Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Helping Our Kids Conquer Fear Through God!

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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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Meditating on Scripture

All my life I've heard about meditating on scripture, but I must confess that I have never done a very good job of it. I have been fairly consistent in spending time in the Word since I was 19 and went on a missions trip with Operation Mobilization. Our team leader made us spend an hour of quiet in the house each morning. Since I had never spent more than 20 minutes before that, I had to teach myself to fill that time. After two months, I realized that I had been having a long quiet time every day and had learned to enjoy it. "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8) came true in my life and I would say that I have spent some time with the Lord most of the days since then. (Not generally an hour--especially not when the children were little!)

I also did some memory work. When I returned home from that trip, my home church had adult Sunday School classes which required a memory verse a week. I had memorized previously in the King James version as a child in Sunday School and children's Bible clubs. Now I chose the New American Standard Bible (NASB) for these verses. When we were new missionaries in Peru, I made an effort to relearn most of my verses in Spanish. Having already memorized them in English made it easier as I knew what the verse said. Later, in Colombia, several ladies and I made a pact to memorize scripture together and we were amazed at how it affected our prayer lives. Then more recently I have started memorizing again and using the Bible Memory app, I have been fairly consistent.

I tell you all this to say that despite what I was doing I was still not meditating. I was checking things off on a to do list: memorize, review, repeat. Even these last three years where I have been intentional about memorizing, I was not spending time thinking about what the verses meant and talking to God about them.

We all know how to meditate. You take a thought and turn it over and over in your mind, talk to God about it, ask Him questions about it, maybe complain about it, and think about it some more. We usually do this in the form of worry! That isn't very profitable.

I wanted to start doing that with scripture.

So I did two things to help myself:
  1. I decided that each Monday when I memorize a new verse I would use my quiet time to study out this verse, think about it, learn from it, and talk to God about it. Since I've started that, sometimes I have to continue into Tuesday.
  2. With the help of my son, I found an app that helps me meditate on scripture that I have started using every morning.
Using the app takes about 10 minutes and it has changed the way I think about God's Word, my ability to concentrate on God's Word, and given me greater peace of mind. The app I am using, called Christian Mindfulness, has the option of silence or several quiet music pieces playing in the background and the relative volume you want of music to speech. The man, with a pleasant British accent, first begins by encouraging breathing exercises to calm myself and focus my mind, first on my breathing and then on the scripture he reads, clearing away the distractions of daily life. 

After he reads the passage he goes back over it slowly focusing on key words and suggesting I repeat them to myself or think them through. I usually try to think about what that word means, what God is telling me. I might ask God what He wants me to learn from this verse, this word, today. I often have other verses come to mind that help me understand or view the truth from another angle. When I am done listening, I am calmer and take a moment to think about what God wants me to do today with what I learned.

I am an auditory learner so this is a great way for me to concentrate. For someone else, looking at the words and thinking or writing about the verse might be the best way. The principle is the same: look at the verse or short passage from many angles, turn it over in your mind, think about the meaning of key words or phrases, and ask God to help you understand in the light of the rest of scripture. I do write my thoughts during my quiet time, but, for me it becomes a "job" to get done. Inactive meditation has become a valuable means for me to connect with God that I have not been able to do before.

My verses for the year are Joshua 1:8-9:
This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth,
but you shall meditate on it day and night,
so that you may be careful
to do according to all that is written in it;
for then you will make your way prosperous,
and then you will have success.
Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous!
Do not tremble or be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you
wherever you go.

This is my goal for this year and for life. And this is how I have started.

I believe you can teach your children to start meditating on scripture at a very young age. Read them a verse--maybe their memory verse for the week--then go back and read through it phrase by phrase while they listen. You could have them close their eyes so they think about it. Point out important words or phrases and ask simple questions like, "What is another word for _____?" or "What do you think God is telling us when He says, _____?" Get them to think about the truth of the verse and how it is used in a Bible story they know. Finally, ask them what God is telling them personally from the verse. What a great habit to start in your children of any age!

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Books, Books, and More Books!

I am always reading a couple of books and listening to another. If I were smart, I would remember all I've read, but I feel like I come away with a "feeling" of what the book was about rather than a lot of facts and knowledge. This is important to me when we travel. I like to read books about or that take place in the places we will go for our ministry with Emmaus Worldwide so that I know a little something. As I read I absorb a bit of culture, history, and local conventional wisdom, or at least that's the goal.

That's what brought me to my first book this year (actually started
in December of last year): Apples are from Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared by Christopher Robbins. First of all, I had a laugh about the author's name because, you know, Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, too. For three weeks in January and February my husband and I will be on a ministry trip to Central Asia. One of the countries we will be visiting is Kazakhstan where we have friends who moved there last year to start a business.

Some of the things I learned are that Kazakhstan was never a country prior to 1991. Never. It had been invaded from East, West, North, and South. The people are related in genes and language to other Turkic peoples (like in Turkistan and, yes, Turkey), but because of the Mongols invading they look more east Asian. The first Russian rockets were launched from the "autonomous" region of Kazakhstan and nuclear bombs were tested in an area called Semipalatinsk which is more radioactive than Chernobyl. Alexander Solzhenitsyn was exiled there for a few years, but later fought against Kazakhstan becoming an independent country. And finally, after independence they had only one president for 30 years and he just retired. And apples probably do come from Kazakhstan where one can still find apple trees growing in the wild. So, apparently, I did learn some things!

I also love reading the stories of real people and the things they do. So often as I read and try to put myself in their shoes, I think about
how I could never do the things they have done. Sometimes, when I read about Christians persecuted for their faith, I pray, "Lord, never let me deny You. You know what I can handle. Never give me more than that." On my list of books to read is a book we gave to my father-in-law for Christmas: God's Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance by Andrew Brunson, the pastor who was imprisoned in Turkey for 735 days. My father-in-law read it in two days. Although I snuck a preview of the first chapter, I'm saving it for when we get back from our trip to Central Asia.

In the category of both our trip and biography, I have the book Benazir Bhutto by Brooke Allen I just started this, and so far it is interesting and not just a syncophantic book about a fearless woman in a difficult position. This is one of the books I got from Amazon Kindle Unlimited. For Christmas, I gave my mother six months of Kindle Unlimited. Since we share the same Kindle account, I benefit from this too. Actually, as I have perused the books available, I have been somewhat disappointed. The kind of books I enjoy are not readily available, but my mom's Christian fiction is, so she's enjoying it. 

In addition to reading, I love listening to books when doing mundane housework or driving the car. I have been able to listen to
some enjoyable books from the Kindle Unlimited selection: Where the Desert Meets the Sea: A Novel by Werner Sonne about the founding of the nation of Israel. From my point of view it was very even handed showing the hardships that time held for both the Jews and the Palestinians. I'd recommend it. Another was Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin. This is a novel based on a true event of the Turkish Ambassador or Consul to France during WWII providing a train for Turkish citizens to get back to Turkey safely. The thing
was, there were Turkish Jews and non-Turkish Jews in that train. The latter group had been given false passports to save their lives. It was only one overloaded train carriage of people, but some were saved. I had never heard of that and found it very interesting. 

I also listened to the true story of Masaji Ishikawa (apparently a pen name)--A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea. It is a sad story. Interestingly he talks about the many times
he has been "born again"--either started an entirely new life or was rescued from death--but sadly, he has not been born again into faith in Jesus Christ. As I finished the book I found myself praying that he would come to Christ for salvation.

Through my library I've also listened recently to the Yada Yada series by by Neta Jackson and the Mitford Series by Jan Karon (which I had read when they first came out in the 90s). Although I'm not normally a fan of Christian fiction, I found these books encouraging to my prayer life.

Finally, other books I have going are The Story of the King: Kingdom Without End by Paul Bramson. This is the first book in the Mile Marker Series by Emmaus Worldwide. It is so well written and simple yet deep! My prayer for this year is that I will be able to go through this with a non-Christian. And I am slowly going through an old book, Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray, originally published in 1864. My copy of this book has an inscription to my mother-in-law:

To Helena 
Christmas 1950
with love, 
May you enjoy this as much as I have

The book is divided up into thirty-one daily readings to learn about and how to put into practice what it means to abide in Christ, one of the goals of my life. I don't have time to read one everyday during my devotions, but I want to go through it meditatively. 

These are nineteen or more books (counting each book in the two series) I can recommend to get you started reading this year! I hope you enjoy reading as much as I do and I would love to hear your recommendations to put on my list of future reading!
 -  -  -  -  -
As always, I think reading to your kids from good books is a great connection builder, values teacher, and education stimulater. Of these books I would definitely think you could read to your middle aged kids (8-15) the story of Andrew Brunson. What a great way to teach them about their faith and how to stand up for Christ no matter the cost! The Story of the King would work wonderfully as devotions with children as young as 5 on up. Just do a couple of paragraphs a night and use the questions at the end of the chapter to spark discussion. Some of the others might be good, too, but read them first so you can filter any scenes you might not want to expose young children to.

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For more of my book suggestions click here.

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