Afraid of Christmas?

4 12 2012
Christmas Morning 1963

Christmas Morning 1963

Maybe you have a love-hate relationship with Christmas. There are things you absolutely love about the holiday, and things you hate.

Love reflecting on cherished childhood memories. But, hate the commercialism of Christ’s birthday.

Love worshipping the Lord on Christmas Eve. But, hate being alone.

Recently I wrote a devotional about fears and stress at Christmas.

By the way, in the picture above, the girl coming down the steps Christmas morning is me…That’s right—me with the uncombed hair. If you’re not afraid of Christmas, then maybe that bedhead hair scared you!

You can find that devotional on Rest Ministries website. It’s entitled “Fears and Stress at Christmas When Chronically Ill” and was posted December 3rd.

Visit Chronic Illness Pain Daily Devotionals (Rest Ministries) to read that devotional (and find more devotionals written by other people with chronic pain or illness).

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An Attitude of Gratitude

27 11 2012

Now that Thanksgiving is over, we don’t have to be thankful. Right? Obviously, not.

As parents, we want our children to have an attitude of gratitude. How does that happen? We know it wouldn’t work to simply say, “Starting today, you’re going to be thankful no matter what.”

It would be nice if we could just say it and make it so.

How ‘bout simply modeling gratitude? Some children would imitate our frequent praises. Others might miss them completely.

We can be purposeful in teaching about gratitude. We can be determined to build a thankful spirit in our kids.

How can we, as worn-out parents, do that in the context of a hectic life? Happily, the Bible provides guidance.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)

The secret: Talk about God’s commands everywhere and all the time.

Moses was worn out counseling God’s people. His father-in-law gave him this advice. He told Moses to teach God’s people His “decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.” (Exodus 18:20)

We can follow that wise counsel: Show kids how to live and behave.

What would that look like?

When I taught second graders, I focused on a theme for the entire year. One year the theme was ‘An Attitude of Gratitude.’

Activities included:

  • Focusing on a Bible verse about gratitude each week.
  • Compiling a gratitude list (added to often). By the end of the year, we had a scroll that matched the length of a long hallway!
  • Singing songs about thanks and praise. Example (sung to the tune of “Oh Be Careful Little Hands What You Do”):

Sometimes God answers yes when we pray.

Sometimes God answers wait when we pray.

Sometimes God answer no,

Just because He loves us so.

For I know He always answers when we pray.

  • Making the most of teachable moments…times when students faced disappointments. They provided opportunities to have discussions about how we can be grateful in spite of circumstances.
  • Reading poetry and books about gratitude.
  • Having a motto: “Count your blessings one by one. Then you’ll see what the Lord has done.”
  • Writing about times which led to gratitude.
  • Going on a gratitude hunt. One day was designated for students to collect reasons to be thankful. They were encouraged to look outside, inside, at people, in activities, etc.
  • Using academic content as reasons for thanks. Science is full of God’s awesome power in creation. Math reminds us that we can be grateful for order (instead of confusion). Stories in Social Studies and History provide numerous heroes. Characters worthy of our praise.
  • Encouraging children to thank others on a regular basis (e. g, thank a friend for helping, thank someone who saved a seat…).

Click on the link below to find a list of gratitude verses.

Gratitude Verses

How else could you teach your child to have an attitude of gratitude?





Getting Away With It

6 04 2012

Children know how to get away with it.

They run inside the halls of school. Then screech to a halt when a teacher is spotted.

A quick glance at a classmate’s test paper goes unnoticed by the teacher.

Students’ infractions don’t always go undetected. Sometimes they’re caught. There’s a price to pay. Consequences to be suffered.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone volunteered to take our punishment? Just for fun, imagine this surprise ending to exceeding the speed limit. You get pulled over by a police officer. Just before the ticket is written, a stranger pulls up behind you. He gets out of his car. The unfamiliar person persuades the officer to let him pay for your ticket. You drive away with a clean record. Like a dream come true.

It’s fun to fantasize. But daydreams end. Reality hits.

That’s when we yearn for Someone who really will save us. The Easter story is God’s love story to us.

We all are sinners. Even if we think of doing something wrong, the Bible tells us God counts that as sin. But, Someone has taken our punishment. Jesus died for our sin. He took our punishment so we wouldn’t have to go to hell after we die. He saved us from eternal death. His gift of salvation is offered freely.

Easter is a well-known story. Familiar even to young children.

Years ago, I wanted to help my second graders better understand Christ’s act of love.

In the Christian school where I taught, misbehavior at recess was punished by time out. The misconduct was dealt with by sentencing the student to stand at The Wall. There, the child would watch the others play until the designated time was up. The amount of time depended on the offense.

Not sharing nicely – 2 mins.

Bothering another child – 5 mins.

Teasing someone else – 10 mins.

Repeated naughtiness – 15 mins.

Throwing stones – 20 mins.

Intentionally hitting – 25 mins.

      

Aides supervised recess time during the teachers’ lunch. Before lunch one day, I told an aide to let me know when the first student disobeyed a rule. I would stand by The Wall instead of that student to illustrate an innocent person taking a guilty person’s punishment.

The first student to be disciplined owed 25 mins.!

“You may go play. I’ll take your punishment. I’ll stand here instead of you.”

Off the bewildered student scurried.

Quickly, a crowd of students gathered by The Wall. Never before had they seen a teacher standing there. Some were quietly curious. Others speculated. Many understood the point.

One called out, “Let’s bet for her clothes!” Referring to how they cast lots for Christ’s clothes.

The mob of onlookers roared with laughter.

It was a moment of insight for me. Reflecting on how they mocked Jesus while He gave the ultimate gift.

The ‘lesson’ was a success. Students of all grades were abuzz with the news. A teacher had to stand at The Wall! The humorous incident conveyed a powerful message.

We assume children understand Christian terminology/Church and Sunday School language. That’s not always the case. My intention: to take what they understood and use it to give deeper insight into phrases such as, “sacrificial love”, “took our punishment”, and “died on the cross for our sins.”

Reflecting on the crucifixion and resurrection helps to build greater insight. We can better comprehend our Father’s love. He gave His only Son to die for us. He who was sinless willingly suffered and died on the cross for our sin. To make a way for us to have everlasting life in heaven.

May you have a blessed celebration of our Lord’s resurrection.





Who likes to wait?

30 12 2011

Not me. It seems like we’re born waiting. “Are we there yet? When can I go out to play? How long ‘till Christmas?”

When we get older, we call it anticipation, as if that makes waiting any easier.

When I was dating my husband, we had a countdown calendar so we could click off the days until our wedding date. It seemed like an eternity. He’d say, “Someday we’ll be together.”

Once married, he’d say, “Someday we’ll have a child.”

After I became a mother, I heard that dreaded word again: someday.

“Someday we’ll have a house of our own.”

When I worked on my master’s degree, my husband encouraged me to keep studying.

“Someday you’ll finish all the course work and graduate.”

Currently it’s, “Someday you’ll get that picture book published.”

When faced with a new year, we contemplate plans for the future. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time waiting for God’s answers to my prayers.

“Please dear Father, find me a publisher and send him/her quick!”

If I don’t like waiting for an editor to offer me a contract to publish my picture book, I’ll just self-publish it. Right? Wrong. Taking things into my own hands would be foolish. Attempting to speed up a heavenly clock is futile.

That would be kind of like flapping my way through life. Expending unnecessary energy.

Consider the eagle. The eagle soars. This bird with a massive wingspan waits for thermals – rising currents of warm air and up-drafts. When a warm current of air rises, the eagle steps off its perch and soars. No flapping necessary.

Similarly, if I wait for God’s perfect timing in the coming year, I will soar.

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

Dear Father, teach me to trust You for the precise timing in your perfect plan for my book.

What are you waiting for?





What’s so exciting about Christmas?

18 12 2011

Knock, knock, knock.

The loud knocking interrupted the Bible instruction. The startled campers were learning about Jesus. I ignored the knocking, for good reason. The children all had intellectual disabilities. The visitor was part of the lesson, arranged ahead of time by me.

The knocking continued.

“Who is it?” I called through the door.

“Miss Barbara.”

Turning to the students, I reported matter-of-factly, “It’s Miss Barbara.”

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK pounded Barbara.

Calling through the door I asked, “What do you want?”

“I want to come in.”

Returning to my seat, I resumed the lesson.

The campers looked bewildered.

“What’s wrong? Is something the matter?” I asked.

“Miss Barbara.”

“Yes, Miss Barbara is at the door.”

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK. “Please let me in,” pleaded Barbara.

This time I remained in my seat.

The campers begged me to let her in.

Barbara’s cries became more emphatic. She started shouting, “I – want – to – come – in – now!!!”

The campers yelled, “Open the door!”

Refusing their requests, I explained my reason for ignoring her pleas.

“Why should I open the door? We don’t need to let her in. We know all about her. She lives up on the hill. She has short hair and a very nice smile. She sings our special song before meals.”

“But she wants to come in,” explained one camper.

“Yeah, and we want her to be with us. Let her in.” urged another boy.

They became adamant and shouted, “Open the door! Let – her – in!”

Finally, I relented. Once the door was opened, the children engulfed Miss Barbara like a coat. Clinging to her.

It was time to explain the object lesson.

“You know all about Miss Barbara. But that wasn’t enough. You wanted to spend time with her. She wanted to join us. It seemed very wrong of me not to let her in. Friends want to spend time with each other.

“That’s how it is with Jesus. You know a lot about Jesus. But that’s not enough. Knowing about Him isn’t as special as knowing Him as your special Friend. Friends spend time with one another. Friends do nice things for each other. Jesus loved you so much He died so you could go to heaven someday. You can spend time with Him, just like you can with Miss Barbara. You can talk to Him.

“Let Him come into your heart. Let Him be a part of your life. That’s so much better than just knowing about Him.”

*******

Christmas commemorates the birth of Christ. Historians will acknowledge that fact. The true celebration swells in the hearts of those who know Him – who have a relationship with Him.

Jesus stands at the door and knocks. How He longs for us to welcome Him into our lives! How He wants to fellowship with us!

He waits for each blood-bought soul to receive His gift of eternal life. Knowing the facts of His life pales in comparison to knowing Him in a personal way. Having a relationship with Him throughout the year enriches our celebration of His birth.

Jesus entered this world. The thought of God sending His only Son to die for my sin – my sin – is awesome to contemplate. The deeper my relationship is with Christ, the more Christmas means to me. God’s only Son left heaven to die for my sin, stepped into my life and fellowships with me. That thrills my heart.

What’s so exciting about Christmas? He did that for everyone. No wonder all the angels rejoiced.

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’”  Luke 2:13-14





Christmas won’t be the same.

7 12 2011

Will this Christmas be different this year? Will it be your choice? Are circumstances forcing you to rethink what the holiday will be like?

My multiple sclerosis helps me keep a focus on the real meaning of Christmas. Visit Chronic Illness Pain Daily Devotionals (Rest Ministries) to read a devotional I wrote (and find more devotionals written by other people with chronic pain or illness).  This recent devotional is entitled, “Enter Illness, Exit Christmas?”

There seems to be so many who are suffering. When you consider the plight of others, do you feel ashamed to ask for help or prayer? Perhaps secretly inside you yearn for someone to reach out to you. You need an understanding friend, or a warm embrace. Jesus cares about each and every person.

How would you like others to pray for you?





Combating a Materialized Christmas

6 12 2011

When our sons 3 and 5 yrs. old people would ask them, “What do you want for Christmas?”

I found a way to teach them the Biblical meaning of the holiday and at the same time share God’s Word with unsuspecting strangers.

I taught them the entire Christmas passage in Luke. If young children can learn all the words to a song, they can learn Luke 2:8-14. Using lots of expression in my tone of voice coupled with hand motions, I taught our boys the passage.

When someone asked them, “What do you want for Christmas?” they responded, “Well that’s not what Christmas is all about.” They would go on to share the true meaning of Christmas by reciting the passage.  “And there were in the same country shepherds…”

Listen to our son, Bobby reciting that passage. He was 4 yrs. old at the time. Now he’s 29.

YouTube: Five year old recites Christmas passage

What do you do to help your children focus on the real meaning of Christmas?