Encouragement from the Word

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth"
III John 1:4

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Family...the Joy of my Heart

     What is it that brings you joy? What lifts your spirit and energizes you? For me, family does that...especially spending time away from the day to day routine with my family all around me. I recently had the opportunity to spend time in a wonderful, colorful, city in the south where my son and his wife live. My younger son came to join us from college and, of course, we had our teenage daughter with us. It was a fabulous, fun weekend even though we did nothing too extraordinary.
     A crucial part of our "family fun" recipe is...playing board games. We all love a little bit of friendly competition and have such fun laughing, talking, and strategizing around the table as we play. Of course, every now and then "someone" (me) gets a little irritated at "someone else" (my hubby) for taking the game a little too seriously. But it's always fun to kiss and make up at the end!
     We also enjoy sharing meals together, whether at a favorite, familiar restaurant, or a newly discovered one. Again, this is another opportunity to converse and catch up with one another now that we have grown kids who are not living at home. It's time away from television, computers, IPods and phones where we can look one another in the eye and really talk.
     Doing something active outside is another thing we, as a family, like to do. This weekend, as is often the case, it was playing tennis and going on moped rides. Yes, that hereditary competitive drive kicks in a bit during our tennis games, too, but, we have fun  anyway! Don't they say, "The family that plays together stays together?" We'll, I believe that's true! There's nothing like riding on the back of a moped with your son as he flies over bumps and dips maneuvering through heavy traffic while you "hang on for dear life" to bring you close.
     It doesn't take a lot of money to enjoy some family fun and to reconnect with each other...and it is so important to parents and kids alike.
     I am so proud of my children for all they have accomplished so far in their young lives, but, the thing that makes me the proudest is that they are doing their best to walk with God and to give him glory for their accomplishments. They know to whom they owe their lives and their
salvation...JesusChrist himself.
     Of course, my children have a long way to go as they grow into  maturity and gain experience in this life and they will certainly stumble many times along the way. But we have raised them to know and love Christ and to stay close to his people, the church. We have done our best and have placed them in His worthy hands to do the rest. We will always pray for our children, of course, and will love and support them the best that we know how. But Jesus Christ will finish His work in them in His time.
     Right now, I'm just thankful for little things, like weekends away with them playing tennis and board games and laughing our heads off at each other and moped  rides over bumpy roads...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Master Gardener

My mother is a passionate gardener. She has lovingly tended her flowers and plants for more than 50 years. It is one of the joys of her life. During that time she has won many ribbons and awards for her lovely plants at various fairs and competitions. She has also been a faithful member of the local garden club for much of her life. If  you were to ask her to what she attributes her glorious bounty of blooming buds each and every year, she would probably say: good soil, lots of attention, and a great climate... as these are definitely essential elements of a successful garden.

 I believe we as Christian parents, can learn a lot from these basic gardening principles as we think about how to raise children who will love and honor God when they reach adulthood.

What do I mean by that? Well, I see our job as parents as being very similar to that of a gardener. We have these little sprouts that God has given us to take care of, to nurture, and to protect for a while. We are sort of like his junior gardeners. There are certain things we must do if we are to end up with beautiful, flowering, healthy plants. First, we must:

Prepare the soil

 If our children are to have the proper nutrients they need to blossom and grow then we need to plant in fertile, nourishing soil. How can we best accomplish this? We can:

 Take our children to church.

Not just any church, but a Bible-believing, gospel-preaching, people-loving church, where they can hear the Word of God, learn godly principles and surround themselves with others who love Jesus. They will learn to love the church and it's people and will most likely continue that legacy with their own children. We can also:

 Make sure our home is a loving and supportive place where our children know that they are special to God and that he has a plan for their lives.

 Is prayer and Bible reading a regular part of life in your home? Do you use spiritual principles to navigate life's unexpected and difficult moments? When your children come to you with issues and problems do you go with them to God's Word for the answers? Do you live out your faith in an upright and honest way in front of them? Children will do what you do ...not necessarily what you say. We can:

Surround ourselves with Christian friends who have the same values and desires for their own children.

Who are the people that you like to "hang out" with? Are they people who share and respect your spiritual values and goals? Having a larger network of Christian friends is so important for children. Invite families over that have children the same age as yours and help them to nurture those friendships. A support system of godly friends will serve to enrich the soil in which your children are growing. Another thing we can do is to:

Place our children in an educational environment that supports and upholds a Christian worldview.

Have you considered the environment...or soil...in which your children spend most of their time? That would be their educational environment, where they spend hours upon hours soaking up the  philosophies presented in the curriculum and the worldview and values of those who have a huge influence over them...their teachers and peers. This educational choice shouldn't be taken lightly but should be prayerfully and earnestly considered. Today we, as parents, do have choices in this matter. Whether your children attend a traditional school, a Christian school or are home schooled, they should be in a place where their Christian values are supported and encouraged. Next, we must:

Water, fertilize and weed

 What else is needed to grow a beautiful garden that will bring glory to God? Water, fertilizer...and frequent weeding. We can water our children with words of love and encouragement and with time on our knees praying for them. We can fertilize with calm, loving discipline and consistent training. And we can weed by rooting out bad attitudes and behaviors as they crop up, before they become habits. And lastly, we should:

 Sit back, relax and enjoy our garden

 There's no need to fret over giving just the right amount of water or applying a bit too much fertilizer. We all mess up! We are not perfect. But you see, God, the master gardener is the one ultimately in charge of how our garden turns out. He is the one who sends just the right amount of sunshine to warm our garden. He is the one who provides just the right amount of rain to water it. And he is the one who sends the storms and wind to blow against the fragile stems to strengthen them for what lies ahead.

There has to be a certain amount of faith and trust on our part, as there are things in this life that are out of our control. Fortunately...everything is in His control! We will all fail, time and time again, but the master gardener knows our hearts. He sees our faithfulness to him. He will reward parents whose hearts are turned toward Him, for he loves our garden even more than we do.

If we are faithful, someday we will look out of our window and see a garden in full bloom, having reached it's full potential, spreading it's beautiful blossoms before the world. And all the glory will go to...

The Master Gardener!

Friday, March 1, 2013

This Old House...God's Special Gift

Every house where love abides
And friendship is a guest,
Is surely home, and home sweet home,
For there the heart can rest.
Henry Van Dyke

Recently, during a conversation with my daughter, she reminded me that we had lived in our current home for 13 years, nearly all of her life. We moved into this house when she was just a baby and our two boys were 5 and 11 years old. That started me thinking about what a great house it had been for us and how God is such a genius at orchestrating our lives for our own growth and spiritual development and, ultimately, for His glorification.

You see, over the years, this house ( built in 1983), has at times been a source of aggravation for us. As it is an older home, there are quite a few things that have gone wrong and needed repair. And, we have periodically fallen into a state of discontent, wanting to move to a pristine, new home with a manicured lawn in a neatly organized, lovely neighborhood.

However, the truth is, God led us to the perfect house for us at that time in our lives. I remember talking to my Dad, a realtor, when we were thinking about purchasing this home. He said, " If you want a home that will be a great place to raise your children, then this is a great home." He was right.

Our house is safe, sturdy and warm. It has protected us against the wind, rain, and even hurricanes! As we have traveled to other places around the world and have seen people in countries like Guatemala who have so little, we have developed an appreciation for how wealthy we really are here in America. While on the trip we watched a woman weep as our team built a 10x10 metal shed-type home for she and her children. It was life-changing for her...it meant shelter and safety and ultimately, hope. Our home is a mansion in the eyes of many people in depressed areas around the world. We are grateful.