Thursday, June 25, 2020


Don't Ride Too Close to the Edge -- Part 2
This spring bicycles here in Iowa have sold out completely. As people couldn't do the usual things for entertainment, they turned to physical outdoor activities. We are so grateful that we were not confined to our homes as so many places in the world were. My husband and I have logged over 400 miles already! As we rode, I remembered the lessons I learned when we did bike rides with our children.

There must be a cautious gene because I've got it and have passed it on to my children. We'll never be a family of trapeze artists or rock climbers. In fact, they often walked their bikes across narrow plank bridges over the ditches along our bike paths. Of course, only pride kept me peddling over the same rickety planks. Actually, I'm glad they don't try to see how close they can get to the edge. That made me realize there was another lesson about sin on our bike hikes.

Developing a spiritual caution gene is part of the Christian's maturing process. Psalm 1:1 reminds us to not only hate the sin, but also the path that will lead us to it. "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers." (NIV) Sitting comes after stopping and standing with sinners, which follows walking along with them and their ideas. The first step already puts us on the path to sin.


One area that is a spiritual battle for me is my overactive imagination. I can dream up for myself the most fascinating imaginary situations. God had been working on me in this area for many years. I discovered a long time ago that reading a romance novel gives me a story to "ride away" on for days, so I have come to the conclusion that I can't read them. The novel isn't sin, but daydreaming away my time is. This is one way I have begun to hate the path that leads me toward danger.

Be Alert
When our family rode our bikes along the road, my husband went first, our oldest son was the "rocking chair" in the middle, and I tagged on at the end. That gave us three vigilant pairs of eyes and ears to keep tabs on what is coming toward us so we can watch out for the others. Even then, a bus might bear down on us, a biker in front of us may suddenly stop, or a distracted person could step directly into our path. We could never let down our guard. Sounds like a good strategy against sin to me!

Temptation so often appears where we least expect it. It seems to come out of nowhere! This is why the apostle writes, "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes," (Ephesians 6:11, NLT). We need to keep a lookout in all directions because as Peter warns, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour," (1 Peter 5:8b, NLT).


One of the easiest times for any of us to let our guard down is when we are tired. Whether that is at the end of a long bike ride or late in the evening of a busy day, I often find I've quit talking with the Lord. My only goal is to veg out and then go to bed. When my kids were young if they reappeared after I got them in bed, I'm afraid I often exploded. My guard was not only drowsy, but AWOL. To keep from sin, I needed to be the way I was when watching my young children ride their bikes along a busy road, "self-controlled and alert" (1 Peter 5:8a, NLT).

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How are (or were) you active together as a family? I'd love to hear about it. Please write me a comment below.




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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Lessons I Learned About Sin on Family Bike Rides

Part One -- Changing Focus
This spring bicycles here in Iowa have sold out completely. As people couldn't do the usual things for entertainment, they turned to physical outdoor activities. We are so grateful that we were not confined to our homes as so many places in the world were. My husband and I have logged over 400 miles already! As we rode, I remembered the lessons I learned when we did bike rides with our children.

When our four children were growing up we loved taking bike rides together. Bogota, Colombia, where we lived had been building new bike paths that even reached our end of the city. But even when we were pathless, we took bike hikes. Sometimes we rode a mile behind our house and turned off the road to bump along beside the seldom used train tracks. Or we crossed the expressway on a pedestrian bridge to ride through the quieter lanes on the other side.


As mom, I loved having an activity that our children with a nine year age spread could all participate in. And I just loved having all my kids together, looking out for each other, challenging one another to friendly competitions, and maybe even enjoying one another in a season when sibling rivalry sometimes seemed to rule our home.

One day as I was being jolted along a rocky path, I became frustrated that every time a larger rock or hole loomed in my path, I would make a direct hit on it. No matter how hard I watched it, it seemed as if my bicycle had a guided missile system locked onto it. Finally I decided to try another tactic: I would take note of it and then look beyond it. Doing that, I was able to ride on smoother ground. This was my first lesson from the bike ride: If you focus on an obstacle you will hit it every time.


It dawned on me that it is the same with sin. If I focus on the temptation, it will trip me up every time. Think of being on a diet--by constantly reminding myself of it, I think about food even more and eventually end up eating those calories I'm trying to avoid! I need to change the subject of my thoughts. That's what Paul was talking about in Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

I've found that that the first test--is it true?--takes care of many thought sins in my life from worry to discontentment. Do I start to dwell on what might happen in my life and body if the biopsy comes back positive? "Is it true?" I don't know that it is. So I ask God to help me not think about it and focus on other things. Did my husband have an accident when he doesn't come home at the expected time and doesn't answer his phone? No. Stop dreaming up non-existent scenarios, Sharon.


But not thinking about it is hard. If I tell you, "Don't think about polka dotted kangaroos," what are you thinking about? But I just told you not to! Paul told us to focus on something else, something true, noble, right, pure, lovely or admirable. So when I'm struggling with the temptation to eat or worry or whatever, I have to remind myself over and over of who God is and what His attributes are. When I manage to keep my mind centered on God, He helps me avoid the sins by changing my focus.

What unexpected lessons have you learned through activities with your children? I'd love to hear about them. Comment below or write to me at: aroundthetableblog(at)gmail(dot)com.


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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

How Many Verses Tell Us Not to Fear?

You know that thing that went around on social media that said the Bible says, "Do not fear" 365 times*, once for each day of the year? Well, it's not true.


But, the Bible does give us hundreds of reasons for trusting God in every situation, anywhere, all the time. 


In these days of Covid-19, I decided that it would be a good time to look for these verses. I hadn't felt any special fear or even lack of peace when I started this project, but I figured finding these verses, reading them, and copying them out by hand would be a great way to reinforce this in my mind and heart for the days that come, whether during this virus, or in many of the situations that will come in my life. It was also a follow-up for the study God led me to do in November and December on preparing for trials. (A side note: I do feel He led me into this as I was prepared for a situation that came into our own lives and for this bigger, worldwide situation.)



So I used a Bible search engine and looked for the word, "Fear" and wrote down every verse I could find that told me not to fear. I found sixty-eight verses. Then I looked for "Afraid" and found forty-five more. I decided to look up "Tremble" and "Dismayed" because my verses for the year, Joshua 1:8-9 include those words. After that I looked for "Refuge"--one of my favorite words for describing the place of protection that God is for me. I looked for "Courage" and "Courageous", "Anxious" and "Ashamed", "Deliver" and "Deliverer". Then I got fancy and did a two word search: "With you". 



After copying out 249 verses, I still plan to look for "Help", "Uphold", "Peace", and "Comfort". I'm looking for verses that specifically say God is these or gives these to those who believe in Him.

It has been good for my soul. I've shared them with others who have been excited to see these promises over and over in the Bible. I have shared twenty of these verses with you in a printable format. These are set up to print on Avery® Business Cards 28878But they can be printed on any paper or cardstock and cut apart. Use them as reminders around your house, memory verse cards, or even bookmarks so that you be able to trust God more.



Here's another idea: how about at devotions tonight, you take time to teach your children how to use a concordance or Bible search engine and each of you find a verse that will bring you comfort. Then write that verse on a card and place it somewhere it will be seen in your house. You could do this several nights until you have dozens of verses around your house to remind you of God's care and protection, even in the time of Covid-19.


* Interestingly, the word "peace" appears 365 times in the NASB version of the Bible. Not all telling us that God gives peace.


Pages from my journal with the verses written out.



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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Good Medicine!

Twenty-twenty will be a year to remember!

We are all filling our days with things we don't usually do. 



Here are some of the things I'm doing:


  • Keeping a somewhat regular routine: up early, time in the Word, exercising, eating right.
  • When the weather allows, going for a walk with a friend. The other day it got up to the upper 40s and a friend and I walked along the Mississippi for an hour. Later the same day spring fever hit my neighbor and we walked to a park near our house.
  • My neighbor called because I had contacted her just make sure she was okay. I got in touch with all the neighbors I have phone numbers for, especially the older widow behind us, just to check up on them and let them know I will help in anyway I can.
  • Staying in touch with family. Our family WhatsApp group
    has become very talkative. I think we all want to make sure we're okay, helping each other, sharing jokes, sermons, and insights, and just having human contact outside our homes.
  • Today I read three books to three of my granddaughters via the Internet. I don't think the nine month old was too interested, but the two and four year olds were! Maybe their mom got a couple minutes to do something or at least had them entertained for 15 minutes.
  • Working on German (I am not getting real far with this, but I have two granddaughters growing up in Germany, so although they speak English, I think I should at least attempt to learn some.)
  • Trying my hand at making an informational video for the ministry my husband and I work with.
  • Reading--my library still allows us to order books online and they will deliver them to us outside the library, so I'm getting some on my TBR list!
  • But my TBR list is growing as I listen to a couple of podcasts I found recently where I hear about at least one or two books  each week that sound like I'd enjoy them! Strong Sense of Place and What Should I Read Next
  • Besides podcasts, I love audio books when I'm doing household chores. I can download them from my library or order them on CD and listen through my bluetooth earphones as I go around the house.
  • And cleaning projects. I haven't advanced a lot on this one, but I'm planning to tackle the outside of the kitchen cupboards which I haven't done in a while. Listening to a good book will help the time go by as I scrub!
  • Trying to stay positive. Of course Covid-19 is the main source of conversation these days, but I'm trying to find other things to learn about and have as topics of conversation. One of my prayer partners and I "met" by Skype the other evening. She told me that she wants to be able to ask people she might have the opportunity to talk to, "What is your hope in these days?" And then she would love it if they turn the question around and ask her because she wants to "Always be ready to give an account for the hope that is in her to everyone who asks." 1 Peter 3:15
Doing these kinds of things will help me trust God and not worry about the what ifs. After all, Jesus said, "And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?" Matthew 6:27 And these will bring me joy.

A joyful heart is good medicine.
Proverbs 17:22a



I would love it if you would tell me some of the things you are doing these days!

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Learn Something New!

For five years I visited Marion in the retirement home where she lived. She was confined to a motorized scooter and as the years passed she got out less and less, but she always had plenty to talk about during our weekly visits. One of the things she always said when she started a story was, "If I've told you this before, try and stop me!" I never tried to stop her, so I heard several times that her mother lived to be over 100 and when she died she was learning Spanish! Marion had the blessing of keeping her mind and memory until she passed into glory at 95, and she often told me, "Mom always said, 'Never stop learning.'"


Marion's daughter, Tracey, is also a friend of mine. She just retired as a Middle School Orchestra teacher and took a new job as the music teacher in a small Christian school. She's super creative and one thing she added to her list of accomplishments is writing articles for a local paper for Seniors. In her articles she talks about "creative aging"--following her grandmother's advice to never stop learning. Tracey recently took her own advice and started tap dance lessons, something she has wanted to do since she watched Shirley Temple movies as a little girl. Way to go, Tracey!

So I started learning too. I found an online non-accredited course about how to use iMovie so I could make videos of our travels and at least one for my husband's ministry. I got the idea on our most recent trip and my son, a computer professor in a local university, told me where I could find the course. I am learning so much! I have fun showing my husband clips from the class and telling him all the capabilities of video-making right on my computer. I'm a little more than half way through the eleven hour course and I have already written a script and been working on choosing clips to use.

While visiting my older daughter I watched her paint and draw and come up with fantastic art that she uses to decorate her house. I got inspired. My younger daughter also likes to paint, so I found a short course here in town and asked her if she would take it with me. We are looking forward to evenings together learning a bit about art and having fun trying to create a couple of paintings. I don't expect to hang them in my house (except maybe in my laundry room where I have all my "interesting" art). I haven't taken an art class since my oldest son was seven (in 1993) and together we took a water-color class. I am not a natural artist and I always said that I gave people three guesses as to what my paintings were!

So follow Grandma's advice and never stop learning. Pick anything that interests you and bring your kids along in the process. You'll have fun,  create memories, and have plenty to talk about around your table!


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Thursday, February 27, 2020

What I Discovered On Our Ministry Trip to South and Central Asia

I woke up in the night to hear three gun shots fired off in measured succession. I told myself it was fireworks and probably something in this Asian, Muslim-dominated country was being celebrated. About a minute later there were three more. I wished I had the hearing I had twelve years ago before I started getting recurring ear infections. Was that a sound out on the street? Were there people coming down the narrow alley behind the church compound? The shots were fired again. There was definitely a noise outside and the normally docile German shepherd, who lived in the compound, raced toward the gate barking. And then everything was quiet. I convinced myself it wasn't gun shots so I could fall back to sleep.



This is the result of an overactive imagination.

But having experienced whatever the sound was in the night, I still made the first discovery on our trip to four countries in South and Central Asia. In a country that has been in the news over the recent years, is it's not all like the news makes it sound. There are countries where life is awful and unbearable, but just because you hear a lot of bad news about a country doesn't mean the whole country is full of people who hate you and are just looking for a reason to cut your head off! In fact, the Christians we met in that country, in cities and in villages, said they don't fear for their safety. Not to say there aren't problems with the majority religion people in places. But there did seem to be less problem with pickpockets and other petty violence. Our host always left his car unlocked when we went in somewhere!

They share the gospel
carefully, but fearlessly

The second thing I discovered on our trip is that God is at work in these countries. He has people there who are eager to reach out and share the gospel. They do it carefully, but fearlessly. And they are seeing results. Foreign workers would most likely only be expelled from the country. But it's not easy to convert to Christianity. It could mean your family will disown you. Or a young woman might be forcibly married off to an unbeliever. And in some places your family could kill you and the "honor killing" would not be prosecuted by authorities. But God will build His church. Christ is building His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

The third thing, is one I have known: No matter that you can't communicate with them, wherever you go, it is wonderful to be with God's people. Sitting on rugs on the floor of an adobe brick church out in a village with their unique rhythmic music accompanied by harmonium and dhol, you can't help but see the love of their Savior in their faces, even though the only word you recognize is "Aleluya". Having a queue of people come to you to shake your hand after the service and say any words they know in English because they are glad to meet a sister in Christ and being showered with flower petals on arrival at a church and given a garland to wear as a sign of honor for the Bible teacher and watching barely literate people pay rapt attention to the Word of God being expounded, all make you realize we are one in the Lord.

In spite of a thirty-six hour delay in arriving in our second destination due to a flight being cancelled because of the Coronavirus, which involved five hours on the Internet finding a way to go within our budget and twenty-four hours of travel beginning at 1 a.m. and going through two countries completely out of our way, we had a wonderful trip! I told my husband that I would go back anytime if we had a reason. And I don't say that about many places!


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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Last Minute Family Valentine's Ideas!

I love Valentines!

Not only is it a day to remind us to show love, it is Jim's and my "Half" Anniversary! (We're celebrating 37 1/2 years of marriage this year!) With our kids, we celebrate family love and love to others more than romantic love on that day, but don't worry, we still keep plenty of romance in our marriage. Our now grown kids are well aware of our love for each other.




Here are some ideas for making the day a special day of giving love.

Secret Valentines (This is one of my favorites!)
When I was in college we had "Secret Heart Sisters" during Valentine's week. We all chose names from from a basket full of papers with our names and all week we were supposed to secretly express love to the girl whose name we had picked. I can remember wandering around the dorms trying to look nonchalant as I carried a large poster board heart in a hallway I had never ventured down before.

A couple of years we decided to do this with our family. Every evening during the week before Valentines, we chose names for the next day. We were supposed to be "good fairies" of love. Some of the things we secretly did for one another:
  • made their bed while they were in the bathroom
  • left a chocolate on their pillow
  • wrote a note telling them what we appreciated about them
  • bought a small gift for them
  • raced to do one of their chores before they got the chance
  • gave them a card
It was so fun to watch our children who normally squabbled, like kids in all families, trying to find ways to show each other love.

Family Love Day
Dottie, from Ohio writes: I usually make a special dinner and decorate the table nicely with a card at each person's place setting - some years it contains money, some years they may receive a gift such as an engraved "treasure chest" or engraved heart-shaped jewelry dish. I make a heart-shaped cake and then we usually spend the evening playing a game or watching a movie. This year we may  actually deviate from the "norm" since our kids are now 12 and 15 and go to a local church where two Christian groups are performing in concert. Either way, we will do something a as a family to spend time with each other as a reflection of our love for each other. 

Make Valentines Cards
Throughout most of our children's school years, we lived overseas where Valentine's Day was not celebrated, so there was no opportunity to run to the store and buy cheesy kids' Valentines. Since our children attended an American Missionary Kid school, the teachers still liked to celebrate Valentines Day, so we got creative. Now I'm a stamper and make all the cards I send out year round, but back then we folded red and pink paper in half and cut out hearts, made pop-up cards, cut heart-shaped windows into cards, stuck the stickers grandmas kept us supplied with onto cards, and even did origami cards. The best thing about this kind of card is that what you say to someone is so much more meaningful than a store-bought card.





Send Cards to Those Who Don't Expect Them
Every year I make about a dozen cards and we send them to widows and divorcees who don't have someone special to send them a card filled with love. At least two widows have told me that my card is the only Valentine's card they receive and they enjoy it so much. Who do you know that might need a small dose of love this year?

Tell Them Why You Love Them
I recently heard a guest on a radio program tell about her first year as single mom. She had no money for Valentines so she cut out paper hearts and put a mobile of them together for each child. Each mobile had the child's name on one heart and one attribute she loved about them on each of the others. She hung these from the kitchen ceiling late on February 13 so they saw them when they got up on Valentines'. The next year on the 13th they asked if she was going to do it again. Guess what she stayed up late doing? When a friend came over and asked what they were, her son said, "Oh my mom does that every year." A tradition was born! Have you told your kids what you love about them?

Tessa, in California, asked me, "How do you turn a holiday which is overpriced and focused on romantic evenings for two, into a family friendly celebration of love?" 
Tessa, I hope I showed you how a little creativity goes a long way in teaching our kids how to show love and think about others who need love. 





For more inspiring Valentine's ideas, click here.

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