Lent

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With Lent right around the corner, I though I’d re-post this from a few years ago.

I had a sweet friend text me about adding something to her day during Lent, something she can read to learn more about Jesus and the Bible. I loved her desire to not just give up something to enrich these 40 days, but to add something to grow in her faith.

Here were some of my suggestions:

~You Version Bible App has a great 40-day Lent reading plan that takes you through the gospels.  I have not done this reading plan, but one can never go wrong adding time to read the Bible as one practices Lent; after all, isn’t the purpose of fasting to turn our hearts towards Him?  And isn’t that what He is truly after, our hearts?  What better way than to get into His Mighty Word!

The book of John is another great place to start!  It has 21 chapters so you could read one chapter a day then pick another book to read.  Romans and then 1 John would be good follow ups and there are others too!  Let the Lord guide you on this and He will!

photo 1~On Calvary’s Hill, 40 readings for the Easter season, is a book by Max Lucado and is full of Scripture and is an in depth look at the final days in the life of our Savior.  It is beautiful; I absolutely love the way Mr. Lucado writes.

~Rick Warren’s the Purpose Driven Life is another 40-day devotional book that can change your life.  It answers the many questions of our true purpose on Earth and living out the Greatest Commandment and Great Commission.

~Prayer.  Prayer is a huge part of fasting, taking our eyes off ourselves and the things of this world and focusing on God.  Fasting isn’t always easy, but if we praise the Lord and pray Scriptures when we desire what we are fasting from, it will help us avoid what we are giving up but most importantly take our focus off of ourselves and onto Him and His amazing sacrifice for our souls.  Again, isn’t this the purpose of Lent?  Let Him hear from you, He loves it!

~Memorizing Scripture.  Focus on one a week or maybe just pick one to meditate on during the 40 days of Lent.  There are so many to choose from but one of my favorites is Zechariah 4:6, “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord.”  Especially in the realm of fasting (and raising kids ha), this verse can help get our focus off of what we want with His help.  His Spirit is unending and overwhelming inside of believers!  Let’s put it to good use!

I have to admit, I have never officially practiced the 40 days of Lent, but I enjoyed reading and researching more about it from various denominations viewpoints.

For more information on Lent, click here.

I have no doubt that God can work in amazing ways anytime we turn our hearts toward Him, get in His Word and pray.  What an exciting time Lent can be and it doesn’t have to stop there!  May we continually seek the Lord every day of the year. 🙂

 

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Cell Phones and Kids, Oh My! ~ 5 ways to guide and protect plus the contract we used for our 11 year old

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img_7913Although I dragged my feet for quite a while, our daughter officially has a cell phone. She’s 11 and was one of the last of her friends to get one. I know it can be a good thing, but as her mom, I want to educate her on the dangers and set it up safely.

I recorded this video before she got her phone and forgive me for saying “you” so many times– I am ALWAYS preaching to my own heart and self before preaching to anyone else! Watch the video, and then read below…

5 ways to guide and protect:

  • Set up filters and restrictions
    • Disney Circle:  Love this! You can set time limits, downtime, see search history and much more. I highly recommend this to protect your home WIFI and devices. CLick here for more info.
    • Life 360:  a good way to see locations of family members and driving speeds, etc… Click here for more info
    • Apple restrictions in phone:  When a child is added to family sharing, there are many restrictions/filters that can be put into place. From allowed websites, content restrictions, time limits, installing/deleting apps, etc… I had someone at the AT&T store guide me on this.
    • There are many others- Our Pact, BARK, Pumpic ….
    • Remove Gifs– I just realized you can do this! (go to the “…” in the bar below a message, you can remove or add certain apps (like photos, app store, animojis etc..) -I love this feature!)
  • Contracts
    • When Joe White with Kanakuk Kamps spoke at our church years ago, he talked of drawing up contracts with children. I felt a cell phone was certainly a place that needed clear boundaries in a contract. Here is the contract we drew up with our daughter. You are welcome to take and use whatever you like for your children as well and feel free to let me know of anything I might have left off!
  • Take phones up at bedtime
    • If left to their own devices, I know my children would have a hard time putting the phone down to go to sleep. We have set downtime which turns almost all apps down but I still want the phone with me during the night. Kids need sleep so badly. You can read in the contract the downtime hours for us.
    • If having a sleepover, communicate with the other children the rules of the house–no cell phones past a certain time. Take them up (depending on kids ages) or have them put them away.
  • Teach Phone Etiquette (more of this in the contract above)
    • Be mindful of what pictures are taken/sent…once it’s out there, it’s out there
    • THINK: Is it true? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind? Think before sending/taking/texting
    • Be kind. Don’t gossip on group texts. (group texting is a feature that can be removed if needed!)
    • Answer the phone when parents text or call
    • Always wrap up a call with “BYE”
  • Say NO to social media (Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, etc…)

Some things to remember:

  • To whom much is given, much is required. My mom reminds me of this often, and I’m grateful! A phone is much, therefore will require much from us and our children
  • Each child is different- don’t just get a child a phone (or social media) because all of their friends have one
  • It’s ultimately our phone and we are lending it to them
  • We are not powerless when it comes to our children and electronics. As parents, we are in charge of their cell phones
  • Use the phone as currency. Chores must be done, grades made,  good behavior at home and school, etc… or phone is taken away
  • Have a “grounded” phone to be used if main phone is taken away. A flip phone or a GABB phone would be great. (we actually looked into the GABB phone and may consider it for our “grounded” phone or other children if we need to strictly get a hold of them It seems like a great device!)

I am not an expert, I’m learning as we go. I want to share this information to help others navigate electronics in this day and age. I know they are kids and may be able to find loopholes or ways around things, but a constant prayer on my lips and in my heart is that anything hidden in the dark would be brought to light. I can trust the Lord to do this, so grateful!

Heavenly Father, because of your love, presence and Word, we are not alone in our parenting- I praise you! You have blessed us with our children for just a short time, may we be great stewards of them always. May we diligently pray for them and their friends as they grow up in a place where too much can be accessed and known too soon. May we grant freedoms according to each child, letting You help us discern that which is pleasing to You and good. Father, I pray You would continually shine light on any darkness in my life and my children’s’ lives. Keep them safe and smart. May they long to do Your will. May the phones we use be used for Your glory. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

 

Rising Like Bread? Or Shrinking Like Bacon? Words for adults plus and activity for children

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I sat in church looking at the exits, imagining a shooter busting through. I wondered if I was sitting in the safest spot possible. I quickly realized I wasn’t; any seat could be a target, anyone a victim of such evil. And I remembered the verse my discipleship group and I recently memorized…

The angel of the lord is a guard he surrounds and protects all who fear him. (Psalm 34:7)

So one would think maybe this angel of the Lord wasn’t with all the churches that have witnessed such monstrosity. One may think God was asleep when those tragedies happened. One might think maybe they didn’t properly fear the Lord and so death came. I believe all these things are lies. Lies easy to believe in our feeble human minds but lies. The truth is the Lord never sleeps or slumbers. The truth is sometimes the Lord allows tragedy to bring about his glory and so others will know who He is (think about the cross…always go back to the cross).  The truth is there is protection in death for Christians.

We are protected by God. Even when the worst happens there is some level of protection we cannot even see.

So we do not fear death, although I often do because this world is all I know and all I seem to be able to wrap my head around sometimes. We can have hope in death because death of a Christian means JESUS. It means perfection. It means heaven.

The events taking place and the overwhelming excess of this place we live in can make one shrink like bacon. To shrivel up and hold in our faith. To stay home from church on Sundays because of fear.

OR….

We can do as we’ve been equipped and rise like bread when the heat is turned up. We can rise up and proclaim the name of Jesus that has saved us. We can share this hope we have. We can trust and believe that God is surrounding us and protecting us daily from things we can’t see. We can trust that death isn’t the end for a Christian.

Believers…Christians…church. It’s time we rise up. It’s time to rise like bread.

There is no hope in our circumstances. There is no hope in ourselves, others, food, drink, drugs, busyness, shopping, tv, etc…our only hope is Jesus.

As we continued to worship in church that morning, we sang these words from “Grace to Grace”: 

How wonderful, how glorious
My Savior’s scars victorious
My chains are gone, my debt is paid
From death to life and grace to grace
When I see that cross, I see freedom
When I see that grave, I’ll see Jesus
And from death to life, I will sing Your praise
In the wonder of Your grace

I was truly free. Surrendered. Rising like the bread because I was worshiping my God. I trusted him that if my death came in that place, in that moment, what mighty glory and protection that would be.

Unfortunately I’m merely human and struggle to stay in that place of surrender, freedom from fear, and awe. But going forward, how do we rise like bread? How do we keep from shrinking like bacon into our fears and flesh?

  • Know God: ask him to reveal Himself to us
  • Read His word: we have to dig into it to know it
  • Attend a Bible believing, preaching church; join a small group
  • Pray: turn fears and anxieties into our greatest prayers
  • Rest, trust and obey
  • Memorize and Meditate on Scripture

Father God…so much evil and wrong in this world, yet You are always with us. Grieving with us at the injustice. Thank you for your presence and the hope that your son Jesus has given us. We have a choice- we can be afraid and worry or we can know Your truths are true and we can rise as you’ve called us to. Help us to be bread, dear Savior. If we start shrinking like bacon, help us to notice and turn our fears into prayers so we can rise. May we all know you better and allow Your Holy Spirit to change who we are for our good and Your glory. But also, keep us safe. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN. 





An activity for children:

IMG_7908Bake bread. It starts small but rises into something beautiful. Watch it rise and talk of how we, as believers, as called and equipped to rise against the struggles, fears, and sin of this world. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to be our Helper! Go over spiritual disciplines like reading the Bible, praying, church, memorizing Scripture, etc… to increase faith and rising up.

“I will put my Spirit within you and you will come to life.” Ezekiel 37:14

IMG_7911Make bacon. Watch it shrivel up. It starts large and the heat causes it to shrink. Talk of certain “heats” your child might be facing (bullying? up coming changes at school? fear? sin?). Talk of how this is where the enemy of our souls wants us, but God has called us higher and will help us rise and not shrink.

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Hebrews 10:39

 

Halloween Giving and Free Printables

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One of my greatest desires for our children is that they are others-focused.  Not that I have in any way mastered this, but together, I want us to love to give and to do so with cheerful hearts.

Halloween, like other holidays for children, is a lot about receiving, of getting something from someone else.  We have always participated in this receiving, but one year, with my husband out of town and not wanting to tackle trick-or-treating alone with all 3 kiddos, I decided we would stay in and give out for a change.

I didn’t want to just hand out candy, though.  Somehow I wanted to be able to share the love of Christ with those coming to our door step.  What an opportunity, right!?  I found and printed off some cute Halloween-themed wallet sized cards with a bible verse on them and let the kids help me laminate and cut them out (so fun for the kids!).

“…make the most of every opportunity.” Colossians 4:5

The evening of Halloween rolled around and we were so excited. Costumes were on, we had a bucket of candy and a bucket of verse cards, we were ready! When the princesses, superheroes and other cute (and some scary!) characters came up to our porch to trick-or-treat, my children handed them candy and a verse card and told them “Jesus loves you!” It was really a precious sight.  Thanks to a friend, my older kids were even able to go to a few houses and trick-or-treat.

That night, as so many people came to our house and we handed out candy and verse cards, my heart was full.  It even made me wish we did something like it for Christmas and Easter and not just Halloween- but that’s dreaming really big, isn’t it!?  It also made me realize we can take anything and turn it into a way to share hope with others.

“…it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

Since that particular Halloween, we have enjoyed continuing this tradition and have designed some verse cards with some of our favorite verses.  If you would like to do more than just hand out candy this Halloween, a simple “Jesus loves you” is easy and great, or you can click here to download the Halloween verse cards we designed in PDF.

As I type this, my children are happily (for now ha!) cutting and laminating our batch of cards. They don’t have to be laminated and would work just fine without the lamination, we just kind of love and enjoy using our laminating machine. You can also right click and save the individual images below and print at Walgreens or Walmart for more professional and evenly cut cards (wink-wink).

Happy Halloween giving, friends!

Halloween 2018 verse card printable PDF link

A Strong Tower

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We can’t put our trust in people, we can’t put our trust in our circumstances, there has to be something stronger, more stable, constant & perfect.

His name is Jesus & He is mighty to save. To redeem, restore & heal.

HE is a safe place. This world is not but He is.

Bad things happen in this world- it’s fallen, we are fallen, no one is immune. But God is faithful loving & kind. Do we really trust & know this when we see so much bad happening or even when we remember this day so many years ago?

Can we praise Him amidst our many storms & sorrows in this life? Can we be real with Him & let Him know how hurt, disappointed & sad we are at people and circumstances?

He allowed this day 18 years ago to happen. And it makes me shake my head, wide eyed, wanting to step away from Him because that was so bad & yet He allowed it? But the gospel & God’s goodness and grace go against our human sinful nature & eyes that only see bad.

We can choose to walk with Him when He allows bad things to happen or we can choose to distance ourselves from the only one who truly knows us & can heal us from the pain of this world.

We are not safe in this world, we are safer because of Him but this safety doesn’t always reveal itself as protection from trauma & death. This safety reveals itself as a Heavenly Father who knows, loves & wants His children to turn & follow Him. To grow “better from hard things & not bitter” (Lisa harper).

We can not know why, His ways are higher; we can shake our heads & question Him, & ultimately run to Him as the only strong tower worthy of our trust.

He is good, y’all.

He is faithful.

This place is not a believers home.

He is hope, healing & freedom. Here or in heaven.

He is sovereign & can work all things together for good, for a greater purpose.

We have to know His truths as this world, people & circumstance beat us down or cause us to question His love for His people.

Know there is more to come, HE is to come. No matter what’s next HE is there & He loves us.

Look at the bad & recite, memorize, meditate on these truths. Know His Word, get into it. Read Job (talk about brutal circumstances!).

Know Him, love Him, run to Him.

In Jesus name amen.

Don’t. Be. Afraid.

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His desk is the one closest to the door of the classroom. I noticed it right away at the teacher meet and greet. The scenario of a gunman entering the room filled my thoughts as I visualized where the shots would most likely be fired first.

A lump welled up in my throat and a shot anxiety passed through my body. I took a deep breath and reigned myself in, for the most part.

————–

I know these thoughts are irrational but it’s a fear I see played out in my head as my children happily choose or are assigned their seat at the beginning of a school year.

I’ve not thought about it much since school has started but in light of the recent rumor of a school shooting the lump and anxiety are back.

I think of how my parents never had to think of things like this, how schools were just open…so different than the way things are today.

So what are we to do?

I know my children’s school is safe but I also know evil is lurking everywhere. We could all just stay home all the time in a bubble, Amazon everything and stay safe, right?

But what good is it to live in fear???

Do not be afraid. The Bible tells us over and over and over.

Jesus is with my children in their classroom. Jesus is in their school. Worrying will only cause me grief and no quality of life so I must pray and trust. And when I worry I pray and trust some more.

Be anxious for nothing. But in everything with prayer and supplication make your requests known to God. Philippians 4:6

I must take every fearful thought captive to my Jesus. I trust that He is good and just. He is righteous and can save. I know that this world is not our home.

And the peace of God which surpasses all will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

The minute the fear creeps in I must replace it with truth. His word tell me His peace will guard my heart and mind– goodness, how I need this peace!!

When guards are set up, they keep bad things out, right? So this peace from God will come when I Philippians 4:6, when I PRAY. And when I “be anxious for nothing”. Agh I can’t do that one without praying. My own strength can only do so much at getting rid of anxiety, I need Christ and His words to truly combat it.

Such a war we live in– in the world but also in our minds and hearts. But we are not alone- we have the Spirit of God to help us, to guide us and to equip us.

No matter what.

To the schools who hold our precious babies for 35 hours a week, please be vigilant. In prayer and protection. To the moms, dads, grandparents and teachers – pray like crazy. But trust like crazy too. We must teach our children to pray as well, and to not be afraid. Why? Because God is with them (us), He loves them (us), and He is good.

“I will not be afraid because the Lord is with me. People can’t do anything to me.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭118:6‬

Dear Lord-

Just no. No. Please, Lord. You see all and know all. Please stop this evil. I beg of you. Please help us to pray and give you every ounce of anxiety and fear. Help us to not. Be. Afraid. Help us to teach our children who you are so they won’t fear. Guard our hearts and our minds please. Stop any evil plans, let it all be a hoax and just an opportunity to turn to You, children in hand and walk with Your peace surpassing all. Help us to trust You and know You are good even in the bad and You do not change. In Jesus saving name, amen.

Alright, people. Let’s pray and trust and go about our day with the strength and peace of the Lord. May our children see the difference in us today and be transformed as well.