Thursday, December 30, 2010

Time for Reflection

It's the end of another year. I don't know about you, but it seems the older I get, the faster the years seem to go by. With only two days left in 2010, I want to urge you with this last blog post of the year to take a few minutes to reflect on how God has worked in your life and the lives of your children this year.

As I look back over 2010, I see how God has changed me to be able to share my passion for training our children with you. Even just two years ago I would have told you that you were crazy if you suggested that I would write a daily blog encouraging other moms to teach their children about God. Yet, here I am at the end of 2010 with a passion to share, a blog that reaches people all over the world and an excitement about what God has in store for all of us in 2011.

Reflection is an important part of making a difference for God -- in our children's lives and in the lives of those around us. In the Old Testament, God admonishes the Israelites over and over to not forget what He has done for them. Deuteronomy 15:15 says "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you." In the same way, we need to take a moment and look back at our year to remember the things that God has done for us. Ask yourself these questions:
  • How did God work in my life this year?
  • How did I see God work in my children's lives this year?
  • In what direction is God moving me in my work, my parenting and my ministry?
As you're remembering what God has done for you and your family this year, take a moment, as well, to evaluate the things you have done with your children this year. Examine how you have been teaching, encouraging and loving your kids this year. Ask yourself these questions:
  • What did my children learn about God this year?
  • What worked with my kids this year? What didn't work?
  • In what direction do I see God leading my kids?
Finally, take a few minutes to think about where you think God is leading you in 2011. The entire purpose of this blog is to help you be intentional about teaching your children about God. We can only be intentional if we start with a plan. Start 2011 with an outline in mind of the general direction that you want to go in your own life and in teaching your children. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Where do I think God is leading me in the next year? Are there any steps that He is asking me to take to get there?
  • What do I want to focus on teaching my children in 2011? Do I need to focus on different things with each of my children?
  • What do I need to do be deliberate in teaching my kids in 2011?
An end-of-the-year time of refelction allows us to evaluate where we've been and set a direction for where we'd like to go. Pray over these questions and spend some time thinking them through. Then take the steps God is leading you to take in the direction He wants you to go in 2011. I can't wait to see where He takes you.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Growing Up

I took my 9-year-old daughter out to lunch the other day. As I sat across the table from her, it struck me yet again just how quickly she's growing up. It seems like just yesterday she was a chubby, little toddler, and now she's this beautiful, athletic, witty young lady who is just beginning to show glimpses of the amazing woman God has planned for her to be.

She has always been my deep thinker. Even when she was a preschooler, she would ask us some tough questions about God. As she has gotten older, I've been privileged to watch her faith become an important part of her life. She hasn't stopped asking the tough questions, either. As she grows physically, she also matures spiritually, which is exactly what God had in mind. We want our kids to follow in Jesus' footsteps by "growing in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man." (Luke 2:52)

Sometimes, though, it's easy for us to miss the opportunities to help our children grow spiritually. We would never let our children wander around in clothes that are two sizes too small, but we sometimes try to keep them in spiritual clothes that are two sizes too small. It's important that we understand what our kids are capable of learning at certain times in their lives. If we don't give them the spiritual meat that they need, then we are not fulfilling one of our most important roles in their lives.

We don't want our children to be like the Corinthians, to whom Paul said "I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready." (1 Corinthians 3:2) Despite being Christ-followers, the Corinthians had not matured spiritually. Paul could not teach them important things because they had not moved on from being "baby Christ-followers." Don't keep your children at the "baby" stage. Help them grow spiritually as they mature physically.

One of my favorite resources for knowing what a child of a certain age is capable of understanding is Focus on the Family's "Parents' Guide to the Spiritual Growth of Children." This is a great book that offers an overview of what kids need to know about God at different ages. I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of the book. For quick reference, here's a simplified overview from the book of ages and the things that they can understand. Remember that every child is different. This is just a guideline. Let your own child be your guide.

  • Ages 0-4: God exists, God loves you, Jesus loves you, God wants to take care of you
  • Ages 5-6: God is your loving Father, God tells us His story in the Bible, God sent His son Jesus to die for you, God has prepared a place in heaven for you
  • Ages 7-9: God is real, there is only one God, the Trinity, God is eternal, Jesus is both God and man, God's character, the Bible is true, God wants you to learn the Bible
  • Ages 10-12: Not everyone believes the truth about God but you can respond to their objections, God wants you to explore the Bible, God lets people serve and worship Him in different ways, you can pray on your own, you can learn to worship God on your own and in a group
This is just a snapshot of some of the things your child is capable of understanding at different ages. I've presented it to you mainly as a reminder that we need to change the way we present God to our kids as they grow. Each stage of childhood builds on the one before, but it's never too late to begin sharing God with your kids. Some kids will quickly grasp some truths and be ready to move on to the next while they may need to spend more time on other concepts. Most adults I know don't fully understand the concept of the Trinity, so don't expect your 9-year-old to figure it out right away.

Simply knowing how your child matures spiritually gives you the tools to be a better teacher and mentor for him. It lets you be intentional in how you teach and share with your child.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


We spent the last week building an ice rink in our backyard. Yep, you read that right, an ice rink. The big Christmas present for this year is a backyard ice rink. As most of you know, my youngest daughter plays ice hockey (wait, time for a mommy brag -- she scored her first ever goal last week). One of the little boys on her team has a backyard rink, and it sounded so simple when they told us about it.

Make a PVC pipe frame, attach a liner, add water and let it freeze. Boom, you've got an ice rink. Yeah, except it's not that easy. We started this project the Sunday before Christmas. We skated on it for the first time yesterday morning. In between last Sunday and yesterday, we ripped three liners, watered ours and the neighbors yards with hundreds of gallons of water at least four times, redesigned the frame three times and moved the entire rink once. Five straight nights (because the liner never failed during the daylight) we were out in the dark and the cold trying to get the rink to work.

After the first two tries, we were ready to throw in the towel. We said we'd give it one more try. Well, after the third try, we got on our stubborn hats and refused to let our unlevel yard beat us. Talk about detrmination. My husband was determined that this was going to work. Despite the frustration and agony of having the rink almost full of water, only to break and flood the yard, he kept working away. Our rink was prayed over every night at the dinner table -- the prayer usually went something like this, "Please, God, let our rink not rip, fall over or break in any other way."

I tell you this story not just to confirm the fact that we're crazy people but to make a point about determination. We were determined not to let this ice rink project beat us, but so often in our lives when we're faced with an obstacle, a temptation or a problem, we're not willing to stick it out. We look for the easy solution or we give up entirely. That's not an attitude that we want to have or that we want for our kids to have.

At some point in our lives, it's going to be tough to hang onto our faith. If we've never learned to be determined in our defense of our faith, then it's going to be easy to walk away from God. God is God in the good times and the bad, but we have to be determined to stick with Him through the tough stuff. Determination in our faith lets us hold onto God's promises even when we can't see them in our own lives. Psalm 145:13 says "The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does." Being determined in our faith, lets us believe that even when we feel abandoned.

Teach your kids to work through their problems. Teach them to stick with a problem even when it seems like there are no good answers. Model these actions for them.
  • The next time your child is faced with a tough situation or problem, work out possible solutions with them. Be determined to see the situation through. Talk about how determination helps us to know that God is with us in the tough stuff. If we are determined to believe in God's promises and rely on our faith in who He is, then no one can take that from us.
  • Give your kids a problem to solve -- a hidden object to find, a difficult puzzle to put together. Make it difficult. Let them work at it for a while. If they start to get discouraged, talk about the importance of determination. Talk about how important it us for us to be determined in our faith. If we're not, then people can lead us astray with very little effort.
Determination is an important quality for kids to understand and put into practice. So, even when the water is leaking out of the liner, teach your kids to be determined to hold onto God's promises.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Memory Monday: Psalm 51:2

As I sit here writing this, I'm looking at the leftovers of Christmas. My living room floor is covered with toys, clothes and the occasional piece of wrapping paper. My kitchen floor is a bit sticky, and my kitchen table has the fingerprints of the many who have eaten and played at it this weekend. Clearly, my home is in need of some post-Christmas clean-up. The next few days will be spent finding homes for new things and cleaning out some old ones.

Sometimes our lives need a little clean-up as well. We need to clean out the sin, so we can be left with a clean slate. We just spent weeks celebrating the birth of Christ -- the One who makes it possible for us to be clean. The Israelites of the Old Testament were very concerned with being "clean." God had given them a whole bunch of rules that would allow them to be ceremonially "clean." They could only eat certain foods and touch certain things if they wanted to remain "clean." If they committed certain sins, they had to offer certain sacrifices to God to atone for those sins.

Jesus' birth and death changed all that. He became the sacrifice for all of our sins. We no longer have to worry about what we eat or what we touch or what sacrifice to offer. Jesus became the sacrifice that atones for all of our sins. He made us "clean." All we have to do is ask for God's forgiveness and ask Jesus to be in charge of our lives.

David said it best in Psalm 51:2 when he wrote "Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin." That's what Jesus came to do -- to cleanse us. As you learn this verse this week and go about your post-Christmas cleaning, use it as an opportunity to share with your children how Jesus' sacrifice makes us clean.
  • If you're sorting toys to get rid of and make room for the new things your children got for Christmas, talk with your kids about how God sorts out our sin and removes it from our lives. Remind them that Jesus was the sacrifice that made that possible.
  • Have your kids help wash the dishes one night. Give them an exceptionally dirty plate and have them wash it. As the food is coming off, talk with your kids about how our sins are like the food on the plate. They stick to us, but because Jesus died on the cross, God can make us clean, just like the water and soap clean the plate.
  • Help your kids wash their hands after digging in the dirt. As the dirt comes off, talk with your kids about how God washes the "dirt" of sin off of us through Jesus' sacrifice, just like when we wash our hands. Jesus' sacrifice allows God to wash us clean, just like we wash our hands of dirt.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

It's only two days away. All the waiting and anticipation will soon be over. Gifts will be exchanged, hugs given, children will be delighted and adults will share in the joy. As you celebrate Christmas this year, I pray that you will find the peace, joy and salvation that God offers us through Jesus' birth, death and resurrection.

Don't let the little mishaps and big responsibilities rob you of the joy of the day. Remember that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. No matter what happens on Christmas day -- whether dinner gets burnt, it snows two feet or you show up wearing the same Christmas sweatshirt as your mom -- focus on the true reason for the season.

Enjoy your children's delight and wonder in the season. Take a moment to sit beneath the glow of your Christmas tree and thank God for sending His son. Don't miss the moment in your hurry to get everything done. Savor the day, and experience the joy.

I want to leave you this week with the account of Jesus' birth found in Luke 2. Sometime on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, be sure to read it with your family as part of your celebration. And, most of all, have a Merry Christmas!

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Mistletoe Hung Where You Can See

Nothing sums up the meaning of Christmas better than John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he sent his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." It's easy to focus on the miraculous birth of Jesus, the wise men and the shepherds while never really focusing on the fact that Jesus' birth was a gift of love from God to us.

God loves us so much that he doesn't want us to spend eternity separated from him. His love is so great that he was willing to send his son to die as a sacrifice for our sins. God gives us a free gift borne out of His great love.

In the next few days before Christmas, don't forget to help your kids understand that the gift of Jesus comes from God's love for us. As a simple reminder of this, hang some mistletoe in your house. Mistletoe has traditionally been a symbol of love. You hang it in your house, and whoever is standing under it gets a kiss.

Hang some in your house and every time you kiss your child remind her that you love her and God does, too. Tell her that you're giving her a kiss to remind her that Jesus is God's gift of love.

In the busyness of the next few days, among all the baking, family events, church services, and gift-giving, give a kiss to remind everyone that Christmas is the season of love.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lessons from the Carols

Yesterday was apparently National Go Caroling Day, according to my newspaper. We didn't get the opportunity to take part, but I got to thinking about how much music plays a role in our Christmas celebrations. What's a Christmas Eve service without some rendition of Silent Night? And does the Christmas season really get under way until you've sung "Joy to the World?"

We go to a very contemporary church, which doesn't include many traditional Christmas carols in its worship lineup. I find that I miss them and that my kids are growing up not knowing them. So, I make it a point every year to make sure my girls hear the beautiful carols of old.

Christmas carols are also a great springboard for conversation with your kids about the true meaning of the season. When you sing or listen to "Joy to the World," you can discuss the reasons we have to be joyful. You can talk about why Jesus coming to earth was a cause for Joy.

"Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" offers great opportunities to talk about the shepherds. Talk with your kids about why they think the angels appeared to the lowly shepherds instead of to the important people of the day. Talk about the shepherds' response to what the angels had to say.

For a more contemporary song, "Mary, Did You Know?" presents you with a great starting point for a conversation about Mary. You could talk about how you think she might have felt about all that had happened to her. Talk about her response to the shepherds and the wise men who came to worship her new baby boy.

Whatever the tune, don't pass up an opportunity to bring the nativity story into your conversation with your kids. And, next year, be on the lookout for National Go Caroling Day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Memory Monday: Isaiah 9:6

The months before a child is born are a time of excitement for everyone involved. The parents-to-be anticipate the birth by getting a nursery ready, choosing names and wondering what the new member of their family will be like. Friends and family anxiously anticipate the new little person's birth. We give gifts and celebrate the impending arrival of a new person. For nine months, everyone involved waits for their special baby's birth.

Imagine how much the Jewish people were anticipating the birth of Jesus. Way back in the time of Isaiah, Jesus' birth was prophesied. Isaiah 9:6 says "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." For hundreds of years the Jewish people had been anticipating the arrival of Jesus. The birth of Jesus was the arrival of the hoped-for Messiah.

As you go through this last week before Christmas, take a moment to anticipate the celebration of Jesus' birth. As you memorize Isaiah 9:6, work to create a sense of excitement about celebrating Christmas. Channel your kids' excitement from the presents to the opportunity to celebrate Jesus' birth.
  • Plan a birthday party for Jesus. Hang streamers, bake a cake and invite some friends to celebrate. Make the story of Jesus' birth a central part of the celebration. Let your kids help plan the party so it will build anticipation.
  • Create a tradition of setting out a piece of your nativity set every day before Christmas. Build up to Chrismas Eve when you will place Jesus in the manger. This gives your kids the opportunity to anticipate Jesus' "arrival."
  • Talk with your kids about how excited they are about Christmas. Compare that excitement to how excited the Jewish people would have been to hear of the arrival of Jesus.
Don't get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of this last week before Christmas that you forget to anticipate celebrating Jesus' birth.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Read-Alouds

I love to read. If I can't find a good book, I'll read the back of a cereal box. I'll read just about anything that I can get my hands on. I also love children's books. I think there's nothing better than a well-illustrated, well-written children's book that makes a story come alive. Chapter books for elementary school kids are also some of my favorites. Do better books exist than Anne of Green Gables, Charlotte's Web and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe?

Christmas offers up some great read-alouds for your family. If you don't have some favorite Christmas stories that you read at Christmastime, start that tradition today. Our whole family looks forward each year to reading about how the Herdmans wreaked havoc on The Best Christmas Pageant Ever or about the donkey Mary rode to Jerusalem in The Small One.

Many of the books we read at Christmas offer opportunities to apply some Biblical principles. They allow us to follow the admonition of Philippians 4:8, which says "Finally, brothers and sisters, 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 about such things." Spend some time sharing with a story and some discussion with your kids in this week before Christmas.

To help you get started, here are a few of our favorites along with some ideas for discussion.
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson -- You haven't experienced Christmas unless you've spent it with the Herdmans (quite possibly the worst kids ever) and seen the impact they made on the church Christmas pageant.
    • Ask your kids why they think the Herdmans acted the way they did.
    • Ask your kids if they think that Jesus loves the Herdmans.
    • Talk about how Jesus came to earth to save everyone, even people we think are "bad."
    • Ask your kids who in the story understood the true meaning of Christmas.
  • The Small One by Alex Walsh and Jesse Clay -- A fictional account of the donkey who would take Mary to Bethlehem and the power of friendship and sacrifice.
    • Ask your kids how they think the little boy felt when he knew he would have to sell his donkey.
    • Ask your kids how hard they think it was for both the donkey and the boy when they knew the boy would have to sell the donkey to the tanner.
    • Ask your kids how they think the boy felt when Joseph stepped in and saved the donkey.
    • Compare how Joseph saved the donkey with how Jesus saved us.
  • Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect by Dick Schneider -- A story of how a tree gave of itself until its branches were bent and broken and it was no longer worthy of being the queen's Christmas tree.
    • Ask your kids why they think the tree gave so much.
    • Ask your kids if they think the tree's sacrifice was worth it.
    • Ask your kids why they think the queen eventually chose the imperfect tree over the perfect one.
    • Talk about why it's important to give of ourselves to others.
Whatever your favorite read-aloud is, look for ways to tie it back into the important principles of Christmas, and enjoy the time snuggled together with your kids on the couch.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gift-giving traditions

Christmas break is almost here for my kids, so today I'm finishing the Christmas shopping and wrapping the presents. I talk to a lot of people who are conflicted about how many gifts their kids get. I'll tell you that we spoil our kids for Christmas. If they need something and it's anywhere near Christmas, I wrap it up and put it under the tree. We also always try to replenish our game closet at Christmas along with some of the things that the girls ask for.

I love giving gifts, and every year I say that this year we're going to cut back and give the kids less. However, by the time Christmas rolls around, I find they have a bunch of stuff. I've made peace with that. We don't buy our kids much in the way of extravagant toys or gifts during the year. Birthdays are a big deal around our house, but most of that effort goes into a party, not a gift. So, I've decided not to fight my love of gift-giving, and we spoil our kids at Christmas.

That doesn't work for all families. I talk to a lot of people about their Christmas traditions and gift-giving traditions run the gamut from lots of gifts to one gift to three gifts. I know people who give their kids "something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read." Whatever works for your family is the way you should do it.

However, when you are giving gifts, no matter the number, make sure your kids understand the joy of giving as well as of receiving. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says "God loves a cheerful giver." But, that's sometimes hard for kids to get their heads around. Our greedy nature makes us want to receive more than give. Involve your kids in the gift-giving process. Have them make or pick out the gifts for their friends and family. It may be more work for you, but it gives them a chance to get excited about giving to others.

One tradition that some of my friends have that I love is the right/left Christmas game. It's one more way to sneak in a reading of the story of Jesus' birth while having a lot of fun. You can find the text of the game here. Buy a gift for the whole family. Read the right/left version of the Christmas story. Every time you hear the word "right", pass the package one person to the right. Every time you hear the word "left," pass the package one person to the left. The person left with the package at the end of the story gets to open it. The kids love it and it makes them really listen to the story.

No matter what type of gift-giving traditions you have in your family, be sure to remind your kids that the reason that we give gifts is because Jesus came to earth as a gift to us. The wise men brought Him gifts as an act of worship. We acknowledge those things by giving gifts to each other.

Go, this season, and be cheerful givers.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jesse Tree

We have a new tree in our house this year -- it's a Jesse tree. What's a Jesse tree, you ask? It's a tree that tells the story of Jesus from the Old Testament to the New Testament through ornaments that you place on the tree every day. The ornaments start with Adam and Eve and take you through Jesus' birth.

The tree's name comes from Isaiah 11, which prophesies Jesus coming to earth. Isaiah 11:1 says "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." The passage goes on to describe Jesus and how He will rescue the nation of Israel. Jesus is a shoot of Jesse because the line of Jesus can be traced back to David and his father, Jesse.

Our Jesse tree came out of an ornament exchange with some friends. Each person made 28 of one ornament, then we all met and exchanged them. It was a great way to get a Jesse tree with minimal effort and expense. One of the moms put together a booklet that included a scripture passage and a devotional for each day.

The great thing about a Jesse tree is that it ties together the Old Testament stories with Jesus. Your kids (and you) get the opportunity to see how sin entered the world, how God called the Israelites to be his chosen people, how David became king of Israel, how Jesus' birth was prophesied and how Jesus was born. It gives your kids an overview of God's amazing plan for our salvation.

Some nights, we have read the Bible verses that go with the ornament and other nights, we have let the kids tell the stories in their own words. The other night my youngest treated us to a dramatic rendition of the story of David and Goliath complete with actions. The Jesse tree has given us the opportunity to talk about Jesus at the dinner table every night during this holiday season. I'll be honest and tell you that some nights, we've missed but we just catch up on the next night. Our Jesse tree is just another tool to bring Jesus to the forefront during the Christmas season.
You can buy Jesse tree kits, put together your own exchange or even just print the ornaments of any of the numerous websites that have them. It's a simple, fun way to give your kids a bigger picture of God's plan for our salvation.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


There's less than two weeks until Christmas, and I still have Christmas presents to buy and make. We haven't taken the kids on our annual trek to look at Christmas lights or to see the penguin house (a house in our city that has more penguin blow-ups than you would imagine existed). We haven't made a trip to see Santa yet. Every day this week is packed with activity from sports practices to school Christmas parties to church obligations.

I know many of you are in the same boat. This is the time of year when the Christmas season goes from joyful to stressful for so many. It seems like there's so much to be done and not enough time to do it. Despite all our best intentions, the stress of family interactions, Christmas traditions and our own expectations begin to weigh us down and suck the joy out of our celebration of Christ's birth.

So, today, take a moment to rejoice. Whether your house is clean, your baking done or your presents wrapped, take a few minutes to focus on the reason for joy. The angel told the shepherds "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." (Luke 2:10) That joy isn't dependent on your circumstances. It doesn't matter if your in-laws drive you crazy or if you haven't finished that last Christmas present. That joy doesn't depend on whether your tree is picture perfect or your Christmas cards have been mailed.

The only thing our joy depends on is Jesus. So, spend a moment or two rejoicing that Jesus, the King and Creator of the world, came to earth as a baby and died so that you and I would no longer be separated from God.
  • Gather your kids and sing some Christmas carols -- ones that celebrate Christ's birth.
  • Have a birthday party to celebrate Jesus' birth. Have some cake and ice cream.
  • Spend some time reading the Christmas story aloud from the Bible as a family. Talk about why the angels declared Jesus' birth a cause for joy.
  • Remind your children that joy is not dependent on circumstances -- it comes from knowing that Jesus' died for us, rose again and bridged the gap between us and God.
So, today, I say to you "Rejoice, and again I say rejoice!"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Memory Monday: The Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-2)

We went to my parents' church last night to see my dad sing in their annual Christmas program. During the program they showed a short, funny video about all the things that are wrong with our nativity scene depictions of Christ's birth. One of the things they pointed out was that the wise men were not present at the birth of Christ, and we have no idea how many of them there were. We only know that they came from the east and they brought three gifts.

Scholars actually think that Jesus was probably a toddler when the wise men showed up. Mary and Joseph were probably living in a house. Can you imagine what the neighbors thought when a bunch of guys on camels bearing expensive gifts showed up at Mary and Joseph's house? They were probably the talk of the neighborhood.

So, if the wise men weren't at Jesus' birth and we're not really sure how many of them there were, why are they so often put into the Christmas scene? I think the answer is found in Matthew 2:1-2, which says "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'"

These men were scholars who were looking for Jesus. When they saw the new star, they believed it would lead them to Jesus, so they followed it. Can you imagine hopping on your camel to follow a star, not knowing how far you would need to go or how long it would take you? If it was a nearly two-year journey to see Jesus, do you think you might have begun to wonder if you were ever going to get there or if you were just chasing a whim?

We don't know if the wise men ever got discouraged on their journey. What we do know is that they saw an opportunity to worship Jesus, and they took it. Despite the challenges and the distance, they were so excited about seeing Jesus that they dropped everything for a chance to worship him. When was the last time you were that excited to worship Jesus?

Too often our worship of Jesus becomes rote. We go to church, we sing the songs and we listen to the pastor and say we have gone "to worship." But true worship begins in our hearts and can be done anywhere, any time. If, like the wise men, we look for opportunities to worship Jesus. He has given us so many reasons to worship Him -- His love, His grace, His peace. Any time we encounter something that reminds us of what Jesus has done for us, it should be a time for worship.

Help your kids recognize opportunities for worship by pointing them out when you see them. If you're awed by a rainbow in the sky, stop and thank God for it. If you are blessed with a joyful spirit, sing a song of praise together. When things aren't going well but you feel the comforting presence of God, take a moment to pray. Worship comprises all of these things -- it's simply bringing praise to God.

As you go throughout your week this week, memorize Matthew 2:1-2 and be like the wise men. Be looking for Jesus and opportunities to worship Him.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Odds and Ends

We have a collapsed gingerbread house sitting on our kitchen table. This year, I bought a gingerbread kit that included several little houses instead of one big one. The girls decorated them and we sat our gingerbreas village on the table as our centerpiece. Apparently, yesterday my oldest daughter hit one of them by accident -- and it collapsed in a heap. What was once a beautifully decorated gingerbread house is now just a heap of icing and gingerbread.

Looking at it reminds me of how we can build up the "perfect" Christmas in our minds, and then our expectations are shattered by a hurtful word from a family member, a party that didn't go as planned or a gift from a spouse that didn't meet our expectations. I don't know when Christmas -- a season of joy -- became the holiday that has to be perfect -- making it a season of stress.

Jesus wasn't born in a stable to make our lives stressful. He came so His sacrifice on the cross could create a bridge between us and God. No matter how hard we try, we can't be perfect. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," says Romans 3:23. John 10:10 tells us that Jesus said "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." God doesn't want us to spend the Christmas season stressing about the perfect season or the perfect gift. He wants us to celebrate the joy that comes from having a relationship with Him.

So, leave your perfect Christmas dreams behind and find joy in the collapsed gingerbread house, the lopsided angel on the top of the tree, the off-key singing of carols and the strand of lights on your house that has the top bulb burned out. The joy of Christmas is found in Jesus, not in your own perfection.

I've been asked a couple of times to elaborate on what I put in my envelopes that help my kids serve others every day. Here's a few examples:
  • Help a classmate today.
  • Ring the Salvation Army bell.
  • Take cookies to a neighbor.
  • Find a way to help your teacher today.
  • Find a way to help your sister today.
  • Be an encourager today,
  • Do something nice for the lunch ladies today.
  • Find a way to help your mom today.
  • Buy a toy and donate it to toys for tots.
  • Donate some food to the food pantry.
Keep it simple and achievable. Have your kids report back to you at the end of the day how they did. If you miss a day, don't worry about it. Just start again the next day.

I wanted to offer a few ideas on things we do at our cookie party as well. I treat it like I treat a birthday party. Obviously, we decorate cookies, which usually takes 30-45 minutes. After that, we've done a variety of things. Here are some ideas:
  • Take the kids Christmas caroling around the neighborhood.
  • Make aprons.
  • Make Santa hats.
  • Have relay races to decorate a tree or put up all the pieces of a nativity scene on the wall.
  • Take pictures, print them off and let the kids make their own scrapbook page or picture frame.
  • Make gingerbread house crafts.
  • Talk with the kids about whose birthday Christmas is.
  • Make ornaments for them to take home and hang on their tree.
Our party is usually not super elaborate, but the kids have lots of fun. Make your activities suit your kids and their friends.

No matter what activities you choose to do with your kids this Christmas season, remember to keep the focus on Jesus. He is the reason for the season.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Best Gift: Friendship

Believe it or not, my youngest daughter is no longer counting down the days until Christmas. She's now using our advent calendar to count down to something that in her mind is a bigger event. You see, about four years ago, her best friend moved away -- a long way away. She's seen him about once a year since then. On Dec. 20, he arrives with his family on an airplane, and on Dec. 21, he will be at our house. The best part as far as my youngest is concerned is that he is most likely moving back for good. My youngest is counting the days until her friendship is restored to what she considers its rightful state.

She's more excited about her friend coming back than she is about whatever Santa is going to bring or any other Christmas tradition that we have. And that got me to thinking about some of our Christmas traditions. Many of our favorite Christmas traditions revolve around our friends. It just seems that Christmas is a time when we can take a step back and appreciate those people in our lives who are there to laugh with us when life is good and who are there to pick up the pieces when the world shatters around us.

God created us to be social beings, and the Bible talks a lot about the importance of good friends. Proverbs 17:17 says "A friend loves at all times," and John 15:13 tells us "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." God gives us a beautiful picture of friendship in Ruth and Naomi, Jonathan and David and Jesus and his disciples. We are not meant to go through life alone, and Christmas is the perfect time to nurture both our friendships and our children's friendships.

Help your kids to show their friends how much they value them. Small acts of service or a heartfelt gift will make your kids' friends feel loved and special.
  • Ask your kids to tell you why they think friendship is important. Share with them the story of Jonathan and David. Talk about how Jonathan was willing to sacrifice for his friend. Talk about the types of sacrifices we can make for our friends -- choosing to let them play with a new toy or letting them go first in a game.
  • Help your child to celebrate his friendships by letting him design and make gifts for them. Easy things for kids to make include cards with a piece of candy inside, a simple Christmas ornament, a snow globe made out of a baby food jar or necklaces or bracelets made out of beads. A plate of cookies has never been turned down by any kid I know.
  • Make it a point to have friends in your home during the holiday season. Whether it's a cookie party for your kids and their friends or a Christmas open house for friends of the entire family or a quiet dinner with another family, place value on spending time with friends during the holidays.
Celebrate the birth of Jesus with your friends. Have a good time, and be sure to thank God for placing those people in your lives. After all, Matthew 18:20 says "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." So, gather, be merry and celebrate Jesus' birth.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


In about two weeks, I'm going to have a dozen giggling, hyper kids in my kitchen, and I'll be handing them bowls full of sugar-laden icing. Am I crazy? Probably, but this is one of my girls' favorite Christmas traditions -- our annual cookie party.

When my oldest was 2, I decided it would be fun to have a couple of her friends over to decorate cookies. They had so much fun that we've done it every year since. The first party started with three kids, and over the years it has grown to about a dozen kids. We decorate cookies, play some games and find some simple ways to share the true meaning of Christmas with the kids who attend.

What started as a fun activity with a couple of preschoolers has turned into a full-fledged party with a purpose. My girls choose a charity, and we collect things from the attendees for that charity. One year we collected art supplies for our local children's hospital; another year we collected canned food for a food pantry. The girls get to have a party and hang out with their friends and they learn something about serving others. Every kid goes home with a plate of cookies for themselves and a plate of cookies to share.

To be honest, there are some years I'd like to do away with the cookie party. It's a lot of extra work in the days right before Christmas. But after every party, I see the smiles on the faces of those kids, and I know that it's worth it. I know those kids leave my house knowing that Christmas is about Jesus. They have all experienced joy and friendship in the two hours they're at our house. The cookie party is as much about reaching out to my kids' friends as it is about making my kids happy.

The more often our kids' friends are under our roofs having fun experiences, the more influence we have in their lives. The Bible tells us that God considers children precious and that we are to pour ourselves into their lives. Jesus said, "“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Using creative ideas, like a cookie party or a caroling party, we can draw our kids' friends to Jesus as we teach our own children.

So, gather up some of your kids' friends, make some time in your schedule and bake some cookies. When the day is over you'll be exhausted, but you will have made a difference in the lives of your children and their friends.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Acts of Service

A new hockey stick, a couple of Wii games, some art supplies and a new soccer ball. These are the Christmas dreams in the Fairchild house. The lists from my girls this year are reasonable and mostly practical, but some years the lists are long and imaginative. Somehow, this season that should be all about giving often becomes all about getting.

That's why we try to spend the month of December focusing on how we can help others. As winter closes in with its cold and snow, there are people without coats or even homes. The average age of a homeless person in our region is 7 years old. Can you imagine being a homeless child?

Food pantries typically run low on food at this time of the year, and some kids will go without Christmas presents because mom and dad can't afford them. Your kids need to know that they are fortunate, and they also need to know that we are called to take care of those who are less fortunate than us.

From the very beginning, God was clear that we are to help others. In Deuteronomy 15:7, God tells the Israelites "If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them." We, too, are to have open hands and hearts toward those who have less than we have. Proverbs 19:17 tells us "Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done."

If God thinks the poor are important, then so should we. And this time of the year is the perfect time to help your children learn to serve others. Their acts of service don't have to be big or expensive, but they can be. Encourage your children to think of others this Christmas season. Show them how to be the hands and feet of Christ to others.
  • Sign up to ring the Salvation Army bell somewhere in your community. The Salvation Army feeds and houses those who need food and shelter year-round, but their biggest fundraiser is those red kettles in front of the stores at Christmas. Even if it's cold out when you ring, it's a great opportunity to point out to your kids that while you get to go home and get warm afterward, the people the Salvation Army helps may not have homes to go to.
  • Adopt a family. Let your kids shop for another child's Christmas wishes. You'll be surprised at how generous your kids will want to be.
  • Help fill a food pantry. Take your kids to the grocery with a local food pantry's wish list and let them choose the items to buy. Then take the items to the food pantry.
  • Create a service advent calendar. We have envelopes for every day of December until Christmas that hang on a ribbon banner. Each envelope contains a notecard with a suggestion for some way that the girls can serve someone that day. Yesterday, the card told them to help a classmate. Today's card tells them to find a way to help their coach, as both girls have practice today.
  • Take cookies to a nursing home or to your local fire station or police station.
  • Let your children serve kids who are younger than them at a Christmas event at your church.
However you can focus your kids on helping others this month, do it. It can be big or small. Simply getting your kids to focus on other people can keep your kids' Christmas wishes reasonable and give them a chance to obey God's commands to take care of the needy. Make this month, a month of service to others in your home.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Memory Monday: The Shepherds (Luke 2:8-11)

I've always been fascinated by the shepherds to whom the angels appeared on that first Christmas night. I mean, here are these guys out on a hill, watching their sheep. They might have been talking about the weather or shooting the breeze about the best method to fight off a wild animal. Being a shepherd wasn't the most exciting job in the world. Mostly you just led the sheep around and made sure they didn't get lost or hurt.

All of a sudden, an angel appears out of nowhere and starts talking to them. I'm pretty sure that angels aren't the cute little cherubs that we like to depict them as because every time an angel shows up the first words out of his mouth are "Do not be afraid." I think they probably look more like warriors than they do cute, little cherubs.

Ok, so this angel shows up and has these shepherds quaking in their sandals. And what does he say? Luke 2:8-11 describes the scene like this "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.'"

The first people that got the message that the Savior had been born was not a king or even a religious leader. It was a bunch of lowly shepherds. These guys were not considered important people in society. They were probably the youngest sons in their families. They weren't the smartest, strongest, most important people around. They were just normal, everyday people.

And, what did they do? They left their sheep to go see Jesus! Shepherds don't leave their sheep. Sheep are defenseless without a shepherd. But these guys got up and went to see Jesus. Now, maybe they left one guy behind (and wouldn't you have hated to be him?), but they immediately went to see this amazing thing the angels had told them about.

I bet God wishes we were more like the shepherds sometimes. He shows us something amazing, and instead of being awed by it or immediately dropping what we're doing to be a part of what God is doing, we analyze and overthink the situation. The shepherds knew they were part of something amazing -- I mean, angels had just appeared to them -- so they went to check it out.

As you learn these verses this week, think about how the shepherds reacted to the Good News of Jesus' birth. They dropped everything to celebrate. How can you celebrate Jesus' birth like the shepherds did?
  • Have a birthday party for Jesus. Make a cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus. You can even hang streamers. Talk about how God wants us to praise Him and celebrate Jesus' birth.
  • Analyze your schedule for the month. Are you doing things that are just filling up your schedule instead of things that are important. Is Jesus getting squeezed out of your Christmas celebrations or is He the center? Make adjustments to your schedule to put Jesus at the center.
  • Talk with your kids about the shepherds and how they celebrated Jesus' birth. Ask your kids how they think the shepherds might have felt when the angels showed up.
Be a shepherd this week. Be prepared to drop everything when a moment to celebrate Jesus' birth presents itself.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Conversations About Mary

Of all the people involved in Jesus' birth, I've always wondered the most about Mary. Of all the Jewish women in the world at that time, God chose her to be the mother of Jesus. What was it about her that made God choose her? We know she wasn't perfect. We know she was young -- probably just a teenager. She wasn't married, and she had no experience being a mother. What was it about her that made her the one to be Jesus' mother?

I think we find the key in her reactions to everything that happened. When the angel appeared to Mary and told her she was going to have a baby, she asked some questions -- who wouldn't? But, her final response was this "'I am the Lord’s servant,' Mary answered. 'May your word to me be fulfilled.'" She was a woman with a great faith in God and a spirit that was accepting of His plan.

There's no way that Mary could know what being the mother of Jesus would mean. She couldn't have known that she would watch Him perform miracles and then watch Him die on a cross. Jesus would bring her great joy and the greatest of sorrows. Through it all, we see Mary simply being Jesus' mother.

When the shepherds came to see her newborn son -- whom she'd had in a dirty stable, of all places -- her response was this "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19). Mary knew that what was happening was an amazing blessing from God, so she treasured the moments in her heart.

Can you imagine being Jesus' mother? Jesus was perfect. While we all wish for the perfect child, can you imagine raising one? Can you imagine the feelings of inadequacy that raising the perfect son of God would create in a mother? Yet, throughout Jesus' life, we see Mary in the midst of things. She was there at his birth, when he performed his first miracle and at his death. She clearly loved Him as any mother loves her child.

Spend some time today bringing Mary alive for your children. Making sure your kids understand that the story of Jesus' birth isn't just another story that we read -- it really happened -- is important. It's so easy for our kids to just throw the stories of the Bible into the mix of everything else they see and read and not really recognize that Jesus is real. Making the retelling of the story come alive for them helps them to understand that the people involved were real. They had feelings and concerns.

Read Luke 1 and 2 with your kids and have them focus on what Mary says and does. Depending on their age, ask your kids these questions about Mary:
  • How do you think Mary felt when the angel appeared to her? Point out that the Bible tells us she was afraid.
  • How old do you think Mary was? Tell your kids that she was only a teenager.
  • How do you think it felt to be pregnant and ride a donkey on the long trip to Bethlehem?
  • What do you think Mary thought about having her baby in a stable?
  • How do you think Mary felt when the shepherds appeared?
Be real with your kids. Tell them about the dirty stable, the uncomfortable journey to Bethlehem and what the Bible tells us about Mary's feelings. Make her come alive for your children so that Jesus becomes real to them as well.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sharing Jesus

Last night, I let my kids do something that under normal circumstances, I would never let them do. I let them ding-dong ditch the neighbors -- you know, when you ring the doorbell and run. They thought it was great fun, and believe it or not, they were sharing Jesus.

You see, before we rang the doorbell, we put a stable from a nativity scene on their porch with a note stating that it was part of the 12 Days of Christmas. Every night for the next 11 days, the girls will leave a piece of the nativity scene with the related scripture on the doorstep, ring the doorbell and run. It's a fun experience for my girls and it's a great way to bring the true meaning of Christmas to others.

As we hustle through this busy season, be careful not to forget to help your kids find ways to share Jesus with other people. You don't have to take your kids to the street corner and preach or go door-to-door presenting the Roman road to salvation to your neighbors. Simply find ways to let your kids be ambassadors for Jesus. People are often more receptive to hearing about Jesus during the Christmas season, and your kids need to know that the gift of Jesus is available to everyone.

We are called to share the good news of Jesus' birth with everyone. Matthew 28:19-20 tells us "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." That circle includes our family, friends and neighbors.

Try some of these ideas to help your children share Jesus with those they love:
  • Choose Christmas cards for your kids' teachers and friends that include a message about Jesus. These don't have to be "preachy." Simply choose cards that celebrate Jesus' birth rather than Santa or a snowman.
  • Ding-dong ditch the neighbors with a nativity set or a plate of cookies with a note that tells them to celebrate Jesus' birth.
  • Let your kids invite their friends to one of your Christmas church services. Extend the invitation to the whole family.
Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Don't hesitate to help your kids share that reason with others.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And That's What Christmas is All About, Charlie Brown

I love the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Every year when we sit down to watch it I get goose bumps when Linus recites Luke 2. I think it's amazing that in our politically correct world that has taken the Christ out of Christmas that millions of people still sit down and watch a TV show that overtly explains that Jesus is the reason that we celebrate Christmas.

A few years ago, I found a new ornament for our Christmas tree. The ornament has Linus standing on a stage. When you push the button, you hear him recite Luke 2, finishing with the words "And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." I brought it home and hung it on our tree.

My youngest was fascinated with the ornament. She would push the button over and over again. By the time Christmas rolled around, she could recite Luke 2 along with Linus.

Without even meaning to, I had provided my child with the opportunity to hear and learn the scripture that explains Jesus' birth. After that experience, I began to look for more ways that my kids could encounter Christ during this season of His birth. The more opportunities we give ourselves to talk with our kids about the true meaning of Christmas, the more He will become real to them. Try some of these ideas:
  • Put nativity scenes in every room. Make sure you have at least one nativity scene that your children can touch and play with. As they play with the figures, you can talk with them about Jesus' birth.
  • Put ornaments on your tree that include the story of Jesus. Hallmark has a fantastic ornament this year that tells the entire story of Jesus' birth. It's a countdown ornament, so each day you turn the base of the ornament and it tells a different part of the story.
  • Find decorations that include Jesus, scripture or references to God. As your kids see and read those decorations, it will reinforce what Christmas is really about.
Take a few minutes and analyze how you can incorporate the message of Christ's birth into your home in subtle ways that will impact your children. And as we close today, I'd like to leave you with Linus' words from Luke 2:

Lights, please

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Leave a Heritage

We put up our Christmas tree last night. Our tree branches are now heavy with ornaments, but our tree is not a designer tree. No one is going to put it in an interior design magazine. There's no color scheme, pretty ribbons or even distribution of ornamants across all the branches.

No, our tree is heavily decorated from about the four-foot mark down. The ornaments are a broad assortment of handmade, Hallmark and drug store specials. Some are old, some are new and some are simply precious.

You see, we use our tree as a way to share a heritage with our kids. We have ornaments on our tree that used to belong to my great-grandmother, and we have ornaments on our tree that represent important milestones in the lives or our children. It doesn't make for the prettiest tree, but every year it serves as an opportunity for us to share with our children about important people and important milestones in our lives. It's one way we can pass on a heritage.

We are commanded by God to teach our children about Him -- to pass on a heritage of faith. Proverbs 13:22 says, "The heritage of the good man is handed down to his children's children." As we try to focus our family's attention on Jesus this Christmas, start with the ornaments on your tree. Use this everyday moment to share the heritage of your faith with your children.

  • If you don't have the mix of ornaments that we have, start this year creating those memories. Buy or make each child an ornament that represents a significant milestone in their life for this year. My girls got sports ornaments this year that contained pictures of them playing their respective sports. When I gave them to them, I asked them to tell me what they had learned while playing sports this year. Both were able to tell me that you have to persevere even when it's hard. This is a concept that we have worked hard on instilling in the girls this year. When they see those ornaments in the future, they'll have a physical reminder of perseverance.
  • Don't rush through the tree decorating. Share the stories of the people and the places your ornaments represent. We have ornaments on our tree from four generations of my family. Some of the original owners of the ornaments, my kids never met, but they know about them because we share the stories with them each Christmas. Those ancestors left a legacy of faithfulness and love in marriage that set the example for how I wanted my marriage to be. Those ornaments give me the opportunity to verbally pass on that legacy to my kids.
  • Make sure some of the ornaments on your tree tell the story of Jesus. We have several nativity-oriented ornaments that allow us to talk about Jesus' birth as we hang them.
Enjoy decorating your tree this year and use it as an opportunity to be intentional in passing on a heritage to your children.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Memory Monday: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (John 1:9)

I love the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everyone is in a season of anticipation -- waiting to celebrate Jesus' birth. Whether people acknowledge it or not, the only reason we celebrate Christmas is because Jesus came to earth.

In the next few weeks before Christmas, the Everyday Truth blog is going to help you anticipate Christmas. I'll be passing on some simple ways that you can keep your family's attention focused on Jesus during this busy time of the year.

Let's start with one of my favorite things about the Christmas season -- the lights. We put up our Christmas lights several weeks ago. My husband hates putting them up, so I try to pick a warm day in November for him to hang them. We leave them turned off until the night of Thanksgiving -- then we light up the sky.

I love seeing my kids' faces as we turn the lights on for the first time. It's as if they're seeing electricity work for the first time. Despite the fact that we see light all the time, there's just something about the Christmas lights that evoke a sense of wonder.

John 1:9 tells us that Jesus is like those Christmas lights. It says "The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world." Jesus is light. He came into the world to shed light onto the darkness of our sins. We should view Him with the same sense of awe with which my girls view the Christmas lights.

Use Christmas lights as a springboard to talk with your kids about Jesus:
  • Help your kids memorize John 1:9. Ask your kids what they think it means when it says that Jesus is a light. Talk about how Jesus brought light into a world darkened by sin. He's a beacon that we can follow.
  • When you view Christmas lights, remind your kids that Jesus came to be the light of the world. Explain that in the darkest time of the year, we light up the darkness with Christmas lights to celebrate Jesus' birth. This can remind us that Jesus came to do the same thing. He is the light of the world.
  • Talk with your kids about how they can be light in the world. As followers of Jesus, we are called to let His light shine through us. Talk about how your kids can let others see Jesus through their words and their actions.

As you see Christmas lights this week, may they fill you with a sense of wonder and let them be a reminder to you of Jesus -- the true light of the world.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving. It's been a pleasure to share with you a journey of thanksgiving as we learned about God through His names this month. As I count my blessings today, I count the readers of this blog among them. I hope you enjoyed sharing these devotionals with your family, and I hope your Thanksgiving tree is overflowing with leaves of gratitude.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, but so often the meaning of the holiday gets shunted aside in the hurry to get to Christmas. When the pilgrims sat down to count their blessings, they had buried more than half the people who came to Plymouth with them. The remaining pilgrims knew they faced another harsh winter ahead, yet they set aside time to give thanks to God for providing for them.

Make it a point today to count your blessings in an audible fashion. Help your kids understand all that they have to be thankful for. Spend some time looking at your thanksgiving tree. Have your kids count the leaves and talk about how much they have for which to be thankful.

Before you sit down to eat your turkey, have each person say what they are thankful for today. If you want to mix it up a bit, give everyone some play-doh or modeling clay and have them create the things for which they are thankful. Or, pass around a basket filled with slips of paper with topics on them like family, school, work, home, food and have each person mention something for which they are thankful that fits the category. Be creative, have fun and spend some time thanking God for His blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." Psalm 110:4

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

God the Banner

Each day in November, the Everyday Truth blog is looking at a different name for God and providing a family devotional for you to use with your kids. The goal is to keep our hearts focused on giving thanks to God during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

Did you know the Bible tells us that God is our banner? That's kind of a weird name for God, don't you think? What does that even mean?

This is actually one of my favorite names for God, but it's tough for us to understand because  most of us aren't familiar with how armies fought during the time of Moses. When an army would go into war, they would carry the banner (or flag) of whomever they were fighting for. They would follow the banner into war. As long as the banner was flying, the army would know that they're side was still fighting.

A battlefield was a messy, dust-filled place. The soldiers might not be able to see what was going on around them, but because the banner flew high on a pole, they could see it and follow it. If it ever became necessary to retreat, the soldiers would find the banner and follow it, so they would know where to go.

In Exodus 17, we find the account of the Israelites fighting the Amelakites. During this battle, as long as Moses kept his arms raised, the Israelites won. When he lowered his arms, the Israelites lost. God was using Moses' arms as the banner for the Israelite army. When the battle was over, Exodus 17:15 tells us "Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner." He recognized that God was there with them during the fight.

God is our banner, too. No matter how confusing or upsetting a situation gets, God is there leading the way and providing a place to which we can retreat. He covers us with His love and protection. When we don't know which way to go or what to do, all we have to do is look for God because He is there. We may not be able to see Him, but we know that He is there with us and will provide us with strength and wisdom and will show us the way to deal with any situation. He is our banner.

To remind yourself of this, take a piece of paper and draw something on it that will remind you of God. You can use what you have learned about God in the past three weeks to create your banner. Post your banner in your room somewhere, so that when you see it, you'll be reminded of the fact that God goes before you into every situation, and He is waiting for you to run to Him when things get tough.

On your thanksgiving leaves, today, write down situations in which you are thankful that God is your banner. It could be a tough choice you need to make, a tough situation at school or even difficulties with a subject at school.

Pray together, and thank God for being your banner -- for going before you no matter where you go.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

God of Wisdom

Each day in November, the Everyday Truth blog is looking at a different name for God and providing a family devotional for you to use with your kids. The goal is to keep our hearts focused on giving thanks to God during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

When you don't know the answer to a question, what do you do? You might ask your parent or a teacher for the answer. You can look up the answer in a book or search for the answer on a reliable site on the Internet. If you really want to find out the answer, you will look for it.

Sometimes, though, we face tough things in our lives, where there don't seem to be any answers. Maybe your mom or dad has lost their job or someone in your family has died. Maybe you're having trouble with another child at school. Maybe you have a tough choice to make, and both choices seem good. No amount of searching the Internet or asking an adult is going to provide the best wisdom on those subjects. The one who can offer the best guidance in these types of situations is God.

God is called the God of wisdom. Do you know what wisdom is? Wisdom is good counsel based on God's principles and experience. God is the source of all wisdom, and He freely offers it to us. Job 12:13 says "To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his." God is the best one to ask for advice on any subject. And He's always ready to give us His wisdom. James 1:5 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."

God cares even about the small decisions that you make in your life. He's ready and willing to offer you wisdom in any situation. When you're trying to decide whether to stand up for the kid in your class who is being picked on, God is there to offer counsel. When you're nervous before a test, God is there with His wisdom. When you're mad at your parents, God can show you the best way to deal with your anger. God wants to share His wisdom with you. All you have to do is ask.

Have everyone in your family practice asking God for wisdom today. Whenever you're faced with a situation where you don't know what to do today, stop and ask God for wisdom. Over dinner this evening, share with each other how God provided wisdom to you today.

On your thankfulness leaves today, write down situations in which you are thankful for God's wisdom.

Pray together, thanking God for being a God of wisdom. Thank Him for providing us with wisdom when we need it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

God Who Sees (Memory Monday)

Each day in November, the Everyday Truth blog is looking at a different name for God and providing a family devotional for you to use with your kids. The goal is to keep our hearts focused on giving thanks to God during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be blind? You would never know what anyone looked like. You wouldn't be able to see with your eyes the beauty of the world God created. You would have to rely on other people to be your eyes for you.

Sometimes we act like God is blind. But He isn't. The Bible tells us in Genesis 16:13 that God is the God who sees. A woman named Hagar was running away from her problems. She was ready to die in the desert, but God spoke to her. When He was done speaking, Hagar said "'You are the God who sees me,' for she said, 'I have now seen the One who sees me.'"

Sometimes when we do something that we know is wrong, we try to hide it -- from our parents, our teachers and even God. When you stop and think about, that's silly. God sees everything. We're not hiding anything from Him. All we're doing is not allowing God the opportunity to forgive us for the wrong things we've done.

The Bible tells us in 1 John 1:9 that "When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." So, even though God can see everything, He waits for us to show Him our sins, so that He can wipe them away. Memorize this verse this week to remind you that God is waiting for you to confess your sins to Him, so He can take them away.

Grab a white board and a dry erase marker. Write down something that you have done wrong recently. Now, take the eraser and wipe it away. That's what God does when we confess our sins to Him. He wipes the white board clean. Psalm 103:12 tells us that God separates us from our sin "as far as the East is from the West." That's about as far away as you can get.

But God doesn't just see our sin. He sees us as the wonderful creation that He made. He knows the number of hairs on your head. Sometimes we pretend to be different than we are so we can fit in with a certain group of people, but God sees us for who we really are. And, you know what? He loves you for exactly who you are. He doesn't want you to be anyone other than the person He made you to be.
Be thankful today that God can see the real you. On your thankfulness leaves today, write down things that you are thankful that God can see about you. Are you thankful that He knows the number of hairs on your head? Maybe you're thankful that He knows about the trouble that you're having with a friend at school.
Pray together and thank God for being a God who sees. Thank Him that He is willing to wipe the white board clean of our sins. Thank Him for seeing you for the wonderful creation that you are.

Friday, November 19, 2010

God of Mercy

Each day in November, the Everyday Truth blog is looking at a different name for God and providing a family devotional for you to use with your kids. The goal is to keep our hearts focused on giving thanks to God during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

If you do something wrong and your parents find out, what happens? You probably receive some type of punishment, right? What would you think if your parents didn't punish you when you did something wrong? Would you think there was something wrong with them?

Usually when we do something wrong, there are consequences. If you didn't do your chores, you might lose your allowance. If you hit your sibling, you might get sent to time out or lose video-game playing privileges for a while. If you break the neighbor's window, you might have to pay for it.

The Bible tells us that the consequence for sin is death. It's not talking about being struck dead on the spot when we sin (there would be no one left in the world). The death that the Bible is talking about is an eternal death that keeps us separated from God forever.
But, God is a God of mercy. In Ephesians 2:4-5, Paul says "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." God doesn't make us pay the price for our sin. He sent Jesus to do that for us.

Jesus took our place on the cross, so that we could have a relationship with God. He showed us mercy so that we would not have to pay the debt that we owed because of our sin.

Think of a time in your life when someone showed you mercy -- a time when you didn't get what you deserved. How did it make you feel? Did you feel thankful?

God's great mercy should be a reason for us to feel joyful and thankful. Who do you know that would sacrifice their son so that they can show you mercy? That's what God did. Jesus' sacrifice should give us a sense of peace, joy and thanksgiving.

On your thankfulness leaves today, write down how knowing God is a God of mercy -- that He doesn't give us what we deserve -- makes you feel. Write down the reasons you are thankful for God's mercy.

Pray together and thank God for being a God of mercy. As you go throughout your day, look for ways you can model your behavior after God's and how you can show mercy to others.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

God Who Saves

Each day in November, the Everyday Truth blog is looking at a different name for God and providing a family devotional for you to use with your kids. The goal is to keep our hearts focused on giving thanks to God during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

One day, my daughters were at the pool with some friends and their Granddaddy. One of the girls' friends couldn't swim and was in water over her head. Granddaddy was holding her up, but the lifeguard couldn't see it. The girl took a faceful of water and came up spluttering. Immediately, the lifeguard jumped in to pull her out of the water. Although the girl didn't need saving because Granddaddy was holding her, the lifeguard was ready to jump in the water to save her.

Unlike my daughter's friend, we're all in need of saving, and God has already thrown us a life preserver -- Jesus. You see, sin (the things we don't follow God's plan) keeps us from having a relationship with God. God wants us to have a relationship with Him because He loves us, so He sent Jesus. The Bible tells us in Romans 6:23 that the "wages of sin is death," which means that sin will separate us from God forever. But, God sent Jesus to die in our place, and three days later He rose again. Jesus' death and resurrection mean that we can have a relationship with God. He has saved us from spending eternity without knowing Him.

God is the lifeguard, and the life preserver He has thrown us is Jesus. Psalm 68:19-20 says "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death." Because Jesus died and rose again, we can take all of our worries and problems to God. Our lives can be filled with joy because we know that God loves us.

The thing is, though, that for God to save you, you have to grab onto the life preserver. If you're in the water and someone throws you a life preserver, you have to reach out and hold onto it for it to work. The same is true with Jesus. You have to believe that Jesus died on the cross to save you, and you have to let God be in charge of your life to experience God's saving power. You can do that by simply praying and telling God that you believe Jesus died for you and you want Him to be in charge of your life.

Give everyone a notecard or a small piece of paper. On your notecard, draw a life preserver. In the center of that life preserver, write the word "Jesus." Have everyone stick the notecard somewhere that they will see it every day. Every time you see the notecard, stop and thank God for sending Jesus to save us.

On your thankfulness leaves today, write down why you are thankful that God sent Jesus. It might be because it lets us have a relationship with God or you might write down that you are thankful that you can spend eternity with Jesus. Think of situations in which God has saved you from doing the wrong thing and provided a way out of the situation. Write those on your leaves.

Pray together and thank God for sending Jesus to save you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

God the Refuge

Each day in November, the Everyday Truth blog is looking at a different name for God and providing a family devotional for you to use with your kids. The goal is to keep our hearts focused on giving thanks to God during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

Do you know what a refuge is? You've probably heard of a wildlife refuge, which is a place where animals can live without being hunted by people. Sometimes a wildlife refuge will take in hurt animals and either nurse them back to health or provide a safe place for them to live even if a bird has a broken wing or a squirrel is missing a leg. The workers at the wildlife refuge provide what the hurt animal needs to live, like food and water, if it is unable to get those things itself.

The Bible tells us that God is a refuge for us. He's a safe place to whom we can run when someone hurts our feelings or we're struggling with a situation. Psalm 5:11 says "But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you."

God is our safe place. He will always love us and always care for us. He wants us to run to Him when we need a safe place to go. He wants you to tell Him about the things that are bothering you. What's the first thing you want to do when you fall down and skin your knee? You want someone to clean it up, put a bandaid on it and tell you it will be OK. That's what God does when we fall down in life. We can run to Him, and He can heal our hurts, including hurt feelings.

What do you do when you wake up from a bad dream in the middle of the night or when something scares you during the day? Do you look for a safe place or try to find a safe person? God wants us to run to Him when we are scared or uncertain. He wants to provide comfort and peace to us. He wants to be our safe place.

When we take our fears and hurts to God, He offers us protection, which Psalm 5:11 says leads to joy. When we run to God, we may come to Him hurt and upset, but after spending time with Him and letting Him be our safe place, we can find joy. We may still not be happy with the situation, but our joy comes from knowing that God loves us, cares for us and provides us with a refuge.

On your thankfulness leaves today, write down situations where you are thankful that you can run to God and let Him be your safe place. You might be thankful that God is your safe place when your brother says something that hurts your feelings or you might be thankful that God is a refuge when your upset because your grandma is sick.

Pray together and thank God for being your refuge, your safe place.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

God of Strength

Each day in November, the Everyday Truth blog is looking at a different name for God and providing a family devotional for you to use with your kids. The goal is to keep our hearts focused on giving thanks to God during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

How strong are you? Can you lift a small dog? How about your brother or sister? Can you lift up your mom or dad? How about a 200-pound boulder?

Line up a few heavy things, and see whom in your family can lift the most. Did you know that even really strong people can only lift about 500 pounds? That sounds like a lot, and those people would have to be really strong.

Name some things that people do to get stronger. You probably came up with some ideas like eating right, exercising, practicing lifting things. Those things make our muscles strong, but there are different types of strength.

In Exodus 15:2, we find that one way that we can be strong is by asking God to make us strong. It says "The LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him."

God offers to be strong for us in circumstances where we can't be strong. If a friend is asking you to do something that you know is wrong, God can give you the strength to stand up and say no. If you're having trouble with your homework or on a test, God can give you the strength to keep working until you figure it out. If you're having a disagreement with a friend, God will give you the strength to stay and work it out.

God will provide you with all the strength you need to do what is right. All you have to do is ask. Think of ways that God has made you strong. Share them with your family and write them on your thankfulness tree leaves.

Pray together and thank God for offering you an endless supply of strength. Thank Him for being strong when you aren't. Thank Him that His strength is never-ending.

Monday, November 15, 2010

God of Peace (Memory Monday)

Each day in November, the Everyday Truth blog is looking at a different name for God and providing a family devotional for you to use with your kids. The goal is to keep our hearts focused on giving thanks to God during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

If I asked you to describe a peaceful evening, what would you say? Give everyone a chance to answer the question. Were your answers the same or different? What did they have in common?

What we each think of as peaceful may differ, but peace is always the absence of conflict and a sense of calm. God is the God of peace. He offers us that peace. Jesus said in John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." God gives us peace even in the most difficult circumstances.

Our peace comes from knowng that God is in control. No matter what happens -- no matter if someone is mean to you at school or someone in your family is sick -- God is in control. Jesus tells us that God's peace means that we don't have to worry about things. We can ask God to help us deal with them, and God will give us peace about those things.

The Bible even gives us specific directions for what to do when we do feel upset, afraid or worried. Philippians 4:6-7 says "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This verse tells us that if there's something bothering us, we need to take it to God with a thankful heart for all that He has given us. When we turn the tough stuff over to God through prayer, God promises to give us peace. That's a pretty sweet deal, isn't it?

As a family, memorize Philippians 4:6-7 this week. As you go throughout your week remember to pray about anything that is causing you to worry or be anxious. Draw a large peace symbol or the word peace on a piece of paper or posterboard. Hang it where everyone can see it. As you go throughout the week, everyone in your family can write down the things that they have turned over to God on the peace poster. It will serve as a visual reminder of God's promise to give you peace.

On your thankfulness tree leaves today, write down a specific situation when you were thankful that God gave you peace. It could be when you had a disagreement with a friend or even when your pet was sick.

Pray together and thank God for being a God of peace.

Friday, November 12, 2010

God is Love

Each day in November, the Everyday Truth blog is looking at a different name for God and providing a family devotional for you to use with your kids. The goal is to keep our hearts focused on giving thanks to God during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

God loves you. You've probably heard that before, right? But have you ever really thought about what that means?

The God who spoke the universe into being loves you. The Bible tells us He knows the number of hairs on your head. He loves you so much that He sent Jesus to die for you, so that you can have a relationship with God. He refused to let our sin separate us forever from His love.

God's love is unconditional. No matter what we do, God will still love us. He doesn't care if you wear the "right" clothes. He doesn't care if your hair is blonde, brown or purple with pink stripes. He's even ready to forgive you when you mess up -- no matter what you have done.

Sometimes people tell us they love us, but then get mad at us when we don't live up to their expectations. Has your mom or dad ever said to you, "If you do well at school, then we'll go out for ice cream" or "If you clean your room, you can watch TV?" Those are conditional statements -- if you do this, then I will do that -- but they're not related to love. Sometimes, though, we have friends who don't want to be friends with us unless we do everything their way. They tell us with their words and actions that if we wear the right clothes or if we act a certain way, we can be their friend. That's conditional love.

God's love isn't like that. His love isn't based on anything that we do. It's based on who God is. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8 "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

Look at that last statement. It says God is love. His whole being is made up of love. And He chooses to pour that love out on you. I don't know about you, but sometimes I'm not very lovable. I can be crabby and not much fun to be around. I make mistakes, and I don't always treat others like I should. But God loves me anyway.

Give everyone in your family a piece of paper. On the paper make two columns. Label one column lovable, and the other column unlovable. In the lovable column write down the things that you think make a person easy to love. In the other column right down things you think make a person hard to love. Share those lists with your family. Now draw a big red heart over both columns and write God in the middle. Hang your list somewhere that you can see it to remind you that even when you act in ways that might not be easy to love, God still loves you.

Do you know what the best thing about God's love is? We can share it with others. His love fills us up so much, that it should spill out of our lives onto other people. God will never run out of love. He has enough for each of us. Talk with your family about ways that you can show God's love to other people. Be sure to share God's love with someone else today.

Write on your thankfulness tree leaves ways that you are thankful for God's love. You can thank Him for loving you enough to send Jesus. You can thank Him for loving you even when you aren't easy to love. Thank Him for ways that you see His love in your life (he's given you great parents, good friends, a dog who loves to sit in your lap and kiss you). Hang your leaves on your tree.

Pray together, thanking God for His unconditional love. Have everyone take a turn telling God how His love makes a difference in their lives. Ask God to give your family opportunities to show God's love to others this week.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

God the Helper

Each day in November, the Everyday Truth blog is looking at a different name for God and providing a family devotional for you to use with your kids. The goal is to keep our hearts focused on giving thanks to God during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

We all need help sometimes. No one can do everything themselves. When we try to do everything by ourselves, we simply get worn out and frustrated. For example, no matter how tall a chair my youngest daughter stands on, she's not going to be able to reach the top shelf in the cabinets. She needs someone to help her.

Depending on the situation, we need different types of help. Think about it. If you're learning to play a sport you've never played before, you need a coach to help. If you're trying to put together a Lego set, you need the directions. If you're learning to fly a plane, you need a pilot. Help comes in many forms, but the best helper is God.

Let's look at the value of help. Take a big box of Legos or another toy with lots of small pieces. Dump it on the floor. Now, have someone time you while you pick up all the Legos. You have to get every piece back in the box. Give everyone in your family a chance to be timed picking up the Legos. Dump the Legos one more time and have everyone help pick them up. Most likely your time will be much shorter when everyone helps, right?

Normally, picking up those Legos is a tedious chore, and it takes a while to get them all in the box. However, when everyone helps, the chore goes much faster and can be kind of fun. Helpers lighten the load of whatever task we are doing.

The Bible tells us in Psalm 46:1 that God is our help. It says "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." God is always ready to help us. That's what the word ever-present means. He offers us strength, wisdom, love and comfort, depending on the type of help we need.

Sometimes God's help is simply to give us peace in a tough situation. Other times, God sends tangible help in the form of a friend or a parent. And, still other times, God does something amazing like a miracle. No matter the situation, if we ask God for help, He will give it to us. Knowing that makes me thankful that God is an ever-present help.

Take out your thankfulness tree leaves and write ways you are thankful that God helps us. Be specific and be thankful for specific times when you know God helped you. Be thankful for ways that God can help you. Share these with your family and talk about them. End your time together with a prayer thanking God for being your Helper. Have everyone thank God for one way that He has helped them today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

God the Redeemer

Each day in November, the Everyday Truth blog is looking at a different name for God and providing a family devotional for you to use with your kids. The goal is to keep our hearts focused on giving thanks to God during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

(Before you start this devotional, choose one item that belongs to each of your kids and place it in a prominent place -- the mantel, the kitchen counter. Make sure you choose something precious that your child won't want to live without.)

God is our Redeemer. What does that statement mean to you? Probably not a lot. Redeemer isn't a word we use a whole lot in our culture. It wouldn't be at all surprising if you have no idea what it really means to call God your redeemer.

To redeem something means that you buy something back by paying a certain price. Your parent has taken something that is valuable to you. To get it back, you need to pay your parent $100. If you're a normal kid, you probably don't have that kind of money and certainly think it's unfair that you would have to pay it to get your possessions back, right? If you don't have the money, what you need is a redeemer -- someone who will pay the price for you to redeem (or get back) your possessions.

Ephesians 2:10 says "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." If we are God's masterpiece, then we are valuable to Him. Sin separates us from God. It places a barrier between us and God, and no amount of money, energy or time will allow us to cross that barrier. We simply can't do enough to tear down the barrier between us and God. Sin makes us in need of a redeemer -- someone who will buy us back from an eternity separated from God. Because God knew we needed a redeemer, He sent Jesus. Jesus paid the ultimate price -- he died -- because you and I sin. But then Jesus rose again and became our redeemer. Job 19:25 says "I know that my redeemer lives." He bought us back by paying the price in our place.

Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages or consequences of sin is death, which includes an eternity without God. But Jesus paid that price for us, so that we can spend eternity with God.

We have so much to be thankful for when we know that God is our redeemer. Write down on your thankfulness tree's leaves ways that you are thankful that God is your redeemer. It could be that you're thankful that you can spend eternity with God. Or you could be thankful that God sent Jesus to die for you.

Pray together as a family, thanking God for providing Jesus as the redeemer even though we have done nothing to deserve being redeemed.