Showing posts with label Prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prayer. Show all posts

Aug 29, 2017

Tips for Successful Devotions with Young Kids {How to Do Children's Devotions}

Tips for Successful Devotions with Young Kids
My most important job is to teach my children about God. There are many ways to go about this: praying with and in front of my children; talking with my kids about how God affects our every day lives; having theological discussions with my children; reading kids' devotionals and other Christian books for children; listening to and watching Christian media for kids; among other things. But reading the Bible with my children is a top priority.

The only trouble with Bible reading with young children can be very, very difficult to get them to listen. Many mothers complain their little ones wiggle too much, or argue during Bible reading, or or touch each other, or kick each other, or breathe on each other, or otherwise cause disruptions that make Bible reading impossible. If you have this trouble in your home, read on. Here's what works for us:

* Choose your time wisely. You and your children are probably at your freshest in the morning. Evening devotions are okay, too, but I find I'm more likely to feel impatient when it's nearly bedtime - and my children are less likely to remember what we read.

* Make sure your children's needs are met. If they are hungry or thirsty or need to use the restroom, it will be impossible for them to pay attention to the Bible. So get those basic needs out of the way before you begin.

* Try singing first. Sing a hymn or a Bible verse (for example, something from Hide 'Em in Your Heart) with your kids. Encourage them to stand up, make hand motions, and even dance. This gets the wiggles out.

* Try mealtime. Typically, I read the Bible to my children while they eat breakfast. I find they listen very well while they are eating a meal (not just a snack), and that breakfast becomes a mostly laid back time, where we can easily discuss the Bible.

* Try quiet activities. If for some reason I can't read the Bible while my children eat breakfast, I usually sit on the couch in the morning and have the children gather around while I read. But they don't just sit; they have quiet activities to do. Usually this is coloring or drawing, but anything works as long as it isn't noisy and leaves them free to listen. Truly, most children seem to listen better if their hands are busy.

* Pick the right Bible. There's nothing wrong with reading a regular, adult Bible to your children. (Although you'll probably want to skip certain, more mature sections.) However, I believe it's invaluable to have Bibles your children can more readily understand. Not only should each child have his or her own Bible (which should be geared toward their age group), I recommend having a children's Bible storybook that appeals to all your children - except perhaps the babies and toddlers in your family. In addition, I like having several children's Bible storybooks around, so we can finish one and - instead of repeating everything we just read - pick up another. Invariably, the stories are a bit different and the author's approach lends a freshness to the stories. Click here for my Bible recommendations.

How do you make devotions with young children work in your family?

Originally published 4/30/14.

Dec 8, 2016

A Simple Way to Teach Children about Prayer

Recently, I had a conversation that made me realize one simple step I always try to take with my children might not be natural to every family. A sweet Christian mama was explaining to me how one of her young children struggles with anger issues; she explained how she deals with each outburst, using advice from her child's pediatrician. She seemed to seek any insights I might have, so I asked: "Do you pray with him after the outbursts?"

She looked a little surprised, and replied with a sad smile, "Well, no. I'm usually too busy praying for myself - that I will hold onto my own patience!"

Oh girl, I've so been there and done that!

But once you've prayed for yourself, and once your child has calmed down and you've had a talk about how better to handle things in the future, please don't forget to pray with your child about the situation. This has two major benefits:

1. God's help is required! Your child needs God's help, so be sure to ask for it - together.

2. It teaches your child to turn to God - the real source of all help.

Of course, angry outbursts aren't the only time to pray with your child about his or her behavior. Prayer is an important follow up to any negative behavior. (And actually, it's an important follow up to positive times, too, because we want to teach our children to turn to God all the time, not just when they feel in need.)

Here's an example of how I might pray with a child who became physical while feeling angry: "Dear Father in Heaven, please comfort Dan right now. Help him to learn self control. Help him not to feel so angry at his sister when she takes toys from him. Lord, help him to learn better ways to deal with his anger, and please heal his heart so it isn't angry. We come to you, God, because we know nobody can change except with your help. Please let your Holy Spirit guide Dan today and every day. In Jesus' name, Amen."

The idea is to simply to model prayer for your child.

And take note Mamas: It may take a lot of time for these lessons to sink in to your child's heart. But that's okay. God is in control.

More Tips for Teaching Children to Pray:

* 3 Ways to Pray Without Ceasing
* Let Your Kids Hear You Pray
* Teaching Children How to Pray
* Finger Prayers
* Counteracting "God-as-a-Genie"

Nov 21, 2016

Teaching Kids to Be Thankful...All Year Round

It's good that we set aside one day a year to focus on being thankful. It's bad that we set aside one day a year to focus on being thankful.

Both statements are true. A yearly holiday that's at least supposed to make us think of all the things we're thankful for is a good thing. But cultivating a thankful heart every day is really what the family of a Proverbs 31 Woman aspires to. Indeed, an attitude of thanksgiving is readily recognized as a balm for much that plagues our society today.

But as parents, just how do we go about encouraging a thankful heart?

* Show gratitude yourself. Parents have a tremendous influence over their children. If your kids see you expressing gratitude on a regular basis, they are more apt to dwell on the things they are thankful for, too. Action Ideas: Say thank you more often than you need to; express grateful moments out loud ("Mrs. Smith is so kind to think of us this way!"); show how gratitude leads you to do for others ("Mrs. Smith gave us her son's old books, so I think it would be nice to make her a batch of cookies.")

* Show them the world. Americans, even those who are considered poor, mostly have it easy compared to people in much of the world. It's a big mistake to shelter your children from the difficulties so many other people experience - or to simply neglect to teach them about those who have less. Instead, make a point of regularly talking about, learning about, and seeing people who have less than you do. Action Ideas: Take a family trip to a third world country; look at photos from National Geographic (or an online search) showing how the less fortunate live; read articles about daily struggles in other countries or communities; volunteer at a homeless shelter; think out loud about other people's needs ("Did you notice that Judy seems lonely? I wonder what we could do to cheer her?").

* Do something about it. Praying for the needy is very good. But come up with other ways you and your children can help those in need. For example, my sister's family has made it a tradition to cook dinner for the homeless each Thanksgiving. Whatever you do, though, don't limit it to the holiday season. Each month, aim to have a project that helps others. Action Ideas: Have your kids focus on earning money so they can give to their favorite charity, like World Vision; encourage your child to mow your neighbor's lawn or help the neighbor with weeding; as a family, visit the elderly; at least once a week, have each child find one way to be kind to a sibling.

* Make thankfulness an important part of daily prayer. When you teach your children to pray, be sure to insert prayers of thanksgiving on a regular basis. Action Idea: There is always something to be thankful for! Make sure you acknowledge that before your Creator - and during family prayer times.

* Write thank you notes. Growing up, I was never encouraged to do this, and where we live, it seems to be a dying tradition. Let it not be that way at your house. Action Ideas: Children who can't yet write, can draw a thank you picture; kids who can scrawl a few words should; young children needn't write a thank you note for every single gift (that could be an overwhelming and negative experience), but perhaps they can write one big thank you note and send copies of it to every gift giver.

* Think of others first. Gratitude is the natural outpouring of the greatest commandments: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'....and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matt 22: 37-39) Therefore, teach your child what true love is: Putting others before yourself. Action Ideas: Talk about specific ways to love others in everyday life; when you see someone put others first, point it; think out loud about showing love ("I'm going to bring Mrs. Jones her mail today, just because.")

* Everyday traditions. Consider adding some traditions to your life that encourage every day thanksgiving. Action Ideas: Have one night a week where everyone at the dinner table talks about things they are thankful for; once a month make gratitude rolls; keep a family gratitude journal - a list of things you are thankful for.

* Memorize Scriptures about being thankful. Do it as a family! Some suggestions to get you started:

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thesselonians 5:18

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Colossians 3:17

"Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!"
Psalm 106:1

How do you teach your children thankfulness? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments!

Sep 14, 2015

3 Ways to Pray Without Ceasing

Not surprisingly, as my dad-in-law lays in the hospital, I've been thinking a lot about praying without ceasing. (1 Thes. 5:17) Clearly, God doesn't want us to talk to him about nothing; Jesus said, "When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matt. 6:7-8) So if we aren't supposed to "keep on babbling," what does God mean by "praying without ceasing?" And how can we effectively do so throughout our day?

1. Don't Give Up

First, I believe "without ceasing" means, in part, not giving up. In Luke 18, Jesus told the story of a widow who went before a judge over and over and over again, seeking justice. Though at first the judge was inclined not to bother himself with the window's problem, finally he relented so she'd leave him alone. Jesus encourages believers to come before God as the widow came before the judge, for "will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?" God wants us to always persist in our prayers, never giving up on Him, even when much time has passed - even when things seem hopeless.

2. His Will Be Done

When my water broke at 20 weeks into my first pregnancy*, my OB/GYN told me: "Most doctors won't tell you this, but scientific studies show prayer works. And the prayer that seems most effective is 'your will be done.'" I haven't tried to dig up these studies. (I have both faith and personal knowledge that prayer works; I don't need science to affirm it for me.) However, I've always kept my doctor's words in mind as I pray, and as I read about how Jesus prayed. "Your will be done" is a powerful thought, a powerful belief - and a powerful prayer I don't believe you can pray often enough. When at a loss for what to pray, "your will be done" is the perfect choice. It's also the perfect choice when you have plenty to say to God.

3. Don't Allow Self-Focused Thought

While we shouldn't babble to God about unimportant things, I've found that if I focus my thoughts, I can pray consistently throughout my day. Instead of just thinking to myself, I pray. (In fact, when I start having lots of thoughts directed to myself, I find I'm walking around way too self-focused.) 

For example, instead of worrying over a problem, I pray to God about it. ("Lord, you tell us that if we ask for wisdom, you will give it to us. (James 1:5) Please give me wisdom to resolve this problem.") When I encounter people throughout my day, instead of thinking about them in a positive or negative way, I pray for them. ("God, this person isn't treating me well. I pray that you will lift her spirits and enter her heart. Please soften it so she may know Christ as her Savior.") When I am doing something, I often pray about that, too. ("Father, doing dishes isn't my favorite thing. But thank you that I have a working dishwasher, and thank you that I have plenty of food to feed my family.")

How do you pray without ceasing?

* Despite what the terribly pessimistic doctors insisted, my daughter not only survived, but now thrives.

Jul 31, 2015

How to Know God's Will for Your Life

I am blessed with wonderful in-laws. They have never treated me as anything less than their daughter - and they are wise in Christ, too. This week, when my dad-in-law (an ordained minister) read my post about asking children what God wants them to be when they grow up, he wrote me a wonderful email about knowing God's will for your life. It's so good, and expounds so much on what I originally wrote, I asked him if I could share it with you. He said yes. :)


I believe you have addressed a most important subject in life. I am still grappling with that question. Maybe I still have not grown up!

I recall a chart I taped on my freshman dorm wall entitled, 'How To Know God’s Will For Your Life.' It came out of an on-campus chapel service concerning that topic. After all, freshman collegians are not far removed from 9 year olds! It went something like this:
  • Seek to know God’s plan through concerted prayer.
  • Allow Him to speak to you through his Word.
  • Seek Godly counsel. 
That was okay for the moment; however, almost without notice, living life began eroding my Godly resolve, and in time I lost sight of the commitment required to achieve God’s direction for my life; I  drifted between being oblivious to the thought of God having a goal for my life, to an attitude of superficially-breathed prayers that asked God to bless the course I had chosen. 

At a Youth For Christ, Campus Life conference for high school Campus Life leaders in 1971, the speaker was addressing this subject. He said something that Mom and I believe revolutionized our concept of knowing God’s will. He said,

'If you are actively seeking it, then you are in it.'  

The specific life-calling was not as important as the attitude in which we approached our future. I believe you captured that when you introduced the God-factor into the equation [in your post]

Some years later, I sorted out a short-list of what I believe is a guideline for living - concepts necessary to live as a Christian:

CREATOR. Acknowledge God as our Creator. 
Truly if we recognize Him as our maker/molder, then we are the clay and it begs the question: Why did He put me here - what is His plan for me?

PURPOSE. Realize that our Creator has put us here for His purpose. 
We had no say concerning where and when we were born, who our parents were, or in what culture or ethnic group we entered life. As God controlled our birth, He will develop our life-plan - and yes also our end-of-life plan.

WORD. Trust the Bible to be God’s Word.
Know that everything needed to answer life’s questions and provide direction is addressed there. 'Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.' (Psalm 119:105)

OCCUPY. 'Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…'  (Col. 3:17) Understand that our ultimate objective for life is developing a relationship with our Creator that will last forever.

DESTINY. Adam and Eve experienced fellowship with their Creator until they chose to go their own way. 
I ask myself, 'Why am I a Christian?' My answer has to be the same as Peter’s: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'  (John 6:68This life is but a precursor for our eternal existence with our God and His son Jesus - a return to paradise.


Jul 8, 2015

Encouraging Children to Pray - an Interview with Tricia Goyer

Author Tricia Goyer.
My children and I are halfway through Tricia Goyer's newest book, Prayers that Change History. We are loving it! This book for children and teens offers up stories about people throughout history who prayed and saw remarkable answers to those prayers. Not only does the book give strong examples for my children to follow, but it's lead to many great conversations about our own prayer lives and how we can strengthen them. What's not to love about that?

Recently, I emailed with Tricia about her book and about how she encourages her six children to grow their own prayer lives.

Kristina: What inspired you to write Prayers that Change History?

Tricia: I've been a homeschooling mom for many years, and one of my favorite things is reading about historical heroes. Through the years I was amazed by how many historical stories involved prayer. For example, did you know that three days before Christopher Columbus found land his crew revolted and wanted to turn around? Columbus prayed about it and felt impressed to ask for three more days. And it was on the third day that they found land. I started collecting these stories, and soon I knew it had to be a book! Yet I not only wanted to share these historical stories, but my goal also became to teach children how to pray themselves. That excites me!

Kristina: Me, too! One of the things I like about Prayers is that it includes discussion questions that have really helped my children look closely at how they can improve not just their prayer life, but their walk with God. Would you share your favorite historical story from the book?

Tricia: That's like trying to choose a favorite child! There are so many great ones, but today I've been thinking a lot about Florence Nightingale. As a young teenager Florence was praying and felt God's call. Her journal says, “On February 7th, 1837, God spoke to me and called me to his service.” She had no idea what that was, but she worried about doing it as a married woman so she even turned down a marriage proposal.

Years later she felt drawn to nursing, but it wasn't a suitable profession at the time. Nurses were known to be largely unskilled, uneducated and heavy drinkers. Her parents were horrified. Florence left London to serve in Russia with an army unit. She was horrified by how the injured were treated, especially because the main cause of deaths in the Army wasn't from wounds, but from infection. For the remainder of her life Florence worked to transform nursing practices. Even today those practices are followed it ever nurse today learns and recites the Nightingale Pledge.

I love that story because one young girl prayed for God to use her. She continued to pray over the years  for God to show her His call. Once she knew the call, she prayed for help and wisdom. Because of her prayers nursing practices were changed … and aren't we all thankful?!

Kristina: What an amazing example of how children and teens are important to God and can really make a difference if they are focused on him. Do you have an example of how prayer changed your personal history?

Tricia: Yes! In 1989 I was a pregnant teenager. My boyfriend was out of the picture. I had just rededicated my life to God, and I knew I wanted to have a different life. I wanted to go a different direction than the one I'd been going. I started praying. I prayed for a future husband—someone who would love me and my son. I thought it would take years for my prayers to be answered but God answered right away. I started dating the pastor's son after my son was born and we were married when Cory was 9 months old. We've been married for twenty-five years and we have six children and we're in the process of adopting four more. I was praying for a father to my son, and God had exceedingly more than I asked for or imagined. I love how God does that. And that is just one story of answered prayer. God has done so much more!


How do you encourage the prayer life of your six children?

Tricia: We pray together as a family every night before bed. We started with the youngest and go to the oldest. John and I pray for each child by name. Also, in the mornings John and I have quiet time together before he goes to work. The kids see us reading our Bible and praying together. This time is special to us, but we also feel it's an important example for the kids to see. Kids model what they see. 

Kristina: So you and your husband lead by example. Can you give us more insight into how this works?

Tricia: For my family, we try to pray throughout the day. We pray when we see an accident on the road. We pray when we are having bad attitudes (both the kids and I). We pray over our meals. We pray about many things. By modeling prayer we can teach that prayer changes everything.

It's also important to read stories about people who have prayed. Biographies of Christian missionaries and Bible stories are important. When we see how God answers other people's prayers then we have faith that He will answer our prayers, too!

Of course prayer isn't just about asking for things. We also pray prayers of thanksgiving. My kids keep gratitude journals and every few days we write down a one-sentence prayer of something we're thankful for.

Kristina: Thank you, Tricia, for sharing with us. And thanks for your encouraging new book!

Prayers that Changed History is available from Amazon for $9.83 (paperback) or $7.99 (Kindle).

May 19, 2014

Finding God Every Day

" We are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hand."  Is. 64:8
Before I had children, I had what now seems like endless time to find God everywhere. I noticed him over my morning cup of tea. I talked to him as I traveled to the Post Office or grocery store. I thought about him while sorting laundry. I saw him in the lovely sunset, or in the twinkling stars. But now that I'm a busy mom, I must be more intentional about finding God every single day.

Moms are stretched in every direction, multi-tasking as if we have a hundred arms. Yet precisely because we are so scattered, and it's so difficult to find time with God, it's more important than ever for us to seek out God and spend time with him.

Personally, I find it easiest to find God first thing in the morning, as I lay in bed getting my eyes fully open. Now that my children are old enough they don't need me the instant they wake up, I can take a few minutes upon waking to pray and read the Bible. Another place I can reliably find God is in the garden. Somehow, working in the soil, among miraculous plants that sprouted from tiny seeds, in a setting somewhat similar to the original human-God conversational walks, makes it easier for me to ponder and pray.

Where you find God may be different. In fact, it might be different next year than it is today. But you must actively seek him out. Pay attention to those times when it's easiest to find God in your day. Then intentionally mark out minutes for those special times.

If you do, your relationship with God will continue to grow and mature. And a spiritually mature woman is what your husband and children most need.

Shape us, oh Lord! Let us be clay in your hands. Help us to find you every single day.

Nov 12, 2012

Prayer as Ministry

Interior with Woman Teaching Child to Pray by Pierre-
Edouard Frère.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about what our priorities as Proverbs 31 Women should be. I stressed that our families and homes are our ministries and that few women with young children can handle more. But I do think there is one other type of ministry many mothers can handle: Prayer.

Now if you're still at the stage where your kids are really young, need your almost constant attention, and you're finding it difficult to get in any prayer time at all, please do not add anything more to your plate. Focus on serving your family while balancing this ministry with talking to and worshiping God and reading his Word.

But if your children are a little older, there are plenty of opportunities to become a prayer warrior. The Bible tells us to pray continually (1 Thes. 5:17)- yet how many of us truly do this? If you make prayer a ministry in your life, however, not only will you obey God, but you'll set a holy example for your children.

You can:

* Pray first thing in the morning, before rising from bed.
* Pray at the breakfast table, with your children.
* Pray before you begin reading to your children, or start homeschooling, or before sending your children off to school.
* Pray while you do household chores, including the dishes, the laundry, the floors, the dusting, the vacuuming - you name it!
* Pray before eating lunch.
* Pray before sending your children outside to play.
* Pray before helping your children with their homework.
* Pray before driving off to run errands.
* Pray every time you hear a siren or see an emergency vehicle.
* Pray while you prepare meals.
* Pray before dinner, with your family.
* Pray before beginning family time in the evening.
* Pray in the shower.
* Pray with your children, while tucking them in for the night.
* Pray before tucking yourself in at night.
* Pray if you have trouble sleeping.

Really, we have almost endless time to pray. The trick is to put our minds to it - to train ourselves to remember to pray. A few things that help me:

* If the kids aren't in the room, I pray.
* If someone comes to mind, I pray for that person.
* If I hear of an emergency of any kind, large or small, I pray.
* I pray whenever someone is coming or going. (For example, when I hear my husband hop into the shower before work, just before he comes home in the evening.)
* When doing manual labor, I pray.
* When I feel anything strongly (frustration, anger, love...), I pray.
* If by chance I have a moment alone, I pray before doing anything else.

Read more about prayer:

Developing Your Prayer Life
Let Your Kids Hear You Pray
Impress Him Upon Your Children

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Sep 14, 2012

Impress Him Upon Your Children

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

Fortunately for we parents, the Bible is full of parenting advice from the true expert: Our Heavenly Father. This little section of the Old Testament is one very important example. Lately, I've been searching myself: Am I truly doing God's will in this area of my life? If not, then I need to change now. My children's lives depend upon it.

I love how the scripture starts by telling parents to look at themselves first: Do we have a passion for God? If not, our children will know it and learn from it. How about you? Do you read the Bible daily? Do you spend time in concentrated prayer with God every day? Do you pray without ceasing? (1 Thes. 5:17) Have you memorized key scriptures? (Deut. 6:6)

Is it difficult - very difficult! - to love and serve the Lord this way when we have small children. And yet what moms of young children need is exactly this focus on God. Yes, it's a struggle. But it can - and must - be done. (For tips on this struggle, please read Developing Your Prayer Life, Let Your Kids Hear You Pray, Keeping the Bible Handy, Memory Verse How-To, Finding Time for the Bible, and Finding Time to Read the Bible Together.)

Then God tells us to "impress" these things onto our children. How do we do that? By talking about God and the Bible constantly. By living like Christ. 

This is, I think, the area where many Christian moms struggle the most. In church and in popular Christian books, we hear a lot about developing our personal relationship with Christ - but we hear almost nothing about training up our children the way these verses in Deuteronomy insists upon.

It is not enough to, once a day, sit down and read a Bible storybook to our kids. It's not enough to pray with them at meals and before bed. No, the Bible says we must constantly talk to our children about God's commands - at all times of the day, no matter where we are. How does one, in a practical sense, do this? Here are a few examples from our household, from a few days ago:

* First thing in the morning, my 7 year old was up and playing. She was being noisy, so I reminded her to be quiet, since her brother was still sleeping. She gave me a mad expression, so we talked about why it's important to put others first, practicing Christ-like servitude.

* After breakfast, my 3 year old lied about having a poopy diaper. I got down to eye level with him and explained that lying is always a bad thing. It's always best to be tell the truth because God hates lying lips (Proverbs 12:22) and lies always cause more problems than they seem to cover up.

* My children and I watched a nature show. Although we have several that are made from a creationist point of view, this one was secular. And, like all such secular shows, it talked about and earth that is billions of years old. So I paused the movie to hold a discussion about this topic. Because we've had other conversations like this, I let my 7 year old take the lead. "What do you think about the idea that the world is billions of years old?" I asked her. "Well," she said, "the Bible says the world is thousands of years old." We talked about how to get that calculation from the Bible, then I asked, "Do you think we should believe the Bible or scientists?" Both children agreed the Bible was a more accurate source; I confirmed that we should always look to the Bible first for answers. Unlike scientific theory, it does not change through the years.

* The show we were watching also contained an ad because it was recorded off television. My children aren't used to ads, to I had to explain what it was. Then I asked, "What do you think the purpose of an ad is?" My 7 year old said, "To get you to buy stuff." Bingo! And, as Kimberly Eddy writes in her book Joyful Momma's Guide to Quiet Times in Loud Households, all ads come down to "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." (1 John 2:16)

* Later in the afternoon, we went for a walk. But first, we had to find my 3 year old's shoes. We searched high and low and I was loosing my patience. So I stopped, gathered the children to me, and prayed. It was just a simple prayer asking for peace in our hearts - and to help us find the shoes. A minute after praying this, I found the shoes. I thanked God, out loud.

* On our walk, I pointed out different things in nature: Types of trees and flowers, how the roots of plants soak up water, and so on. But whenever possible, I mentioned God's hand in these things.

* In the evening, as I was making dinner, I grew frustrated by constant interruptions as I was quickly trying to whip dinner together. I stopped everything, looked up to Heaven, and thanked God for children who interrupt me because that means we are home together and they love and trust me. I also thanked Him for food that can't seem to get cooked; at least we have food in our household. While I didn't specifically include the children in these prayers, they were observing.

* After dinner, I printed a Bible verse on a piece of paper and taped it to my desk as a reminder for myself. When my children are better able to read, I will encourage them to do similar things with Bible verses. For now, it's enough that they see me doing this.

* At bedtime, my 7 year old said she had something to tell me that she was a little afraid to say. I encouraged her to always be honest with me, even when it's really hard. I pointed out that Mommy, like God, is always there to listen and help and love, no matter what may have happened. It turned out her confession was minor and innocent, but I took advantage of this moment to remind her about confessing her sins to God so he can forgive her and wipe her slate clean.

In short, we must show our children how God is a vital part of our everyday lives.

How do you follow Deuteronomy 6: 5-9 in your household?

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Jul 30, 2012

Taking Advantage of American Freedom

Americans take a lot of things for granted. We expect there will always be food (reasonably priced!) at the grocery store and that our water will always be safe and clean. We speak our minds without fear of serious repercussions. We go to church without fear.

But one man's wise words on this topic have haunted me for days. I read them in this month's Voice of the Martyr's magazine, in a a piece about a Laotian man who was once a communist governor. When he accepted Christ as his Savior, his former government friends threw him into prison. They tried to beat him to death; they tried to starve him. But he lived 13 years in prison. The details of his story are moving and inspiring, but it was his wise council to Americans that most struck me:

"I want to encourage believers in America to be strong in their faith. I know many Americans have not accepted Jesus Christ yet, but you have the freedom to proclaim Jesus and share the gospel. Go evangelize in the name of Jesus because you can. You have the right to read the Bible, to pray and go to church. Please do that."
(Emphasis mine.)

Throughout the world, there are millions* of Christians who are not legally allowed to attend church. Therefore, we free Christians must go to church. There are millions of Christians who cannot obtain a copy of the Bible, and - should they manage to get their hands on a smuggled copy - can only read it in secret. Therefore, we free Christians must read our Bibles. There are Christians who cannot pray publicly. Therefore, those of us who can, must. And there are millions of Christians who risk their lives by teaching others about Christ. Therefore, we must share the Gospel whenever possible.

Do you?

* According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights because of their faith.

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Jan 4, 2012

Developing Your Prayer Life

"...pray without ceasing..."

Recently, I re-read No Compromise, the biography of Christian musician and evangelist Keith Green.* I was so struck by how much Green longed for a better prayer life. Are you like Green? I am. And I've recently come to the conclusion that if we want to foster prayer in our life, we can't wait for inspiration to strike.

For years, I've been a pray-when-I-feel moved person. Yes, I had some set prayer time - before meals and bed. But mostly I prayed when I was inspired to give thanks or to ask for something. I think a lot of American Christians have these same habits.

But if we look at well known Christians of the past, and if we look at godly people in the Bible, we often learn they created a prayer schedule, and stuck to it - whether or not they felt they had something to say to God. Probably the best known example is Daniel, who " down on his knees and prayed..." repeatedly throughout the day. (Daniel 6:10)

Especially as busy mothers, I think we need to follow Daniel's example. Recently, I have committed to praying at least once each hour. That means before I hop out of bed in the morning, I pray. As I clear away the breakfast dishes, I pray. Before I cuddle and read with the kids, I pray. As I prepare lunch, I pray...and so on throughout the day.

I even set the kitchen timer to help me remember.

But sometimes I'm not sure what to pray about. The timer goes off and my mind goes blank. In such cases, I like to either:

* Offer up prayers of thanks and worship. It's pretty difficult not to find new things to praise God for, if you start focusing on all the good things He gives you, from cozy warm socks to plenty of food to eat.

* Think of The Lord's Prayer, and pray on each thought in it. For example, the first line is "Our Father in heaven," so I might thank God for the promise of heaven and what it means to me, and for sending his Son to make it possible for me to go there someday. The next line is "hallowed by your name," so I might praise God for his holiness. And so on.

My goal is to do as Paul suggested and pray without ceasing. I do not want to ever regret that I didn't pray more - as Billy Graham once confesses he does. I hope to remove most of the useless meandering about unimportant things that takes up so much room in my head and replace it with prayer. What about you?

* I highly recommend the book - and Keith Green's music.

Oct 12, 2011

6 Ways to Stop Yelling

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

Judging by the blog posts and parenting magazine articles I've read lately, most parents yell at their kids sometimes. I'm not talking horrible, abusive words here, but of raising voices when tempers flare. And while many parents say it's because their kids won't listen otherwise, or because they disobey too much, or because they just plain make their parents crazy, let's face it: It's really not because of the kids. It's because of the parent.

Here are some ideas to try to change yourself from a parent who yells to one who doesn't:

1. Pray, pray, pray. Only God can change our hearts, if we let him. Submitting ourselves completely to God is the single most important way someone can leave yelling behind. Praying specifically about this issue at times when you're more likely to yell is also smart.

2. Admit you're wrong. For God to change us, we must be humble. Humble not only before God, but before our children. Always ask your children's forgiveness if you raise your voice.

3. Play Christian music. If I know my kids and I will be doing something high stress (like picking up toys, which is a real battle in our house), I turn on Christian music. It really does help to mellow us all out.

4. Give yourself time outs. Most kids understand what a time out is. When you feel like you might yell, say instead, "Mommy's having a time out." Then go to your bedroom (or other private place) and shut the door. Then pray and breathe deeply. For this to work, however, you'll have to talk to your kids about it before you need a time out. This conversation might go something like this: "You know sometimes Mommy yells when she shouldn't. So next time I feel like I might yell, I'm giving myself a time out. I will go into my bedroom and shut the door. You will need to not follow me, talk to me, or knock on the door. I will take a few minutes to cool off and collect myself. When I come out of my room, I'll be in a much better mood."

5. Instead of yelling, try whispering. This doesn't work with my kids, but many moms say it works wonders.

6. Instead of yelling, sing. This one works well for us. Sometimes I just sing a very high note as loud as I can. This lets out tension, gets my kids' attention, and them laugh. Sometimes I sing my instructions or corrections to the kids - and this, also, relieves tension all around. They like it best when I sing like an outlandish opera singer.

Do you have tips for ending the yelling in your house?

Jun 29, 2011

Learning Servanthood

As I think about the most important things I can help my children learn, right near the top - just under learning to love and obey God - is servanthood. Servanthood isn't easy to learn in a world that's increasingly self-centered, but I'm working hard to make serving others a priority in our home - because, without a true heart for servanthood, we can never serve God.

"Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:42-45

"After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, 'Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them." John 13:12-17

But just how can we help our children learn this important lesson? Here are some ideas:

* Read stories of Jesus' servanthood. Point out that his mission here on earth was to be the ultimate servant - sacrificing himself for others.

* Be a servant yourself. If you grumble while doing for others, your kids will learn to grumble while serving others, too. So next time you're tempted to grump because (for example) your child wants something from you when you're busy doing something else, bite your tongue.

* Whenever you help friends, family, or strangers, say "Off we go to be God's hands!" Young children will enjoy tracing their hands on paper, cutting the shapes out, and decorating them as a reminder. Ask your children to think about times they've seen God's hands when others served them.

* Encourage your children to think about how others feel. Empathy is an important step toward true servant-hood.

* Encourage a good work ethic in your children. When we're lazy, we don't want to lift a hand to help others. Make sure each child has a list of family chores they must accomplish each day.

* Be sure your kids understand where money comes from: God. Then give (or make) each child a piggy bank that makes visualizing money for charity easier. When your children are moved by images of a disaster or people living in poverty, encourage them to give. There's also no reason they shouldn't give in church.

* Be an example of discerning servanthood. Is it better to give the man begging on the street cash or food? Read more on this topic over at Focus on the Family.

* Teach your kids to pray for others. Finger prayers are a good way for young children to learn this (more info here), or teach your children to pray through the alphabet. (For each letter, the child thinks of a person's name starting with that letter, and prays for that person's needs as specifically as possible.)

How do you help your children learn a love for serving others?

Mar 23, 2011

Finger Prayers

I've blogged before about teaching children to pray, but here's a little trick I recently learned that makes remembering others in prayer easy even for young children.

As your child prays, teach him to close his hand. Then tell him:

1. Lift up your thumb. It's closest to your heart, so it reminds you to pray for the people closest to you. Pray for your parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends.

2. Next, lift your index finger. Teachers or pastors sometimes use this finger to point and illustrate ideas, so pray for your school teachers, pastor, Sunday school teacher, etc. for wisdom, strength, and whatever else they may need.

3. Lift your middle finger next. It is your tallest finger, so it helps you remember leaders. Pray for our president, Congress and all other political figures, military, police, and local business or charity leaders.

4. Next lift your pinkie finger. This is your smallest finger, so let it remind you to put your needs last. This is the time to pray for your own needs.

Mar 8, 2011

Teaching Kids to Forgive

"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Among the many commands Jesus gave his followers was to forgive. Yet look around you. How much forgiveness do you see? (Let's just put it this way: There's a category in my Netflix queue called "Revenge.") But this attitude toward forgiveness is nothing new. In the Bible, Peter asked Jesus: "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?" - implying he wasn't all that eager to take forgiveness too far.

And Jesus answered him, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." (Matt. 18: 21-22) In other words: Keep forgiving, over and over.

So how do we teach our kids to have a spirit of forgiveness - for themselves as well as others? Begin by reading and memorizing Bible verses about forgiveness. Then consider how well you forgive. Are you modeling good or bad behavior? When a clerk at a grocery store makes a mistake, do you grump at him or smile and tell him it's okay? When you make a mistake yourself, do you beat yourself up about it, or move on? When your child disobeys, are you cranky with her the rest of the day, or after disciplining her do you hug her and tell her you forgive her? And do you ever ask your child for forgiveness when you do wrong? If you show your child how to forgive in everyday situations, your child is most likely to be good at forgiving himself and others.

Another way to encourage a forgiving nature is to talk about how others feel. If your daughter smacks her little brother when he takes away her toy, ask her, "Why do you think your brother took your toy? How do you think he felt when you hit him?" If she needs help, ask "How do you feel when you really want a toy and someone else is playing with it? How do you feel when your brother hits you?" By frequently asking our child to consider how others feel, we go a long way toward making forgiveness more easy and natural.

I also think it's important to teach that forgiveness is a decision we make. When we tell someone we forgive them, our hearts may still feel tight and unforgiving. But if we constantly think "I forgive him" each time we have bitter feelings toward someone, eventually God changes our hearts.

Last but not least, pray with your child, teaching her how to ask God for a change of heart. Then remind her of the ultimate forgiver: God. A phrase you'll often hear in our home is "I need lots of grace and forgiveness from God, so how I can not extend it to others?"

"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
Mark 11:25

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
Col. 3:13


Feb 16, 2011

Planned Loved

God tells us to obey him - and to love one another. (See John 14:23-24), 1 John 5:3, John 13:34-35, Romans 13:8, and Galations 5:13, for example.) Yet few of us are in complete obedience to the Lord - perhaps particularly in the area of truly loving one another.

So here's what we've been doing in our house lately: We're setting "Planned Love" goals. Each week, I make at least one specific commitment to show love to someone. My 5 year old does, too.

For example, this week she vowed to help her brother when he gets frustrated playing with blocks, to pray that Mommy will have more godly patience, and to do her best to speak quietly when her Daddy is tired. Sometimes I guide her a little in choosing her goals - especially in the area of making them specific. But she is amazingly good at perceiving others' needs.

I try to set goals related to people outside of my family, because as a stay at home mom, it's more challenging for me to find ways to show love to those outside our home.

After the week has passed, we check in with each other. I ask my daughter if she kept her goals. She asks me about my goals. And then we choose new ones.

Not only does this planned version of love encourage us to really think about how others need us and how we can fulfill those needs, but it keeps the command to love one another more forward in our minds. We are creating a habit and each week it becomes easier for us to see how we can show God's love to others.


Feb 1, 2011

Let Your Kids Hear You Pray

Recently, a friend asked if I let my kids see me pray. My response? Heck yeah! But her question made me wonder how many other Christian parents do the same. It's a shame if they don't, because small children love to imitate their parents. Older kids may not openly imitate us, but they remember what they've seen, and as they grow, they tend to either stick to it or go back to it. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on how you should let your kids see you pray.

1. Instead of praying silently, speak your prayers throughout the day. One exception to this rule is praying about your kids. You don't want to spend a lot of time speaking prayers like, "Lord, please help this kid learn to be respectful!" Once in a while this may be okay, but kids will begin to think your prayers are a way to manipulate them if you do this too often.

2. Let your kids see you humble yourself before God and pray on your knees. Only you know where this is most appropriate. I occassionally do this in the same room as my kids, but mostly I do it in my bedroom - but I leave the door open. This seems most natural - and not showy - to me.

3. Let your kids hear you praying praise. This is pretty easy once you put your mind to it. Any chore, for example, can be a chance to praise God. For example, if you're weeding, you could thank God for the miracle and the wonder of plants, which grow from tiny seeds into things we can eat or enjoy looking at. Or, if you're cleaning the windows, you could thank God for your cozy home with windows that let in the light, yet don't let in the cold or heat. Praying during chore time also fosters thankfulness, which is always a great thing.

4. Let your kids hear you ask for godly character. For example, if you're feeling impatient, speak a prayer asking God, in his mercy, to grant you more patience.

5. Let your kids hear you pray for others. It's so easy to pray only for ourselves or our immediate family, so be sure to speak prayers for friends, the Church, passers by, martyrs around the world, etc.