Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lessons I Learned on Family Bike Rides - - - Part Three

This is part three of a three part series telling of some lessons I learned when I took the time to have fun outings with my kids while they were still at home. I thought we were just going for bike rides and, hopefully, bonding. Little did I know what God was going to teach me!
Part One
Part Two

Accept Warnings Graciously

"Car coming!" "There's a little kid weaving on that bike ahead!" "Use your brakes!" These are the things this mother said when she took her brood on a bike ride. Sometimes the reply was a snapped, "I'm not blind!" Then I would give my Mom Pep Talk: "Sorry. I'll always be your mother and always try to protect you. It just comes with a mom loving her kids." Then someone hollers, "Mom! Look out for that pothole!" How do you think I responded?

I remember an older woman taking me aside once to explain several reasons why my comment to her was not appropriate. I didn't say much to her, but my husband heard all about how wrong she was when I got home. Whether she was right in what she said or not, she was trying to obey what James says, "My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from his error will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20, NIV)



Just as we need to give warnings in love, we should also accept them in the same spirit. Have you ever thought that someone was looking to catch you in some sin? It's so easy to become defensive and even angry. But the proper response is a humble and grateful spirit that takes the warning to heart and learns from it. And that attitude can save us from a lot of trouble.

Persevere Until You Get There
I remember one sunny holiday when we loaded our bikes onto our car and drove to a park downtown. From there we had easy access to several major roads which were closed for the day to cars and open to bikers, roller skaters and pedestrians. We joined the exercising crowds and began to ride. The wind was in our faces, but we were excited because we were headed to the airport where we would have lunch and watch airplanes. 

On the return trip we discovered to our dismay that the wind had changed and was blowing against us again and even stronger. The long road became wearying, especially to the younger ones, but the only way home was to keep going until we got to the car. I realized this was another lesson about sin.



The author of Hebrews understood the endurance needed in the Christian life and encouraged his readers, "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1b NASB) As a teen my husband was privileged to listen to the preaching of many godly, well-known preachers and he dreamed of the time in his life when he would be like them, so godly sin no longer tempted. Imagine his disappointment when he began to hear them mention a greater awareness of sin in their lives as they matured in their faith. Now we both know it is true: sin will never quit trying. Amy Carmichael said it poetically, "There is no discharge from our warfare...for us swords drawn up to the gates of heaven."

On the path of life, we will experience temptations of many kinds. Satan will not let us slip by easily, but God has promised a helper. We need to learn many lessons to make it through and at the end be able to say with Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7 NASB)


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What does your family like to do together?
Write a comment and let me know. I'd like to hear about it!



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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lessons I Learned on Family Bike Rides - - - Part Two: Look Around

This is part two of a three part series about things God taught me when I took the time to have fun outings with my kids while they were at home. I thought we were just going for bike rides and, hopefully, bonding. Little did I know what God was going to teach me! To read part one click here.

Don't Ride Too Close to the Edge

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, October 16, 2014

Lessons I Learned about Sin on Family Bike Rides

Part One -- Changing Focus
This is the beginning of a multipart series of things God taught me when I took the time to have fun outings with my kids while they were at home. I thought we were just going for bike rides and, hopefully, bonding. Little did I know what God was going to teach me!

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 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 missle 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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For part one click here.

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Memory Verse Routine that Works!

(or Raisins and Verses Time)

Of course, I think my grandkids are amazing! But so are their parents! I'm thrilled to have my daughter-in-law, Abby Fleming, explain how she is currently getting their two little ones to memorize scripture.

My Inspiration
My kids are smarter than I am. Well, they have a better memory at least. It's always amazing to me what they can remember. Can you relate to any of these?

  • Mommy, yesterday at lunch you said that I could have a special treat today!”
  • When reading a favorite book, “Wait, you didn't read that right. You skipped some words.”
  • After her second ever Veggie Tales, “and now it's time for silly songs with Larry...”
  • Any kind of slightly annoying kids' songs are engrained in their little minds after only one or two times of listening to them!
  • Potty songs, anyone??

Even before I had kids, I knew that I wanted to take this uncanny ability of theirs to remember EVERYTHING and use it for something beneficial to them... memory verses. This decision was inspired by two families.



I worked in an Awana Club with the first family when I was back in high school. For those of you who don't know, Awana is a children's club with a huge emphasis on Bible memorization. It's a great program, but at the time I didn't fully understand how important it was that the children were memorizing Bible verses. At a leadership meeting one night, we were discussing whether we ought to include more “fun” things in lieu of some of the memory verse time. I was all for it, but the Mom of this family disagreed with me. She talked about how her children were like sponges, soaking up everything and how she wanted to use this time in their lives to help them soak up as many Bible verses as they could hold. The value she placed on this was contagious.

Later, when I was working my first teaching job, a fellow teacher invited my husband and I to his home for a family dinner. At the time, he had two very young children. After dinner, they told us that they needed to practice their family memory verses together. I was sitting there expecting something to the extent of “God is love” when they started reciting the entire chapter of Genesis One (motions included)!! I was blown away at what they could do at such young ages. I was also inspired to higher my expectations for my kids one day.


How we made it work
Today, I am “Mommy” to a 3 year old daughter and a 1 ½ year old son. After several hiccups and failed attempts, we have come to a memory verse routine that works well for us. I hope it can help you find a system that works for you!

The first thing we did was buy a highly recommended CD, “Hide 'em in Your Heart” by Steve Green. It is a CD composed entirely of verses set to music, but in a kid friendly (and amazingly not annoying to parents) way. There's just something about music that can help our minds remember things. I decided to use this to help my daughter memorize the verses on the CD. After owning and listening to it for a while, we started practicing. Our practicing revolves around three words: consistent, rewarded and relaxed.

Consistent. I established a certain time every day when we practice our memory verses. For us, it's in the morning right after breakfast, while we are still at the table. We break her verse down into very small phrases (2-4 words) and repeat them to her with the same exact intonation every time. Then, she repeats the phrase back to us until she can do it on her own. The next day, we review what she already knows and pick up practicing where we left off. Now that she's used to it, she can usually add a new phrase on every day or two.

Rewarded. We all need some sort of motivation, and our kids are no different. We've somehow convinced our daughter that raisins are a special treat, so that is our token bribery... I mean reward. We actually call it “Raisins and Verses Time” now. When she first started, we would line up the raisins, one for each word, and she could eat them as she said the words. Now, we break it up into two piles of raisins. First, she says all her previously learned verses, we give her lots and lots of praise, and she eats her first pile of raisins. Then, we work on her new verse, sometimes reinforcing the phrase she learned yesterday, sometimes adding a new phrase, always with lots of praise.

Relaxed. We've learned that our daughter learns her verses much quicker and happier if we keep it a fun and relaxed time. There is no pressure. Sometimes, she gets on a roll and can do a new phrase every day. Sometimes, we take a week on a two word phrase. There is no rush. No one is keeping score. We're thrilled for every verse she can hide in that little heart of hers.

With this routine, our daughter has learned 6 good sized verses and is now working on the Lord's Prayer. It's not quite Genesis 1, but we're pretty proud of her!

I mentioned I have a 1 ½ year old son too. He can't talk much yet, but he was feeling a little left out during “Raisins and Verses Time” and very jealous that she was getting extra raisins. So, he now has his own verse that he tries to say every day, too. One day, it will sound like “God is love”, but for now it sounds more like, “Dg!! La!”. He gets a couple raisins and lots of praise, and he gives us a big grin. It's a pretty good trade off.



I hope you can use this to find a system that works for you!!  


Abby Fleming graduated from Emmaus Bible College with a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education and Biblical Studies. Also at Emmaus, she met and married Daniel Fleming. They have been married 8 years now and have a beautiful 3 year old daughter, Anna, and a handsome 22 month old son, Kenneth. After the birth of their daughter, Abby and Daniel decided together that she could work as a full time Mommy. Currently, Abby and her husband are living in the Chicago area as he works full time and pursues further education.




Do you like to write? Do you have a mealtime story that will inspire other moms to get their family together around the table more often? Check out my guidelines and then write away! I'd love to make you my next guest poster!




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