As I reflect on some of my favorite Christmas memories with our children, I'm reminded of the years we gave them the greatest gift we had to offer. The the lessons about life and laughter in the midst of giving. Where Acts 20:35 was birthed into life. Our children learned the true meaning of Christmas and the how it really is more blessed to give than to receive. Below is a list of some of the ideas we have done through the years that taught gratitude, laughter, love, giving, and the true joy of Christmas. My challenge to you and your family this year is to choose one item below, put it into action, and watch the good news of great tidings of joy burst forth in your family this Christmas!
One of our favorite Thanksgiving memories is gathering around the table as a family and giving true thanks for all the great things that have occurred over the last year that only God could have done. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, but we always celebrate the blessings! There's a lot of things our children need to learn but one of the greatest things we can give them is gratitude. It is a character trait that will guide them trough both good and bad seasons in their future making the good times great and the difficult times durable.
Recently I read an article by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He states, "A decade’s worth of research on gratitude has shown me when life is going well, gratitude allows us to celebrate and magnify the goodness. But I have often been asked if people can—or even should—feel grateful under dire circumstances. My response is not only will a grateful attitude help—it is essential. In fact, it is precisely under crisis conditions when we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life. In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times."
Hebrews 12:28 reminds us that God's kingdom cannot be shaken and for that we should be grateful.
"Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;"
If teaching your children to give thanks is a concept you want to explore, here's an idea you can try. Since Thanksgiving is already here, you can lay the groundwork for next year's celebration by beginning this year with this activity.
Sometime over the holiday, turn on soft worship music, light some candles, and gather your family together. Have everyone share three things that happened to them over the last year they are thankful for. Then have someone in your family lead a prayer of Thanksgiving for the blessings shared or you could have everyone read the following prayer together out loud.
Dear God, today we give thanks for our family and friends as we pray for those who are all alone. We give thanks for our blessings as we pray for those who have need. We also give thanks for our freedoms as we pray for those who are not free and living in bondage. We give thanks for our health as we remember those who are ill and need to be healed. We give thanks for our success and comfort, help us to share our blessings with those who are less fortunate than us. On this day of giving thanks we pray for your love to surround us, your mercy to cover us and your grace to pardon us and your peace to full us with your presence and joy.
After this activity, explain the plan for next year's Thanksgiving. You will either need to work together and make a "Thankful box" out of a shoe box or you can purchase a small special box at your local gift show or Home-goods department store. Our box is a box someone gifted us, with the words "Faith" engraved on the outside. If you make your box, you will need Thanksgiving themed wrapping paper and ribbons or you can use a large paper bag cut to wrap the shoe box and lid and then use Thanksgiving stickers to decorate the paper. Either way, it's a great family project. Make sure an adult cuts a slot in the top of the shoe box for dropping in the future blessings.
Decide together where the box should remain in your home for the next year and gather a notepad and pen to keep beside the box. The rule is, every time something good happens, a blessing occurs, or a prayer is answered the family member should go write it down and place it in the box for the next year. If you have younger children, they can get a parent to help them write down the blessing and place it in the box. Then next Thanksgiving you simply divide out the blessings that have been written down and placed in the box and then go around the table having each person read one blessing at a time until they are all read. In the end you've created a family tradition that can be continued for generations and memories that will last a lifetime. You've developed an attitude of gratitude in your children and you've given them a reason to thank the Lord for his many, many blessings. And this is very, very good!
It's that time of year again. That's right, it's Boo time. Around this time every year some parents begin to struggle with what to do about Halloween. To boo or not to boo is the question. I think the real dilemma for parents is how to foster fun and still protect our children from the cultural norm of celebrating All Hallows Eve, otherwise known as Halloween, without the influence of the occult? If you are into Halloween and this doesn't seem an issue for you and your family, I hope you'll read the remainder of the blog. Even if your mind is unchanged, you might find a nugget or two for your safe keeping as a parent regarding the history and origins of the holiday itself that will help you make your decision.
Where did Halloween originate?
This holiday originated as an ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, marking the end of the light half of the year and the beginning of the dark half when the last crops were gathered for winter and livestock killed and stored. The Pagan Celts believed it was a time when the walls between our world and the spirit realm became passable allowing evil spirits to cross over. Modern-day Samhain is actually the day when many Wiccans believe their God dies, later to be reborn. It is now a yearly observance of the death of a God. Wicca is the largest Neopagan religion in the United States and other Western countries. They have great reverence for the Earth and they worship her Goddess and her consort, a horned God.
Where did the name "Halloween" come from?
The name Hallowe’en is a shortening of All Hallows’ Even, or All Hallows’ Evening. All Hallows is an old term for All Saints’ Day (Hallow, from the Old English “halig”, or holy, compared with Saint, from the Latin “sanctus”, also meaning holy, or consecrated). The shift from Samhain celebrations came as a result of the Catholic church trying to end the pagan celebration by moving All Saints Day to the day after Hallow's Eve. All Saints Day was a celebration of the Catholic Church to celebrate all the saints who've made it to Heaven. If you're not Catholic the holiday the morning after Halloween probably means nothing to you as a Christian.
Where did carving Jack O Lanterns originate?
This idea is thought to have developed from an old legend about a man named Stingy Jack, who played a trick on the devil whose punishment was a curse to wander the earth lighting the way with a candle inside a hollowed out turnip. Americans changed the idea from a turnip to a pumpkin.
Why do we Trick or Treat?
It's not for certain but it appears to have come from an old tradition of beggars saying prayers for the dead in exchange for food on the evening before All Saints Day. The beggars would often dress as scary ghouls in order to fool evil spirits from approaching as they prayed for the dead. Interestingly enough this year the Vatican has proclaimed it as a celebration of terror, fear, and death saying that it is wrapped in occultism.
What should parents do?
As a Christ follower the decision to participate is between you and your Father and his desire for your family. Whether you adhere to the idea that it's just for fun and candy or you consider the holiday to be evil in nature, you do have a decision to make as a parent. To Boo or Not to Boo? As with anything we participate in with our children, our responsibility as a parent is to always bathe our decisions in prayer. Why would we treat this activity differently than any other? Don't we pray about activities that involve lots of people whom we know or don't know where our children are involved based on where they will go and what they will see?
What we have done?
Dan and I determined twenty-three years ago with our first born we would not participate in the holiday. Not because we don't like fun or laughter but because we felt led to step away from it as a family after praying it through. Instead, we created a new tradition. As interesting as this might sound, we've gone Christmas shopping for many years on Halloween. Why? Because Jesus birth is important to us as a family and Jesus seems like a more favorable candidate for our attention that ghosts and goblins. Not to mention the stores are definitely not crowded and gifts aren't picked over yet! Other benefits include the parking spaces, which are plentiful, there're no lines at checkout, and we never have a hard time finding gifts for that hard to buy person. We don't have anything against dressing up, community, laughter, or candy. We've just chosen to do those things more often throughout the year instead of on this one evening. We have two tubs full of disguises with wigs, hats, costumes, and props and we play dress up with friends all the time.
Whether you choose to go "booing" or not, as stated below in the scripture I John 4:1-3, we should test every thing that comes our way. Why? Because we have been given the stewardship of our children's hearts as the guardians of their young souls. As the Bible clearly states, in the days when the return of Christ get's closer, it will become more difficult to determine the difference between darkness and light because darkness will be well disguised.
"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus has come in the flesh from God. Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God but is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." I John 4:1-3 (NIV)
As parents, one of the toughest things we're facing in our over charged sexual culture is the openly immodest showing of body parts. I don’t know about you, but from a mother's heart, I believe bodies are only meant to be seen by parent's or doctors when necessary, and a future husband or wife. So how do we teach our children this concept when nakedness is up in flashing lights? Not only do we have to guard ourselves as adults, but also the eyes of our children at the magazine stands, the grocery store, the billboards on the free-way, the local library, the school house, and even the church.
With it being Fall, I thought it only fitting to discuss the issue of keeping our family's clothes from falling away like the leaves on the trees, There are some important things we did with our children that have stood the test of time. I can’t say we haven’t had a few bumps in the road, but when they occurred, we revisited the principles they learned in childhood, making the discussion easier because it wasn’t the first time they had heard about staying clothed. I hope these ideas empower you to clothe your family well!
Around the time our children started Kindergarten or when they began to notice others dressing in unusual ways, or when they started caring about what they personally wore, we started talking. The need to teach the difference between modest and immodest clothing had arrived. We took advantage of public displays of immodesty as a teaching opportunity without criticizing the people we saw. We might simply say "Our bodies are beautiful and for that reason they're only meant to be shown or shared with the people who love us." We taught them the importance of not showing body parts to the world while explaining modesty as a choice of honor and self-respect. We also reminded them God loves us and wants us to choose modesty so our body remains pure and beautiful. As a young parent, sometimes it was trial and error, but I'll never forget the day I realized the teaching was paying off. My son and daughter must have been about 5 and 7 years old. As I grabbed the mail, heading out to run errands, I handed back the clothing magazine I received in the box. It was simple fashion. While driving, I heard their sweet voices from the back as they flipped the pages discussing the pictures, "That's modest, that's not modest." The other said, "Oh my, that's inappropriate." Our work had paid off and today they know that choosing love of self with proper views of body exposure are an important part of who they are.
When they were starting school, as I glanced at clothing on the racks in stores, I always looked for modest things even at that cute young age where there was nothing to show. We viewed clothing choice for young children the same as if they were sixteen. Having a different standard in early childhood can make modesty confusing for a teen. We determined not to find ourselves allowing them to dress immodestly early on to later face a battle when they began to discover their sexual identity as a teenager. We never wanted to hear, "I wore this sort of thing when I was little, so why not now?" No matter how cute it might be, if it's questionable clothing for a teen, err on the side for your little one of not now, not ever. You'll be glad you did.
Say "Yes" as Often as Possible
When it came to other fashion things like haircuts or hair color, and accessories, we tried our best to say "yes" even if it wasn't something we would choose for ourselves. If you can say "yes" to the edgy things that don't matter, they will value your "no" more when it has to be said. Reserve the "no" for the big things in fashion that could cause them harm. Our children often chose their own wild haircuts and sometimes color, as well as shoes. Sometimes it was hard to watch, but when the time came, we could say "no" with confidence.
Daughters Can Rely on Their Father for Fashion Advice
Teaching daughters to rely on their fathers opinion about their clothing is crucial to the journey. There were a few times I found myself in a battle while shopping with our teen for her next season of clothing. Let's be realistic, every teen girl feels pressured to buy the latest styles in our visually driven culture. After a few heated shopping trips, I had a revelation. From the time they are little, daughters desire their father's eye on their beauty. God's creative like that. It's preparation for them to desire the eye of their future mate. We decided to take advantage of that desire. Amazingly, the arguing stopped between us when I asked her dad to step in and give his opinion on her clothing. We soon found she always listened to her father's advice with a more open mind because he's a guy.
The good news is there are creative ways to dress hip in a halo if we've pointed them towards modesty as children! You may have to explore web sites with suggestions on the newest fashion trends to help her create the look without the immodest angle. Mom can take her shopping with the agreement that once home, she has to model her new items in a fashion show for her dad for the final say. Make sure the items are returnable. If not, then father and daughter can go on a shopping date. That way there's nothing to return. Men have a better eye on how a boy would view the outfit anyway, so why spend time arguing. Just let him do the talking while your daughter does the walking on the fashion run-way.
The Eye Bounce
We taught our sons and daughters early on how to do the "eye bounce". It's a technique we learned years back from a book on pornography addiction. Sadly, the addiction is growing rapidly among young boys and even some girls due to internet exposure through friends and phones. Because of the threat, it's important for father's and sons to talk about the risks. Mom's should also discuss it with daughters, especially to protect them from young men who might have an addiction. When they were ready, we taught them how to spot the signs of a possible addiction and the dangers of pornography. We made it clear they were not allowed to be on the internet at anyone else's house but ours. We built in computer safe guards with parental passwords. We taught them how to protect themselves with the "elephant" in the room principle. If they were in a situation where there was a man or woman dressed inappropriately, they were to realize it was disrespectful to God, themselves, and the other person to pause and look. We taught them to immediately bounce their eyes away and take their thoughts captive. You can practice this in a game format when they are younger. Pick an object as the "elephant." Have them look at the "elephant" and see how fast they can bounce their eyes away without you catching them looking. There's no shame in unexpected exposure, the guilt is in continuing to look or think about it. Teach them it's not the view that's the problem, it’s the longing and thinking about what they’ve seen. Remind them if they do see something they shouldn't, to come to you immediately for confession and prayer.
Remind Them of Their Royal Blood Line
Many young people struggle with having identity crises. For that reason, never fail to remind your children that God calls them son and daughter as a gift of being in relationship with him. He sees them as beautiful children meant for noble living. For that reason, he wants us to care about our bodies and love ourselves enough to keep our body safe from the eyes of others so they can remain pure as a gift to their future mate. As parent's, it can even mean being alert in public to the roaming eyes of others. We've been in situations several times where we've had to each take a side of our daughter or walk in front and behind to protect her from the eyes of men who clearly had issues. It wasn't that she was dressed immodestly, it was that she was pretty to look at. Be on guard at all times to intervene with protection when necessary. Pray over your children should they experience lustful eyes so you can cast that spirit away from them once in privacy.
Live By Example
Finally, the most important thing we can do to protect our children's purity, giving them a sense of modesty, is live by example. I've always loved fashion and I try to stay up to date on the styles, but I can honestly say I've never left the house with my shirt too low or my skirt too high. Have you ever seen mom's who were dressed inappropriately in public later to see their daughters struggle with the same issue as teens? Our children learn from our example. Son's can struggle with lust if their fathers are always looking at other women other than "mom" in public. It's crucial we give our children every opportunity to succeed in this area and it starts with us and how we choose to model modesty and purity. Let's not set our children up to fail by failing to show them what self-respect and self-love looks like. Our Father calls us all beautiful!
God's plan for peace in our palace is for us to fill the rooms with laughter, joy, and love and encourage each person to become the person they were created to be. Here are just a few ways to create peaceful places and healthy love relationships.
He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. Job 8:21
How do you fill your summer time with summer fun? Here are just a few tips to try before summer passes you by.
Parenting is hard. In fact, it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life. Don't get me wrong, it's an amazing experience I'm so grateful for, but the journey to help our children know who they are and walk in the path our Creator has created just for them is one of life's greatest challenges. There's so many things that can lead them astray and the battle is fierce to keep them off the wide path that leads to destruction and on the straight and narrow. We can train their hearts when they are younger and give them all the right information and tools, but ultimately there comes a day when the journey becomes their own and they must decide which path they will take. Letting them choose freely, even when you see their path of choice not lining up with the one you would have chosen based on wisdom and understanding, is the hardest part of all in parenting. That's when prayer becomes your greatest weapon to fight for their destiny as you trust God with the rest.
Recently as I pondered these points, I was reminded of some of the things we chose to do for children that would create markers in their lives, road signs of sorts for when they are desperately trying to find their way.
When our son was around eleven years old, his father and he entered into a community group with fathers and sons around the same age. It was a time for men to grow men and iron to sharpen iron. This group of men had a monthly Bible study and social gathering. They played games of all kinds, went on field trips, and had a devotion led by different fathers in the group about raising boys to be knights in a modern day world. They trained them in respect, honor, chivalry toward the opposite sex, purity, being a warrior for good and so much more. When each boy reached the age of 13 they were “knighted” as warriors in God's army.
Each ceremony was planned by the parents and included the fathers of the group speaking over them as well as other men from their extended family like grandfather's and brothers if they were good role models. Each man spoke on one topic, shared what God had taught them on the subject, and then gave a charge to pursue it. Then as the son knelt on one knee, the father prayed over the son and presented him with a real sword chosen especially for their son based on leadership of the Holy Spirit. We chose a replica of King Solomon's battle sword. Yes, Solomon had his flaws but he was a man of great wisdom whom God chose to build his temple and we desired wisdom and leadership in God's service to be our son's path. That sword has hung on our son's wall since his knighthood was established nine years ago. It's been a constant reminder of who God has called him to be as a son, a warrior, and a man. He has valued his identity established in his ceremony that day and it has helped remind him of the path that God has chosen for him on the days when he's been tempted to veer off course.
We chose a coronation for our daughter, which is a crowning ceremony. The scriptures say the older women are to train the younger ones. As a result, I've done women's Bible studies over the years with our daughter aside from her regular Bible classes in school, but there came a point when my husband and I wanted to establish her identity as a daughter of the King. Many young women today do not know who God says they are. In the harsh culture we live in, its hard being a woman. Women are constantly bombarded with false sexual images of who they should be. Those images create doubt, insecurity, depression, eating disorders, sexual victimization, and so many other lies about how their Creator sees them. This means we have to work extra hard to train them to find their beauty not in the clothes, jewelry, or makeup they wear but in their royal birthright as a daughter to the throne. Otherwise, they can become confused about who they've been created to be as a jewel in their Father's hand and later a jewel in their husband's crown.
Our daughter's ceremony included her closest girlfriends because we wanted to influence their perspective and identity as well. We invited women who had been spiritual influences in her past and a couple of women who were headed into her future as spiritual role models. With today's technology we even had a few people record video's and send them to us who could not attend. Each woman prepared something they wanted to say on a specific topic. They spoke on purity, true friendship, womanhood, her callings in prayer and worship, and her identity as a daughter of the King. At the end, her father spoke over her about washing her in the word of God as mentioned in scripture. This is the role of the husband toward his wife but a father also does this for his daughter until he hands her hand off in marriage. At the end of his speaking, he had her stand and then he placed the most beautiful tiara on her head I've ever seen. It was hand selected by him just for her on her special coronation day where she was crowned as a daughter of the King of Heaven.
Both of these events were pivotal in our son and daughter's lives and not something they would easily forget. These events are markers the Holy Spirit will use throughout their lives as a reminder of their true identity. If you've never considered creating memorable moments for your children as they enter into some of the most difficult years of their lives as men and women, consider doing it now. It's never too late. We recommend age thirteen for boys and possibly sweet sixteen or younger for girls. Our prayer for you as parents is that you will empower your children to know their true identity so the enemy cannot still it away. They were created to be knights and princesses in the kingdom of God!
And, "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." II Corinthians 6:18
Helping our children grow in spiritual ways by planting seeds of faith that will not wither is one of the greatest responsibilities we have as parents. Watching the seeds we've planted take root, grow, and then flourish as they enter adulthood is an incredible blessing.
Recently as we've faced a "rocky soil" season, Dan and I have reflected on some of the seeds we've planted that are now beginning to grow. Here are some of the ideas we've learned and used over our twenty-two years of parenting. Our desire is to encourage you and your spouse as you maneuver the sometimes rocky soil of parenthood.
The most important thing we can do throughout our children's lives is love them without condition. It doesn't mean we don't stand firm on our principles. Scripture says, God disciplines those he loves. But we do let them know that even when discipline is required, the love in our hearts for them will never stop. Remind them daily, no matter their age, that you love them and that God loves them even more. Secure for them that your love will never change no matter what they do. Make sure you differentiate between disapproving of their choices to sin and who they are as your child. They are not their sin. Their sin is just a poor choice. Pour out your love for who they are and who they will eventually become and not what they are doing.
"The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work." 1 Cor. 3:8
When your children get mad at each other, what do you do? One of the most important gifts we can give them is a deep love for one another. Everyone talks about sibling rivalry, which certainly exists and can even be encouraged through a parent's actions, but what about sibling love. We can make it or break it when it comes to training the hearts of our children to truly love and value one another.
One of the first keys to training our children to love their siblings is teaching them how to resolve conflict. Conflict resolution is a learned skill. The age of your children will determine how involved you will have to be in resolving their disagreements. Obviously the younger they are the more you’ll have to teach in the beginning, but according to many studies, the less we’re involved the better.
One of the key things we did with our older children who are now 22 and 19, is start early teaching that siblings best friends for the rest of their lives. It's just a simple reminder in conversation that you can train from the time they start reasoning and engaging in relationships. Encourage them to talk about what they love about each other. Remind them they are family for the rest of their lives and family never abandons and always loves. This really worked at our house. We had very little sibling rivalry, and our son and daughter are best friends to this day. Now their example is training our younger son as he watches them and how they relate.
If you have sons and daughters, another added bonus of this teaching, is training your sons to love and protect your daughters in any given situation. Your daughters will grow to appreciate having a built in knight in shining armor. It trains our sons to be brave warriors and protectors while preparing them to be great husbands. It trains our daughters to admire the protection of a male while challenging them to choose noble husbands in their future. It also prepares them to be good wives who are willing to accept the protection of a great man. After all, we are raising the next generation of marriages.
Once your children reach the age where they begin to have their own arguments or disagreements, then you can begin teaching them how to resolve them successfully. One way to do that is to designate a particular large chair or piece of furniture as the Arguing Chair. At our house, we chose a love seat. As they began having conflict, I set aside a time to train them in how this process would work before the chaos broke out. I explained to them they would be resolving their arguments without their dad and I from now own. I reminded them that it's OK to get angry with one another because anger is a normal emotion. The key is not to sin against each other when we are angry. I explained to them in the future if they had a conflict they should let me know and then go to the Arguing Chair to work it out.
In the beginning, I would have to send them to the chair myself because they would often forget in the heat of the moment what to do. Once they got a little older, they learned to automatically go there to resolve conflict a few times on their own. Here are the rules for the Arguing Chair we used:
It only took one failed attempt at compromise at our house and they never had to go to their rooms for the hour again. They learned to quickly talk and resolve their differences. If for some reason an argument occurs during the week when there are not enough hours available to send them to their rooms before bed, move the argument resolution process to the following Saturday morning. No one wants to miss Saturday mornings stuck in their room.
The Arguing Chair did wonders at our house in training our children to respect one another, to listen to someone else's side of the story, to understand what it means to give and take, and how to resolve differences with compromise. No matter the age of your children, if they are under 18 this is a great tool to kick out the chaos and welcome in the peace.
One day they will thank you for teaching them what it truly means to love their siblings and resolve disagreements. After all, as their parents, one day we won't be here and they will be left to sort through their inheritance. When that time comes, they will be able to walk through the challenge of their grief and still find ways to love and compromise with one another because we have taught them well that every disagreement has a resolution.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18 (NIV)
February is National Heart Association Month so it's a great time to teach around the dinner table about being heart healthy and loving others.
Here are some of the best scriptures you can discuss about the heart with your children:
Psalms 51:10; 37:4; 9:1; 73:26; 26:2; 34:18; 24:4; 19:14; 119:1
Proverbs 3:5; 4:23; 23:26;
Matthew 6:21; 5:8
Maybe pick one scripture a week to discuss and memorize during the month of February or discuss a different scripture each time you sit down together for dinner this month.
Here are the web addresses to a couple of great videos on the heart at Youtube education that can be fun to watch and discuss after dinner.
It's also a great opportunity to talk about giving to organizations that can help others. The best place to give is to a church who believes in helping around the world with missions. For example, the church we attend has a medical boat that it supports that sails up and down the Amazon River. We give to it because it is making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
We don't personally make it a habit to give to medical organizations for research on drug treatments or drug cures because much of the money doesn't necessarily go towards the main mission when you do the research. However, the American Heart Association can be a great organization to support because they provide training on being heart healthy including providing materials for local schools. They also post educational articles for support on their web site, and educate communities on CPR training that can save lives. Here's the address to their website to check out:
Make February a Heart Healthy Month with your family!