Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Whispering The Truth

We all wrote down the name of a Bible feature we knew our Bibles had, on a Post-it® note and then walked to the front of the class to stick it on the wall. 

  • index
  • concordance
  • cross references
  • chapters
  • verses
  • maps
  • explanation of format
  • charts
  • list of promises

What was this all about? We were in a seminar on how to “Whisper the Word” to our children, led by Sarah Poling, Emmaus TED faculty. Sarah (who happens to share one set of great great grandparents with me) was demonstrating a method of getting our kids excited about the Bible. How would your children react if you let them stick Post-it® notes all over the wall?

Sarah says Post-it® notes are “magic” teaching tools. When children get to peel one (or more) off, write on them and then stick them somewhere, they think and they learn. She did this activity with the Sunday School children at the local church she attends and watched them look through a pile of Bibles they had each brought that day to discover what they can learn by just looking through the Bible. The kids were amazed and went home excited to ask their parents their homework questions: What is your favorite Bible feature? Which ones do you use?

Sarah has three children, boys 10, 7, and a 2 year old daughter. Her passion is to “whisper truth with her kids.” As a teacher and education teacher she knows all the strategies to get kids to love to read, and she wants to transfer these to getting kids to love the Bible, whether they are her Sunday School students or her own children. 

The number one way to keep the JOY present? Use the privilege of reading the Bible to get to know God!
The top way to do this is to always point back to God in the story.

After reading a Bible story or passage, ask questions to help your children see God in the story, even in ways He’s not specifically named. I personally LOVE the story of Abraham offering Isaac. It’s so exciting to get to the point of Isaac tied down, Abraham raising the knife to sacrifice Isaac, all the while the mother in me is screaming, “No!”  At the last moment, God sends the angel of the Lord to stop Abraham and provide the ram with his horns caught in the thicket. Relief! I see God loves to bring us to the point where there is nothing else to do but trust Him and watch Him provide. I’m getting to know God and how He works. Can I pass that enthusiasm on to others?

I’m looking forward to the day when several grandchildren are visiting and after a meal I give them Post-its® to write what they know about David or the birth of Jesus! Maybe I’ll even think of something for my grown kids to do!

Another way to inspire our kids to read the Word of God is to provide opportunities to read it for themselves. Sarah enthusiastically showed us example after example of children’s Bibles--from wordless to full translation texts--that she had picked up “at Goodwill, garage sales, bookstores, and online.” She has a list of Bibles in the livebinder part of her blog. 

This was another idea I came away excited about. I can’t wait to start looking for good children’s Bibles in order to stock a bookshelf in my living room for my grandchildren to “find” when they visit me.  I always loved reading to my children, and I’ve already read to our one year old Anna. What could be better than reading the Bible to her? 

When she’s older, she can begin to look at and then read them for herself as she discovers how fascinating the Bible really is.

Sarah has her children carry Bibles with them whenever they go out in the car. Even the two year old won’t go out without one. How did she do this? By modeling it, by having interesting looking Bibles available to her children, by making it a special privilege to take a Bible with them. Her boys even argued over who got to carry The Action Bible  until she bought a second one. What a great problem!
Of course the photo was staged--that's why no seat belt!

My prayer is that my love for the God and His Word be contagious to those around me. Sounds like Sarah’s on her way to that. How about you?

I encourage you to take a look at Sarah’s blog  and especially her two part post  on getting kids to love the Bible which contains much of what she told us in the seminar. 

Then write and tell me how she motivated you to get your kids excited about the Bible!

Photo Credits: Post-It Notes, arrow, and last two by Sarah Poling 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Noticing What We Do

As we crawled between the rows of seats in the main auditorium at our church, dusting the seat rails and book holders of the chairs, my friend and I talked about everything from aging parents to grandchildren to prayer. As I watched the dust disappear into my cloth, I wondered aloud, “Ever notice how so much of what we do isn’t noticed unless we don’t do it?”

Toni laughed, “This would definitely qualify!”

We started naming jobs we do that no one comments on unless they are left undone:

  1. Clean out the fridge
  2. Dust the baseboards (Anyone ever say to you, “You have such clean baseboards!”??)
  3. Sweep the walk
  4. Vacuum the car
  5. Clean the toilet
  6. Wash out the kitchen sink
  7. Empty the dishwasher
  8. Neaten magazines on the coffee table
  9. Put things in their places

…to name a few

Kind of makes you want to stop doing it all until you are appreciated, doesn’t it?

But mealtimes aren’t one of those unnoticed activities. People, even little people, notice when you prepare a table and a meal, even if you do it every day.

Some of my most precious memories of my children when they were little have to do with mealtimes.

  • I can see Rosana, about 6, coming in the kitchen and asking what was for dinner and when I told her, jumping up and down and clapping her hands she shouting, “Yaaaaay!” before giving me a tight hug. ( I’d probably told her we were having macaroni and cheese “from a box”. In South America that was a treat because it was imported.)
  • I have saved many birthday, Mother’s Day, and Christmas cards from Samuel, a little boy who loved to eat, and all of them said, “Thank you for making such good food.”
  • I can remember Daniel at 9 coming to the table and looking at my unusual centerpiece, designed to illustrate the conversation topic I wanted to talk about, asking, “What are we going to talk about tonight?”
  • I can hear Christina carrying her Winnie the Pooh plate and glass to the kitchen and saying, “Thank you for dinner, Mommy.”

You know that this didn’t happen every night at my house—I had nights when the food was greeted with “Yuck!” On those nights I sent the offender to the other room to do a “Take Two” on their entry and say, “Thank you for making us good food, Mommy!” Sometimes they became dramatic actors jumping into the room, landing on one knee arms spread wide, delivering their lines with enthusiasm. Those displays got a round of applause.

And although Jim modeled thanking me for making the food, we [frequently] had to remind them to say thank you at the end of the meal. I guess that’s something that is caught and taught.

I like to say that last year my cooking dramatically improved. I didn’t do anything different, but my daughter moved into her own apartment and my in-laws moved into a retirement home. Suddenly my home cooked meals were outstandingly delicious!

So take heart: the effort of making meals for your family isn’t one of those jobs no one will notice unless you let it go for a week or two. They will notice today. Tomorrow they might tell you. And in the future they will rise up and call you blessed!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Hunger Mealtime

“Eat your food, there are children starving in Africa.”
“You can send them this food.”

Did your parents ever tell you about the starving children in Africa (or China or North Korea) to get you to eat? Even if you didn’t voice the answer above, maybe you thought it.

But the truth is, there are children starving in Africa and we can do something about it with our families starting by eating famine portions one night.

I recently watched this video in a seminar given Nate Bramsen and his father Paul Bramsen.

I talked with Paul and his wife Carol afterward. The food given to these people might be all they had for several days so you can imagine why they were cheering when they saw the vehicles arrive! The boy you see Nate Bramsen pass over his head into the window was from a mother who wanted to make sure at least one of her children received some food. The mother herself was skin and bones.

I have been hungry, probably because I hadn’t eaten in five or six…hours. There may have been a time in my life when I’ve gone longer without food, but I can’t think of when. In fact, for the last 20 years I’ve had hypoglycemia so I’m supposed to eat a little protein every two to three hours—and I usually make sure I do.

Probably most of you reading this are like me, and your children also have no idea what it’s like to go to bed hungry even one night, let alone night after night. (Unless you’ve sent them away from the table for some reason, but that’s a different topic.)

So here’s the idea: Have a famine dinner.

  • Below is a basic recipe for lentils and rice for four people. Make this recipe for dinner one night.
  • Before you eat show them the three minute video and explain to them that these hundreds of children were so excited to get this rice and protein sauce meal—called a “manna pack”—because they had not eaten a meal in days 
  • Then have each one give thanks that they have plenty of food to eat every day.
  • Bring out the lentils and rice and divide among you. Tell them this is something like what these North African children would get, hopefully once a day. In non-famine times, perhaps they would get this twice a day.
  • Do not supplement this meal or serve dessert. 
  • Ask your children how they feel. They may still be hungry. Explain that there are thousands of children in the world who will go to bed hungry tonight and some of them will never wake up. 
  • Now tell them that 99% of the children they saw in the video are Muslims and have never even heard of Jesus. These children need our prayers that they will live long enough to hear the gospel and that they will believe it.
  • Here's why Christians feed starving Muslims: 50% of Muslims who have come to Christ have come because they saw Christians demonstrate God's love.
  • Spend some family time praying for the children of Niger and in many North African countries who don’t know about Jesus. Pray that the gospel will reach them in some way. Pray for the salvation of Muslims everywhere.
  • If your children come to you later and say they are hungry, tell them to use tonight’s hunger as a reminder to pray for the Muslim children who don’t have enough food and who don’t know Jesus. And take a minute to pray with your child right then. Then remind them that when they wake up, they can have breakfast, but those children probably won’t.

For more information write to:
Rock International

North African Famine Recipe (serves four)
½ cup lentils
2 ½ cups water, divided
1  tsp salt, divided
½ cup rice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
½ tsp pepper

1 large onion, halved and then thinly sliced to form semi-circles
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Place lentils in large pot in 1 ½ cups water with ½ tsp salt. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 1 hour till tender but intact. When done drain and set aside.

Meanwhile in another pot heat oil and fry rice over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 cup water and ½ tsp. salt. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer over low heat 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove from heat and uncover.

In a non-stick frying pan prepare seasoning by heating the oil over medium high heat. Add onions and fry until golden. Stir in garlic and cook a minute longer, stirring continuously. Stir in diced tomatoes with liquid and pepper.

Stir cooked lentils and rice together in large pot. Add seasoning mixture and stir together, cooking over low heat for 10 minutes.  Serve hot.

For added authenticity, serve into shallow bowls and eat with your hands like the children in the video—but be sure it’s cool enough to touch!

For printable version of the recipe click here.

This would work for youth groups, Sunday School classes and even whole church dinners! 

If you do this, please write to me and let me know how it went. Include photos!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fun Mealtimes in a Pastor's Home

I had the opportunity to interview Linda Justice, the friend of a friend, who is a pastor's wife for over thirty years and the mother of three grown children. I think I'd like to join their family meals sometimes! Read about them...

Tell me about who was regularly around your table when your children were home. 
Typically, our immediate family.  When the children were school aged, a college student whose mother was a single parent spent many hours in our home and joined in with meal preparation and routine family activities including mealtime.

How often did you have family meals? 
Being that my husband is a pastor and I homeschooled the kids, we were able to enjoy nearly every meal together until high school when schedules became more complicated.

What would you say was the forte of your family meals? 
It was the laughter that erupted in our midst regularly as we joined our minds together in building stories that bordered on the ridiculous.  Somehow, someone would come up with an idea and everyone would begin adding to it and making it funnier and funnier.  These were exercises in exaggeration!  The kids are now adults and they still do this when they are together.

What did you do at the table besides eat?
We often talked about what the children were learning in school, current events, biblical topics, or life situations.  Sometimes mealtimes became a time of research as we investigated a topic in a deeper way.  I have fond memories of my husband leaving the table to get a book to help us find more information on a topic.

What was one rule you found yourself telling your kids over and over?
“Come promptly when you are called.”  Inevitably, we would be waiting for someone while the food was getting cold (and not always the kids!).

What did you typically do when you didn't "feel" like making dinner or ran out of time?  
I would resort to making cornmeal mush—one of our favorites!  Add some honey and butter, and pour on some milk.  It’s simple and so good!

Is there anything you would do differently if you could start over again with your family?  
I think that I would do something special on Saturday evenings to focus the family on Sunday worship.  We did prepare in practical ways like showering, picking out clothes and shoes, and having Bibles ready; but having a special meal with a spiritual tone would’ve been a tradition that could’ve made a deep and lasting impact.

Was there any special challenge your family faced that affected family mealtimes?
There was a period of time when one of our children was going through a difficult struggle.  We were unaware of the pain and hurt she had experienced.   She, at times, carried her hurting and angry heart to the table, dampening the atmosphere.

How has including others around your table enriched your meals?
It has been a privilege for us to have other pastors, missionaries, neighbors, and congregants, and our children’s friends around our table.  We have been strengthened by their stories, challenged by their needs, and given occasions by the Lord to help them with their problems and hurts.  We took the opportunities with our children’s friends to intentionally speak about spiritual truths and delve into worldview topics.  Having our kids at the table, allowed them to learn how to listen, to relate biblical truth to life situations, and to share hospitality with a variety of people.  

Did you have family devotions at a mealtime? 
We did not have family devotions consistently at mealtime, but there were periods when we tried.  I remember having a “creative” prayer time once around the table.  We decided that we would pray conversationally in sentence prayers; but the prayer of each person had to rhyme with the prayer of the one who went before.  We made sure that we all understood that these were to be serious prayers, and they were!  It was a fun time and one that we all remember fondly.

If you could have put anything at all in a spray bottle and sprayed it over your family table, what would it be?
It has to be a “double-dipping” prohibitor.   This is only needed when just the family is gathered!
Some of Linda's Family Around the Table Today

What advice would you give to families who want to start meaningful family mealtimes?
I would advise the parents to view mealtime as a place to gather for the purpose of refueling—not only physically, but emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.  Mealtime is a time to listen to one another, to encourage, to learn from one another, and to mentor.  The saying goes that more is caught than taught—so envision what you want your children to learn at the table, and live it.  Your children will see what goes on between you and your spouse.  They will sense the atmosphere of love that you create.  They will find that mealtime is a healthy time to relax and refill. 

Linda Justice is a pastor's wife who lives in the beautiful town of Lewisburg, Pennslyvania.   She enjoys sewing, baking, developing friendships, decorating, and walking with her husband.  Her passion is helping women grow in their faith.


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