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Category Archives: Christian Character Development

Christian character is formed by our commitment to Christ.

Manners Anyone?

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”           (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

The words “thank you” seem so simple, but they mean so much to the recipient. Thanksgiving would be a great opportunity to thank God for all the things we so often take for granted, and a good time to thank those who mean so much to us.

While growing up with my grandparents, I recall how they modeled good manners before me. My grandfather always opened the door for my grandmother and me when walking into stores. The basic “please” and “thank you” were a given, and I wasn’t allowed to have my elbows on the table while eating a meal. At our Thanksgiving dinner, everyone remained at the table until everyone was finished eating, and come to think of it, this was a normalcy at all our meals. I especially enjoyed the conversation that was seasoned with stories of days past (the good ‘ole days) and the thankful hearts expressed through prayer.

I recently heard a broadcast from Dr. Dobson’s Family Talk, “Teaching Girls to Be Ladies.” During the broadcast Dr. Dobson references the writings of the second President of the United States. Excerpt from the transcript: “He was not a perfect man (John Adams), but he lived by a standard of righteousness throughout his adult life. In his autobiography, Adams wrote a commentary on the subject of moral behavior, which he called “manners.” Though the language is formal and dated, I urge you to listen to these words carefully and thoughtfully. They carry great meaning for us today.”

Adams wrote, “From all that I read of history and government, of human life and manners, I have drawn this conclusion: that the manners of women are the most infallible barometer to ascertain the degree of morality and virtue in a nation. All that I’ve since read and all the observation I’ve made in different nations have confirmed me in this opinion. Manners of women are the surest criterion by which to determine whether a republican government is practicable in a nation or not. The foundations of national morality must be laid in private families. In vain are schools, academies and universities instituted if loose principles and licentious habits are not impressed upon children in their earliest years,” and this is the key sentence, “The mothers are the earliest and most important instructors of youth.”

Continued excerpt from the broadcast transcript, Teaching Girls to Be Ladies:

“Obviously human nature (refer to transcript for context) has not improved much in the past several hundred years, nor will it ever. What has changed, as I have described, is that many parents have become far too distracted, overworked and stressed out to care much about teaching morals and manners to their children. Jolene Savage, who runs the Social Graces School of Etiquette in Topeka, Kansas, says society has reached an all-time low when it comes to matters of civility. Exhausted moms and dads seem not to have noticed what has happened to their children. Clearly, instruction and civility is needed now more than ever. Getting that done, however, can be a challenge.”

Dr. Dobson also shares some personal stories of his parents modeling good manners, which are then reflected in how he treats his wife Shirley. There’s also a touching remembrance of Shirley teaching their children manners at a tea party.

To listen to or finish reading the transcript from this broadcast: https://www.drjamesdobson.org/Broadcasts/Broadcast?i=4b85e9b8-f243-4a4e-ab39-5945136e91e5

Now I’m not trying to single out girls/women in this post…it just happened to be an emphasis from the broadcast I listened to at the time I was formulating this post. I’d like to recommend two books authored by Dr. Dobson: “Bringing Up GIRLS” and “Bringing Up BOYS” These and many other family resources may be purchased at Dr. Dobson’s family talk Shop: https://direct.cornerstone.cc/FamilyTalk+Shop/category/featured

Does anyone drive with manners anymore? I totally get the whole “road rage” mentality, especially when you have people rushing around, feeling spent, and distracted by social media posts. The other day I made this confession to my book club friends. “I thought this lady was going to run into the back of my car while driving to work!” I was in the left “faster” lane, already going a little past the speed limit myself, and was trying to return to the right lane, but there was too much traffic. Somehow, the lady sped up and went around me and quickly threw her hands up in the air signaling for me to return to the slower right lane. I chuckled when she realized that we both had to slow down due to the wreck ahead of us, and we both crept along far below the speed limit.

My point is this, we are hurried people with little patience, resulting in less manners. Manners definitely need to be taught, but more importantly, they are caught by parents and other adults who model good manners. Think about it!

We had the opportunity to watch three of our grandchildren for fours days while their parents got away to intentionally renew their annual family household planning, which includes their family spiritual discipleship. (They began this ritual early in their marriage and continue to use this resource: (Making a Spiritual Discipleship Plan).https://covenantheirs.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/making-a-spiritual-discipleship-plan-new.pdf

Lights shine Bright

jack with ballWhile we enjoyed lots of play time during our grandchildren’s stay, we also made a visit to the local nursing home. Our grandchildren have made some special friends who rarely if ever have visitors. One sweet lady is close to 100. She kept telling the grands how good looking they were. All the children beamed as they said “thank you.”

Before returning to their home, my granddaughter repeatedly came up to me and said, “Thank you Nana, for all the great food (ice-cream, nightly of course!), and for all the fun we have had with you and Pappy.” During all our meals together, each child took turns praying, expressing their thankfulness to God in such humble and genuine ways.

With Christmas coming up quickly, I asked our daughter what her son had on his wish list. She said, “He told me that he doesn’t want anything because he got everything he wanted last year!” I’m thankful for his gratefulness and honest spirit.

Looking for a good holiday movie to watch? Here’s my recommendation: Christmas for a Dollar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqjTIOAZLrU

Advent begins Sunday, December 1, 2019 – There are lots of great family devotionals to use. Here’s one and where to purchase. Creative Communications: https://www.creativecommunications.com/

And from Family Life: The Twelve Names of Christmas Ornaments https://shop.familylife.com/p-3931-the-twelve-names-of-christmas-ornaments.aspx

 

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Teaching Children Biblical Stewardship Principles

In an age where we can get whatever we want with a click of a mouse on our devices, I think it’s important to teach our children good stewardship principles.

I’ll never forget what one of our daughters said to me shortly after she left for college. “Mom, I sure wish you would have taught me how to budget and manage finances.” Ouch! I guess that one just slipped by. No excuse, other than not being intentional in teaching this important life skill.

I suppose I merely assumed our kids would follow our example by working hard (my husband has always done whatever it takes to pay the bills and put food on our table), by setting aside our tithe (which was taught to us by a pastor who mentored us as young Christians), and to use our resources to help others. As I observe our adult children, I see how much of what we modeled has come to fruition. They are all dedicated workers and they care for the needs of others often above their own needs.

To say we modeled stewardship without any glitches would be inaccurate. There were some areas that we struggled with, especially as credit became a viable option over cash payments. I can still remember searching the house for some lunch money for our kids when we lived totally by faith and within our income. God always provided. Then, before leaving for Bible College in the early 90s, we started receiving credit card offers in the mail. And yes, we followed the status quo by opening and using the plastic cards. This eventually became more of curse than a blessing. Thankfully, God helped us navigate gracefully back to debt-free principles after some challenging circumstances. One of the resources that God has used to help us on this journey is Moneywise, https://moneywise.org/, a Christian ministry that helps people gain financial freedom by following biblical wisdom.

Okay, my conscience is clear. Now, onto the importance of teaching children stewardship principles.

Parents, grandparents, beware! The temptation to give your children and grandchildren everything their little/big hearts desire will come. Guard against this and be ready to say “no” to those things that may easily threaten the future God desires your child to have. One that is guided by His sovereign hand, to purpose what is good and pleasing to the LORD.

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).

First Things First

Teach your children that God is the owner of everything.

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).

In the beginning of Genesis, God clearly is the Creator of everything and puts Adam in the Garden to work it and to take care of it. In relationship to stewardship, man was created to work and to take care of God’s creation. We are caretakers and God is the owner.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).

This is the fundamental principle of biblical stewardship. God owns everything, we are simply caretakers on his behalf.

The principle of responsibility

Nothing really belongs to us. God owns everything and we’re responsible for how we take care of what He entrusts to us. We are called as God’s stewards to manage that which belongs to Him. While God has graciously entrusted us with the care, development, and enjoyment of everything he owns as his stewards, we are responsible to follow His principles, will, and purposes.

Kids Learn How to Steward By Doing

I believe the first step in teaching stewardship to children is to teach them good work habits, which correlates to the financial responsibility of money and possessions.

Practical Stewarship for Kids

Assign specific chores (the principle of responsibility). This teaches good work ethic early. Explain to your children that everyone in the family has the responsibility of meeting personal needs and the needs of others. When children don’t have chores they can grow up with a sense of entitlement without responsibility. Unfortunately, we see this in our society today.

To give allowances or not? My personal thoughts on this: I believe kids should be assigned age-appropriate chores that they are responsible for just because they are in the family. For instance, making their beds, folding clothes, taking out the garbage, and helping with the dishes teaches children good stewardship, and it teaches them that taking care of the basic needs of life is what God expects from His children. On the other hand, I think it’s okay to assign children specific chores that they can earn an allowance for. Again, this reinforces a good work ethic and it is a good way to help children understand the precepts of earning money, giving money, saving money, and spending money.

Most recently…I shared with our daughter that I was working on this blog. It was interesting to hear about the ebs and flows of how teaching their children biblical stewardship is working for their family.

Money Jars

Several years ago, our daughter decided to begin teaching their three children biblical stewardship by using money jars. She decorated three jars and labeled them: Give, Save, Spend. Following God’s precept for giving, she has her children set aside the first 10% of their earnings from allowance money, gift money, and other earned money in their Give jar. This is then used to give God His tithe on Sunday mornings at their church. This teaches their children that God comes first and receives their first, not what is left over. The children also give some of their money to missions, as their family supports children who are less fortunate.

About a year ago, our daughter’s husband decided it would be advantagous for each child to have their own bank card (where their earned allowance money, etc. could be deposited and withdrawn as needed). This taking the place of their money jars. After using this method for a while, they’ve decided to return to the money jars, as it helps them visually track their monetary stewardship. At some point they will return to using bank cards when their children are ready to manage their own bank accounts.

During our conversation, we talked through the whole idea of giving children an allowance and the various ways this could happen. We soon shifted our thoughts toward the reason for teaching children how to manage their allowance and other received money. We agreed that the ultimate goal is not so much about teaching children how to manage money (although important) as it is to develop a Christlike character within the child’s heart. Christ is our example, and as we study the Scripture with our children, we see ways that Jesus taught his disciples to live selfless lives by serving and loving others with their time, talent, and resources. Studying the parables of Jesus is a good place to start. See suggested reading below (The Parables of Jesus and Suggested Scripture Reading).

Lead by example

Along with teaching our children to give, we should lead by example. Include your children when giving your time, talent, treasure/money to others. Pray together as a family and ask God to lead you to be a cheerful giver as you determine ways to shower others with what God has so richly blessed you with.

In their Save jars, our grandchildren choose to save their money for a special project, person in need, or for something they’ve had on their wish list.

The Spend jar is one that is used to teach their children that because God owns everything, we are to use our resources to honor Him, especially in our spending habits. My husband/pastor always says, “God is as interested in how we manage the 90% of our income as He is with the 10%…because how we manage the 90% is a better reflection on how we really perceive God as Owner of all.”

God is faithful…God never promises to meet all our wants, but He does promise to always be with us and He does provide for our needs as we trust in Him fully. Several years ago our daughter and family attended the church where my husband was the pastor. During this time I witnessed our daughter write out their tithe check faithfully. She said to me, “I don’t know how we are able to make it, but it always seems to work out.” Lesson learned: As we obey God, He is honored, and we are blessed. This doesn’t always mean that we will receive a financial blessing, but it does mean that our hearts will be at peace knowing that we’ve been obedient.

Prepare children to leave home

As a child becomes old enough, require that they get a job. This will help them budget both their money and their time. Make sure that their job, however, does not jeopardize school or church. While working at a grocery store during high school our daughter was being scheduled to work every Sunday morning. She and another worker brought their concern to their manager, stating that they desired to attend church and worshp with their families on Sunday mornings. The manager honored their request and changed their work schedule for this to happen.

Preparing your child to leave home is a process. One way to help your child succeed on their own is to have them pay for some of their actual needs, at age appropriate increments. Early on, the child could start by using some of their earned money to purchase pet food or their personal sport’s equipment. As they get older, prior to leaving home, the child could start purchasing their own personal toiletries, laundry detergent, gas for their car, etc. This latter thought rang true for our family when our children began working outside the home. They became responsible by paying for much of their car expenses, including some of their car insurance, and later worked during college to pay their living expenses. Lesson behind this. The more we spend unwisely, the less we have to pay for the necessities of life.

With Christmas nearing, one way to help children demonstrate their love for God is by using their money to purchase gifts for others. Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/ offers a simple method of filling a shoebox with Christmas gifts for less fortunate children.

Parables of Jesus

Moneylender Forgives Unequal Debts. A parable concerning God’s gracious forgiveness and how little or much we love God by our actions (Luke 7:36-50).
The Rich Fool. A parable warning not to place material possessions above God (Luke 12:13-21).
Good Samaritan. A parable describing how God expects us to be neighborly to anyone that is in need and we have an opportunity to help (Luke 10:25-37).

Additional Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:23-24, 1 Peter 4:10-11, Proverbs 3:9

Resource Websites

MoneyWise: https://moneywise.org/

Crown Ministry: http://crown.org/ Resources for children and family: https://shop.crown.org/products.aspx?categoryid=55

Renewal Nation: (Offers resources that help children develop a Biblical Worldview.) https://www.renewanation.org/ Check out this resource: The Great Money Adventure — A Bible-based view of money AND a real-life experience of children starting their own business. https://www.renewanation.org/product-page/the-great-money-adventure

Samaritans Purse Operation Christmas Child: https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/

 

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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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Smiling Quarterback?

Our grandson was puzzled by thjacke smile of Carsen Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles sidelined QB) in the last few minutes of the playoff game (last Sunday, January 6, 2019) between the Eagles and the Chicago Bears. The Eagles were in the lead 16 to 15 over the Bears after scoring a touchdown and missing a two-point pass conversion. With only 56 minutes left in the game, the Bears appeared they would win the game by making a 29-yard field goal. Prior to the presumed winning FG, the television camera spanned the Eagles sideline. Interestingly, Carsen Wentz was smiling from ear-to-ear, as if his team had already won the game. I thought to myself, “Doesn’t he know they are about to lose the game?”

carson-wentz-bill-streicher-usatsi-e1506536977939-1000x600

I noticed Wentz smiling earlier in the game and mentioned this to my husband. Jeff and I enjoy watching football together. Who knew! Jeff explained to me that Wentz was injured in back-to-back seasons, with Nick Foles, the Eagle’s backup QB stepping in to fill his position. The Eagles won last year’s Super Bowl with Foles as their backup quarterback. (Eagles 41 – 33 victory over New England Patriots, Super Bowl LII).

Back to the playoff game with the Bears. After learning of the disappointing seasons for Carsen Wentz, I became even more intrigued about his persona on the sideline. I was curious, too, like our grandson, with his ginormous smile during the last few minutes of the game. The Eagles went on to win the game after the Bears kicker missed the potential winning field goal.

After the game, I did some research on Carsen Wentz. I learned that he is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and shares his faith publicly on and off the field. I thought to myself, “Well, that it explains his exuberant smile!”  Like other Christian athletes, Carsen Wentz has realized there’s more to life than playing and winning football games. He’s always on a winning team with Jesus as his coach.

I’m so thankful there are faithful Christian role models in the sports arena that my grandson and other children can look up to. (See note below.)

To learn more about Carsen Wentz’s personal testimony of faith, which includes his devastating leg injury during the 2017 football season, check out this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQsx8lrPms4#action=share

Did I mention that my grandson and I were watching the Eagles and Bears game at different locations and hadn’t talked about the game until his mother and I chatted a few days later? We both smiled when I learned that Jack had noticed Carsen Wentz’s smile during the closing minutes of the game as well.

Special Note: Nick Foles is also a devoted follower of Jesus. In fact, the Eagles team gives God the glory whenever they have an opportunity.  Highlights from last year’s Super Bowl VII Victory:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ1wILRgupw

The Eagles will face the New Orleans Saints this Sunday (January 13, 2019) in the second round of the NFL playoffs. I’m not going to miss this game!

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2019 3: 50 pm - in Christian Character Development

 

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God’s Word…Life and Truth — Give Thanks

Give Thanks

 “Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1).

Thanksgiving is a time to remember all the blessings in our lives.

Let’s begin now…and continue all year long.

Our daughter started a new Thanksgiving tradition last year. Their family makes a Thankful Tree. The children find a tree branch and place it in a homemade container and then cut out leaves made from construction paper. Each day the children and their parents write something they want to thank God for on a leaf and then hang the leaves on the tree branch.  — Adapted from Changing Seasons In Me, article originally written Nov. 13, 2014.

 

Jack and Julia

I’m not fond of the winter months. In fact, my wardrobe is indicative of this, having many more summer clothes than winter. My hands shiver when walking down the freezer aisle at the grocery store…in the summer!

A thankful spirit often requires a different or new perspective on life’s familiarities. Otherwise, we may find ourselves taking for granted the blessings right in front of us…our family, the changing colors of autumn, a red bird perched on a snow-covered branch, and so on. While driving home from work the other day, my husband called and told me to look outside at the beautiful sunset. I ran out on our deck, only to be disappointed I had missed the window of opportunity.

To keep our children from missing the windows of opportunity, we (parents and grandparents) have the awesome responsibility to train our children to have watchful eyes, for the many blessings we receive each day. This takes intentionality! Children and adults not fully surrendered to Christ, are naturally self-absorbed and can easily miss the joy God intends. Looking at the world through eternal lenses portrays true and lasting blessings. The following story depicts two diverse perspectives from ten men who received the same blessing.

Jesus Heals Ten Men with Leprosy – Luke 17:11-19

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[b] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

After reading and contemplating the two varying responses to the lepers’ healing, ask yourself how you may have responded? Would it be more like the nine, or the one?  I’d like to propose two diverse perspectives—the temporal and the eternal.

The temporal perspective:

“The nine” cleansed lepers missed their window of opportunity to receive an even greater blessing, far beyond their physical healing. Here are a few possible reasons “the nine” didn’t go back to thank Jesus.

  • Being in isolation for so long, their minds were solely focused on returning to their former lifestyle.

  • They may have thought Jesus was simply doing what He was “supposed” to do…heal people. Therefore, they took their healing for granted.

  • Some may have said something like, “I’m sure God wants me to get busy fulfilling the plans He purposed for my life.”

The eternal perspective:

“The one” leper who came back to thank Jesus not only recognized the miraculous healing in his life, he experienced the greater blessing—the presence of a loving and merciful Savior. His perspective was filled with overflowing gratefulness, a direct result of being Christ-focused rather than self-absorbed.

The following quotes are from the book, Love Made Perfect—Foundations for the Holy Life (1997), authored by Dr. William M. Greathouse (April 29, 1919 – March 24, 2011), minister and emeritus general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.

“Self-love is the disease of original sin.”  “Idolatrous self-love is our sickness, but it is a sickness God wants to cure.”

To help our children develop a grateful heart like the “one leper,” I believe we must first explain that everyone is born with a sinful nature. The sinful nature will naturally dispose every human heart toward being self-absorbed. The only cure for a self-absorbed life is full surrender to Christ. I recommend reading Dr. Greathouse’s book, Love Made Perfect, for a fuller understanding of loving God with one’s whole heart, strength, and mind—a love perfected in us through Christ alone.

Secondly, we need to stop and “smell the roses.” I love this definition for the idiom “smell the roses.”

To take time out of one’s busy schedule to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life.

Parent Challenge

Take time to thank God throughout your day. Don’t let the busyness of your schedule or life’s distractions keep you from missing out on the blessings of life. Begin by thanking God for your precious children, spouse, friends, church family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Practice pointing out the blessings of life to your children, as you drive along the road. The changing seasons exude with God’s blessings.

My new perspective of winter:  I love sitting by a fire on a cold wintry day with my husband. Building snowmen with our grandchildren imparts cherished memories of innocent smiles and silly giggles into my heart. Christmas brings the greatest blessing of all, as our family gathers together to sing happy birthday to Jesus. God warms my heart throughout the winter.

More Traditions

Thanksgiving tablecloth. Using the same tablecloth every year, each family member writes what they are thankful for on the tablecloth. The little ones love to make turkeys as they trace around their hands. Use permanent fabric markers or pens.

Indian Corn: Our grandchildren help me place several kernels of Indian corn by each table setting. Before eating our meal everyone shares something they are thankful for and then they place a kernel of corn into a decorative basket. Our basket goes around the table several times because the children have such thankful hearts.

 wreathThe first Sunday of Advent is November 29 this year (2015). There are limitless resources available to help families prepare their hearts to celebrate Christ’s birth. The Advent wreath is one of my favorites.

Check out Christian Book.com at:

http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find?Ntt=Advent+devotionals+for+families&N=0&Ntk=keywords&action=Search&Ne=0&event=ESRCG&nav_search=1&cms=1

 

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