Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Separation Anxiety

Our bags are packed and sitting at the front door waiting for my dad to pick us up and take me to the airport. I'm headed to Charlotte, N.C., for the She Speaks conference, and my girls are off for their annual four days of GrandCamp with my parents. Last night, I put two children to bed sobbing because I'm leaving today. I'm sure tears will be shed at the airport.

However, I'm also equally sure that my girls will have a great time with their grandparents (and come home incredibly spoiled--ice cream every day, anyone?), and I will have an amazing time at She Speaks. We'll get home on Sunday with so much to share with each other.

Leaving our kids for any reason is tough. Fear of the unknown -- anything could happen while you're apart -- sometimes keeps us from letting go when we should. I've met moms whose kids are 6 or 7, and they've never had a babysitter. This isn't healthy for you or your kids. It's impossible to keep your marriage fresh and vibrant if you and your spouse never spend any time away from your children. It's also important for your children to learn that it's ok for you to go away because then they know that you will come home.

Our goal as parents is not to keep our children constantly sheltered under our wings, but to let them grow wings of their own and eventually fly out of the nest. We need to trust that God has our children under his protection and let them venture out on their own into new experiences without mom or dad always hovering at their side. Eventually, your children will need to leave home and stand on their own. You want them to be confident in themselves and their faith when they do so. That training starts at home, and it starts early. When your children know that they can do some things without you around, they become more confident, and they learn to rely on God.

If it's hard for you to leave your kids or for your kids to leave you, work together to overcome your separation anxiety.
  • If you're constantly worrying about your kids when you leave them or your kids are constantly worrying about you when you leave, you need to turn the worry over to God. Easier said than done, I know. However, worry is a sin. Jesus said  in Matthew 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life..." The best way I know of to conquer worry is to capture the worrisome thought, give it to God and replace it with scripture. Some of my favorites are Matthew 6:25, Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28.
  • Leave your kids with a trusted sitter and go on a date with your husband. Your children need to know that your marriage is important, and that it needs time without them around to flourish. Go out to dinner and a movie. You don't have to be gone more than a couple of hours, but it's good for you and it's good for your kids to know that mom and dad place a priority on having some time together for themselves.
  • It's hard to leave when your kids are crying, but many kids will stop almost right after you leave. My youngest was awful. She threw a screaming fit every time we dropped her off at her class at church until she was almost 2. The teachers told us that almost as soon as the door closed, she was fine. That may not be true for every kid, so if your child has trouble separating from you, start with short time periods and work your way up.
  • Prepare your kids before you leave. We've been working up to me going on this trip for the past month. We've talked about it. I've shown them where I'm going. I've assured them that if they need me they can call or text me. The girls are still a bit unsure of my going, but they feel more confident because they have some knowledge about where I'll be and what I'll be doing. Unless it's unavoidable, never spring a trip on your children. It's easier for them to accept your leaving when they understand why you're going and when.
  • Teach your children that no matter where they are or where you are, God is always with you. In Matthew 28:20 Jesus says "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Talk with your children about how God can see them and is always there even when you can't be. They can talk to God any time, anywhere, and He will hear them.
Our children are precious, and time spent away from them can cause us anxiety. Remember, though, that in the end, time spent away from each other can refresh both you and your children. And, no matter where you or your children are, God is there with each of you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Don't Get Stuck in the Muck

Friday was a typical Kansas day in July—swelteringly hot with high humidity. But Saturday morning, I enjoyed the morning sitting on my back deck, spending some quiet time with God while everyone else is still asleep. When I went to bed Friday night, the temperature was still close to 90 degrees, and the air felt like a wet blanket. Saturday morning, the temperatures were in the upper 70s, low humidity and a beautiful breeze. What a difference a day makes.

Saturday morning during my Bible reading time, I read Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” That passage reminded me of how hot it was on Friday. If I had woken up Saturday morning thinking that it was going to be as miserably hot as it was Friday night, I might never have opened the door to go outside. I would have missed the beautiful morning because I was dwelling on the past.

How often do we get stuck on our past mistakes and failures and let them hold us back and keep us from moving forward? We even let them keep us from doing what God calls us to do. All we see is the hot, sweaty mess from yesterday and not the clear, cool morning of today. God wants us to move forward into the new things He has planned for us. If we mess up in our parenting, our marriage, our job or our ministry, we need to ask for forgiveness, if necessary, and move forward. God never intended for us to let our mistakes paralyze us.

This is a lesson that kids need to learn, as well. As a matter of fact, if your kids learn not to let their mistakes hold them back at a young age, life as they get older will be much easier. Think about how you teach a child to ride a bike. When they fall off, you make them get right back on so their last memory of riding isn’t the fall, but success. That’s the way we should view all of our mistakes – get right back on the bike and pedal toward the good things God has for you.

Let’s be intentional about using our children’s mistakes to teach them and to move them forward. Give your kids a push if they need it to get out of the mire of yesterday and move forward to the new thing God has for them today.
  • When your kids have a tough day or make a tough mistake, talk with them about it. Encourage them and talk about what they could have done differently in that situation. Give them tools to deal with the situation should it arise again. Then, remind them that the past is over and God has new things in store for them.
  • Bring out some of your kids’ favorite toys from when they were younger. Ask them if they would like to play with those toys today. Talk about how they have changed from when they were babies and toddlers. Discuss how when we grow, we leave old things, like toys, behind because there are new things to discover. Tell your children that it’s the same way with mistakes and failures in the past. We leave them behind because God has new things in store for us.
  • Pour some corn syrup in a bowl. Find a small action figure, Happy Meal toy, or even a popsicle stick with a face on it. Put the action figure in the bowl and watch it sink (you may need to give it a little push). Talk about how our mistakes can be like corn syrup, if we let them. They can cover us in muck and keep us stuck in one place. Remind your children that God has a plan for them, and it’s not to sit covered in muck. Let them know that God can even use our mistakes and failure for good. Talk about Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Above all, remember that God loves you and your kids. While we will make mistakes, and we will fail at some things, God doesn’t intend for those things to hold us back. Look around and see the “new thing” that God is doing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mom, I'm Scared

My oldest daughter has been having trouble falling asleep the past few nights. You know the cycle, your child can't fall asleep, so she roots around in her bed, gets up and goes to the bathroom several times and finally ends up as a weeping puddle of goo because she can't sleep. My oldest usually ends up thinking so much that she scares herself into not being able to go to sleep. I usually have to give her something happy to think about before she can finally calm herself down and get to sleep.

Fear can be paralyzing for anyone but especially for kids. They don't know how to take control of their thoughts and push through their fear. Many adults haven't mastered this. One thing that we know, though, is that God does not want fear to keep us from walking in the path He has laid out for us. God knows that fear can paralyze us and keep us from being effective for Him, so the Bible has lots to say about fear.

Romans 8:15 tells us "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship." God has given us access to His power and strength, which means that we can do anything that He calls us to even if it seems scary. In Deuteronomy 31:6 Moses tells the Israelites "Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." God is always there, and just like the Israelites, if He asks us to do a task that scares us, He will always be there. Being courageous is not going forward in the absence of fear; it's going forward even though you are afraid.

If God is asking you to do something and fear is holding you back, don't let it. Your children will live what they see. If they see you not doing something because you are afraid, then they will let fear stop them from moving forward as well. If you're an example of courage to them, they will learn to be courageous as well. Stop and think of all the things you wouldn't have done if you had let fear stop you. You might not have taken a job promotion, you probably wouldn't have had children and you might never have learned to ride a two-wheeled bike.

It's our job to help build in our children a courageous spirit (because in this world they will need it). We can do that in simple ways as we go about our lives. There's no magic words that will turn our kids into courageous warriors for God, but a simple, consistent pattern of encouragement (and the occasional shove in the right direction) will help kids learn to move through their fears and not be paralyzed by them.
  • Don't let fear be the motivating factor for not trying something. We have a rule in our house that "If you haven't tried it, being scared isn't a reason for not trying it." We recently went to the local amusement park. This is the first year my oldest daughter is tall enough to ride the roller coasters. We decided together before we left home that she would try a roller coaster. When we got there she wanted to back out. We reminded her of the rule, and I grabbed her hand and hauled her on the coaster. She was definitely scared, but we got on, and she loved it. If you don't love it after trying it once, our rule is that you don't have to do it again, but letting fear keep you from doing something you've never tried is not ok. I'm not saying you should force your kids to jump out of an airplane, but when they run into something in their everyday lives that they're scared of for no reason, we need to show them how to push through that fear so their lives are not ruled by it.
  • When your kids are scared about something, pray with them. Show them how to turn their fear over to God, and let Him deal with the fear. Remind them of Romans 8:15, which is a great verse for kids to memorize.
  • Every time your kids wake up with a nightmare in the middle of the night, pray that God would take away the bad dream and replace it with good ones. My favorite middle of the night verse is Psalm 56:3, "When I am afraid, I will trust in you." It's short and simple and easy to memorize. My girls have known this one since they were really little.
  • Share your own experiences with your kids. If you have an irrational fear, let your kids know about it. They can help you work through your fear, too. For example, I'm afraid of heights. I hate being in an exposed tall place. My kids know this, and, inevitably, when we are climbing something tall, one of my girls will come hold my hand -- more for me than for them. It's cute, and it's comforting.
One word of warning: be careful that you don't force away your children's natural protective instincts. There are times when fear is a good thing. It's one thing to help your kids to push through fear in situations that you can control and know are safe, but make sure that if your children feel uneasy or are afraid around a certain person that you don't dismiss that feeling. God gave us a fear reflex to keep us safe in dangerous situations. In those situations, we want our children to listen to that fear reflex and get out of the situation. It's a fine line, I know, but we never want to force our children into situations with people with whom they are uncomfortable. If your kids are uncomfortable around another child or adult, there's usually a reason that needs to be investigated.

Be sure that you are praying for your kids to be courageous. When you know they are facing a situation that scares them, pray for them, and let them know you are praying for them. Nothing in this world is more powerful than prayer.

If we work with our kids to help them push forward despite their fear, we will help God build up children who are not afraid of what He asks. Today, look for ways to help your children be "strong and courageous."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Journey Across America: Idaho

So much of our lives these days is disposable. I know some people who don't even own dishes; they just eat off of paper plates all the time. We throw away just about everything from paper plates to TVs. Many people trade in their cars after a few years of use. Few things come with a "lifetime guarantee" any more. We have become a disposable society, and our children are learning that nearly everything can be thrown away and replaced.

When we tell our kids that God endures forever, I'm not sure they have any idea what that really means. In this technological age, everything has a short lifespan. The kids barely begin playing the latest and greatest video game system when another one comes along. Kids are so immune to the idea that things can last a long time that the idea that God and His Word last forever and never change is a foreign concept.

That's why we're heading to Idaho today on our "trip" across America. Idaho's motto is "Esto perpetua," which means "May It Endure Forever." We're going to take a look at Idaho from the perspective of things that endure. Our verse for today is Daniel 6:26b "For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end."

As we travel through Idaho, we will be making our own mountains out of salt dough because of all the things on earth that endure, mountains are high on the list. We'll also be making our own sand dunes. We'll talk about how even though both mountains and sand dunes last for a long time, they won't last forever. Eventually, time and erosion will wear away both of them, but God will endure forever.

We're also going to pan for gold, one of the most enduring metals. We'll talk about how gold is refined by fire to get rid of all the impurities. We'll discuss how families pass down gold jewelry from generation to generation so it endures for a long time. We'll talk about how we can't pass down faith from generation to generation and everyone has to make their own decision to follow Jesus.

Just for fun, we'll have some French fries as a snack because Idaho is known for producing potatoes. We'll also learn a bit about the wildlife of Idaho, and we'll take some time to work on our service project for the summer.

When we're done, hopefully, the girls will know that in this throw-away society, one thing endures -- God.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Different Kind of Blog Post: She Speaks

Today's blog post is going to be a little bit different. Usually in this space I offer you some ideas for teaching your kids about God. Today, I'm going to ask for something from you instead.

For the past five years or so, God has been talking to me about using my writing talents for Him. This blog is a direct outgrowth of those conversations. I've also written a couple of Bible studies, which I have taught at our church. The last one I wrote was called Everyday Truth and is the basis for the creation of this blog. Earlier this year, a friend of mine introduced me to a Christian writers' and speakers' conference called She Speaks. After much prayer and discussion with my husband, we decided that I should go.

The conference starts next Friday in Charlotte, N.C. I'm so excited to be attending, but I'm also shocked to even be on this journey. All through my life, I've been able to string a few words together, but I never thought I would consider myself a "writer." The best part of the conference will be getting to learn as much as I can, but I'm also scheduled to meet with two publisher representatives while I'm there to talk with them about publishing the Everyday Truth Bible study. I'm not really sure what to expect, but I know those appointments are in God's hands.

Here's where you come in. I'm asking that you would all pray for me while I'm gone. This is an amazing opportunity for me, but I'm pretty nervous. Pray that God would let this be a wonderful learning experience for me -- that I would come home refreshed and confident that this is the direction that God wants me to go. The conference begins on July 30 and runs through Aug. 1. Please pray especially at 3:15 on July 30 and at 9:45 on July 31, which is when I meet with the publisher representatives. Pray that I would know exactly what to say and would  be able to cast a clear vision in these meetings.

I appreciate you reading and supporting me in prayer. I know that the things I learn at She Speaks will make this a better blog for you and will help to reach even more moms with the message that they can teach their children about God.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Be Still

This week has been really busy in the Fairchild house. I've been running the girls back and forth to camps all week -- my oldest to basketball camp and my youngest to hockey camp. It's been a little crazy trying to get everyone fed and to where they need to be at the time they need to be there. Luckily, this is the craziest week of our summer.

Too often, however, our lives constantly look like ours has this week -- everyone running in different directions, barely stopping long enough to shovel in a meal. This isn't what God had in mind for us and our families. When we're so busy running, we don't have time to stop and let God speak to us, and if we create an atmosphere of constant activity for our kids, they will never learn how to be still.

Psalm 46:10 tells us to "Be still and know that I am God." Jesus often took time away from the crowds and his disciples to spend time with His heavenly father. God wants us to do the same. John 10:10 says "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." That verse doesn't say "I have come that they may have a life that's crammed full."

We do our kids and our families a disservice when we don't teach them the value of having some quiet, down time. It's only in those still, quiet moments that we can truly hear God's voice. Often, I think, God is speaking to us, but we're so busy trying to get to the next activity or plan the next play date that we simply miss hearing Him. We don't want our children to grow up unable to hear God's voice through the noise of all that's going on around them.

In this era of busyness, how do we teach our children to enjoy the still, quiet moments, and how do we go about creating some of those moments with our families?
  • Take a good, hard look at your schedule and set some limits. Your children do not have to be involved in every activity the school, the church or the soccer team offers. Decide what the limits are for your family. Our girls are allowed to participate in one sport at a time along with church activities and Awana. That may be too much or too little for your family. It works out just right for us most days. Your schedule should not be so packed that you never eat dinner together as a family and the best time you and your kids spend together is in the car. While you can have some great conversations in the car, that shouldn't be your only contact with your kids.
  • Begin early, instilling a habit of a quiet time in your kids. Set aside some time in the day that each member of your family has a quiet time with God. My girls each have a devotional book. They do a devotional each morning as part of their morning routine. They can't do anything else until their morning checklist is done, which includes their devotional time.
  • Carve out some times in your family's schedule where you don't plan anything. Just spend the day at home. You'll be surprised at how freeing it is to have a day at home, just spending time together. Your kids will be more relaxed, and often you will, too.
  • Pick a clear, starry night and have your family lay on a blanket in the back yard contemplating the stars. Talk about how God made the stars and knows how many there are. Get a glimpse of the greatness of God through His creation. Spend some time being still and praying together as a family.
Remember that God wants you to have a full life but not one that's so full that there's no room for Him.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Journey Across America: Moving Forward

It's been a tough two days of mommyhood around here. It's the middle of the summer, and my girls are tired of me and each other. Both girls are doing separate sports camps this week, so they're exhausted. My oldest was up with nightmares the other night because she's overtired, and that meant I was tired, too.

From the time the girls got up yesterday morning, they were at each other's throats -- bickering, yelling, crying. I wish I could say that I handled the situation calmly and had some perfect object lesson that made my girls recognize how much each of them loved the other one. I wish I could say that for the rest of the day they behaved respectfully toward each other.

In reality, I lit into both girls and had them both sobbing in their rooms before 10 a.m. By the end of the day, I had a huge headache and was almost in tears myself. It took until about noon today for all of us to get our attitudes sorted out and start enjoying each other's company again.

In the course of all this mayhem in my house, I was getting ready for today's Journey Across America trip to Wisconsin, and God had lots to say to me and, I think, to all moms. Wisconsin's motto is simply "Forward." Our verse for the day is Philippians 3:13b-14, "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

In the midst of my misery last night as I was beating myself up about not handling several situations with the girls very well, God reminded me of that verse. When we make a mistake, we shouldn't let it keep us from "pressing on toward the goal." When we have a terrible day, we yell at our kids and handle situations poorly, we need to pick ourselves up, ask for forgiveness (both from our kids and from God) and ask God to help us do better the next time. If we get stuck in our mistakes and refuse to move on from them or let them keep us from trying again the next time, we make it difficult for God to use us to reach our kids.

We talked about this idea on our "trip" to Wisconsin today. Bloomer, Wisconsin is the Jump Rope Capital of the World. Each girl got a jump rope for saying last week's memory verse. We took them outside, and everyone counted how many times they could jump in a minute. The numbers varied from five to 50. I asked the girls how far any of them had gone. The answer was that no one had gone anywhere. We talked about how jumping rope in place is like getting stuck in our mistakes and never moving forward. We can move a bunch, but we don't go anywhere.

We also talked about Paul in the Bible and how if anyone had a reason to be ashamed of their past and let it keep them from serving God, it was Paul. Paul used to kill Christians, yet God used him to reach much of the known world for Christ. If Paul didn't let his past stop him, then we shouldn't let our past mistakes stop us.

We had some fun tasting dairy products -- milk, ice cream and cheese -- because Wisconsin produces more milk than any other state. We had an ugly troll drawing contest because that's what Wisconsinites do when they attend the Norwegian festival to celebrate Norway's independence day. We finished the day by dressing up like clowns because the circus used to spend its winters in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

We had a great time "visiting" Wisconsin, and I think everyone learned something about leaving the past behind. I know I did.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Don't Forget Christmas in July

Don't forget to sign up for Christmas in July this Saturday, July 17 from 9-12 at Westside Family Church. Bring a friend and a Christmas goodie to share and learn some great, simple ways to keep Christ at the center of your Christmas this year. You'll learn to tweak some traditions you may already have and start new ones all with the goal of keeping your family focused on Christ's birth. Can't wait to see you there. Register at Westside Family Church.

Summer Fun: Journey Across America

Last week's Journey Across America stop didn't make it on the blog because I didn't want to interrupt our series on prayer. So, here it is to get you all caught up.

Sometimes we look at a task that God has set before us, and we think "That's impossible." When you're a child, lots of things look impossible because there are lots of things that children can't do, simply because they are small. This week's stop on the Journey Across America landed us in Ohio, a state that's motto is "With God All Things Are Possible."

Our verse for the day was Phillipians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." It's so important for kids to know that God equips them to do the things that He asks them to do. To explain that to the girls, I asked them to work together and lift up the car. Of course, they couldn't, and one of them conveniently announced, "It's impossible." I showed them how to use a jack to lift the car off the ground. The jack made the impossible, possible. God will never ask us to do something impossible without giving us the tools to make it possible. It was a great object lesson for them, and they really got it.

We spent the rest of the day making soap because the first floating soap was made by Ohio native Charles Gamble, co-founder of Proctor and Gamble. We also learned about other inventors from Ohio -- the Wright brothers and Thomas Edison are Ohio natives -- and how sometimes they probably wanted to give up. When we are faced with something that seems impossible, we can tap into the ultimate source of help, God.

We learned about the "impossible" task of escaping from slavery. Columbus, Ohio was a major crossroads on the Underground Railroad. We learned what the Underground Railroad was and how sometimes stops on the Underground Railroad would use quilts to pass important messages to the runaway slaves. We played a game of tag where three quilts were "safe houses" on the Underground Railroad. The "slaves" tried to reach the quilts while the others tried to catch them.

Lastly, we pretended to be rock stars because the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland. We talked about how God provides us with talent and we should use it for him. We also talked about how sometimes the "popular" rock stars may not be the best examples of how we should dress and act.

Overall, we had a great time learning about Ohio and how God makes the impossible possible.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Blog Updates

I'm sure most of you have noticed that I've been working on the layout of the blog. The whole blogging thing is new to me, so I've been working to figure out the technical side of things. I now have the e-mail subscription working. If you want to get the posts in your inbox instead of having to come to the page every day, just enter your e-mail into the Subscribe by e-mail box on the right. Let me know if you have any troubles. Thanks for reading.

Conversations With God: How

This week, the Everyday Truth blog is taking a look at prayer and how we can teach our kids about prayer. We're going to address the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of prayer, both for us and our kids.

My oldest daughter is a peacemaker. She hates conflict and would do just about anything to avoid it. She is always trying to make everyone happy. When she was in first grade, we started trying to teach her that there are circumstances when she needs to stand up for herself. We've made some progress in the past three years, and she now recognizes the situations where she should stand up and make her voice heard. However, she still will go out of her way to accommodate other people's desires if it's at all possible for her to do so.
My daughter's personality is in direct contrast to what the world teaches our kids. TV, movies and magazines all shout at our kids that the only desirable place to be is on top. Being the best at everything is the only acceptable option. Look at the front of a girls' teen magazine. The titles are all about how to be prettier, smarter or more talented than other girls. The message that our kids hear all the time is that they should be better than everyone else. "Second place is first loser" is the message they are bombarded with day after day.
However, it's our job as parents to teach our children how to be humble because that is how Jesus says we are to approach God. Matthew 6:5-6 says "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." When we approach God in prayer, we must do so with an attitude of humility. We pray to further our relationship with God, not so others can see and hear us.
Adopting an attitude of humility flies in the face of everything the rest of the world tells us. Despite what the world says, being humble doesn't make us doormats. It doesn't mean that we should never open our mouths and offer an opinon. It simply means that we should put others above ourselves. Philippians 2:3-4 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

A spirit of humility, allows our hearts to be open to God's leading. When approaching the throne of God, what do we have to be proud about? God is the awesome creator of the world. Who am I when compared to Him? When we approach the throne of God with a humble spirit, we are ultimately more usable by God than when we approach with a prideful spirit. Sometimes we approach God with the attitude of "Look at all I am doing for you, now bless it," when the attitude we should have is "Where can you use me, God?"

Humility is a tough concept to make concrete enough for children to grasp. Living a lifestyle of humility in your family is the best way to get that idea across. Incorporate some of these ideas into your everyday lives to teach your children about humility and how to approach the throne of grace with a humble heart.
  • Teach your children to think about others first. When your children have a friend over, institute the friends go first rule. In our house, if we have guests they get to do everything from go first in a game to getting dessert first. It's a simple way to remind our kids that when we have guests, we serve them.
  • Create opportunities for your children to serve others. Whether it's serving at a soup kitchen or helping to clean the preschool rooms at your church, take your children with you when you serve. The more they see you putting others first, the more they will begin to do so.
  • Listen to your children's prayers. Talk about how we should approach God with a humble spirit. Point out how awesome and amazing God is and how amazing it is that He wants to have a relationship with us. Talk about all the things that God can do. Ask your child how that makes him feel. Point out that in relation to God, we have no reason to be proud. Help your children pray with a humble spirit and not a demanding one.
  • Watch for opportunities to talk about humility. When your child comes home from school with a story about how they were the best at something, praise them for their hard work and remind them that God has given them all the talents and gifts to do that thing well. Remind them that while they should rejoice in the fact that they did well, it doesn't make them any more important than other people. The more we show our children that God is responsible for giving them their gifts and talents, the more likely they will be to acknowledge God in all that they do.
Humility is not a natural state for us. Our sinful nature wants to puff us up with pride. But God can't use a prideful spirit, so remind yourself and your children that God can only use us when we approach him with a humble heart.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Conversations With God: Why

This week, the Everyday Truth blog is taking a look at prayer and how we can teach our kids about prayer. We're going to address the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of prayer, both for us and our kids.

One of my favorite movies is Miracle on 34th Street. I used to watch it with my grandmother when I was little. The little girl in the movie didn't believe in Santa Claus until she met the man playing the Macy's Santa Claus. She was so convinced that Santa was fake that she told him she didn't believe and if he was really Santa, he would bring her a house for her and her mother. Of course, the man really was Kris Kringle, and she did get the house.
Sometimes, adults and kids, alike, treat God like the little girl in the movie treated Santa. We ignore who God says He is and the evidence that He provides that He loves us, and we present Him with an ultimatum of "do this, and I'll believe in you." Prayer is not about what we want or need. God does want to hear about our deepest desires and despairs, but prayer is about us drawing closer to God, not about God meeting our every wish and want.
It's tough for adults to understand that sometimes God's plan isn't what we've asked Him for. God's concern is with bringing glory to Himself. To do that, He needs to mold our character to be more like His. Prayer is one of the keys to knowing God better. We pray because in a relationship, you talk. Can you imagine what a marriage would be like if you never talked to each other. You wouldn't know anything about each other. You'd just have to guess what the other person liked or disliked. It's the same way with our relationship with God. God hears us when we pray. We can get to know Him better through prayer. God often uses prayer to speak with us and to move us into alignment with His will.
One of the hardest things to explain to our kids is why we should could continue to pray when God chooses to answer our prayers differently than we'd like. Adults struggle with this, so it shouldn't be surprising that children struggle with it as well. God always answers our prayers. He doesn't just leave them hanging in the air like some unanswered e-mail. However, sometimes the answer is "no," and sometimes the answer is "wait." And sometimes we miss the answer because we're so busy doing other things that we forget to listen for God. Understanding that God's plan is greater than anything we could ever imagine can help us see that God may have different ideas about the direction our lives should take than the ones we have.
When we pray, we're not trying to change God's mind or persuade Him that what we want is best. We should be praying to draw closer to God. That should never stop us from pouring out our hearts and souls to God. Look at how Hannah prayed in 1 Samuel 1:10, "In bitterness of soul, Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord." She poured out her desire for a child to God with tears and bitterness. God knew Hannah's heart, but He can only offer us comfort when we come to Him with honest, broken hearts. It is that honesty of soul that draws us closer to God.
So, how do we share these big concepts about prayer with the little souls in our homes? Make the idea of having a relationship with God -- one where you talk to Him all the time -- a concrete proposition for your kids. Try some of these conversations and activities:
  • Talk with your kids when it seems God isn't answering their prayers. Talk about how God can use circumstances that don't seem fair or good at the time to bring Him glory later on. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." This guarantees that God's long-term plans for us are good, but they are all part of His bigger plan.
  • Find a quilt with lots of small scraps of fabric in it. Show the quilt to your kids and tell them that God is like the quiltmaker. When the quiltmaker started, she only had scraps of fabric, but she could see the whole quilt in her mind. Anyone looking at just the scraps might not see something beautiful, but the quiltmaker could see the bigger picture. It's that way with God. He can see the whole quilt and knows the pieces of our lives. One individual thing in our life may seem ugly or insurmountable, but when you can see the picture of our whole life, like the quiltmaker can see the picture of the whole quilt, God can see that it all works to make something beautiful for Him.
  • Emphasize the importance of conversation in a relationship by playing this game at dinner. Make something disgusting for dinner. Tell everyone that they aren't allowed to talk or gesture during dinner. After dinner, ask your family if they liked the meal (they still aren't allowed to talk, gesture, make faces). Tell them that since they are all unanimous in their silence, you'll be making that meal at least once a week. After you inform them that you'll all be going out to pizza, ask them how it felt to not be able to tell you what they thought. Talk about how you just had to assume that they liked the meal because they didn't give you a response. Ask them how they think they can know God's plan for their lives if they don't talk to Him. Remind them that we can't really know God or hear his voice if we're not regularly conversing with Him.
As you go about the rest of your week, encourage your kids to talk with God because they want a relationship with Him, not just because they want something from Him.

Tomorrow we'll look at the How of prayer. How did Jesus tell us to pray?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Conversations With God: What

This week, the Everyday Truth blog is taking a look at prayer and how we can teach our kids about prayer. We're going to address the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of prayer, both for us and our kids.

When my girls first learned to pray, they started by thanking God for things. If they wanted to delay bedtime, they could thank Him for everything from mommy and daddy to every stuffed animal they owned. We used to have to interrupt my youngest when she was praying to say, "Just one more thing." I'm sure she could have listed things for which she was thankful until the sun came up.
As our kids get older, they start to add requests to their prayers. Some kids view God as a Santa-like figure and list off everything they want. Other kid seem to be a litttle in awe of the fact that they can request things from God and will only ask for big things like world peace or that a sick friend will get well.
Teaching our kids to have a balanced approach to prayer, one that includes all aspects of a conversation with God can be tough if we don't have a balanced approach to our own prayer life. The Bible tells us that we can pray about anything. Ephesians 6:18 says, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." That means we can and should pray about anything and everything. Nothing is too small to cover in prayer -- God cares about all of it.
But our and our children's prayers should include more than just requests to God. He's not Santa Claus, and you don't want your kids to look at God as if He is. Help your kids include praise for God, thanksgiving for the things they have and teach them to confess their sins through prayer. Christ modeled this type of prayer for us in Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus showed His disciples how to pray. His prayer included all four things: praise for God, confession of sins, thanksgiving and requests. The Lord's Prayer isn't just something to recite, it's an outline of what to pray about.
As we have learned in the past two days, the easiest way to teach your kids to pray is to model a lifestyle of prayer. Use these tips to help you model that lifestyle:
  • Give each child a piece of paper. Tell them to choose a simple task that they know how to do. Have them write down the instructions for that task as if they were telling someone else how to do it. Read Matthew 6:9-13 with your kids. Explain to your kids that this prayer is like the instructions they just wrote down; it's intended to tell others how to pray. Talk about the types of things Jesus prayed about. Point out the four things that Jesus included in his model prayer.
  • Explain the ACTS model for prayer. ACTS stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (which means asking for something). Explain that prayer can contain all of these things and Jesus' example prayer contained them all. Pray together. Start with adoration and have each person praying pray a sentence prayer of adoration to God. Go arround again and have everyone pray a sentence prayer of confession. Continue through all four letters. Have an adult close the prayer time with a short prayer that includes all four themes.
  • Look for opportunities to remind your children to take situations in their lives to God in prayer. If your child is struggling with a friend or a certain subject at school, remind them that God cares about even the seemingly small things in their lives, and He wants to hear about them.
Most of all, make prayer a daily part of your lives. Be the instigator. Stop and pray before you leave on a trip, as you're seeing the kids off to school and even in the midst of disciplining your children. When your kids see you praying about everything, they'll be more likely to take everything to God as well.

Tomorrow we'll look at the Why of prayer. Why do we pray, and what do we tell our kids when God doesn't answer their prayer the way they wanted?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Conversations With God: When and Where

This week, the Everyday Truth blog is taking a look at prayer and how we can teach our kids about prayer. We're going to address the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of prayer, both for us and our kids.

One day, when my youngest daughter was probably 4 1/2, I heard her mumbling in her room. Since I had just reprimanded her for something, I assumed that she was mumbling something unflattering. I asked her what she was doing. She looks up at me with her big, blue eyes, and says "I was talking to God." Well, then, carry on.
My 4-year-old daughter didn't have any trouble grasping the idea that she can talk to God anytime, anywhere--even if it is just to tell Him how unfair you think your mommy is. Somehow, as we get older, we lose that innate desire to talk to God about everything. The Bible tells us that God wants a relationship with us. The more we talk with God and listen to Him, the closer our relationship will be and the more we will resemble Christ.
Helping our children hang on to their initial desire to tell God everything is an important way to instill in them that God wants to talk to them about anything, anywhere, at any time. Make talking to God fun, and remind your kids to take all their problems to God.
  • Give younger children a play phone or an old cell phone. They can decorate it with stickers or Sharpie markers. This is their God phone. Explain that we don't need a phone to talk with God, but that the phone is a reminder of the fact that we can talk to God just like we can talk to each other. Place the phone someplace where your child can see it and use it if they want.
  • Create a prayer jar. Give each child a mason jar. They can decorate the jar with stickers, markers, ribbon and paper. Tell your children when they have something they want to pray about, they should write it on a slip of paper and place it in the jar as they pray about it. This gives them a tangible way of placing a problem in God's hands and a tangible reminder that we should take everything to God.
  • Model praying at any time and any place. When you are struggling with something, stop and pray out loud. If you see something that you can cover in prayer when you are out shopping, stop and pray with your kids, whether it's another family you see having a tough time or someone who has been injured.
  • Read some of the Psalms together. Point out that David was in a lot of different places and a lot of different circumstances, yet in all of them he talked to God. No matter where he was or what he was feeling, David talked to God about it.

Make prayer an integral part of your and your children's lives. The goal is to make prayer second nature for both us and our children. We want to be like a 4-year-old who doesn't even question that you can and should talk to God all the time. Help your kids remember that God is there 24 hours a day, seven days a week--no matter where we are.

Tomorrow we'll look at the What of prayer. What should we encourage our kids to pray about?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Conversations with God: Who

This week, the Everyday Truth blog is taking a look at prayer and how we can teach our kids about prayer. We're going to address the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of prayer, both for us and our kids.

Prayer is something I've struggled with throughout my walk with Christ. As a child, I was taught to sit, fold my hands and pray. Even as an adult, I have a hard time sitting still for more than five minutes. I don't watch much TV, and if I am watching TV, I'm busy doing something else at the same time. I simply can't stand to sit and do nothing, and for most of my life, that's what prayer has seemed like.

But, when we stop and think about the purpose of prayer--to draw us into the presence of God and interact with Him--we should be awestruck by the opportunity. Think of it this way. If Kobe Bryant lived next door to you and he offered you unfettered access to his personal basketball court along with unlimited time with him to improve your skills, would you take him up on the offer? If you're at all interested in basketball, of course you would. By turning your life over to Christ, you've already said that you're interested in what Christ has to offer. So, why is it so difficult for many of us to take Him up on His offer to spend unlimited amounts of time with us? I think the answer to that question lies in the fact that we often don't remember to whom it is that we are talking when we pray.

You're probably thinking about now, "That's ridiculous. I know who I'm praying to--God, who else?" But, do you really know who God is? Are you awestruck by His awesomeness? Are you humbled by His greatness? Are you filled with His grace? If you're like me, the answer to many of these questions is "sometimes." Too often, we try to make God fit into the box that we've created for Him. We try to make Him small enough that we can wrap our tiny, human brains around Him. But, do I really want a God who fits into any box that I can create? If He fits into my box, how can He be the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving creator of the universe?

If adults struggle this much with wrapping our brains around who God is, how much more difficult is it for our kids, who often see the world in concrete terms? How can we make God's greatness and the reality of who He really is come alive for them? We start by helping them to see and understand God's character through the concrete evidence that God provides in nature, the Bible and in our homes.

  • Focus on the awesomeness of God's creation. Go on a nature walk. Give each child a bag. Tell your kids to find as many things as they can that God made. The only catch is that they have to fit in the bag. When you get home, give your kids a piece of paper or a painter's canvas. Let them glue the things they found onto the paper or canvas. Have each child talk about what they found. Focus on how different the things are, yet God made them all. Talk about the animals that you saw and how different they are. You can even point out the bugs you saw on your walk. Remind your kids that God made it all, every little detail. It takes a big God to make such an amazing world. Somewhere on your kids' paper or canvas, have them write Genesis 1:31, "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."
  • Be a picture of grace for your children. If your children have chores (and they should), walk into their rooms one morning and announce that you are giving them a grace day. They do not have to do chores today; you will do them. They haven't done anything to earn the grace day; you are simply granting it to them. After you finish doing their chores, ask your kids how they feel about the grace day. More than likely, they'll want to have grace day every day. Talk with your kids about how God's grace allowed Jesus to die for our sins. He didn't just do our chores, He took away our sins. If we feel happy and grateful that mom did our chores, then how much more happy and grateful should we feel knowing that God's "grace day" took away an eternity of separation from God.
  • Look up a list of the names of God. You can find a good list here. Choose one or let your kids choose one. Talk about what that name means. Look up the verses that correspond to the name. Create a short game or activity around the name. For example, one of my favorite names of God is God, My Banner. To explain this name, gather squirt guns for each kid and a flag or banner of some sort. Explain to your kids that during Bible times, an army would go into battle carrying a banner. That banner told who the army belonged to. When God is our Banner, He is announcing that we belong to Him. The banner was also used as a rallying point. If the banner moved forward, the army moved forward; if the banner retreated, the army retreated to it. The army followed the banner. God is our leader and we follow Him. You carry the banner. Let one child be the army behind the banner and one child be the army fighting against the banner. Tell the child behind the banner that they must follow the banner at all times. The goal is to get to whatever safe place you designate by following the banner. The child opposing the banner can shoot away at the banner and at the other child. Lead your child around the yard to the safe place. Point out that while the child probably got wet, in the end they got to the safe place by following the banner. When we follow God, we may face trouble, but He will lead us into the safe refuge of His arms.
  • Show your kids how much God loves them. Write down on slips of paper ways that we can show love to others. Put the slips of paper in a bucket or a hat. Have each child draw a slip of paper. Play charades and have each child act out what's on the slip of paper while everyone else guesses. Once the slips of paper are gone, ask your kids if they can think of other ways to show love to each other. Talk about how love sometimes requires us to sacrifice something. If a friend is sad, sometimes we will sacrifice a special snack to share with them or our time to listen to them. Ask them if they can think of something that God sacrificed because He loves us. Talk about Jesus's sacrifice on the cross so that we could have a relationship with God.
Use these ideas and ones that you come up with on your own to make God real to your kids. If you focus on the names of God, you will find limitless opportunities to share with your kids about who God is. And when we have some understanding of who God is, we will find ourselves wanting to spend more time talking with Him.

Check back tomorrow for how to share the When and Where of prayer with your kids.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Let Freedom Ring -- Part 2

I grew up in the suburbs of Boston. From about the age of 5, I knew the names and importance of Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and John Hancock. By the time we moved when I was 13, I had been to the greens at Lexington and Concord more times than I could count. I just assumed that everyone else in the country was as immersed in the history of its birth as we were in Boston. Even if you didn't study it, you absorbed that history just by being where it happened.

When we moved to the Midwest, I discovered that most kids my age didn't have a good understanding of how our country was formed. They didn't know about "The Shot Heard 'Round the World," and they didn't know what the greens at Lexington and Concord looked like. As a parent raising kids out here in the Midwest where the history revolves around pioneers and covered wagons, it's sometimes tough to bring home the importance of what was done by the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. We can't go see the places where it happened, so it's sometimes tough to make it real.

Also, in this day of relative morality, it can be hard to impress upon our children that the Founding Fathers had a deep and abiding faith in God. While they championed freedom of religion, they never intended for God to be removed from our society. Taking a few moments as we celebrate the birth of our country this weekend to remember the history and the sacrifices made for our freedom is well worth the time and effort. Choose an activity or two that fits your kids and your schedule and make your weekend a bit more meaningful.

  • Print off a copy of the Declaration of Independence. You can find a good, printable copy at Read through the document with your kids. Much of it is going to be tough for kids to understand, so focus on a few important facts.
    • The second paragraph states "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal." This means that it should be obvious to everyone that people are all created equal. Remind your kids that Genesis 1:27 says that God created us in His image. It doesn't say He created some people to be the image of Him and others to be just ordinary. Because we are made in God's image, we are all equally important to God.
    • The same sentence in the Declaration of Independence goes on to say "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Talk with your kids about where this document says our rights come from. They are not given to us by the government; they are given by God. While the Declaration of Independence tells us we have the right to life, freedom and to pursue happiness, the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:11 and James 1:2-3 that we are to have joy in all circumstances, whether they be good ones or trying ones. Impress upon your children that happiness is fleeting but joy comes from our salvation in Christ.
    • Show your kids how many men signed the Declaration of Independence. Let them know that those 56 men would have been considered traitors to England. By putting their names on that document, they made themselves targets for the British army. If they had been caught or if the colonies had lost the war, those men would have been executed. It took courage for them to put their signatures on the bottom of that piece of parchment. Talk with your kids about how it's not always easy to do what is right. Sometimes it requires sacrifice on our part to stand up for what we know is right. We may lose popularity or we may suffer financially or physically, but we should always stand up for what God tells us is right. We should not be afraid of doing right because 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that God has not given us a spirit of fear but one of power.
  • Visit a military cemetary if you have one nearby. Let your kids see how many men and women have served and died to protect our freedoms. Walk around and read some of the tombstone inscriptions. If you come across tombstones that show dates where the soldier died during a war or conflict, point them out to your kids. Freedom isn't free, and our children need to understand the cost of being free. Take some flowers or small American flags with you and place them on the graves of soldiers who don't have any arrangements on the grave. (Check the cemetary's policy on this before you do it.) Before you leave, pray as a family and thank God for the sacrifices of the men and women in the military. Thank Him for the opportunity to live in a free country.
  • Make cookies and thank you cards and take them to your local Veteran's of Foreign Wars hall to thank the veterans for their service. Matthew 25:40 tells us that whenever we do something for others, it is like doing it for Jesus. Thanking the men and women who served our country is an excellent way to serve them.
  • If fireworks are legal in your town, light some sparklers and show your kids how bright they are in the dark night. Remind them that Jesus told us in John 8:12 "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Tell your kids that sin is like a black stain that makes everything dark. Because of sin, we can't be near God, but Jesus came to take away the darkness of sin and light the path to God. Because of Jesus, we can have a relationship with God. Jesus lights the way, and unlike the sparkler, his light will never go out.
Whether you're at the lake or having a cookout at home this weekend, take a few minutes to impress upon your children the importance of valuing freedom.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Let Freedom Ring -- Part 1

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. I love the parades, the fireworks, the cookouts and the general feeling of comaraderie that abounds at Fourth of July events. The Fourth of July reminds us that we are privileged to live in a country where we can speak freely, worship as we wish and live free from the fear of the government sending soldiers to take people away for any reason it chooses.

It's easy to take all of these things for granted, but we need to instill in our children a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to live in a free country. We need to help them understand the sacrifices that were and are still being made so that they can live in freedom. The Fourth of July is a great time to start.

Today, we're going to look at some easy conversations you can have with your kids -- either on the way to the lake or while you're waiting for the parade to start. Tomorrow, we'll look at some fun Fourth of July-themed activities that help kids understand why freedom is important. None of them will take more than a few minutes, but they will add meaning -- both historical and spiritual to your holiday celebrations.

Use these conversation starters to talk with your kids about what freedom is and how it relates both to their everyday life and their walk with Christ.
  • Ask your kids what freedom means to them. Talk about what life is like in other countries that don't have the freedoms that we have. Many younger children just assume that everyone in the world lives like we do. They don't realize that there are countries where you can't speak ill of the government or you can't go to church. To value freedom, kids need to know that there are places in the world where people are not free.
  • Research some of the laws in other countries like China and Cuba. Talk to your kids about what it would be like to live in those countries. Ask them how they think their lives would be different. Point out how difficult it would be to be a Christian in some of those countries. Talk about times when it might be difficult to be a Christian even in a free country and how we can draw strength from knowing that people are living for Christ in circumstances much more difficult than ours.
  • Remind your kids that many people have died so they can be free. Take a moment out of your weekend to remember those men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Talk about members of your family who have served in the military. Pray for the men and women currently serving our country and thank God for the sacrifices that they and their families are making for us.
  • Share Galatians 5:1, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" with your kids. Talk about how freedom is not just a concept for countries, but something that applies to our relationship with Christ as well. Christ came to set us free from sin, so we should live as if we are free, not as if we are living in slavery. Too often kids can view Christianity as just a list of rules to follow. You want them to understand that it is a relationship with Christ. We have freedom from sin because Christ died for us. We joyfully follow God's plan for our lives because we love Him. Ask your kids to describe how they think freedom applies to their relationship with Christ.
  • If you're going to a fireworks display this weekend, point out to your kids how the fireworks light up the darkness. Talk with them about how the United States is seen as a beacon (or light) of freedom all over the world. For hundreds of years, people have come to the United States seeking freedom from harsh governments, poverty, war and hunger. Tell your kids that just as the United States is a light in the darkness for people seeking freedom, we should be a light for Christ. Share Matthew 5:14-16 with them. It says "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Explain to your kids that we should be a light in the darkness for Christ. Our actions and words should lead people to want a relationship with Christ.
Whatever your plans are for the weekend, enjoy the time with friends and family. Just remember to take a moment or two to remember the reasons we have for celebrating.