Nine Tips for Peaceful Progeny

August 8, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

As my son, recent college graduate, returns home for a final roost before testing his wings, I have been reflecting on our strategies in raising him. I thought I’d share some that were more successful – we’ll save stories of the less successful for another day. I don’t claim these as my own ideas; we gathered whatever worked from friends, books, and our own childhoods.

1. Either/Or –Give children options while guiding them toward your own goals. We used this often enough that four-year-old Matt mimicked our policy with his little sister. “Merry, here’s how you play this game . . . Merry, you can play the way you’re supposed to, or you can just not play. Those are your choices. Do you want to play the way you’re supposed to or not play?”

2. Odd/Even –Matt got odd days, Merry even, for both chores and privileges. Before I’d holler for a helper, I’d remember the date and address the appropriate kid. As we’d head for the car, instead of hearing “Shotgun!” and squabbling, we’d hear, “It’s the second, my day in the front.” No questions asked.

3. Change it Up – Honestly, I’m not so good at this, but my husband Wes is a master. When the kids (and I) circled around in a pointless argument, he abruptly asked some completely unrelated question. Although his tactic was glaringly obvious, we would all frequently comply.

4. No-Thank-You-Bite –Although now I only rarely turn my nose up at anything edible (still no brussel sprouts), as a child I preferred meat and potatoes only. Somewhere I heard that our taste buds change every seven years; true or not, I use it as a mantra for tasting. Although this plan doesn’t eliminate all fussing, we found requiring a bite much more manageable than a whole helping.

5. Two-Minute-Warning –We got much better cooperation with “Two more times down the slide, then we have to go.” If fussing ensued, the number decreased to one more time – or a return to that first strategy: “Two more slides or now – which do you prefer?” Same thing applies to chores: “You need to start cleaning your room in the next thirty minutes” works better than “Get in here and clean your room!”

6. Say Sorry – Not them, me. When I could hear that shrieky tone enter my voice, my kids responded with great forgiveness if I stopped and apologized for taking out frustrations on them. Sometimes a bedtime apology was called for due to a long day of grouchiness. I’m hoping they’ve picked up on this model for future relationships.

7. Nights Up – We weren’t terribly consistent with this, but I love the idea. Give each child some alone time with the parents by allowing them to stay up past bedtime once a month and choose an activity. Some things we did: bake cookies, play games, wrap Christmas presents, read a book.

8. Celebrate Spirituality – I love this tradition. We celebrate our children’s spiritual birthdays—the day they chose to follow Jesus. Each year we go out for dinner, often inviting friends. Everyone present sets a goal for spiritual growth. At each celebration, we review our old goals before we set, or reset, new ones.

9. Age and Absence – Not an idea or strategy, this point is a reality to reassure you. As the kids grow up and are not interacting daily, they learn to appreciate parents and each other. I’ve experienced the joy of maturing relationships with my own siblings, and now I get glimpses of the future of cease fire in my children’s sibling battles!

Comment Prompt: Share your parenting strategies, please.

Shattered Illusions of a Goody-Goody

July 9, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton

Confession: I captured my husband under false pretenses.

Not intentional deceit, I make every effort to be open; I strongly believe in being frank—but somehow, on first impression, most people judge me to be ladylike. This notion even lingers beyond acquaintance. Perhaps some of my traits and habits reinforce the reaction: I have a girly southern voice; I collect china cups and saucers; I tear up over Hallmark commercials and romantic movies.

Even those who are not so impressed with me have been known to categorize me as a goody-goody.

Unfortunately, as my husband discovered after our wedding day, the illusion does not hold up under day to day living. I’m often loud, silly, grouchy, and selfish to name a few not-so-ladylike attributes. Thank God, over the last twenty-five years, Wes has found other reasons to love me!

One day in the first year of our marriage, I shared with him the story of what I considered the follies of my youth:

As a freshman in college, I wanted to spread my wings and test my new freedom. I stepped outside of my moral standards and went with a group of friends to well-known strip club. (Please hold back your gasps; there’s worse to come.)

I felt daring, cosmopolitan, wild. Upon the urgings of the crowd, I even tipped a dancer a dollar and asked for a kiss. I flushed with my audacity. I managed to rationalize and smush any shame.

We tromped back to the dorm and fell into the dreamy slumber of slightly tainted innocence.

The next afternoon, I developed a scratchy throat. By evening, my glands were swelling and red. I scrambled through my mail, and, with horrified dread, I re-read the letter from my mother: “Mimi says to be careful. She read an article saying that there’s an epidemic going around of gonorrhea of the mouth.”

Fear drove spikes through my heart. Shame escaped its prison and swamped me. I cried myself to sleep, nightmares haunting me with the necessity of confessing to my parents that I had an STD.

I did not.

And, I did not confess my misdeeds until much later. In spite of my own regrets, I was surprised that when I told Wes, seven years later, he was angry. Now, with the perspective of our silver anniversary, I know that I shattered some of his illusions with that confession.

Recently, I revealed this story to a church friend. She, too, was horrified and grossed out by my peccadillo. I tumbled off the pedestal I didn’t know she had put me on. That fall is probably a good thing since I don’t belong there.

Praise the Lord that I do not have to earn the image of being good. In Romans, Paul says Jesus gave me His righteousness (3:22). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24 NIV).

Comment Prompt: What impressions – true or false – do people have of you?

Watches of the Night

June 26, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

As long as I can remember there has been a yearning within to know God. There are many things material and immaterial that people place hope in. I have read about the mythological beliefs of the Greeks and Romans. They share something with every other culture, gods fashioned in human likeness. But as much as mankind desires to promote self-worship, there is a craving for something so much larger than self. There in the bitterness when sin runs its destructive course is the looming questions; is there nothing more?

This past month was filled with restless nights. During these dark watches I was in agony over sin. I have never experienced anything like it before. I have been studying the gospels and have been struck anew at God’s imperative love. We have no hope without a covering for our sin. Yet as I twisted and turned my way through repentance for myself, family, and our nation, what stuck was a new understanding of what it meant for Christ to become sin.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).

As I lay there grieving I could not imagine the terrible load Christ carried on the cross. The only relief on those nights has come from the Lord; I cannot imagine my distress if He turned his face from me.

He is mercy. I longed to understand what was happening to me on these sleepless nights. I have heard friends talk about intercessory prayer but I have never before felt this type of weight or grief over our nation. A close friend called and unknowingly began to describe the same scenario. She described waking at the same times and crying in repentance to the Lord. Unexpected joy surged through me as she shared what God has been teaching her through this. And as I re-read the account of Jesus’ last night in Gethsemane I was soul struck at His instructions to watch and pray.

The disciples were sleepy. Jesus acknowledged their reality “the spirit is willing but the body is weak” (Matthew 25:41b NIV).

But He admonished them three times to keep watch. He told them to pray so they would not fall into temptation. Interestingly enough, the instructions are the same in Mark 13:33 “Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is” (KJV). Only this passage in Mark is referring to the end of the age.

The night of Jesus’ arrest must have seemed the darkest of all nights. His disciples scattered, except Peter who was left to grieve, denying He was Jesus’ disciple. Jesus had told them what to expect. Yet I have to wonder what raced through their minds that horrific night, and when they woke to the grim reality that their Messiah was convicted despite perfection. The world would have seemed incalculably evil. Did they lose heart that Passover?

What seemed the darkest hour in history became the pinnacle moment of redemption. They did not understand like we do not understand. Because when we draw near to the end of the age and all seems depraved and lost it is then when we will look up and see our glorious redeemer drawing near. This hard fought battle will be done. Until that day watch and pray.

The Golden List Legacy

June 14, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

Recently a friend and faithful follower of Christ gave me a thought provoking book, “The Ultimate Gift”. A  book about morals, principals and life lessons it encourages one to reflect on the values and principals in one’s own life. I’ve been pondering it ever since.

In one of the chapters the main character, Red Stevens, travels for a year with a homeless man named Josh. As they travel, Red asks Josh why he is always in a good mood. Josh tells him about a discipline that he learned from his mother called the Golden List.

This is the way it works. Every morning before he gets up, Josh lies in bed or wherever he’s sleeping and imagines a golden tablet. He evaluates his day and where he is in life. He then writes down, in an imaginary way, ten things he’s most thankful for. This keeps him focused on the things of importance.

This is not a new idea. It’s called a gratitude list. Many people and religions do  it. Even Oprah talked about it on her TV show.  In fact, she did many shows on this topic. But “The Ultimate Gift” and the golden list are good reminders and a good exercise for all of us to start for the New Year.

Not only is it a good discipline but it is also biblical:  Psalm 107:1 “O give thanks unto the Lord for he is good.”  II Corinthians 2:14  “Now thanks be to God.” Ephesians 1:15 “I have not stopped giving thanks for you.” Ephesians 5:20  “Always give thanks to God the Father for everything.” I Thessalonians 1:2 “We always thank God for all of you.” I Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Revelation 10: 17  “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was.”

This is not a suggestion. It’s a command.  Clearly God knows what he’s doing.  Psychologically if one concentrates on what’s positive in life, things go better. It’s a mindset as well as a discipline. It’s a habit worth cultivating. The scripture tells us to give praise and thanks in all things.

I can’t help but contemplate the importance of beginning this practice now. As the days darken, and as the world moves into chaos, we as believers have the opportunity to be salt and light in a world gone awry. The first step is to get our minds right by walking daily in praise and thanksgiving for all things.

One of my favorite books is “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom. During World War II she and her family faced some of the most horrific situations and conditions known to man. And they did so with integrity and faith, which is a great model for us to follow. The foundation of their response to the inhumanity they experienced was to love and give praise and thanks in all things. In one scene they even give thanks for the fleas in their compound. Later they learned that they were able to do uninterrupted evening Bible studies in their compound because the guards were afraid to come in because of the fleas.  Go figure. God works in mysterious ways.

This type of faith is surely beyond the understanding of most of us. But I don’t think this habit began for Corrie ten Boom while in the concentration camps. More than likely, she took the scriptures literally and began this spiritual discipline many years before. Eventually it moved from habit to an attitude of the heart that became part of her daily life and character. She could then draw on it when needed.

Makes sense to me. So start now. Make January 2012 the beginning of the rest of your life. Develop this spiritual discipline now while there is still time. Give thanks and praise to God in all things. Make a daily gratitude list, thanking God for the many blessings of this life. Move from a habit to a discipline to an attitude of the heart. Prepare yourself spiritually, for no one knows what the future might hold.

Maybe, just maybe, one day your golden list will be the ultimate gift for a world in darkness.

Shepherds for Christ

May 19, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night”  (Luke 2:8).

Shepherds are amazing people. From biblical times to today, they are on guard as they watch over the sheep and baby lambs placed in their care. By day they feed the sheep, leading them to pastures for grazing. By night they guard the entrance to gated pens, protecting the sheep from wolves and predatory animals.

Shepherds have a distinct place in history. They were the first to whom God revealed the good news of the birth of his son. Standing in a brightly lit field, they stood in awe as the heavenly host descended, singing and praising God, proclaiming peace on earth, good will towards man.  Without hesitation, these simple men left the hills of Judea to see for themselves the miracle of the baby’s birth. They found him lying in a manager wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Today there are many types of shepherds–pastors, preachers, parents, grandparents, teachers and youth leaders.  They each have a role in the guarding of the flock. In God’s way, he uses the few to confound the many for he leads with precision those he has called to shepherd his sheep.

As grandmothers, we have our doctorate in shepherding. Not only does our age bless us with wisdom and longevity but our role in the family places us in a shepherd position. If we look closely at the Christmas story, the Word gives us the key to shepherding. For isn’t this how god made us—to feed our flocks by day and guard our flocks by night.

As grandmothers, we do this a number of ways–physically, spiritually and emotionally. Physically we provide necessities for their well-being, but we also give them fun things we didn’t provide for our own children because of lack of funds. Emotionally, we offer a place of safety and a heart of unconditional love; we see and have time to do the things that others don’t. Spiritually, we show Jesus to our grandkids when we sing songs or hymns of praise, sharing our joy in the Lord. At night we offer comfort and protection through our prayers. In our quiet times we speak and read the Word of the Lord over them, providing a canopy of covering.

But there is more to the Christmas story than just guarding the flock. Luke 2:17 tells us, ‘When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”  This is the heart of the story. First they saw, guarded, protected and watched; then they went and told.

As 21st century shepherds, are we doing the same, telling all that we see about Jesus?  Are the people who hear amazed at what we tell them?  If not, then we are not applying the Christmas story to today.

So our challenge this Christmas is to make a plan. Determine how you will you share the gospel that Jesus, the Messiah, has come. Who will you tell about the good news of the baby Jesus?

Prayer:   O God, I praise you that you sent your son, Emmanuel, the Messiah, to us on Christmas Eve. I praise you that you spoke to humble shepherds who were guarding their flocks by night. I thank you that they investigated, believed and went out to tell others.  I pray that you would do likewise with me. Use me this Christmas season to spread the good news of the birth of the Savior. Use me to amaze people with your story.

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