child, at all times, if it is channeled in the right direction. Did you know that you, as a parent, have the most influence on your child's self-confidence? When he or she matures and has to be independent, will your child be able to stand firm and know that he/she really has an opinion and really has self-worth? I certainly hope so! And, I hope that, right now, every day, you are building your child's self-confidence and helping him/her become an individual that can stand firm.
I love the parable that Jesus told about the house that was built on the rock. (Matthew 7:24-27) Jesus says in this story that the man who built his house upon the rock, was a "wise" man for, "the rains descended, the floods came and the winds blew, and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock". (verse 24) A firm foundation is established through love, care, instruction and discipline in the home. It also comes from a steadfast faith that is secure in the knowledge of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. A firm foundation in the Lord is as strong as the oak tree that is planted by the river bank...it will not waver, it will not rock or be torn by life's trials and problems.
Once again, I want to remind you that God has gifted you with your precious child/children. He has entrusted them to you and it is a huge responsibility, yet with the wisdom and guidance of the Lord, it can be a wonderful process to watch your child grow into the man or woman that God has destined him/her to be! Be consistent with your love, your discipline, your time and your response to your child. Be careful to always try to give godly advice...advice that has been prayed over...advice that has been given in God's Word. And, one day, you will see the fruits of your labor in parenthood...you will have a child that is self-confident, independent, firmly rooted in the Lord...you will be rewarded!
I don't know about you, but, I had much rather stand firm than be rocking, anyday....take the measures to be deeply rooted and firmly planted...and build your home that way, too!
Here's to the journey...stand firm!
"To Tell the Truth"
January 6, 2012
"To Tell the Truth"...it was a popular TV game show, during the years 1956-1968, where a panel of celebrities would listen to the stories of three contestants and try to guess who was telling the truth. It was always quite interesting to hear the made-up stories of the false characters...they really sounded like they were telling the truth! I was very young at the time of this show's popularity, but even as a young child, I remember thinking about just how hard it must have been for the ones, who were not telling the truth, to keep a straight face!
Have you ever noticed the reaction on a child's face when he/she is questioned about whether they are telling the truth or not? You know, God, our Creator, really gave us hearts that are prone to know the truth and prone to tell the truth. For, it is much harder to tell a fib, story or an "out and out" lie than it is to just tell the truth!! It is so easy to quickly tell by a child's expression if he is not telling the truth. He/she usually tells on himself. Just think of all the afterthoughts and all the problems that dishonesty causes. My mother used to say that if you tell one fib, you have to tell another, and another and another...it just never ends.
In a world that is full of lies, pretense, false living and just plain-old devilment (as my mom would call it), we must focus on teaching our children how important it is to not only tell the truth, but to know the truth! In John 8:32, Jesus says to His disciples: "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!" WOW, what a statement! Jesus knew that He, Himself, represented the truth. He was actually "The Way, the Truth, the Life" and still is today!
Be an example to your child. Even if you have wronged your family or simply even one child in the family, be sure you correct it with the truth! Talk about truth and talk about how freeing it is to just tell it like it is! Your children should never have to worry about whether you are telling the truth or not! Be honest! Face situations with an open heart and mind! Know that God is on your side and that He will honor the truth! One day, you will be so glad when you see that your children have grown up to be men and women of integrity and character!
"Here's to the journey...honesty is the best policy!"
"What Child is This?"
December 16, 2011
"What Child is This?"...one of my favorite Christmas carols! I love the words and the beautiful melody...and really just the way it expresses itself...so simply! The celebration of Jesus' birth on that starry, starry night was quite incredible! Can you just imagine the stirring and the business about that stable when our precious Savior was born? And, don't you know...Mary must have had so many questions...she pondered so many thoughts in her heart and mind! I know she must have looked at tiny, baby Jesus and asked..."What child is this?"
I wonder today if you have asked such a question. Have you pondered, questioned and even imagined those kinds of thoughts about your own child. Maybe you have looked deeply into the eyes of your precious offspring and asked, "What child is this?" Maybe you have asked God, "Why did You give me this precious life to love and nurture into adulthood?" Maybe, for you, now is a hard time of parenting. Maybe there are frustrations and even anxieties! Maybe it is an easy time...the road seems smooth and bearable! Or, maybe you are really looking forward to seeing this child become what God has intended for him/her to be.
As you ask yourself, "What child is this?", there are many paths to consider...
1) Your child may be super sensitive with his/her feelings. If so, take time to help them understand their friends, their peers and their leaders. Help them learn to handle life, itself!
2) Your child may be physically over-active. He/she may really push your buttons as you go about your day. You may find it hard to even rest until bedtime comes each day. Ask the Lord to give you patience and to give you wisdom as to know how to channel that activity in your child.
3) Your child may have a very serious personality. He/she may have a hard time just learning to have "fun". As a parent, try to be very sensitive to this and make every effort to create "fun" for your child, so that he/she can learn to laugh!
4) Your child may have a disability that is hard to deal with. Consider adding a prayer of thanksgiving to your day (if you don't already). Giving thanks adds such dimension to any situation that is hard to deal with, especially, when it is totally out of your hands. Give God total control over that child.
5) You may think that your child is just plain perfect! You know what? That's ok, but just remember you still need God's guidance and wisdom.
It is my prayer that as you look into the eyes of your child...this precious gift from God, that you will ask the question: "What child is this?" And, as you do, I pray that you will remember, above all, that this child is yours, but only for a while...God has immeasureable love for your child and definite plans for his/her life. It is so important to the future of your child that you give your total attention to how you raise him/her and that you do it, on bended knees, with God totally in the forefront of the life of your child! And, remember too, that just as God had that divine plan for His child, Jesus, He has a divine plan for your child, as well!
"What Child is This?" He is THE Son of God!
Here's to the journey!
"The Power in God's Gifts"
December 10, 2011
I am a day late writing my blog this week. Yesterday was a very full day...lots to do, lots to take care of...weddings can do that you know! Now, here it is...the BIG day! And, I am really glad I am writing today, instead of yesterday. For, the day yesterday was so full of God and so full of His gifts to us...gifts of love, gifts of beauty, gifts of family, gifts of friends, gifts of unity, gifts of peace...I could go on and on! I can truly say that because of God's gifts yesterday, in that one 24 hour day...my life is different!
As I woke this morning, I realized I was truly awake...not going to be able to fall back to sleep. So, I got up and gazed out the window at the back of our house. As I did, I saw the most beautiful moon...positioning itself to continue on its journey...to the place where in just a few minutes, it would be gone from my sight! And, as I gazed, God reminded me, once again of the power of His gifts...the gifts from His hands! I thanked Him for the dawning of a new day! I thanked Him for the peace He is giving a mother who is transitioning to a mother-in-law...and I mean that with love! I thanked Him for His grace, mercy and and the loving hands of a Creator who loves with no boundaries!
Last night, as I listened to the melodies of beautiful music, as I watched the hands of those playing the instruments, and as I watched family and friends mingling and sharing with one another, I could not resist the temptation of wanting to just "hold those moments"...for just a little while...to ponder and remember the years...oh, how the Lord has blessed! You see, without God's gifts, we would be nothing, we would be nowhere, we would be without purpose, as His children. The power of those gifts goes far beyond anything the world can offer, anything we think we can do on our own. The power of God's gifts is eternal! The power of His gifts is life-changing...it is transforming...it is enriching!
I encourage you to take each day...live it to its fullest...don't fret about tomorrow, but rest in assurance that God is with you today. He will carry you and He will be giving all the way! Share those gifts with your family...when you rise up in the morning, while you go about your day, and when you lie down at night to sleep. Poet Ann Ruth Schabacker wrote, "Each day comes bearing gifts, untie the ribbons"...yes, untie the ribbons and live!
"From the rising of the sun, to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!" Psalm 113:3, NASB
Here's to the journey...be watching for God's gifts!
"Making Memories That Will Last"
December 2, 2011
Many of you know that in a week, my husband and I will give our precious daughter to a wonderful man to be married. Oh, it has come so quickly! It seems like yesterday that she was toddling around, with her two brothers, without a care in the world! She is 22 (and 1/2, she would say) and these years have been such a blessing! God has truly been with us as we have parented our children and He has been so faithful to His promises. We began praying for our children's spouses when they were just toddlers and now God has brought one of those prayers to fruition in Bethany and Richard.
I know I wrote about traditions last week, but today I want to remind you of memories and of how important it is to count those remembrances in relation to how God has blessed! I believe that as we praise God and count our blessings, He loves to hear how thankful we are that He has been faithful to those things we have asked for. I would like to list for you the things I am most thankful for in my daughter today. And, I want you to know these are things I have prayed for all of these 22 years.
1) I prayed that she would be beautiful from the inside...since she was three years old, I have reminded her that beauty is in your heart. And, as I prayed, I asked God to reveal that to her.
2) I prayed that at an early age, she would come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. She did come to know Him at age 6.
3) I prayed that she would develop a sweet spirit and sincere love for others. I love to see her as she interacts with people. God certainly has given her a heart for others!
4) I prayed that God would grow her in maturity and independence and that she would be able to live on her own. He did that as she moved away to Auburn and had her own place...God was faithful to give her wisdom and knowledge to do what she needed to do to get an education.
5) I prayed that one day she would meet a man who would and could love her as much as her mom and dad. And, that he would possess a spirit of love that can only come from God...an unselfish and "always giving" kind of love! God answered.
I am not writing these things to get you to look at my daughter and "Ooo and Ahh"! I am writing these things to encourage you, as parents, and to let you know that when you are constant with your prayers for your children, God will bring those things to pass...He is faithful!
As for the memories...God wants us to recall and remember the memories. For it is through memories that we are encouraged and growth happens in our own lives! We have so enjoyed the past 6 months with our daughter as she moved back home after graduation. It has been such a delight to have grown-up conversations with her, to watch her as she has communicated with her dad, as she has still had some very "childlike" moments...like running in and giving her morning hugs and saying, "Hey Momma!" And, I have loved sharing advice, with her, that will help her as a wife.
The big day is coming and I praise God in knowing that He, our Almighty Father, will be there as He unites them in marriage! I praise Him because I know it is His plan!
Here's to the journey...I pray that it is precious for you!
"Treasures in Tradition"
November 25, 2011
As we begin this beautiful holiday season, I am reminded of just how much tradition means in families...especially to children! You just try to change the way you celebrate the season and see how your family reacts! Whether you open gifts on Christmas Eve, whether you go to grandmother's house for breakfast on Christmas morning, whether you always read the Christmas story, or whether you save most of your shopping until Christmas Eve...my sweet husband always loves to do that...if you try to change tradition, I am sure you will hear about it!
About seven years ago, I began thinking about my children and wondering just what they would remember and want to carry on as they got older and began having their own families. Immediately, I had a great thought...what about a tradition of "Soup Night", held a few evenings before Christmas Eve. I would serve two of their favorite soups and invite my sister and her family. Would you believe...it was a huge success? What a wonderful event...no stress, no pressure, just enjoying family and spending quality time together...lots of laughter and lots of love! And, now, every year, they begin asking, early in the season, "When's Soup Night? When's Soup Night?" Even as they were away at college, they would call and ask. It has become a tradition and a very special time for our family! Almost every year, too, Frosty makes a surprise visit...now, just ask me about that!
I am convinced that there is a great treasure of value and worth in tradition! And, wow, can you imagine the memories you are making...those times you will always remember? What will your children remember from their childhood? What traditions will they want to carry forth from generation to generation? And, what traditions will they make for their own families?
Go ahead, this year...start a tradition and make it stick! You will be glad you did and the value of it will be immeasurable!
Here's to the journey...life is full of treasures!
"A Heart of Thanksgiving"
November 18, 2011
A few months ago, I was making one of my usual trips to Walmart for groceries. And, as I drove in front of the store, I came upon the crossover where customers were making their way into and out of the store. This particular time, there was a large group of them busily going about their day...probably 8 or 10 of them. As they crossed, it seemed like they were just taking their time...not one looked back...not one acknowledged the drivers who had stopped to let them pass...until, the last one crossed over...and, just as I began to move my car again, she turned around and thanked me, with a beautiful smile and a certain kindness that just seemed to resonate. Instantly, God pricked my heart and reminded me of the story of Jesus and the ten lepers...how, because of His love and mercy for them, He healed them. However, if you remember the story like I do, only one came back and thanked Jesus for his healing. (Luke 17:11-19)
What an impact that customer made on me as she turned and thanked me! I can only imagine how Jesus felt when one of the healed lepers came back to thank Him! Don't you know He was disappointed? Don't you know He was sad that they did not realize the miracle and take time to thank the God who made them whole again?
Why is it that we have such a hard time with thankfulness? With all that the Lord does for us and has done for us, we are still prideful and selfish people. We ask and ask and ask, yet, many times forget to say "thank you, God!" I am convinced that a heart full of gratitude conveys a strong testimony for God's faithfulness and a heart full of gratitude produces a Christ-like attitude. When we are thankful, He is able to move with greater ease and do the work He needs to do in our lives. His faithfulness should cultivate thankfulness in the lives of us, His children!
One of the most important things you can teach your children and model, for them, is a thankful heart! For, with that kind of attitude, you will see them live victoriously and be able to handle many of the circumstances that will come their way in life! It's just plain and simple...a grateful heart makes all the difference! And, remember, a "thank you", even to a stranger, may be the witness God chooses to use in the life of another.
"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord; and to sing praises unto His name!" Psalm 92:1
"Here's to the journey...give thanks along the way!"
"Who Shall Separate Us from the Love of Christ?"
November 11, 2011
I remember it well! My mother was a strong disciplinarian and my sisters and I got our fair share of "switchings"...yes, that form of discipline that is almost unheard of anymore! Before I would get a switching for something I had done or for not obeying my mom or dad, Mother would always say, "Now, you know I love you and this is why I have to switch you!" I remember thinking, "Wow, this is love? I mean, really!" Yet, in the depth of my heart I knew what she said was true. You could not and still can not find a mother who loves her three daughters more than my mom. And, as the years went by and I grew and matured, I realized just how fair and consistent my mother was with her discipline and punishment to her girls. She always reassured us of her love by saying, "No matter what you do, no matter what comes our way, remember, I will always be your mother and I will always love you!" Through the years and to this day, she has always been a wonderful example to me, as a mother of three.
The love a parent has for his/her child can very closely be compared to the love of God. For, He is our Creator, our Sustainer, the Lover of our souls, and nothing can separate us from Him or that love He has for His children. Romans 8:35-39 says it beautifully, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long, we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For, I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord!" (NAS) Do you have that kind of deep, deep love for your children? Yes, of course you do! Your child is a part of you and nothing can change the fact that he/she belongs to you and that you are responsible for parenting that precious gift God has entrusted to you! Nothing can separate you from your child! He/she may stray, he/she may rebel, he/she may look at you and say, "You don't love me!" But, nothing can change the fact that he/she is yours!
And, with that...as a parent you must stay strong and determined about the course that is set before you with your child. Hopefully, he/she will be with you for 17 or 18 years before he/she heads off to college or decides to be totally independent. It seems like a long time, but, my friend, it is not! It will come as quickly as the dawn and you will be asking, " Where did the time go?" Ask God to keep you strong, ask Him to help you be consistent and fair with your discipline and with the matters that will arise in your home...He will guide you, He will give you discernment and He will honor your honest and faithful efforts!
Remember, as your child belongs to you...you, as well, belong to God and nothing can separate you from His love!
Here's to the journey...cherish the treasure!
"Will You Choose Wisely?"
November 4, 2011
In this day of worldly influence and so many choices to be made, I want to ask the question: "Who will you serve?" Is your home full of the Lord or is it full of the world? Have you made the choice to serve God and only God alone? I remember asking myself that question many years ago, as a young mother. I have always wanted the very best for my children and have worked hard to try to provide, for them, everything they needed. However, through the years, there have been many moments and experiences that have caused me to ask myself, "Really, what is most important?" And, there is no doubt, every time, I have answered, "The most important thing in the lives of my children is that they come to know the Lord and have a full relationship with Him!"
I love the story of Joshua, who after leading the Israelites into the promised land, took a strong stance in serving the Lord. He challenged his people to make a conscious choice, a precise decision to put away the other gods in their lives and serve the one and only Almighty God! In Joshua 24:15, he speaks with great conviction saying, "If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But, as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."
Parents, let me encourage you to take that stance...no matter where you are with the Lord and living for Him, it is not too late to make that choice! If you need to make a fresh start, then do so...trust God...He will help you! Start with a daily prayer and Bible study time. Sit down with your spouse and make the decision together. Give your children new instructions about how it is going to be in your home. Share with them that you have decided things need to change! Tell them that you want their lives to be strong in the Lord and that you want your family to make a difference for Him in this world! Then, lead them with love and gentleness! Take one day at a time and watch God work as you are faithful to Him and the choice you have made to serve Him! You will be amazed!
So, will you choose wisely? Will you serve God and God alone?
Here's to the journey...the choice is yours!
"My Light is Broken!"
October 28, 2011
"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness." Genensis 1:3,4
I really enjoy teaching music to the children in the preschool. We have such fun times and it gives me an opportunity to spend time with them and get to know them better. As I was teaching one of the younger three-year-old classes the other morning, I heard an exclamation from one of the children that really made me think. I said, "Now, hold up your finger, as your little light, so we can sing, 'This Little Light of Mine'". They all proceeded to hold up their index fingers, except for one little boy, who looked at me, with sad eyes, and proclaimed, "Mrs. Burke, my little light is broken!" It was such a sad expression and really caught me off guard. I looked at him and said, "Well, let's just fix it!" At that, he lifted his finger very slowly. I do realize that he just might not have wanted to hold his finger up, but also, I realize, too, that his little heart might have felt sad that morning. That expression made me think of how sometimes, we, as adults, are not sensitive to our children's feelings. Sometimes, in our lives, we even forget to show the light that the Lord has called us to show. And, sometimes, it's just simply that we don't take the time to find out why they are sad or unhappy.
Children have such a way of showing their feelings. I hope that, as a parent, you are always praying for sensitivity to that and for a great deal of patience in dealing with those feelings. We must caution ourselves against "breaking their spirit" and "wounding their hearts". In Ephesians 6:4, the Lord speaks to fathers, but it also can mean moms, too, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." You certainly want your child to feel free to share his/her feelings and to know that you care about their inmost thoughts. When, you sense that your child is unhappy, sad or that something is bothering him/her, be sure that you ask about it. Don't just let it go as if it does not matter.
I, also, hope that as Christian parents, you will help your child focus on the light that the Lord has given to shine in our lives. As they recall God's Word, it will help them shine the light He has given to shine in their lives. There are so many examples and expressions of light in the Bible. "The Lord is my Light, and my salvation - whom shall I fear?" Psalm 27:1. When Jesus spoke to the people in John 8:12, He reminded them, "I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
I encourage you to take the time to know your child, share his/her feelings, and help your child shine the light in his/her life that will be a testimony for the Lord!
Here's to the journey..."Let it Shine"!
"But, I Didn't Mean To!"
October 21, 2011
How many times have you heard that? "But Mommy, I didn't mean to!" Your child hurts another child, disobeys or gets in trouble with you for something he did or did not do...and there it comes, sounding as innocent as a lamb...Wow! Their little hearts and minds seem so frail and so unpretentious, but it all comes down to this...we were all born with sin in our hearts. Even, when a preschooler plays with his/her playmate and gets a little too active, things just seem to happen. So, how do we help our children understand the responsibility and accountability of their ways?
Proverbs 16:2 says, "All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord."
I believe there are certain stages of helping a child understand this principle in his/her life. For a preschooler, he/she has to be reminded over and over how easy it is to hurt someone, how to obey and listen, how to be safe crossing the street and it goes on and on. You have to tell them over and over about the little chores they are to accomplish at home. You have to remind your elementary-age child to do homework over and over on a daily basis and wash his/her hands before dinner. Then, they come into this middle-school age stage and just seem to not remember anything at all! They will begin having what I call "sarcasm moments" or "whatever moments"! You will have to sit down and have lots of those "little heart to hearts"...you know what I mean? Then, you will think you have it made and all of a sudden...they come into the teen years...oh my, now that's another story! You will feel like you are teaching everything over again, but yet, you have to "let go"? How are you supposed to do that? You mean you can't just bubble them up and not let them out of the house?
Again, I want to remind you how important it is to spend time with your child...lots of it...quality time, not just a minute here or a minute there. I feel very convicted about the fact that our world just seems to let things go and not have accountability for our actions. In spending time with your child, you will have opportunites to share your heart and your convictions with your child. It will also develop a relationship of trust with your child where he/she will want to talk to you about their life, about their feelings, their thoughts and as they mature, their own convictions and beliefs. You will do well to hold your child accountable, and be sure you deal with day to day issues as they come about. If your child gets away, even one time, with hurting another friend's feelings or taking something that does not belong to him/her, disobeying, or any other offense, then next time, he will feel like it was not a "big deal" and his actions may be worse.
Parenting is challenging, but, let me encourage you...it is so worth the effort! Trust the Lord for wisdom, guidance and discernment. Surround your child with godly people and friends. Spend time on your personal relationship with your child, as well, as training your child to grow up as a child of God...reading God's Word, praying daily and loving those around him/her! As your child grows, help them to know that God honors the pure motives of their heart! Remind them that God knows when "we mean it or not"! The bottom line is: God will hold your child accountable (when he/she reaches that age of accountability), so teach him/her that principle and be an example yourself!
Here's to the journey!
"Teaching Our Children to Face Their Enemies"
October 14, 2011
Just last night, I heard the story of a twelve year old girl who took her life because she was bullied. Today, more and more, we are hearing stories like this. And, it really weighs heavy on my heart. We ask ourselves the question: "why"? Why would any young person take their own life because another young person bullied them? It seems so foreign to me, as an individual, yet, I know that I grew up with a full understanding of love...from my parents, my church and my friends. So, how can we teach our children to face their enemies, the "bullies" in their lives, with courage, patience and an attitude of "turning the other cheek"? Today is a day when we must even teach this principle to our preschoolers...of course, in a way that their little minds can understand. As parents, we must constantly prepare our children for this world we live in...a world full of darkness...a world where they must learn to rise above the evil schemes of Satan himself!
We all know the story of Joseph and his brothers...how they hated him so much that they sold him into slavery. I think we all know the reason they hated him...their father loved Joseph much more than his brothers and showed that partiality in the home over and over. Genesis 37:4 records these words: "When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him."
First, parents, if there is more than one child in the home, you must guard against showing favoritism or partiality. That can be hard at times, for children's personalities are so different and you may have one child that is harder to teach and thus, harder to discipline. However, it should never affect your love for that child or the way in which you "parent" that child. I believe that if the proper love and discipline is shown in the home, your child will be much more capable of standing up in a heartless world, at times, even with their friends, acquaintances and classmates.
Second, we must teach our children that there will be times when they will face trouble, heartache...times when even their "friends" may turn away from them. Everything will not seem like it is "fair" to your child. Teach him to stand up and be strong...focusing on his own strengths and gifts, yet, relying on God to be right there with him/her. Give your child positive feedback and build up his/her self image. You might remind your child that even Jesus faced persecution...in fact, in today's world, I would call some of those who persecuted him, "bullies", wouldn't you? Psalm 37:8-9: "Do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret-it only leads to evil. For, evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land."
Third, teach your child and encourage him/her to let someone know if there is "bullying" going on...even if he/she sees it happening to someone else. In this day and time, we must teach our children that it is ok to speak up. Talk to them about how they can approach their teachers and their leaders in church if this kind of behavior surfaces. Most of all, let them know that you, as mom or dad, are always there...you want to hear their problems, their thoughts...the things that bother them. Your child should never feel lonely in the sense that they have no one to talk to.
Fourth, teach your child that above all, "love" conquers! Help them through difficult situations by showing them how to love their enemies...pray for them, have them over for play dates and involve those children in your child's life. You will find that probably the thing they need the most is "love"! "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good!" (Romans 12:9).
Fifth, remind your child of Romans 8:31: "If God is for us, who can be against us?" In God's time, He will take care of the unjust, the unrighteous, those who have carried out their evil schemes...leave it to Him! And, His love and your love in the life of your child will make the difference...just watch and see!
Here's to the journey...keep on "keeping on"!
October 7, 2011
Every week at the preschool, we go to Chapel, in the sanctuary, on Thursdays and Fridays. It is such a joyful time! We sing praises to the Lord, we pray and we have a simple object lesson or Bible story. It is so delightful to see the expressions on the faces of those boys and girls. They are like "little sponges"...soaking up everything you say! One of our younger three classes just get beside themselves when they come. Some of them have just turned three and others are still two. On chapel day, their teacher, Mrs. Lindsey, tells them that they are going to "God's House"! You can only imagine what their little minds and hearts are thinking and feeling. "God's House"... really? WOW! I believe it was our first chapel day this fall when one little girl looked up at Mrs. Lindsey and holding her hands out asked, "Where is He?" When Mrs. Lindsey replied, "Who?" The little girl quickly exclaimed, "God!" Oh my! What profound thinking! You know children always want to see things tangibly...mostly because they are just plain curious. However, I am kinda like that little one...if I am going to someone's house, I want to see them, too!
So, I ask you, parents, how do we help our children understand that you can not see God physically? How do we help them understand that you simply trust and know that He is always there? How can we clear up their thinking? I am convinced that as they see you, their loving mom and dad, practicing the "presence of God", they will start to put it all together. As they watch you trust Him through day to day trials and living, they will begin to want it, too. You have the wonderful opportunity to lead your child in this area of their life. Just think about all the things your child can see...the beauty of creation, the human body that He created, the provision of care He gives. And, how about His Word? Don't you think you can help your child understand that His Word was given to those writers so many years ago...from His own heart?
I want to suggest several things that you can do that will help your child "practice the presence of God".
"Pray without ceasing!" (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Remind your child that he/she can always exhibit an attitude of prayer...all day...no matter what comes their way.
"Be thankful!" (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Teach your child to be thankful In everything...so that his/her heart will not grow hard and bitter at the things of this world. Develop a sense of thankfulness! Let it permeate your home.
"Have a joyful heart!" Help your child understand that truly "life is not fair" but God wants His children to rise above it! Trust God for the victory!
Remind your child that God can teach him/her all through the day as they are aware that He is with them!
Take time to share about God in your home. Make a habit of it so that you won't forget to do so. Be a good example of this to your children. Don't be afraid for them to see you praying or reading God's Word. In fact, they need to see it...they need to know it is a vital part of your life!
Always pray with your children. Talk about God's promise when He said that He is always with us! (Matthew 28:20).
Talk about what you have seen God do in your life and in the lives of others. For, as we are aware of His presence, we will stand in awe of the things we see Him doing!
Practice His presence and you will soon see the difference it will make in your life, as well as, your family's lives! As we seek Him, we will draw nearer to Him. And, you know what? He will draw nearer to us, too!
I am praying for you as Paul prayed for the Ephesians in the church at Ephesus. (Ephesians 3:16-17). His words were this: "I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with His power through His Spirit, in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And, I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge...that you may be filled in the measure of all the fullness of God." Amen and Amen!
Here's to the journey...may "God's House" be your home!
September 30, 2011
Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity of attending a first grade birthday party at the park. Wow, it had been a long time since I had been around that many first graders! They were so full of life and so much fun! All of the laughing and giggling made my soul rejoice! I was surrounded by such precious creatures! As, I stood back and watched them, I was amazed at how they just "made" their own fun, how they interacted with one another in such an unselfish way, how easily they laughed with one another and just seemed to celebrate life itself! I wish that would not be lost as they grow up and mature. But, somehow, they start noticing things about themselves and others that just seems to take away some of the fun and some of the celebrating! They get stuck on things of this world that do not matter. They start thinking more selfishly and thus, lose that sweet childlike innocence that is so beautiful and so created by God!
In Zephaniah 3:14-17, the Lord speaks strongly as He reminds His people that He has conquered their enemies and He is in their court...and get this...He is rejoicing over them with joy! "The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a Victorious Warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy!"
How can we have homes of rejoicing? How can we celebrate life with our children? Are we reminded that "this is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice in it?" (Psalm 118:24) Every day does have problems and trials of its own, yet, we must learn to rise above and focus on the more important things of life...not all the "stuff" that weighs us down. Even in the midst of the mundane of day to day living, we must find times to celebrate and rejoice in. We must laugh a lot! Is there anything wrong with just being plain silly? We must "dance" together! I mean, really...have you ever just grabbed your child by the hand and danced? We must delight in the Word of the Lord together! Make a habit of finding those scriptures that show God's exuberance over us, as His children, and delight in them.
As I think again about the birthday party, I was so thrilled to see that those precious little ones were so thrilled about life that the cares of the world did not matter. Really, they just did not know anything but fun and being together! If you have seen that kind of celebrating in the life of your family and especially, in the life of your child, I challenge you to capture it and keep it going for as long as you can! And, when God gives you a spiritual victory, don't be afraid to shout it from the rooftop and dance before God with great joy!
Here's to the journey..."I hope you dance"!
"Are Our Homes Hungry for the Things of This World or Hungry for God?"
September 23, 2011
As our children get older and begin to make their own opinions and choices, where is their focus? Have we taught them that the things of this earth are only temporal and that it is eternity that matters? I see a serious leaning toward the temporal things of this life...even in children. It seems to be all about having the newest toy, the most popular phone device or wearing the newest fashion trend. How do we combat the ways of the world and what it puts in front of our children as being the most important things in their life? How do we remain spiritually focused so that our children will truly have eternal prospective as they grow and mature? How do we help our children develop a hunger for God? This is a question I have pondered many times as I have raised my children.
Experts tell us that children who grow up with extreme materialism will grow to have an unhealthy self-love. They will develop a nature that has a hard time sharing and even loving others. First, we must understand what children really need.
Children need to connect. Your child will become lonely, depressed and even angry if he is given too many things and not enough of your time and love.
Children need satisfaction. The problem with too much materialism is that it is only a temporary high. After your child gets tired of those things or has too much, he crashes and wants more...thus, developing an unhappy cycle which leads to true dissatisfaction.
Children need to matter and know they matter. Children who have too much or get too many things will find themselves always wanting and become known as "what they have", not "who they are". They will grow to have a feeling of thinking they have a right to be served and are entitled to this or that. Then, we have produced a very selfish and self-centered child.
Children need to stand out. Children really want to be special and you really want your children to be special. They want to be respected and looked up to from their peers. One of the biggest concerns of us, as parents, is that we want our children to have a strong self esteem. Therefore, as parents, we must help them understand the "big" picture and that is that God wants so much more for them than "things". He wants their heart and wants them to focus on a future that is headed toward eternity!
The verse that comes to mind for me is simply put in God's Word: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." Matthew 6:33. Let's make a commitment to invest in the spiritual welfare of our children. There's a wealth of it in God's kingdom and He wants our children to be "kids of the kingdom"!
Here's to the journey...look upward!
"What Are You Really Spending on Your Child?"
September 16, 2011
I overheard a conversation, one day, between two young moms. They were having a serious conversation about their homes and what they thought were the most important things for their children. One mom said, "Well, I have always felt like if I could just give my children everything they wanted, they would be happy and love me!" "Not me!", the other mom exclaimed, "My parents gave me everything, materially, that I could ever want but they were never there for me! I was miserable! I wanted time with my parents so much and never could get their attention!" WOW! What is that conversation telling you? What is it telling me?
What do we really spend on our children? Do we spend all of our energy running so that they can really be someone in society? Do we spend all of our money so they can have everything they want and think they need? Or, do we spend our time wisely on them, knowing that there is nothing more important than to give of ourselves to love and teach them? These are hard questions to answer. We all want to give our children everything. Some parents even go to the extremes to "lavish" their wealth on their children. However, I am convinced that if you were to ask one adult after another, what were the most important times in their lives as far as their relationship with their parents, they would say that it was the simple times when they were literally just spending time together. You would not hear about fancy dinners at expensive restaurants, shopping trips where money was spent so freely nor big vacations that thrilled beyond their wildest dreams. You would hear about those times spent quietly just sharing...under the starry sky at night, by the fireplace on a cold winter's eve, in the swing under the shade tree in the spring and making s'mores over the campfire in the woods.
Time is a treasure...a precious commodity! And, it flies so quickly! You know that even on your busy days, you have to plan to have quiet sharing time with your children. You have to plan quiet study time with your Lord. You have to plan your weekends so that you and your family can just have "down time".
So, let's think about this together. Is someone else raising your children? Are you spending too much time and money just trying to get ahead so your family can really look important to the world? Are you so busy that you think you can substitute your time with material things for your children and it really won't matter that you are not there to see them grow up?
Today, on this beautiful morning, I am reminded about the times that my children, who are now adults, remember the most! And, you know what? It is those times when we just "chilled out" together. It might have been just "snuggling" under a blanket and sharing about the day. Or it might be the cold nights we spent in sleeping bags out in the woods. Maybe even a short walk after supper in the evenings. It's fun to hear them share now...with me...those times they remember the most...and guess what? It only cost me my time! That's the most important thing you can spend on your children. So, parents, I challenge you...give your time...it is a precious treasure!
Here's to the journey...spend it well!
"Is Your Child Getting the Best of You?"
September 9, 2011
It's been a crazy, fast-paced morning...getting the children up and ready for school, packing lunches, being sure that they each have their homework and supplies loaded in their backpacks. Then, your youngest decides to just throw a temper tantrum as you are trying to get out the door! You look around at him and say, "Get up and come on! You are going to be late for school!" You really tried to say it very calmly but it didn't work. So, the second time, it comes a little louder with a much firmer tone! When that doesn't work, you simply grab him by the arm and shout as loud as you can, "Did you hear me? I mean NOW!" There is silence and he gets up slowly and walks out the door. Your other two are already in the car and exhausted, just from seeing and hearing the confrontation. When you get in the driver's seat, they just look at you and roll their eyes. WOW! What just happened? Really, what did just happen? It's pretty simple and really quite sad! Your youngest child just got the best of you and your two older children lost a little more respect for you, as their mom!
I have noticed that there is a huge problem with children just not listening to and obeying their parents! It is really nothing new, yet it seems to be becoming a "way of life" for our children. When you and I, as parents, should only have to call their name once or ask them to do something once, it takes two, three times to get it done...and sometimes they do not even respond at all. In homes today, the authority figure has been lost and parental respect has simply been "thrown out the door"!
So, what does God's Word really say about discipline? He talks a lot about discipline...for us, as His children and for parents, as well! When I look at His Word, I see that He looks at discipline as a strong act of love! Hebrews 12:6, "For those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines." Proverbs 3:12, "The Lord corrects those He loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights." Proverbs 22:15, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him." Proverbs 19:20, "Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days." Proverbs 13:24, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him, disciplines him diligently." Proverbs 4:1, "Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding."
Truly, we all want our children to succeed. We all want them to be loved and admired by their peers and their instructors. We want them to be looked upon as orderly individuals and ones who can handle life. We know that as they grow into adults (and that will happen sooner than you think), we want them to be self-disciplined people and ones whom the society will see as that! So, why don't we discipline our children consistently? Many times, I believe, we just think it is easier to let it go. Sometimes, we want to be "popular", yes "popular", even with our own children. We want them to "like" us! We want to be their friend! Well, all that is well and good, if you can still be looked upon as the authority and with respect, I mean "real" respect...a respect where they don't question what you say, a respect where they answer the "first" time, a respect where they hold you up "high" as very important in their lives, a respect where they know you know "your " place! Listen, parents, I firmly believe that when I stand before Almighty God one day, I will be held accountable for everything I said and did in parenting my three! Yes, just think about that!
So, make some plans to discipline your child...with God's guidance, on your knees asking God to lead, by His Word and with your spouse...agree on what needs to happen! It is not too late!! And, your child will love you for it! He/she may not smile while it's happening, but your child will love and respect you for being who you are supposed to be! Guess what? Your child will grow, too, in knowing how much you really love him/her!
Don't let your child get the best of you...go for the best in all of you!! And, God will honor you for it!
Here's to the journey!
"Lazy Hands or Diligent Hands?
September 2, 2011
How many times have you seen a discouraged mom or dad who just can't get their children to do anything? They live exhausted lives on a daily basis because, not only do they work outside the home, but come home to put in another shift before closing their eyes to sleep at night! Today's parent is most commonly seen as a recreation director, entertainer or just a "plain old" chauffeur. Parents should really take on the role of loving taskmasters who delight in seeing their children achieve and really get things done...making great strides for progress! Children really need to learn how to work! There is nothing wrong with that! When a child works and sees himself making progress, there is a sense of pride and gratification that takes place in his/her mind and heart. That's a healthy thing, too, parents!
It really bothers me when I see a child labeled "lazy". I have seen many children try to succeed, even at the youngest ages, yet, they just can not "follow through" with their plan or idea...even in preschool play times. I believe that God created every human being with a natural drive to achieve, excel, dream and succeed in life! How is it then that some children have more drive than others? What has happened along the way?
What can we, as parents, do to help our children "move on", to really get things done and succeed with their endeavors?
1) We must recognize their skills and abilities. Give them challenges at home with small tasks and chores. And, don't let them just get by with not accomplishing what you have asked them to do. You, as the taskmaster, must see it through, also.
2) Help your child understand stress and how to cope with it. Children who are under heavy stress, at home or at school, do not perform well.
3) Help your child manage his/her time and let them know what you expect. Set a schedule for homework time, as well as, chore time.
4) Give your family a healthy balance of quality work and play. And, even play time needs to be more than sitting in front of the television or playing video games.
5) If you have more than one child, you may want to create a little bit of competition at home...see who can get their homework or chores done faster? Be sure, though, that this does not create pressure with your children.
6) Praise their successes! Negative comments will always slow them down, but praise and positive feedback is a huge plus for diligence in their lives!
7) Give your child the opportunity to succeed! Do not do everything for him/her. Let them use their hands, their minds, their bodies to get the work done! You will be glad you did! And, you know what? Your child will feel like he/she is ten feet tall!!
8) Staying busy and having diligent hands will keep your child out of trouble, too! My mom used to say, "An idle mind is the devil's workshop!" Oh, how true! When a child is bored or becomes lazy, he/she will find something to do and many times it can be trouble!!
Give your children great role models as moms and dads! You will find that your child will be thankful one day for the strong work ethic you have helped him/her achieve! And, all the while, you will enjoy the rewards!!
"Lazy hands make for poor, but diligent hands bring wealth." Proverbs 10:4
Here's to the journey...time is moving on!
"Into the Light"
August 26, 2011
When I was younger, it was always fun to be on a trip in the car and go through a tunnel. I loved staying in the dark and then suddenly coming into the light! It was fun to just see how long the darkness would last! And, do you remember having your mom or dad blow the horn while you were in the tunnel? The echo of the horn was so cool-sounding in the tunnel! I can't help but compare the tunnel to the life of a person who does not know Christ...how dark it must be! And, then when that person comes to know the Lord, there is suddenly light...light at the end of the tunnel! "God is light, in Him there is no darkness!" I John 1:5.
The world is full of darkness and our children will experience a lot of that darkness if we, as their parents, do not lead them to the Lord and out of that darkness! I have always loved good movies and wholesome TV shows, however, you can not watch any TV these days without being bombarded with Satan's ways and ungodly morals. It does not take long for a child to get totally immersed in spending time in front of the television. And, before you know it, he/she has made a habit out of just turning the TV on without even thinking about it! My mother used to call the TV a "one-eyed monster" and my sisters and I thought that was absurd. However, as I have grown, matured and raised my own children, I have realized that she was probably right! We must watch what our children become enthralled with for their entertainment. We must instruct them in the way of the Lord and the light He provides for their lives.
Do you direct your children toward the light? Do you consciously look for the light in this world of darkness? God's Word is full of stories and examples of how God used light. The light guided the Israelites at as they ran from Pharaoh and his army. Even when God caused a plague of darkness to cover the land of Egypt, no one except the Israelites had light. Yet, God provided it for His people wherever they lived. (Exodus 10 and 14) In David's Song of Praise found in Psalm 22, he gives praise for the light "You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light."
We must positively influence our children toward the light...providing for them a home full of light, a home full of "openness" and love, a life that will radiate with God's light and salvation. We must teach them to follow their convictions. When they come to know the Lord, they will know when the Holy Spirit is convicting them of those things that are darkness in their lives. "The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear?" Psalm 27:1
Think about it when you are out and about..racing through your day...are you experiencing light or are you immersed in the darkness? Has the Light invaded your soul? Has the Light taken you from darkness into the light? Do you know the difference?
"The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine upon us." Psalm 118:27
Here's to the journey!
"There is a Time for Everything"
August 19, 2011
Well, here we are again...beginning another school year and already rushing around like ants on an ant hill! It is so intriguing to me how all of a sudden school begins and we all shift into "overdrive"! I am already hearing words like, "I am tired" and "Our schedule is unbelievable!" Parents, what is wrong with this picture? Don't you think we "overbook" our lives? Don't you think we have a hard time prioritizing and remembering the most important things in the lives of our families?
I want to encourage you today as you read this blog! I want to ask you some questions to seriously ponder for your family. I want to help you think about scheduling the most important things for your family. Those things in life that will make a difference with your children, those things that will give them peace and comfort as they walk through their school years, and mainly those things that they will remember as being "most important" to you, as their parents!
Let's consider the priorities...
1) Reclaim family mealtimes. Look at your weekly schedule and decide which nights you "have" to go through the "drive-through" and which nights you will cook at home. On those "cook at home" nights, be sure to let every family member know what time you will all gather at the table, turn the TV off, silence the cell phones and sit down together for a peaceful meal. This time is so important. Pray together. Talk about the happenings of the day. Give each child a chance to share the most exciting thing that happened to them or the thing that they need help working out! Include every member of the family.
2) Schedule some "downtime" every evening. Even if you only have 10-15 minutes before bedtimes, take time to just "chill" with your children! Part of this "downtime" could be studying the Bible and praying with your child...that's an "absolute" for each day!
3) Stay involved in church activities. Be sure that you keep Sunday mornings free for worship and Bible study. Your entire family needs this consistency in order to help keep their spiritual lives intact. Then, pray about which other church activities your children should participate in.
4) Be careful about "overextending" your child's energy. It is so important that you do not register your child for everything everybody else does! By this I mean, maybe your child can really excel in just one extracurricular activity after school. I am convinced that when a child is trying to do everything, he/she can not do any one thing with excellence. Start by trying to figure out where his/her talents and gifts lie...is he/she athletic, is he/she musical, does he/she have that "stored up" energy that just needs to be let go in the afternoons?
5) Keep family outings on your calendar. You don't have to take a fancy or expensive trip every season. Your child will just enjoy short outings like, walks in the park, hiking and camping out one night, sitting in your backyard under the stars at night. If you have an older child, take his/her to Starbucks for a private talk time.
6) Keep special occasions and holidays "special"! Don't let birthdays and holidays become "hum-drum"! Start traditions that will really mean something through the years. About 7 years ago, I started having "Soup Night" about 3 nights before Christmas Eve, and now it is a tradition that all of our family enjoys and looks forward to each year. 7) Remember to give your children chores and little jobs around the house. Moms and Dads need help, too, so give each child a job to do on a consistent basis. Make sure these chores are ones that will really help you and hold your child accountable for these chores. Even though you may hear a complaint from time to time, you will be instilling responsibility and pride in your child. It will help them to know that you are counting on them!
I know there's a lot to think about here, but remember, your family is your most important treasure, other than your God and Savior! And, they need your utmost time and ability to give them a structured, well-planned life! You can do it...with prayer, planning and consistency...you can do it!! Don't let the world run over you! Shift back down out of "overdrive" and have a great year!
Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 11 says it well: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. He has made everything beautiful in His time."
Here's to the journey...enjoy it!
August 15, 2011
"Do You Have an Undivided Heart?"
Ed, Bethany and I have just returned from a week-long visit to Lubbock, Texas...yes it was a long trip...17 hours in the car and 1015 miles...one way! However, it was a wonderful, fun trip...full of great quality time and lots of much-needed rest! Probably my favorite day on the whole trip was spent on a picnic in Lubbock's city park. It is a beautiful, clean and very scenic park that just seems to roll on and on. The Prairie Dog Farm is located there, at the top of a rise in the road. We had really looked forward to seeing the prairie dogs. We bagged up some fresh grapes to feed them and got out of the car to go over to the short wall that keeps them enclosed in their territory. Immediately, I was intrigued! For, there on the dusty ground, which went on for several acres, there were these little creatures standing on their hind legs, barking for attention! They knew we were there and they knew what they wanted...food and attention! There were actually families of these prairie dogs running around...even babies! After a few minutes of watching them, it was clear which children belonged to which family...they were playing with each other and at the same time, fighting over the grapes that we were throwing their way! Then, all of a sudden, a tiny baby...I mean a tiny one...peeped its head out of its burrow! It only took a second or two for him to know where the action was! He came on out for a grape himself!
I was so intrigued and curious about this farm of cute, funny little creatures that I have thought about them a good bit since that day! Several things came to my mind:
1) It was clear which ones belonged to which family.
2) It was obvious they had a defined mission...to get nourishment and to provide protection for their young!
3) I could tell they knew their territory!
You may think this is a stretch, but I can not help but think about us, God's human creatures. I wonder if we have that kind of focus and attention about our relationship with God? Do we really care about our families? Are we that obvious to the world about our love and protection for our families? When people see us with our children, is there clear definition that we belong together? And, do we protect our family so much so that those around us can see that our territory, our home, is consumed with an "undivided heart"? An "undivided heart" for love, commitment and belonging...to God...to live with a total focus on Him?
Just think about it...does your family "look" like a family, do you "love" like a family, do you have a defined mission, do you know your territory...do you know your home? And, better yet, do you have a clear focus that speaks of God and His heart...His alone?
"Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name." Psalm 86:11, NIV.
Here's to the journey!
August 5, 2011
"Have You Ever Seen a Rainbow?"
It was a beautiful spring afternoon and I was driving home from work. We had just been blessed with one of those much-needed spring showers and the earth looked fresh and clean! As I was driving down the highway, I looked up across the sky and there it was...the most beautiful and most complete rainbow I had ever seen! I have seen rainbows before and they are always beautiful, but the ones I had seen before were usually very faint in color and I could only see part of the arch. But, not this one! I pulled over and looked and as I stretched my eyes across the sky, I could almost see the whole arch and the colors were so vivid! "Now, that's a rainbow!", I said to myself.
As I reflect on that experience this morning, I can only imagine how Noah must have felt when he opened the door of the ark and walked out on dry land. I can only imagine how he must have felt when God made the covenant with him...Genesis 9:13-16...God said, "I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth...never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life...whenever I see the rainbow, I will remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures." What a beautiful promise! What a beautiful sign of God's faithfulness to His people! How can we doubt God's love and provision for us when we see such as this? And, God said that it is an everlasting covenant, an everlasting promise!
I don't know about you, but for me I feel confident in God's strength and purpose in the rainbow. When, I see a rainbow, I am reminded that He is there! I am reminded that He is Almighty! I am reminded that He never fails! I am reminded to never give-up! Even when I have a disappointing time with one of my children...even when they make a choice that I know will bring hurt and pain in their life...even when I want to beg them to listen to me...I know God has a purpose for them. And, in His time, in His working, in His plan for my children, the rainbow is still there! God's promises are true! There is no other promise man can make that even comes close to the promises of God!
So, I ask you today...have you ever seen a rainbow...no, I mean really seen a rainbow?
Here's to the journey!
July 29, 2011
"The Art of Appreciation"
I remember it well! I was six years old and we were having Christmas at my grandmother's house. My grandmother always gave my two sisters and me the same gift. As we counted to "three" and all opened our gifts, from her, at the same time, we were struck with great disappointment to see two pieces of fabric in the box. Oh, my! What was Granny thinking? I mean we were just 6, 5 and 4 years old. How could that be right? I immediately burst into tears and exclaimed, "I don't want that!" And, my sisters chimed in right along with me, of course! Mother quickly reprimanded us and gave us the speech about gifts and that a gift is something someone wants you to have. She said, "Granny knows what beautiful outfits this fabric will make and she knew you all had plenty of toys! Now, all three of you go straight to the bedroom. You are getting a switching!" Well, we all got switched and then, Mother told us to go and apologize to Granny. I learned a very important lesson that day! In fact, that story is one I have always remembered! No, it did not seem fair to three young children that they did not get what they wanted from Granny, but, then again, Granny had put a lot of thought into her gift. Thus, began my road to "mastering" the art of appreciation.
As I ponder over that Christmas experience at Granny's, I am reminded of how much we have to work with our children on saying, "thank you" and learning the true art of appreciation. What is appreciation? It is recognizing the worth and value of something or someone. And, it is also an expression of admiration and gratitude. So, don't you think that teaching our children to master this art is of great importance to their success in life? I guess you might say I am "old-fashioned", but, I believe that teaching "appreciation" is also a part of teaching "respect". I have heard many a youngster say harsh and disrespectful things to their parents when their parents were giving their all and desiring for their children to have everything (and more) that they need. It certainly could be that we, as parents, give our children too much! WOW! What do you think about that? Don't you think that there should be stages or levels of giving your child certain things? And, as those times roll around, maybe little by little your child is learning to appreciate what you do for him/her? Also, parents, it really is ok to say "no" to some of their wants and requests.
I believe children should have to learn to recognize what it takes to put food on the table, to put clothes on their backs and to just simply live in this world! Don't be afraid to let your children know about the finances and how much it really takes to live. And, at the appropriate time, let them have jobs and chores where they will make a little money and learn to manage it! Believe me, when a child knows what it takes to live and truly appreciates what you do as their parents, it will make a huge difference in their "appreciation" level. It will also increase their love and respect for you!
Now, since we are talking about gifts and appreciation, how long has it been since you thanked God and gave your appreciation to Him for Jesus and all of His blessings? Do you think that we, as God's children, sometimes forget to appreciate Him and thank Him for what He has done for us, as our eternal Father?
"Thanks be to God, for His indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15, NIV.
Here's to the journey!
July 22, 2011
"Praise or Criticism?"
I was really taken back from a conversation I had with a young mom just the other day! She had a key role in a musical I was working with and had one of the most beautiful and unusual voices I have ever heard. As we were standing backstage before the second performance, she told us that her mother had been in the audience on opening night, just the night before. As she was talking about her mom, she made the statement: "For once, she did not say anything negative or critical about my performance...thank goodness!" I just looked at her with an inquisitive expression. Then, she added, "However, she did say she could tell my voice was hoarse! Oh well, I guess that was negative, wasn't it?" I stood there with a sinking feeling in my heart and said to her, "Well, maybe not! You know, as parents, we always think our children have to be perfect and we notice everything!" I was really trying to give this young mom a little bit of hope...maybe that her mom just wanted her to be the best she could be? However, in my heart, I sensed the feeling that she had experienced criticism, from her mom, in almost everything she had encountered along life's path! Why can't we give words of encouragement, hope, healing and praise?
We all know that words can build up or tear down. God calls us to encourage one another and build each other up as in 1 Thessalonians 5:11. There are words of criticism that can be constructive and helpful, but we must choose the timing for those words and be sure that our words show just that...love and concern. Any child who lives with constant criticism and never receives any praise, grows up with the feeling of defeat and of "never doing anything right"! He/she has a hard time overcoming obstacles and really having hope for their future! Many times, he/she will fall into depression and bitterness. I am convinced that the child who receives praise at the appropriate times will be one who will listen to instruction and guidance much more freely! I believe that praise in a child's life helps the parent have a stronger relationship with his/her child and gives them the liberty to guide with a stronger and more loving hand! Most children thrive on hearing their parents say how proud they are or that they've done a good job! It is so neat to see the face of a child light up when he has received approval...it just makes him/her want to do better! Don't hesitate...affirm your child with words of praise, affirmation and love!
How do you think you would feel if you never felt God's hand upon your life...His hand of discipline, His hand of guidance and His affirmation that you have followed Him? Don't you think that makes you more willing to listen and learn from Him? Words of praise and affirmation will help you raise an obedient and confident child...and one who will love and respect you! You can count on that!
"A wise man's heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:23, 24, NIV.
Here's to the journey!
July 15, 2011
"And, while he was still young..."
How many times have you told your child, "Wait until you're older!" or "Well, let's think about it! You are not quite old enough yet!"? Many times, I think that we, as parents, do not realize our children can really have serious thoughts. And, that many times, they really can make some serious decisions about their lives. Yes, there are many decisions that our children can not make at a young age. However, do we believe that God really can speak to them...in their early years?
I was reading my Bible, the other day, and as I flipped through the pages of 2 Chronicles, several verses caught my attention and really pricked my heart. The story was about King Josiah who became king at the age of eight. The scriptures record that, "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. (34:2) "In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek God." (34:3) As king, Josiah had to make some very hard and important decisions in Judah. Those verses raised some questions in my heart: How can we encourage our children to think seriously about life at a young age? How can we help them to think about God and His plan for their lives and their future? First, we must be serious about providing a Christian home for our children. We must be consistent about the whole family spending time together in God's Word and in prayer. We should read stories in the Bible about how God used His people and how God spoke to them. And, take the time to discuss those stories. Ask your children questions that will prompt their thinking. Be diligent in following up with questions and discussions that need answers (if you don't have them right away). And, if you see that your child is confused about something he/she thinks God is saying to them, do not hesitate to arrange a time he/she can sit and talk with a minister or church leader in their lives. Even yet, pray for a mentor in your child's life...someone you trust, someone you know follows the Lord.
I am reminded of a young boy who always talked about people in foreign countries and how he felt sympathy for their needs. He was always interested in hearing from the missionaries after they made a trip to a foreign land. He was also interested in home missions, as the church planned events like "backyard Bible clubs" and even, one time, took VBS "on the road". He was always the first to sign-up and go! His parents never paid any attention to his thoughts and comments. They dismissed his feelings as just being "childlike" and felt that his feelings would pass. When he was older, they literally made him go on to college and become a business man...a career they knew would make him a "good" living! And, it did! However, he was never satisfied...for his heart still longed to share Jesus on the mission field to those who had never heard!
We must pay close attention to our children. We must seek to know their thoughts and let them know we believe that God can speak to them. God uses young people and He wants to use your child! Ask God to raise your child up to be a strong leader for Him and be sure you are there to encourage them! Moms and Dads, you should be your child's loudest and strongest cheerleader when you see God at work! They must know and feel your support! For, while they are still young, God is shaping their future and you don't want them to miss it!
I am wondering...what would have happened in Judah if King Josiah had not acted "while he was still young"?
Here's to the journey!
July 8, 2011
I think the whole world has taken on the "whatever" attitude! I have never known of any other word that has taken hold and invaded the minds and hearts of God's people like the word, "whatever". About 8 years ago, I noticed my own children using this word, to me and their dad, as a reply, when they did not get to do what they wanted or when they did not agree with our decisions in the home. It seemed to satisfy the feelings they had at that moment and really just gave them a "comeback" to us! I remember calling all three of them together one day and saying, "You are not allowed to use the word 'whatever' when I am talking to you! The only time that word is allowed is when you have an unselfish attitude and you are agreeing to obey whatever I ask of you! You are to show respect to me and your dad!" Of course, even then, I thought I felt a little bit of a whispered whatever from them. However, I did not hear that word very much after that.
I was twelve years old when I accepted God's call into full-time Christian service/ministry. I thought then that God would take me to a far-off place...across the sea...as a foreign missionary. Little did I know, He had the mission field picked out for me right in my own backyard! We were at church that particular Sunday evening and we were singing "Wherever He Leads I'll Go", as an invitation hymn. I remember whispering, "Yes, Lord, I'll go...wherever You want me to go, whatever You want me to do!" Then, I walked down the aisle and told the whole congregation about my commitment to the Lord.
It is because of the seriousness of that decision in my life that I feel convicted anytime I hear the reply of "whatever" used in a selfish, arrogant and many times, very sarcastic way! I also feel very convicted that we, as parents, must try to reverse the use of this word! What if every time it was used we could know and feel a servant attitude...a heart full of love, respect, generosity, and unselfishness? I believe that we can work hard in our homes to reverse this negative attitude in our children. One way we can start, is to begin to take time looking at the situations, the problems, and the anxieties that our children face. First, we must teach obedience and respect...and "model" it for them. Then, we must help them to understand that even though their opinions and thoughts do count, we, as their parents, have the first "call" as to what is going to be done in the home and what the final decisions will be. And, help them to know that even when they do not like what you ask them to do, God honors a servant attitude!
When God writes "whatever" in His book, the Bible (and, it is full of them), He uses it in a positive manner! My favorite "whatevers" are those found in Philippians 4:8-9, where Paul writes: "Finally my brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think on such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Can you imagine the image we would see in our world if all of God's people thought on these things? And, what a difference we would see in our children? Wow, it excites me just to think about it!
So, begin today, take a look at the "whatever" responses in your home and set out to make them positive responses! It will make a difference! And, remember, don't be caught thinking that way yourself!
"Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and your plans will succeed!" Proverbs 16:3, NIV
Here's to the journey!
July 1, 2011
"Through the Eyes of a Child"
It was a busy fall that year...lots of school activities for the children and numerous choir rehearsals at the church...preparing for the Christmas program. This particular year, we were doing a Bach cantata (yes, Johann Sebastian Bach, himself) and our minister of music had hired a string quartet to play with us. As the pianist for the church, I had even been challenged to play the organ, using the harpsichord registrations, to give it the "Bach-era" style! And, it was a challenge...many hours of practice were spent at the keyboard learning those notes and preparing for that beautiful cantata! I remember it well! Ed and I would have conversations about the event. He was in the choir, so he was learning all the bass vocal parts. Many times at home, we would discuss the "strings" and how beautiful it was going to be! What a worship service we were anticipating! Then, it came...the afternoon of the final dress rehearsal before the program! We loaded the children in the car and headed to my sister's house where they would stay, for a few hours, and then come to church for the program. As we were driving along, I mentioned the "strings" once again and suddenly it hit our youngest son, who was then eight years old! He took a deep breath, and with a loud burst, he exclaimed, "Oh man, I thought we were having a puppet show!" It really hit me! We all chuckled, of course, but I realized we had not completely conveyed to our children really what was going on! What we understood, as adults, was foreign to them!
Isn't it funny how children can perceive things so differently than we do? There are so many different ideas, thoughts, and sometimes, even dreams "through the eyes of children"! Through the years, as I have matured, I have often thought how wonderful it is to think like a child, to play like a child and to even love like a child! As adults, we seem to lose so much of that! As parents, we get so lost in the "parenting" and in the details of life that we forget to just have fun with our children! How many times have you run through the park with your child? How many times have you sat in a swing? How many times have you just sat down in a corner and laughed with your child? Have you played "hide and seek" lately? How about skipping down the sidewalk while your child is on his/her skateboard? How about just having a family night of games with your children?
Children are so fresh, so innocent, so open-minded and so unassuming. Wow! Why can't we keep some of that? Even in our faith, we get so serious that we can not experience the simplicity of it! God wants His children to have that child-like faith. Matthew 18:4 states, "Whoever humbles himself like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." As I watch children, at the preschool and all around, I am enthralled at the sweet beauty of their love, innocence and simple perception of life! It is an awesome feeling to answer the questions of a child and to be a part of their world. It is exhilarating to experience joy with a child, for he/she does not worry about the future, but rejoices in today!
James Russell Lowell, a famous poet, said it well: "Children are God's apostles, day by day sent forth to preach of love, hope, and peace!"
I encourage you to take time to see life "through the eyes of your child"! Take a moment to read a funny story or share a "knock, knock joke"! Take a trip to the park and let your child push you on the swing! Prepare a simple picnic lunch and find the biggest shade tree around and share that time with your child! Try the skateboard yourself or put skates on at the roller rink! When you do, I believe you will find a fresh and new look at life...for a child's perspective can really cheer a weary soul! And, guess what? Your child will be mesmerized at how much fun you can really be!
Here's to the journey!
June 24, 2011
"An Open-Door Policy?"
I love to watch animals, especially pets and their masters! They have so many human qualities. I believe that the Lord gave us animals to enjoy as part of His creation. However, I have often wondered if the Lord wanted us to learn from them, also. Pets teach us so much about loyalty, love, friendship and yes, even obedience and submission.
We have two dogs, Bridget and Canyon. They are outside dogs and we love them so much! They are really cute together and both demand our love and attention. Bridget is almost 14 years old and Canyon is 3, so he still has a lot of energy and youth in him. I get so tickled at Canyon because he just thinks he is welcome anywhere and also, thinks everything is his business! Anytime I come in the house and leave the door open behind me, Canyon just prances on in without any concern that he is not supposed to do so. He walks in like he is part of the family and should be anywhere we are! I love that because it makes me feel like he knows we love him and that we care! Bridget just sits at the steps and waits for an introduction to come in!
Now, I got to thinking about our children and how we parent them. Are our homes and our attitudes toward our homes displayed in such a way that our children know they are loved, part of the family and that we really want them with us? Or, do your children have to "ask" to be part of the family or do they sometimes "shy" away from your love and actions as a parent? I surely hope not! For, it is so important to keep those lines of communication open and for them to be "welcome" to share their inmost thoughts and feelings! These are parenting skills that many times just do not come natural, especially when you have a rebellious child. You have to "work" on them! You have to "practice" them!
Do you remember the first time you got a new pet, probably a puppy or kitten? Did that pet just all of a sudden love you and want to be with you all the time? Or, did that precious puppy or kitten have to learn your mannerisms, your voice, and your touch?
How can we parent in such a way that our children know we have "an open-door" policy? I would recommend the following:
Pray with your child on a daily basis.
Be sure to read and learn God's Word together daily.
Be careful that the outside world does not distract you from your children...be ready to listen! Be available for your child!
Set aside a time (put it on your calendar) to take your child out for "special" dates with just you!
Pray for God's discernment so that you will know when your child is worried or bothered!
Don't be afraid to discipline...for it is through godly discipline that your child learns how much you love him/her.
Make his/her friends a part of the family...accept their peers and welcome them into your home, too!
Let your child know you care about his/her interests!
Do not let the "sun go down" on problems or bad attitudes in the home...work it out and pray together, asking the Lord to help you correct those things that come between you and your child! Do it before bedtime!
You have the wonderful and awesome responsibility of raising your child! If you trust the Lord, if you have Christ-like love for your child and build a God-centered home, your child will honor you and want to be with you! Your child will know you have "an open-door" policy with the welcome mat ready for him/her to come to you at any time! I am reminded of the verse, Matthew 7:7, which comes from "The Sermon on the Mount", where Jesus says: "Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened to you". That is the attitude God wants us to have toward Him...what if your child could feel that toward you?
Well, back to our dogs...I am glad that Canyon feels like we have "an open-door" policy, but I also love the fact that Bridget waits patiently to be invited!
Here's to the journey!
June 17, 2011
"Stand Up and Be Counted!"
I have often thought about how wonderful it would be if I lived my life in such a way that God would describe me as a "woman of God" or a "woman after His own heart". There are characters in the Bible who are recorded as being a "man of God"...Moses (1 Chronicles 23:14), Job (Job 1:1), Elisha (2 Kings 5:20) and David (Nehemiah 12:36)...there are many. And, I have to ask myself the question..."What made the difference?" It is also recorded that even Noah "walked with God" (Genesis 6:9).
The popular author and one of my favorites, Max Lucado, loves to share stories about his children. When they were younger, he loved to watch for moments where he could protect them and stand up for them. He said that when they traveled and were getting ready to board a plane or train, he would stand between each child and the attendant. He would carefully give each child their ticket as they approached. He knew the importance of his calling as a father. For, isn't that what God, our Father, does...stands between us and our needs...stands there waiting to protect and provide...waiting to offer His hand of love to His children?
In this world of constant confusion and harsh criticism about the family, don't we need men to be men? Don't we need fathers to lead their homes as God established the home? God puts it in the proper perspective when He says, "the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man , and the head of Christ is God" (1 Corinthians 11:3)! So, why can't we let the men of our homes be the leader of the family? Our children need that kind of leadership! The Lord also admonishes fathers to be men of God..."to act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly before your God." (Micah 6:8, NIV). He also gives Godly counsel to fathers, in Ephesians 6:4, when He says, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
I believe the world needs Godly fathers...men who will train their children to love and live humbly before God and men...men who will live lives before their children that will require respect and obedience...men who are "imitators of God" (Ephesians 5:1), men who will teach their children to keep God's commandments and trust in Him (Psalm 78:7)...men who, like the father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11), are running, with open arms, to welcome and forgive a son or daughter who has gone astray! We need men who want to stand up for their faith and their families!
After sharing these words, I do not want to close without saying that I know some great fathers...loving dads who give their lives for their wives and children...men who walk humbly before God and know the responsibility of being spiritual leaders in their homes...men who work tirelessly to protect and provide for their families...men who truly "fight the good fight of the faith"! (1 Timothy 6:11-16) As a wife and mother, I want to say to you..."Thank you for being a Godly example to your children! Do not be afraid to stand up and be counted...counted for your God and for your family! The Lord will favor you for doing just that!"
Oh, by the way, "Happy Father's Day"!
Here's to the journey!
June 10, 2011
"Do You See Your Child's Potential?"
When I was growing up, my mother loved to tell the story of how she discovered my musical talent. She said that one day, in our home, she heard the melody of "Jesus Loves Me" being played on the piano. She went quickly to see who was playing and it was me! At that time, I was only three! She said that I had picked out the melody and was playing it with my left hand! Being somewhat of a musician herself, she knew that the melody is usually played with the right hand. So, that day, Mother determined in her heart to find me a teacher as soon as I was old enough. She began searching for a piano teacher and found one who told her that as soon as I turned five, she would teach me. I love to hear Mother tell that story and she tries to tell it even today! I believe that day was the day that the Lord spoke to Mother about my potential. And, praise the Lord, Mother listened to His prompting! She saw the gift and the potential God had for me! And, in her obedience to God's prompting spirit, the path was laid out for my life!
I think about Jesus and the years He walked on this earth...He saw the potential in many He came in contact with. He saw what they could do! When He looked up in the tree and saw Zacchaeus, I believe He saw potential. The potential in a man who had done a lot of dishonest things in his life, but one who could make it right and really be someone! The day that Jesus was teaching by the Lake of Gennesaret was a big day for some fishermen! He saw their potential and called them to be His disciples! I believe that God knew the young girl, Mary, could carry His son, Jesus! I believe He knew she could withstand all that was ahead for her life!
Do you see your child's potential? Take the time to know your child. Take the time to ponder where his/her talent lies! Take the time to know his/her interests in life! Take the time to know what makes your child's heart leap! Pray that the Lord will show you where you need to encourage your child and in what area he/she needs training. Pray daily with your child and help him/her develop that faith in God's leading!
Above all, as a parent, ask God to help you guide your child. It is your responsibility to pray for your child and to ask the Lord to show you where his/her greatest potential lies! Don't be frightened, just trust God and let Him lead!
"It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purposes." Philippians 2:15
Here's to the journey!
June 3, 2011
"What is Beauty?"
Today is my daughter's twenty-second birthday! WOW! It seems like yesterday that we were awaiting her birth on an early Saturday morning. When the clock struck 8:24am that morning, she arrived! The doctor called out, "It's a girl! And, she's even got hair!" Ed and I were so excited! And, as her daddy looked at her for the first time, he said, "Hey, she's even got your ears!" What a beautiful moment that was! The miracle of birth...God's promise of a family heritage...God's passing on of responsibility to me and Ed as her parents...to raise her in a Godly home and nurture her so that she would grow up loving the Lord!
Bethany was born with naturally beautiful hair...as she has grown up, at every age, she has just had "good hair"! When she was 2 and 3 years old, people would look at her and say, "Wow, what pretty hair you have, sweetie!" She would just grin and look up at me. One Sunday, just a few days after she turned three, as we were all getting ready to head out for church, she came running into the bathroom, where I was doing my make-up. I looked at her and said, "Oh, darling, you look so pretty!" At that moment, she put both hands on her head and said, "Pretty hair?" I said, "Yes, but your hair is not what makes you pretty...it's your heart that makes you beautiful! Remember, it is what is in your heart that counts!" I knew that at age three, she really did not fully understand the "heart thing", but I was profoundly reminded that I, as her mother, had to teach her about the beauty and purity a Godly heart must possess! From that day forth, I made it a point to remind my daughter about her heart every time she left the house..."Now, remember, it's what is in your heart that counts...that's where your beauty lies!"
The world looks at beauty through different eyes than God! We are hammered with worldly images of the pride, arrogance and false beauty that the world loves! The TV, the internet, magazines and newspapers are full of it! As parents, we must repute what the world loves when we are teaching our children to have a heart for God and the things of the Lord, for that is what will make their lives full and free...and blessed by God! We must teach and live true beauty!
When God asked Samuel to bring Jesse's sons before Him when choosing a king to follow Saul, the Lord was very clear about what kind of king He desired for Israel. In 1 Samuel 16:7, the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." Then, when the youngest son, David, was called, he was anointed as the one to be king..."and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him from that day forward".
The psalmist David prayed for a heart that was beautiful in the Lord's sight: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer!" (Psalm 19:14, NASB) "Create in me a clean heart, O God." (Psalm 51:10a, NASB) As Jesus preached to the multitudes on the mountain, He emphasized the heart in saying, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!" (Matthew 5:8, NASB)
So, what is beauty? I conclude that beauty is a man or woman committed to the desires of the Lord...fully committed to obeying His Word...and fully committed to a clean, pure heart! And, our children are certainly worth a daily reminder of those things for their lives and future! The Lord will honor your commitment to Him through your children!
Here's to the journey!
May 27, 2011
"Are You Creating a Masterpiece?"
Thomas Kinkade is one of my favorite artists. You just look at his work and it is vividly alive! He has become known as the "painter of light", for, in his work the light shines through! Think of an artist taking a canvas and stroke by stroke creating a masterpiece. Think of our God...we are His greatest creation, His greatest masterpieces. He designed each of His children with radiant beauty, a uniqueness all our own and with a great potential to shine for Him! We are to be "painters of His light" for the world to see!
I have thought many times of how we create masterpieces with our children. Does every day really count as we raise our children? Does every stroke of love, care and nurturing really count in their lives? No matter how you look at it, your child is an example of how you have raised him or her. They are replicas of you! Now, that can be astounding! When you think that every word, every action, every touch you give in their lives will be influential in shaping them into what they will be as an adult...WOW! Little by little, those strokes will create that picture of who your child will be!
I overheard a conversation between a mother and her eight-year-old son one day. He seemed very anxious about his life and what he would become...well, as anxious as an eight-year-old could be. As he questioned his mother about life, he was very intent on his future. After quite a deliberation, she smiled sweetly and looked into his big brown eyes and said, "Son, just take one day at a time and allow God to use every moment to finish the work He has begun in you! And, remember, your father and I will be with you every step of the way!" In my heart, I could not help but feel the huge responsibility that mother was feeling at that moment. For, in my heart, as a mom, I have always felt accountable for what my children will become one day!
Take advantage of every moment with your children! As, hard as it is some days, remember to paint love and light into their lives! Take the journey one day at a time! Trust God for guidance and be an example...an example of His light...shining forth for the world to see! For, one day, they will become you!
What kind of masterpiece will you create? What kind of light will shine forth from your children?
"Even in darkness, light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man." Psalm 112:4, NIV
Here's to the journey!
May 20, 2011
"Does God Have His Hand on You?"
The Old Testament speaks of Ezra, a scribe, who was skilled in the law of Moses, which Yahweh, the God of Israel had given. (Ezra 7:6) King Artaxerxes was so impressed with Ezra and his God that he granted Ezra everything he requested for the kingdom. In verse 10, the Word of God clearly states that Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it and teach its statutes and ordinances. As I studied this story, I could not help but wonder if I had determined in my heart to do such and I wondered if God's hand was upon my life. I wondered if I was so in tune with God, that others notice...my husband, my children, my friends and those I come in contact with. Do I have a heart that is serious about my God and the work He has called me to do?
When it comes to raising our children and being the spiritual influence they need, can we afford to miss any of these three steps...to "study, obey and teach"? It is our utmost responsibility, in parenting our children, to be sure that they have the spiritual nurturing and training they need in order to make the decision to follow Christ and His mission here on earth. Consistency in our lives is a key element in the way we live our lives before our children. Remember, the best teaching is always "caught" not "taught"!
The day will come when your children will want to be on their own. When that time comes, will they continue in the faith? Will they continue having a prayer life and studying God's Word? The best way for you to know that they will, is for you to "walk" that walk before them now, while they are young, while they are teachable, while their hearts are soft and pliable. Let them see you praying, let them see you studying God's Word and share with them your obedience to God and why it is so important.
I once heard of a young man, who at age twenty-five, had sought to know God's will for his life. He searched and searched and knew he was lost. He asked question after question and finally one day came to know the Lord. When his mentor asked him why it took him so long, he answered, " I never had a model. I never knew what it was all about!"
Don't let the time pass by without your children knowing your faith and your love for your God! Begin today! Don't let tomorrow catch you by surprise!
"Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness." Psalm 33:18, NASB
Here's to the journey!
May 13, 2011
"Wilted or Full of Life?"
I love this season of the year! When spring begins to bring new life upon the earth, I get so excited! I can not wait until I can have a free weekend to get my flowerbeds ready for new flowers! I love to watch the hosta peeping through the soil! And, watching the dead limbs of the hydrangea bush bloom with new, deep-blue blooms is an astonishing sight! I have an inherited love for gardening and God's creation! My grandmother was a natural-born gardener. Everything she touched outdoors came to life! She would spend hours caring for her flowers and growing crops for harvesting! She never gave her plants a chance to wilt or die! She also had a heart for God! And, she knew He was diligent in creating the beauty we enjoy! He did not miss a detail in His creation!
Have you ever compared a child's enthusiasm to that of a plant or flower? Have you ever seen a child wilt and lose interest in life when he/she is not "tended to"? Have you ever seen a child's breath just sucked out of him when he wanted to share and did not get the chance? Have you ever thought about your own child and how he/she must be cared for daily with great attention? Sometimes, I think that we, as parents, get so busy we forget to water and feed the spirit within our children. It is so easy for the life in your child to wane or to fade if he/she is not given the right amount of love, attention and instruction in God's Word.
It is amazing to me to see the different seasons of trees...how they can be so lifeless in winter and then begin to bud with leaves in the spring. Then, in summer, they have their full foliage, only to die in the fall. In Psalm 1, God speaks about the tree and how blessed a man is when He delights in the law of the Lord. In verse 3, there is a beautiful comparison of this man and a tree: "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does, he prospers!"
As parents, we must make a commitment to nourish our children as the Lord nourishes the earth..watering and feeding them in order to protect their spirit and help them grow into strong children of righteousness for the Lord. "For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise to spring up before all nations." Psalm 61:11, NIV. It is our responsibility to be sure that our children do not wilt and fade, but that they grow in the fullest of life...loving the Lord, knowing Him personally and living for Him with a "heart that never fails to bear fruit". Jeremiah 17:8, NIV. May they grow with "strong roots, no fear when heat comes, leaves that are always green and with no worries in a year of drought".
Here's to the journey!
May 6, 2011
"Standin' in the Need of Prayer"
One of our preschool moms shared a precious story with me the other day. The more I thought about it, the more meaning it had. She had taken her three children out shopping and running errands one day. One of her three-year-old boys had particularly "pushed her buttons" over and over! He tried her one more time and with that, she had taken all she could. She looked at him and called his name, "Son", she said, "if you do one more thing to get into trouble, you are really going to get it at home!" There was silence and then, he stood tall and belted out the words to an old, familiar gospel song, "It's me, it's me, O Lord, standin' in the need of prayer!" To that, she almost could not comment, but had to turn her head for a moment. Then, she looked back at him and said, "Yes, it's you, standin' in the need of prayer!"
Wow! A three-year-old...knowing that he was in the need of prayer! The words to that song go on to say, "Not my brother, not my sister, but, it's me, O Lord, standin' in the need of prayer!" Don't we all stand in the need of prayer? Didn't God, Almighty God, create us, His children, with a heart and soul that stands in the need of prayer? If so, then, why don't we teach our children to pray? Why don't we spend time with them in prayer? I believe that this particular mom must have spent many moments in prayer with her children. If she had not, her son would not have known the need. Maybe, he knew the victory that comes when we spend time with God in prayer! Maybe, he wanted that victory in his life!
Jesus' disciples witnessed Him praying on many occasions. In Luke 11:1, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray..." In 1Thessalonians 5:17, Paul gives a direct command from the Lord when he writes, "Pray without ceasing!" Do your children witness a strong prayer life in you, their parents? Do they understand and know the true meaing of direct communication with God? We must teach our children to pray. For through prayer, your child will build a trusting relationship with God, he/she will feel comforted, loved, protected, safe and in tune with God's voice! And, most of all, he/she will develop that heart's desire to know God's will, to call on the name of "Jesus", to pray for others and be used of God. What an amazing gift God has given His children...the gift of prayer!
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And, the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6,7 NASB
Here's to the journey!
April 29, 2011
"Hearing the Voice of God"
"Samuel, Samuel", a voice called out. The young boy, Samuel, was awakened during the night. He thought Eli, the priest, was calling his name. Three times, Samuel got up and went to Eli, thinking he had called. Eli realized, after the third time, that God was calling Samuel and he told Samuel to answer.
Do you know the voice of God when He speaks? As a child of God, we will learn to recognize His voice by knowing Him better. The more time we spend communicating with God and reading His Word, the clearer we can discern His voice.
Does your child know your voice? In training a child, he/she must learn to hear your voice. One of the first things a parent must teach his child is to obey. It is in obeying you, that your child will learn how to obey God and hear His voice. This training is essential for your child's welfare and fulfillment in life.
I saw a child, on a street corner, one day. He was just about to step into the line of traffic and his mom hollered, "Stop!" He immediately stopped, thus, saving himself from that danger. That child knew his mom's voice. He knew her voice as a voice of love and protection. He knew she would not speak, if it was not important!
I heard a child cry, from the woods, one day. He was crying for help. His father, who was several feet away, exclaimed, "Watch out, son! Don't move!" The boy stood still and just narrowly escaped the stinging bite of a venomous snake. He knew his father's voice.
I saw a mother comforting her daughter who was hurting from a broken friendship. The love and sensitivity, in that mother's voice, made all the difference to that daughter. Then, I heard the mother give her daughter some wise advice. The daughter listened and was comforted and the counsel of her mom drew her closer to God!
As parents, why would we not want our children to hear our voice and obey? Why would we not want our children to hear the voice of Almighty God? The world is full of strange voices...voices that will defeat, discourage, confuse and tempt our children to walk in the path of destruction. If we teach them to obey and listen to us, as their parents, they will be sensitive to God and have a strong heart's desire to obey His voice, as well.
"Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." Colossians 3:20
"He who belongs to God, hears what God says." John 8:47
Here's to the journey!
April 22, 2011
"The Touch of the Master's Hand"
When Jesus walked on this earth as a man, He made it very clear, everywhere He went, that He loved the children. He was always available for them! We see a beautiful picture in Matthew 19:13 and 14: "Then, some children were brought to Him so that He might lay hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But, Jesus said, 'Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'"
Michelangelo once said, "To touch can be to give life." What a profound statement and oh, how true! Have you ever thought about what your life would be like if you had never felt the touch of one who loved you? What if you had never had anyone to really care about you? What if you had never felt a tender caress? What if you had never even known the touch of discipline in your life? To touch someone or to be touched, whether it be hand or heart, is vital for our lives!
A good many years ago, I taught high school art classes. I had several students who just loved coming in at break time during the day to talk. There was one ninth-grade girl who would run in daily and exclaim, "Hey, it's time for my hug! That's number 5 for the day!" She told me that she counted her hugs and needed at least 8 a day! Yes, there is therapy in a hug and we all need those! We need that touch!
I saw a precious scene the other day at church. A cute little two-year-old boy was heading for some expensive equipment in the sanctuary. And, just about the time, he was going to get into it, his father walked over and just put his hand on his shoulder and then, took his hand to lead him away. That father never spoke a word, he just gently touched his son and led him the other way! I loved that and I thought about it for the rest of the day. Evidently, that little boy had felt that touch before...he never rebelled at the touch nor did he express himself to his father. He simply moved away in the direction his dad led.
How do you do with touch? Is it a prominent expression in your life? Is it a vital part of parenting your children? Do they look forward to your touch of love, your touch of discipline, your touch of leadership? Do they know that when you stretch your hand outward to them, it means love?
It was Jesus' desire, in the verses in Matthew 19, to lay His hands on the children and pray. I believe He took the time with children so that they would know He cared and know that He loved them. How about you? Do you touch your children's lives with such a love as this?
Here's to the journey!