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Monthly Archives: August 2019

Keeping God First While On Vacation

For the past three years our family has vacationed together in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Two grandparents –us (Pappy and Nana), our two daughters and their families, including our six grandchildren. Each year we’ve made many special memories. The grands all agree that tubing on the lake is their favorite. This year we had the opportunity to rent a boat for the week, so it was one big splash after another.

Each year Jeff and I intentionally prepare for the spiritual emphases. Since we are at the lake over a Sunday, Jeff (Pastor Pappy) shares a special message and serves our family Holy Communion. It is such a precious time. This year’s message was about David and how he was an unlikely candidate to take down Goliath (but he did…with just a slingshot and a stone), or to become a king, being a simple shepherd boy, the youngest of eight sons (but God chose David to reign over Israel for forty years).

Jeff told our grandchildren that God has a special plan for each of our lives, and that God wants to use our unique qualities and abilities to honor Him and to help build His eternal Kingdom. In conclusion, Jeff singled out our youngest and shortest grandchild (Jocelyn), illustrating how God looks at the heart and not our outward appearance. “So, whether young, old, short, or tall, when God calls us to serve Him, He also equips us and helps us overcome obstacles that attempt to thwart His plan and purpose in our lives.”

Desiring to keep our family God-focused throughout our vacation week, I thought it would be helpful to share devotions. Knowing I had only a couple weeks to prepare, I initially thought of grabbing a faithful devotional book from our library, but then God directed me to google the Internet. Sitting behind my computer I began the search and within minutes I landed on: Keeping God First While On Vacation. As I felt my heart resonate with this title, I opened the link and it took me to this site: Growing Kids For The Kingdom (https://www.growingkidsforthekingdom.com/keeping-god-first-while-on-vacation-a-family-vacation-devotional/) and to the post, Keeping God First While On Vacation: A Family Vacation Devotional.

I emailed the author, Taylor Johnson, requesting a copy of the devotional and she quickly replied, attaching a copy to the email. After reading through the devotional I knew it was for our us. The devotions are perfect in quantity and content. (A total of five, counting the preparation and follow-up devotions.) This is especially true when you have younger children in your family. More lengthy devotions may not hold their attention. Plus, there’s plenty of Scripture to read and elaborate on as the Holy Spirit directs.

Prior to our departure, I emailed copies of the first devotion to our family members and suggested that they go over The Before You Leave: Preparing Your Hearts section. Jeff and I read this section together and I asked Taylor to help us pray for God’s guidance. She eagerly agreed, and we are thankful for her prayers and for her vacation devotional.

Here’s how God answered our prayers!

Knowing everyone would be anxious to begin their play each day, I knew I must follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. He impressed upon me to be flexible with the time of day to share the devotions. (This goes totally against my nature, as I like to have all my ducks in a row). I’m so thankful I listened and heeded to the Holy Spirit’s instruction.

Monday morning arrived and several family members were already at the boat dock, leaving a few of us to begin eating breakfast. Unsure of when everyone would be together at the same time, I chose to share Vacation Day 1 – Loving God and His Creation. After reading the entirety of Psalm 104, I asked everyone to look for ways God shows His love through creation. Soon after, I brought the remaining family members up to speed on our devotion for the day. Later that evening our family all came together to celebrate my birthday. Following this very special time, I asked if there was anyone who would like to share our family devotion for Wednesday? Not expecting this at all, our ten-year-old grandson Jack immediately said, “I will!” With no reservations, I handed him a copy of the devotion.

After my sweet birthday celebration, we were visited by a four-legged fury friend…a small beady-eyed raccoon. Our grandkids affectionately named him Ronnie, and of course, they left a plate of goodies on the deck to ensure his return visits. Everyone agreed Ronnie showed us God’s love and vice versa.

Early Wednesday afternoon, I caught Jack sitting on the deck with my Bible opened. He had asked me the day before to use my Bible so he could begin preparing for our devotion and to mark the Scriptures. He didn’t know I spotted him on the deck, so I quickly snapped a photo of him for memory sake.

Wednesday evening our family gathered together while Jack led us in Vacation Day 2 – Being like Christ in Character. I was so blessed by his preparation and leadership. After reading the suggested Scripture, Jack instructed us to talk about the various character traits and challenged us to live these out during our vacation. Following our devotion, Jack’s sister, Julia, confidently said “I’d like to do the next devotion.” “Can I?” I said “Sure!” Julia’s parents reminded her that she would have to take time to prepare. No problem!

On Thursday, we visited the beautiful Garvan Woodland Gardens. This turned out to be a delight for all. We experienced so much of God’s marvelous creation. George, the resident male peacock greeted us at the entrance. George was thrilled when we fed him some almonds. We saw lizards, snakes, fish, bugs, waterfalls, and trails leading to a gigantic tree house, a crawdad waterhole with beach balls, and a wrong turn leading us to a beautiful lake view. Here we captured the beauty of the moment.

Friday quickly arrived and I thought maybe we should have our family devotions in the morning, but no, God had other plans. Again, trying hard to be flexible, I followed the Holy Spirit’s leading. After much play on the lake, fishing, boating, and just having fun together, my precious Julia (eight years old) approached me and asked if I would help her prepare for our devotion. My heart leapt with joy as I sat down with her at the table as she read through the suggested Scripture, and we talked through the discussion questions.

Knowing in advance we would face some opposition from the enemy to keep our family from having devotions together, I began to pray for the evening. God was honored when all family members and a family friend listened intently as Julia read the Scripture and led us in Vacation Day 3 – Sharing God’s Love With Others. It was such a tender and Spirit led time. After sharing how we had shown love towards each other during our vacation and ideas for sharing God’s love with others, Julia asked us all to pray. She specifically called out each of our names to let us know when it was our turn to pray. At the conclusion, Julia asked for prayer requests. There were several and as she closed our time in prayer, Julia recalled each request and prayed for them. I knew Jesus was in our midst. What a glorious moment! Our Julia has expressed interest in becoming a missionary. I’m sure God is pleased and will guide and direct her life, along with all our family, as they trust in Him and strive to keep Him first in their lives.

Throughout our vacation week, the Holy Spirit was faithful to remind us of our devotional time together. While trying to decide on where to eat lunch one day, several family members paused to allow differing ideas, demonstrating the Christlike Character of kindness. Another time, I overheard a grandchild say, “Let’s remember to show the love of Jesus.” And parents who praised God and thanked Him for the beauty of His creation; demonstrated by stopping to examine an unusual looking bug, and a dad taking his family on an intentionally planned hike by a creek.

The memories we’ve made on our family vacations are all very special and will remain in our hearts a lifetime. But by far, the greatest memories that I will cherish above all are those of our grandchildren growing closer to God through His love, His Word, and through His creation.

I personally want to thank Taylor Johnson for providing such a wonderful resource for our family to use while on our vacation. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

I highly recommend Keeping God First While On Vacation: A Family Vacation Devotional. To read about this devotional and to learn more about the Growing Kids for the Kingdom ministry, you may click on the following links:

Growing Kids For The Kingdom: https://www.growingkidsforthekingdom.com/

Keeping God First while on Vacation: A Family Vacation Devotional https://www.growingkidsforthekingdom.com/keeping-god-first-while-on-vacation-a-family-vacation-devotional/

Creation Vacation by Covenant Heirs: https://covenantheirs.org/2017/09/22/creation-vacation/

And for further study:

What does it mean that God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)?

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Article by Got Questions Ministry. https://www.gotquestions.org/God-looks-at-the-heart.html

Disclaimer: Covenant Heirs Ministry recommends this article but does not necessarily endorse all the content found on the God Questions website.

 

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Awakened Abruptly

God woke me up from a sound sleep to remind me of His marvelous and overflowing grace in my life.

Several years ago I worked at a Christian conference center. Part of my job responsibility was to meet with prospective clients, to generate and coordinate new events for the conference center.

During this time, I had the opportunity to get acquainted with Barbara, the beautiful and gracious wife of the conference center’s president. Her smile and contagious love for life made it easy for us to become quick friends. Our friendship led to taking a “work” trip together after Barbara convinced her husband (my boss) that she should be my travel companion, partially for safety reasons. He agreed, after recalling my solo trip to Colorado, where a bear had given me quite a scare!

Blue Ridge Mountains

Our friendship and desire to glean expert advice for developing quality events led us to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. After a few delightful days sightseeing…including the Biltmore, we headed to our destination, The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, Ashville, NC. Here we spent hours viewing the beautiful facilities and attending a seminar session on prayer. Drawing so close to God in this setting, Barbara and I also opened our hearts to each other in the quietness of our room. Girls just seem to know how to go deep when all the makeup is washed away and the PJs are on.

The Cove

Prior to our trip, I learned that Barbara had been dealing with some major health issues. She had undergone two liver transplants two years prior to us meeting.

After exchanging some thoughts from our earlier prayer session, our conversation quickly turned to our love for Jesus and for our families. We discussed the importance of living out our faith passionately and with solid convictions based on God’s Word, so our children would desire this same kind of love for Jesus in their lives. We laughed and cried together the entire week, which ended way too soon.

Shortly after we returned home, Barbara became very ill and soon after went home to be with her LORD and Savior. I was deeply saddened, and at the same time so grateful to have had the opportunity to become friends with a woman who lived out such a vibrant faith, demonstrating genuine love for others and the grace of God.

God is still using our abbreviated friendship to remind me of God’s amazing grace in my life. As I alluded to in the beginning of this testimony, I was awakened abruptly the other morning from a deep sleep. I rarely recall much of my dreams, but this time it was so specific, and I knew it had special meaning for me.

My time spent with Barbara, especially during our trip, was vividly revisited during my dream. Awakening with some urgency, I began to recall more details of our time spent together. Barbara and I were very close in age, in fact, we were born just two days apart. We will both celebrate our birthdays in August. Barbara in Heaven, and me still here on earth. The following is what I believe God wants me to receive from my recent dream.

Life is short during our time on earth. The Bible says, we are like “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Barbara was 46 when she passed away, leaving behind a loving family, including two children. She shared with me during our PJ hours her desire to see her children grow up, marry, and have their own children, etc., but she knew in her heart this may not happen. I believe that even though Barbara’s desire didn’t come to fruition on earth, my heart tells me that all is well with her soul, and that the vibrant Christ-filled life she lived before her children is continuing to live on through their lives.

As I quickly approach my 62nd birthday, I am once again reminded of the marvelous and overflowing grace God has shown me throughout my life. I praise Him for giving me the breath of life, for physical healing, giving me a loving and faithful husband for over forty four years, three amazing adult children, six grandchildren, a life of much love expressed through friends and family, and the desire to live for Jesus in a chaotic world.

I don’t know how many more years I will live on earth, but whatever remains, my desire is to be daily awakened by God’s grace, and to extend this grace to those around me.

I don’t deserve all that God has done for me, and I don’t understand why some lives are much shorter than others. Like Barbara, my mother passed away before she got to see me grow up, marry, and have children. I didn’t like this, but I have made the choice to accept God’s sovereign will in and for my life. Someday it will all make sense when Jesus comes to take me home. I’ll be so excited to see my mom and Barbara, along with so many other loved ones who placed their trust in Jesus.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Building A Legacy of Faith

  • Discuss with your children the reality of life and death. (Do so with age appropriate thoughtfulness.)

Share the birth story of your child. Retell the events surrounding their birth (who was there, what kind of day it was, the feelings of love you experienced while holding them for the first time, etc.). Take this opportunity to reinforce your unconditional love for them.

Read the following Scripture with your child, emphasizing that God created them, loves them unconditionally, and that He has a special plan for their life.

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,
[a]
God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you
 (Psalm 139:13-18).     

Our children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3) and all life is to be cherished and lived for the glory of God.                                                      

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:12).

  • Teach your children to read the Bible so that they can follow and live God’s plan for their lives.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).  

Suggested Resource:

Teaching Children About Heaven: Answering Your Child’s Questions by Randy Alcorn  https://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Mar/24/teaching-children-about-heaven-answering-your-chil/

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2019 8: 38 am - in Building a Legacy of Faith, Eternal Life, Faith in Jesus

 

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