I greatly enjoyed watching this year’s Olympic Games in London. And while it’s always a treat seeing athletes at the top of their game competing, perhaps my favorite part of the Olympics has been watching the parents of these athletes. During the gymnastics competition, I could feel the emotion of Aly Raismann’s parents who remained on the edge of their seats, their eyes glued to their daughter, unblinking. It seemed that every move she took, they were right there with her – rising and falling, jerking to the left or right, holding their breath in anticipation. They were so invested in what she was doing that it was impossible for them to sit calmly, passively. If her routine finished cleanly, they heaved a sigh of relief while simultaneously erupting into cheers. If her routine went poorly, the pain she felt was plastered on their faces.
As I watched this playing out before me with many Olympic athletes and their parents, I couldn’t help but think of God and how He watches us. Many people have a concept of God as a traffic cop who is hiding in the shadows, watching and waiting for us to mess up so that He can issue a citation, reminding us of our wrong-doing and making us pay the price. However, I believe this could not be further from the truth. To me, God is much more like these Olympic athlete parents. He is watching over us with eager anticipation. Rooting for us, cheering us on. He is not a passive observer who is unconcerned with our circumstances and the minutiae of our lives, but rather a loving Father whose heart and soul is completely wrapped up in us. He is 100% invested in every move that we make. He wants to see us be our best – and when we achieve that, He rejoices with us.
But when we mess up – when the pressures of life make us lose our balance, when we have a false start, when we don’t have enough endurance to finish the race, when every shot we take falls short or out of bounds, when our dreams seem to be crashing down around us – He feels our pain as if it were His own. He feels that pain and His only desire is to comfort us. To wrap us up in His arms and remind us that we are still loved. We are still special. We are still His.
And nothing will ever change that.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today or our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. – Romans 8:38
We all need an entry point into God’s Word. Children too.
That’s why I’m so thrilled and blessed that The Sweetest Story Bible now comes in a deluxe edition, with all the stories narrated on two audio CDs by Roma Downey.
The forty stories in The Sweetest Story Bible focus on helping little girls get to know God–who he is and what he does. And each one relates in some way to the everyday sweet moments in a little girl’s life.
Here’s one little girl, Scottlyn, enjoying her book! Scottlyn’s grandma asked me to autograph a copy of the deluxe edition for her.
Nearly a year ago, on my birthday, I got an e-mail from a Zonderkidz editor letting me know about the deluxe edition and that Roma would likely be the narrator.
Quite the birthday gift!
But nothing like actually hearing Roma read the stories I wrote! I waited a day after my sample arrived–there’s something quite scary about hearing your own words read back to you, especially by someone with such a wonderful voice. Finally I got brave and sat down to listen. Chills and tears!
We just have no idea, sometimes, what might happen with our small efforts, do we? May Scottlyn and so many other girls like her grow up to have a sweet relationship with God through his Son, the Word, Jesus Christ.
The cover of this book caught my eye – a darling baby elephant floating along in the current, his trunk reaching skyward like a snorkel. That’s just how little Gunther looked as he unwittingly sailed away on a grand adventure.
This book will be a delight for parents, teachers, and librarians to share at story time. Not only will children love the illustrations of brightly colored sea creatures and expressive elephants, but the story has depth that encourages questions and discussions.
Gunther’s tale shows children that things they do can have big consequences. The story also illustrates how youngsters can use creativity and quick thinking to help others. Gunther the Underwater Elephant is heartwarming and fun – with a surprise ending that made me laugh out loud. Five smiles for Gunther!
P.S. You can order this book from the publisher at several dollars less than the suggested retail price.
This is my own honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation of any kind for my review.
In my last post, I gave you three basics for choosing a new church. But once you choose it, how do you settle into this new church family? Here are six suggestions:
Remember it takes time to settle in to a new community, neighborhood, or church. I’ve heard it said it takes about two years before a person feels really at home in a new community. Hopefully it won’t take that long at your new church, but give yourself plenty of time. Nothing becomes familiar or comfortable without regularly spending time on it.
Stay long enough after services to meet people. When the last song is sung, don’t bolt for the door. Hang around and visit with the people around you. Introduce yourself and get a feel for this new church body. And don’t limit yourself to only befriending those in your own age bracket. Rich friendships can be made with those older and younger than yourself.
Let people know your interests. As you visit with the folks at church, let them know things you’ve been involved in at other churches, in your children’s school, or at work. This lets them know how you might become involved in ministry. It also gives them opportunity to point you to people with similar interests who may be good matches for new friends.
Offer to help. There’s no better way to settle in somewhere than to offer your services in an area of need. If you love working with kids and you see a Sunday school teacher is needed, step up and offer to help. Is someone moving and needs help loading or unloading a moving van? Be there to lend a hand. Did someone just have surgery? Take them a meal. Meeting needs not only shows your heart, it’s one of the best ways to build lasting relationships.
Join a small group such as a Bible study or a Sunday school class. It’s easier to participate and get to know people better in these smaller settings.
Keep a positive outlook. Settling into a new church is not always easy. Give it some time and stay positive. Be an encourager. People love being around someone who builds up rather than tears down. Keep praying for this new church family and your place in it.
Is there a time when you should cut ties and change churches? Yes. We’ll tackle that subject in my next post. But for now, what tips can you give for settling into a new church?
My one-year-old granddaughter sits in church with her parents until the children are dismissed for children’s church just before the sermon. My daughter-in-law then brings her to the nursery so she and my son can listen to the pastor’s sermon without interruption. My granddaughter loves the time of worship and seems to pay attention as well as any one-year-old is able to. Recently, as the pastor was integrating some spiritual thoughts in preparation for the sermon, he said, “And what does God say . . .” But before he could finish his sentence, my granddaughter said, “Woof woof!” She didn’t quite get it right—but she was listening!
Isaiah 28:23 says, Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.
Proverbs 2:6 says, For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
We are blessed to live in a land of religious freedom where we can worship as we choose. We are blessed to live in an age when Christian books fill the book shelves and a Bible study can be downloaded with the click of a mouse. God’s Word, pastors’ sermons, Bible commentaries, and biblical studies are available to everyone. But in order to benefit and grow spiritually, we need to use them and we need to listen.
Before you go to church, before you open the Bible, or before you dig into a Bible study, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to hear and understand God’s truth. The wisdom and understanding that come from God enable us to make better choices in our lives. And the more we grow in our spiritual journey, the more we will be able to live a life guided by the Holy Spirit.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:22