Friday, December 18, 2009

"What is Christmas?"

I love Christmas. I'm one of those people that bust out the Christmas music late October in anticipation of the season. One of my favorite things about this season is getting cards and letters from old college friends and families. Although I'm not someone who could sit and right a letter interesting enough for someone to want to read, I do enjoy seeing what others are up to. I keep all the cards and letters we get, hole punch them and then string them on a ribbon, so my kids can enjoy looking through them and adding to it as they come in the mail.

This year I recieved a card with the following poem on it. The poem was familiar to me as I'm sure it's quite popular, but I couldn't help but read it a few more times. It seems that every year, the world wants to phase out the "Christmas" season and replace it with a "Holiday" season. I can't help but be worried about the impact that has on mankind — shifting the focus from love, peace and hope found in Christ, to the the self indulgent season of gifts and parties.
How do you keep Christ in your Christmas?
Are there ways to stretch it out to last all year?

What is Christmas?
It's more than a day
at the end of the year;
More than a season
of joy and good cheer —
Christmas is really
God's pattern for living,
To be followed all year
by unselfish giving.
For in giving to others
and in being kind
Man finds true joy
and peace of mind —
And peace on earth
will come to stay
When we live Christmas
every day.

Helen Steiner Rice


P.S. Faith, Family & Fun will be taking a blogging break until January 4, 2010. We wish each of you a very Merry CHRISTmas. And look forward to seeing you again in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Parting Words

Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 11: 19

It's the same every day.
At 8:10 my son and I stand on the corner waiting for our neighbor, and then the three of us walk to school.
The boys will lag behind and I'll tell them to keep coming. Then they'll run ahead and turn around to wait for me.
They'll grab sticks laying by the road and pretend to shoot passing cars. (If you drive by us, don't worry. They're harmless!)
At some point, there's usually talk about the latest game in gym class, and more recently - what's on top of the Christmas wish-list.

But whatever the topic of conversation has been, our parting words are always the same.
Me: Remember, Matthew - God created you.
Matthew: I know.
Me: He loves you.
Matthew: I know.
Me: And He has a purpose for your life.
Matthew: I know.

I believe Matthew does know those things. But I will continue to remind him every day when I take him to school. Because Matthew is only nine years old, and I know there will come days when he's older and the questions of life are more significant than whether to have pizza or a hamburger for lunch. There will be a time when his trials are more serious than learning how to order decimals and memorizing state capitals. One day he'll wish his greatest fear was asking the class bully to give him back his ball.
When those days come, I want my son to be firmly established in his confidence that God created him, loves him, and has a purpose for his life. So as long as he'll listen, I'm going to keep stating those parting words.
And, you know? The day he thinks he's "too big" for me to say them, I think I'll start whispering them to him when he's asleep in bed.

How about you? Of what do you want your children to be confident when they're older? Do you have any special parting words - for school, or bedtime, or otherwise? We'd love to hear about them in the comment section!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Building Your Family's Faith

***Congratulations to the winners of the Zap Zone giveaway - Brian Hossink, Autumn Johnson, J. Olger, and Sarah Surline. Keep your eyes open for more fun giveaways in the future!***

At Trinity, we conduct a monthly Family Moment during our weekend services. These times are designed to encourage and equip parents to teach their children about God. In September, we heard a testimony from Mike Krumm and launched our Family Devotionals for our Philippians study. In October, we shared our vision for Family Ministry, our church findings and taught parents how to pray scripture over their children. In November, Jim Richards shared how he’s learning about God by reading the Bible to his kids at night and we provided a list of recommended Bibles for kids at every age.

You can view these 5 min Family Moments and download free materials here. Enjoy!


Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday FUN - Laser Tag Style

How's bedtime at your house? Do your kids generally get all ready when you say, "Go!" and you don't have to remind, nag, or cajole them to get the job done?

What's that? You're wondering why I'm bringing this up in a Friday FUN post? No, it is not because I'm trying to take the FUN out of your day. Rather, I am hoping to inspire you with a FUN idea.
Because if your house is anything like mine, bedtime is a chore. Looked upon with about as much enthusiasm as cleaning the bathroom. But after one particularly frustrating night, when my husband and I decided we just can't continue with the nagging, we came up with a plan for FUN.

Here's the deal.
When we say, "Go!" that's all we're going to say. We've told the kids they are responsible for getting themselves ready without Mom and Dad providing constant reminders to do this and that. (Our children are 13, 11 and 9 now. They KNOW what they need to do to get ready for bed!) And if they're ready at the determined time, if there has been no grumbling along the way, we're going to put a star on the calendar for that night.
And when the kids have earned 30 stars?

We're going to Zap Zone for a round of two of laser tag!!!

The kids are excited about this little incentive program. Zap Zone motivates them. Brian and I are looking forward to the FUN, too. But more than that, we're anticipating peaceful evenings between laser tag shoot-outs.

What would work for your family? How could you motivate peaceful evenings by offering some family fun? Maybe it's an outing to the movie theater, a visit to the ice cream store, a trip to the zoo, or an evening of laser tag? We'll be going on Tuesdays ($4 Game Day!). Care to join us???

And now, the giveaway we've been promising all week: Zap Zone has donated four Family Fun packs for our readers! Each pack contains one pass for a FREE game of laser tag and five buy-one-get-one-free passes for laser tag or glo golf. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment here by 10PM tonight (Friday) telling us you would like to be included in the drawing. (Telling us how much you love this blog will in no way increase your chances of winning. But it will bring a smile to our faces. *grin*) We'll draw four winners randomly from all comments left.
If you don't know how to leave a comment, click here for step-by-step instructions.
Please be sure to include your email address in your comment so we are able to contact the winners.
May the peace of Christ rest upon you this weekend.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Building Faith In Children As A New Christian

Are you a parent like me - new to Christianity? I didn't grow up going to church and wasn’t exposed to the church until 12 years ago when I met my wife. Early on I was able to grow in my new faith at my own pace, and challenge myself along the way. Then - six years ago - children entered the picture. Now I’m facing the challenge of growing the faith of my children when I’m still new to my own faith. How do I know if they will believe what I’m saying, or even if what I’m saying is correct?
I think for new believers this can be one of the biggest challenges we face when trying to raise children. How do we build the faith of our young children, when we are still building our own?

I’ve found in the last couple of years is that it is not easy, but taking small (child-like) steps really helps. One of the first things I started when my son was young was reading the Bible to him. We were given a children’s Bible from Trinity Church. He seemed to enjoy it and it was the first time I had heard some of these stories as well.
When my son got to be between 4 and 5 we went to a Christian bookstore together and picked out the next level Bible - fewer pictures and more details in the stories. Each night I was not only learning the stories, I was building his faith. (Along with my own!) Over the past few years we’ve read 2 Bibles, a couple of devotionals and Heaven for Kids by Randy Alcorn.
Reading to my son has made it much easier to transfer my head and heart knowledge of Christianity to my daughters. It seems to be easier because my confidence level is higher (At least not everything I read is brand new...) and I find myself looking for opportunities to talk to them about God and what it means to be a Christian.

How about you? How has having a family impacted your faith? And how are you impacting theirs?

~Jim Richards, guest blogger

P.S. Be sure to come back Friday to enter for the Zap Zone giveaway!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Will a Band-aid Do?

Imagine you are about to get in your car when you hear the harsh whisper
of a stranger demanding you to remain silent. Before you know what is happening your wallet has been stolen and four inches of sharp metal has been inserted into your flesh.
Blood is flowing from the wound.
The assailant flees.
You reach for your trusty first aid kit. You always knew it
would come in handy.
Taking out a large band-aid, you place it on the
wound and drive home - satisfied that the wound is out of sight and on
the path to healing.

Preposterous, right? If you don't take care of that wound immediately
you are either going to die of blood loss, or eventually from an
infection. You have to deal with the wound. It is senseless not to...
But this is what we inherently condone when we try to change
the behaviors of people without focusing on their motivations. When we
look only at the actions and not the heart. When we try to fix our sin
problem without acknowledging that it's a heart problem. It's like
putting a Band-aid on a deep stab wound.

In Mark 7, Jesus alludes to the power of the heart when he declares,
"Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can
make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a
man that makes him 'unclean.'" (Translation: Why are you focused on the
behavior and not the motivation?)

Seems like it's easy to identify the knife wounds in our kids' lives (the places where sin is infecting) but how can we focus less on the outside condition and more on the inward reality? Let's talk about it together!


P.S. Be sure to stop by Friday. Zap Zone has donated some free passes and we'll be giving them away here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday FUN

Happy Friday to you!
Take a minute to celebrate life with this wonderful couple and their piano duet.
I dare you not to tap your toes and clap along!
Blessings to you this weekend.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Meeting with The Physician - Part II

Did you miss Part I? Click here to read it.

But then His eyes caught mine. He had that look again. The piercing one which went right into my heart. Only this time His gaze was moving back and forth from my heart to my eyes, and from my heart to my mouth.
I wondered what on earth He was doing now. Hadn't we reached our conclusion already?
And I rolled my eyes.
That's it! Do that again. No. Wait. And He put a mirror in front of me. Now do it.
So I did. I might have been a little too expressive with the eye rolling the second time around, but I was losing my grasp on patience.
Thankfully, the Physician had lots of it. Yeah, patience and patients! But at the moment, I had His full attention, as if there were no other patients on His mind except me. And without even a trace of the love leaving His expression, He began to talk.
Karen, that thing you just did with your eyes? You did it because you were not being patient with Me, didn't you.
As if He needed to ask.
It didn't look very nice, did it?
Of course, He was right. Again.
Darling, do you realize that is the same look you give your children when they are asking you for help, and love, and attention all day? Many times when these precious ones just want you to love them, when they need some mercy, you roll your eyes at them because you think you have something more important to do. Why is that, dear one?
I lowered my eyes and replied, "Uh. I don't know. Because I'm busy?"
When I glanced up, He was still looking at me. And that love was still there.
And He opened His mouth to speak again. Come closer. Let me have a look at your mouth. Oh...This is not good. My child, you have allowed harsh words to come out of your mouth. When your son was too busy playing to remember to use the toilet, you got upset with him and made him feel bad. Why did you do that, sweetheart?
Again, I lowered my eyes and replied, "I don't know. Because he should know better?"
Precious, Karen. My beloved child. I want you to model mercy for your children. They need to see it coming from you so they know how to show it to each other.
This time, I looked right at Him. And with tears running down my cheeks I said, "You're right. I know You're right! And I'm trying, Physician. Believe me, I'm trying! But I can't seem to get it right. No matter how hard I try, I lose patience and I say unkind things. I am so sorry. You've got to believe me! I just don't know what to do!"
And then He did the most amazing thing. The Physician reached out and took hold of my right hand. With His other hand, He wiped the tears from my eyes. He looked upon me with that love, and He spoke. My child, do not fear. I will help you. I am going to work in the hearts of your children. I promise. But first? Come. I need to do some work on yours.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Meeting with The Physician - Part I

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13

A few days ago I was meeting with our Physician.
The GREAT Physician, that is.
I was talking with Him about my children. My friend gave me a list of 31 Biblical virtues, and every day I talk with the Physician about one of those virtues as they relate to my kids. On this particular day, we were focusing on mercy.
As I do every day, I told the Physician how much I love my children and how great my desire is for them to grow up and become young doctors, walking in His footsteps. Then we started talking about this "mercy" issue.
See, my children are pretty good at being merciful to small animals, and cool bugs they find outside. They know when their friends are in need of kindness and they're able to be merciful toward them. And my kids sure have a handle on understanding when they, themselves, should be the recipients of someone's merciful ways.
But when it comes to showing mercy to one another? Oh, they are desperately lacking.
It is much more common for them to cut each other down and tear one another apart with unkind words. Words which show no signs of mercy. And it hurts my heart when I hear them say these things.
It really makes me sad, and as I talked with my Physician about the sadness in my heart, I nearly started crying. I told Him I know it is more than just the words coming out of their mouths which need to change. I understand it really is a heart issue, and I asked Him to change their hearts. I asked Him to give them new hearts which spring forth mercy and kind words, which build each other up.
At this point, the Physician was quiet and looked at me with gentle eyes. Though His look was full of love, it pierced right through my heart. And I got silent for a moment.
I just looked at Him.
And He kept staring at me with a shocking love, and a look which told me He could see right into my heart.
I asked Him, "Why are You looking at me like that? I'm here to talk with You about my children!"
But He simply kept looking at me.
So I stared back. And I couldn't get over the look of love in His eyes. He wasn't trying to be more stubborn than me. I knew He was trying to tell me something.
But He wasn't talking about my children, and that's what I didn't understand. He knew that's what I was there for. I had made an appointment to talk about my kids, and I fully intended to keep it.

In time, His love won me over and I began to hear what He was saying. And as soon as I heard Him, I knew He was right. The Physician told me that He will work in my children, but He has also given them me. And the Physician reminded me that I am to be a model of mercy to my children. He told me I was right - they need their hearts to be changed - but they also need a model of mercy to follow, and that is one of my primary roles as their mother.
"Oh, Yes! You are so right! You are! You are! I will be that model for them. Yes, I will!"
And I thought we were finished. I was ready to hug Him and be on my merciful way.

But then...

Come back tomorrow for the rest of the Meeting with The Physician!