Category Archives: devotional

God’s art room

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As I was driving the kids home from swim team the other day, we saw a brilliant cloud with the sun behind it and rays of light streaming out.  “Is that heaven?” asked Steffi.  Another complicated theological question.  Where is heaven exactly?

I don’t remember what I ended up saying, something about God being outside the universe of space, time and matter.  He created all of that, so he must be outside it.

Later, I thought of a much better answer.  “That isn’t where God lives, that’s where he makes pictures.  The sky is God’s art room.”  I’ve been enjoying God’s sky art lately.  Sometimes beautiful white puffy clouds on a bright blue sky.  Sometimes massive black rain clouds on one side of the horizon with fierce streams of rain coming toward the ground.  Often, on the other side of the sky there are soft streams of white clouds with the sun peeping out.  The song talks about the sky at night being “big and bright” deep in the heart of Texas.  Well, the sky during the day is big and bright too, and the variations of clouds, rain and weather make better sky art than I saw growing up in smoggy Southern California.  I’m enjoying the show.

“The heavens declare the glory of God.”

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Sharefest

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Quite frankly, I was not particularly interested in attending the city-wide church outreach Sharefest.  I really didn’t know much about what we were going to do or where we were going to go.  However, we have always wanted to do ministry alongside our kids and they promised the kids could work with us.  Since my friend was one of the people in charge I volunteered to help.  We traveled to the far north of town to a project development.  The apartments were neat, but barren.  I was glad to find out we were assisting a woman who runs a full-time ministry there.  Our volunteer hours help her get grants and are an encouragement to her workers.  The group of about 130 scraped, painted, served food and built a bench.  My friend asked me to take charge of the GA girls planting flowers.  We had a wonderful time planting hundreds of begonias up and down the street.  I was amazed at how hard the kids worked without stopping or complaining.   We got to meet some of the kids who lived there and one dear woman was so very happy to have some “real flowers.”  As we left, we drove up and down the street to see our work.  The flowers did make the houses look more cheerful.  I know enough to realize that changing the lives of these people takes more pain than the few blisters I brought home with me, but I was glad to have a chance to serve alongside of my kids to do the “good work that God prepared in advance for us to do.”
(Ephesians 2:10)

(layout:Dg a Friendship qp, joyful heart designs evoking damask pinkred paper, red scalloped edge embracelife sande krieger memoroy makers, CFR HDI DazzleknotborderEdwardheart)

Teaching kids about God

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I spoke today at MOPS about the books I’ve used to teach my kids about God and the Bible.  As a mom, it is sometimes hard to find the time to do a devotional.  So reading Scripture, Bible stories or other devotional materials with my kids has often been a way to help my own spiritual growth too. What has worked for me is to have a “three book” rule.  Before my kids went down to sleep for either a nap or night time, we would read 3 books (when we went into chapter books, we would read about 15-30 minutes).  Once the kids get into that routine, they won’t let you get out of it (believe me–there are lots of days I’d be ready to skip reading!).  That kept me accountable and has set up a pattern of regular reading.  Then into this schedule, I would put some of the books below.  It made it easy for me.   With my 5 kids, I have two reading times–one for the three littlest, and one for the 11 and 13 year old.  Now my older kids could ready anything I can read to them, but these read-aloud times are different because they are a shared experience which we can talk about.  In addition to that, my kids always know there will be one time during the day that I will sit down and be focused on them.  That is when they often come to ask me questions or tell me problems.  After reading, we pray and then they go to sleep.

There are some wonderful books available, but they are not generally available in bookstores. 

You can find many of them on Amazon.com, but I often use CBD (Christian book distributors)–here’s the link:

http://www.christianbook.com/

Here are some of my books (I’ll look around and post others later).  I’d love to have other people post favorites in the comments section!)

For preschoolers, just about any of the toddler Bibles can be good and we have several.  I would just pick one and then read 1-2 stories a night until we’d finished the book.  I’m always careful to tell the kids that children’s Bibles don’t tell everything in the “Big Bible.”  Here are some I like (with publisher in parenthesis):

The Children’s Discovery Bible (Chariot Publishing)

The Beginner’s Bible(Zondervan)

The Young Reader’s Bible (Standard Publishing)

After I’d read the children’s Bibles through a few times.  I read through a theology for kids (my Catholic friends do this much better than we do in Protestent churches).  Here is the one I found, but I would LOVE to hear of other books like this one:

Leading Little Ones to Godby Marian Schoolland (Eerdmans)

One type of Bible I have appreciated a lot is the comic book Bibles.  I read these to the kids but they actually read them on their own a lot more.  Here are some I’ve liked:

The Comic Book Bible(Barbor)

The Picture Bible(Cook Commnications Ministry)

The Manga Bible (Doubleday–edgier for older kids)

When I was ready to read the “Big Bible” to my kids I started with a good regular NIV translation, but then I found this one which is a chronological Bible written in very kid-friendly language by Karen Henley.  Some of the language was too imprecise for me and so I’d substitute the real Bible language, but this is set up so you can get through the Bible in a year.  I’d often read along in my Bible as my devotion too.

Day by Day Kid’s Bibleby Kareyn Henley (Tyndale)

I’ve also enjoyed the Bible stories by Arch Books–they are usually on a topic and are inexpensive paperbacks.  I found many of mine at garage sales.  They are also usually available at Christian bookstores.

As I’ve read to the kids as they’ve gotten older, I ‘ve tried to get books and book series that enabled us to talk about spiritual things.  Here are some we’ve liked:

Fifty Seven Saintsby Eileen Heffernan (Pauline Books and Media) Maggie loved this one and read it over and over.  Maybe too much since one day she asked, “Do all Christians die for their faith?”  It is a great book to give perspective and a sense of church history.

American Adventure  Series(Barbour publishing).  This wonderful series is out of print but can be found for local friends at the Hoover Library.  They can be found online and on Ebay. There are 50 books that cover American history from the Mayflower until the 1950s.  I learned a lot!  The stories follow Christian families and faith is woven into their lives in a natural way.  I’m looking forward to reading this series again with my little ones.  Because many of the books do deal with historical situations like war and slavery, I’d recommend reading them at about 3rd grade or later.

Heroes of the Faith (Barbour) This is a series of biographies of missionaries and other Christians.  They are written by various authors and not all of them are equally good.  However, I’ve really appreciated getting the chance to introduce my kids to people who sacrificed their own ambitions for God.  Gladys Aylward and Corrie Ten Boom are particularly good ones.

Music:

One of the best investments I’ve ever made is when I bought the Seeds Family Worship CD tapes at my mom’s church in California (Seeds of Faith, Seeds of Courage, Seeds of Worship, Seeds of Encouragement).  I just saw that they’ve published another one.  I’ve found a few at Christian bookstores but bought most online.  These tapes were written to encourage families to listen together and memorize Scripture.  The songs are very well written and produced.  They are great worship songs and after you’ve listened a few times the Scriptures are in your head for life.  Great, great tapes (and a huge improvement over most kid’s worship CD tapes).  Here is the website (with samples):

http://www.seedsfamilyworship.net/about_familytree.php

Here is the link for ordering at CBD

http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find?Ntk=keywords&Ntt=seeds+of+worship&action=Search&N=0&Ne=0&event=ESRCN&nav_search=1&cms=1Seeds

Finally–my kids have enjoyed getting their own Christian magazines to read.  We keep these and the next group of kids gets to read them too.  I’ve also found some of these at garage sales.  Here are a couple of suggestions:

Clubhouse  and Clubhouse Jr. from Focus on the Family:

http://www.clubhousemagazine.com/

Pockets from The Upper Room:

http://www.upperroom.org/pockets/interior.asp

Make Your Own Wind

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make-your-own-wind-copy1I had promised we would fly kites today, but there was absolutely no wind.  “When are we going to fly the kite mom?” she asked me early in the morning. I said, “When there is wind. Maybe when we pick the girls up from school.” Apparently, this was not a satisfactory answer.  She would repeat her question a few minutes later.  I tried to explain about wind, I tried to point out the trees were not moving.  I gave in to a preschooler’s pressure and we took the kites outside to try. No wind. The kite didn’t fly.  Steffi said, “You have to run! Let me!” She took off at top speed around the yard.  She made her own wind.  The kite flew.  We flew kites again after school with her sisters and at night all the girls ran around flying kites for dad. Trust.  Perserverence.  Making your own wind.  “For you have need of much endurance so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what was promised.  Hebrews 10: 36

(layout: template 6 from Janealscreations janealscorner.blogspot.com, papers Yvette Bright and Cheery, KPertiet and flower from Nani.  The KPertiet is the same paper I use on my blog header)

Can’t be mended

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Laying in bed and trying to go to sleep, I heard a knocking at my door.  I was single at the time and alone in the house.  I huddled deeper in my blankets, hoping the person would go away.  Then I heard a call, “Virginia!  Virginia!”  It was my friend Sue.  She and her husband had a newborn, and their marriage was sometimes shaky.  I assumed there had been a fight, and got up, ready to let her in to have some tea and a talk.

Sue was crying and shaking, “John.  He’s dead.”

John was her 7 week old baby son.  The words did not quite hit me, although I think I did understand them.  Sue and I had known each other since we were sixteen.  We’d met while doing Junior High ministry at our church.  When I moved from Southern to Northern California, Sue had helped me with her truck.  Later, on a visit, I had introduced her to a friend of mine.  They had gotten married about a year later.  I had been with Sue throughout her pregnancy and been her labor coach along with her husband.  I had seen this baby being born.  He couldn’t be dead.

But he was.  I don’t remember much about the rest of the night.  I took Sue back to her house.  The ambulance had already taken John away.  I remember sitting with her and her husband.  Talking.  Then I went back home.  There was a funeral.  What do you say when a baby dies? They decided he had died of SIDS.  No answer really.   

Sue and her husband had two more boys.  About ten years later, I got married and started having kids.  By then, they knew that SIDS could be prevented by having babies sleep on their backs.  I’ve never asked Sue how she feels about that. I was so diligent about following that rule that Brendan ended up being one of those kids with a flat head in the back.  Luckily, our family doesn’t tend to go bald. 

A few days after John’s funeral, I discovered that Sue had run over my sprinkler when she came into my driveway.  It was broken.  I fixed it, but it never did work very well after that.  Sometimes broken things can’t be mended. 

Twenty years have passed by since that night.  There have been other births and deaths, joy and pain.  Yet an intensity remains for me in this memory of a time I learned that I will not always have an answer, or the right words, or the right feelings.  Sometimes broken things can’t be mended. 

Yet God still is upholds the world and all that is in it.   We read Isaiah 45 today in Bible Study.  I am struck by the verse: “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground.  Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?'” (Isaiah 45:9).  I pray that I will be a pot who can be molded into a vessel fit for use in His hands.

(layout:  This is the first in a series of layouts I’m planning about significant moments in my life.  I’ve changed the names of my friend.  The papers and embellishments come from Digital Freebies MarialaFrance Spring Fresh collection, word art is from Scapgirls Refresh chipboard collection)

What has God done for you today?

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gods-gift-copy1Twice this last week, I’ve heard talks about each day being a gift from God.  I’ve been thinking about that.  Some days, I seem to run through a long list of duties, feeling like I will never get the floor clean, the laundry put away, the grime off the kitchen counter and the kid’s hair washed all at the same time.  Am I thinking about God’s gift as I go? For Lent, my husband grew his hair out (to remind him of his sinfulness–symbolically cut off on Easter day), and gave up desserts.  I didn’t even know it was Lent.  I’m practical.  I get things done (somebody has to). He’s emotional and symbolic.  I don’t think too much about my sins, although I know I have them and am very repentant when they pop up in an obvious way.  My husband focuses on eliminating his sinfulness through specific spiritual exercises-the spiritual disciplines on his blog, sacred day (which he has been doing for several years now).  Do I need to be symbolic?  I’m not, frankly, passionate enough about this idea to investigate it very thoroughly, but I do have a nagging worry that perhaps I’m not focusing on this purposefully enough.  What do I do to remember God?  I pray, but it isn’t really a focused, sit down and think to God sort of prayer.  It is more along the lines of a running commentary going on in my head. For example, as I open the windows in the morning, “That sunshine coming through the window feels good.  Those flowers are so beautiful.  Look at that blue jay on the ground.  Doesn’t he know there is a cat out there.  It looks like he is finding something in the ground.  That is really amazing Lord.  You really created so many different creatures.  I am so thankful for today.”  Actually, that doesn’t really do justice to my praying, because I’ve realized that much of my prayer is emotion:  a welling up inside of gratefulness, joy, and peace.  I write next to a large window which opens up to my front yard.  Right now the wind is surging through the trees and I can see a big storm coming.  The birds and insects are silent.  My cat meanders by the window, silent and observant.  A lovely day, a lovely moment.  A gift.

(layout: SNU butterfly dream paper special, MCO Frosted 04 , stripedLLW_CATW2008_BGPaper3, SandeKrieger Blue flower, SG_Refresh_TDO word Gift)