The Work of His Hands

I just wrapped up an editing project for a client. There are days I enjoy editing more than writing–whether it be my own work or someone else’s. You polish the good stuff. You delete what doesn’t mesh with the rest. In the end, you have molded and shaped your manuscript into a publishable piece of art.

God does the same thing with us. As the potter mentioned in Isaiah 64:8, He works with the clay (us). He molds us and makes us in His fashion. We are the work of His hands.

We can be resistant to change. We may believe we should be accepted as we are. But just like a manuscript filled with typographical errors and missing punctuation, our lives will feel stilted, confused, chaotic. It is only by giving our hearts to God and allowing Him to change us that we can become who we are meant to be.

If you haven’t asked God into your heart, do it now. Let the loving and gentle potter shape you into a beautiful piece of art.

New Year New Traditions

I always have the best intentions when it comes to journaling.  At some point during each year I begin anew, reading, reflecting and recording.  It never seems to stick, yet I know what a benefit this quiet time could be for me.  Ever the optimist I decided the start of the new school year would also be the start of a new journal, but this time I would not go it alone.

The cover page of our family journal

Recently I read something about a “Gratitude Journal” and it really struck a chord with me.  Eating dinner as a family is a priority for us nightly, so in addition to our shared meal, yesterday we started a new tradition sharing entries in our family journal.  This journal too has humble beginnings, hailing from the dollar store, but I hope that its impact on my family is immeasurable.  As we try and set boundaries with our children, it is easy for them to dwell on all the ‘no’s’ of the day, but in this moment of reflection they had an opportunity to see the good in the day.  When it was my turn to share I took the chance to tell my oldest how thankful I was of some positive behavior she had exhibited.  She beamed as I used my turn sharing to focus on her, apparently resonating so much more than praise given throughout the day.  It was a simple addition to our family routine, and one that perhaps is right for your family as well!
www.hollyaskelton@gmail.com                                          www.thelittleheartsproject.blogspot.com

 

There is No Substitute
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“Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night.”       Deuteronomy 11: 18-19 The Message

We choose churches for many reasons, one being how active their children’s and youth ministries appear. While these ministries help engage our children with their faith, I fear parents sometimes substitute their personal responsibility as the family’s spiritual leader for these programs.

I’ve seen this from many angles: as a daughter of divorce, a Sunday school teacher/youth director and as a parent.

More children than ever are raised in broken homes – absent a father, mother or both. And, when they step foot into a church, brought by a grandparent, aunt or uncle or neighborhood friend, the teacher/youth leader is most often the first and only reflection of Christ in their lives. The church leader becomes their spiritual parent, creating a haven where these children find grace, mercy, and companionship; a place of purpose, joy, and spiritual growth.

Watching my children transform from helpless infants into stubbornly independent toddlers, I realized firsthand, a parent’s great spiritual responsibility. As a parent we are our child’s first reflection of God. How we treat them, what we teach them through our actions, words, and deeds determines their world view and their God-view, regardless how wonderful their Sunday school teachers and youth leaders are. What we emulate at home matters most. Yikes!

So, if we’re so messed up, how does God expect us to teach them His ways? God says it best in Deuteronomy 11: 18-20. Devour God’s Word until it becomes part of who you are. Then teach these things to your children all the time – morning, noon, and night. And if you do, His Word becomes part of them and things will go well (paraphrased).

In other words:

  • Make God a priority in your own life – develop your relationship with God first. We cannot teach our kids what we don’t do ourselves.
  • Intentionally teach your children God’s Word and Ways – show them God’s presence in everyday occurrences (creation, relationships, etc). Do your kids see you reading the Bible, praying other than grace? Is Bible reading and praying part of family time?
  • Reflect God in every part of your life – not just at church.
  • Be real – when you mess up, admit it and ask their forgiveness. Kids need to know we’re not perfect.
  • Show mercy and compassion – keep the doors of communication open with unconditional love. Set healthy boundaries and discipline with love.

It is our number one priority and privilege, as Christian parents, to reflect who God is to our children. We’re not perfect but we are their first encounter with the One, true, and living God. Embrace every opportunity. There is no substitute!

Embracing Every Opportunity,
 
 
Dawn Aldrich
Author of Auntie’s House
Host of Penn’s Pals

 

Doing Your Best

I have to admit that I am a fan of American Idol. With so little to watch on TV these days, it’s one program that doesn’t pollute my mind with total garbage. I enjoy enjoy watching the aspiring singers trying to break into the world of music. On one episode, after a young man had waited in line for his audition, one of the judges asked, “Why are you here?” The young man replied, “I like to sing in the shower and think I have a good voice.” The judge pointed out that the singers who advance in the competition have been singing since they were children. They have sung in church choirs and local bands. They have had voice lessons and coaches and have worked hard for years to develop their talent. The young man then gave it his best shot, but he was not good enough to make it to the next round.

This incident made me think about writers who try to get published with no experience. Just because they think they  have written a good story (because all their friends tell them it’s good), doesn’t mean they are ready for the world of publishing. The writers who make it through to the next round after submission are writers who have taken the time to develop their skills. They have been writing for local newspapers, magazines, or church newsletters. They have gone to writer’s conferences and had their work critiqued by professional writers and editors. They have rewritten and revised until their fingers ached. They are the writers who have a chance.

I suppose this can be applied to many other activities and careers as well. If you want to be a good pianist, then you have to take piano lessons and practice, practice, practice. If you want to be a good swimmer, you need to learn how to swim before you jump into the deep end. If you want to be a teacher, doctor, or lawyer, there are degrees to earn and internships to fulfill. There are no shortcuts to becoming proficient in whatever it is you want to do.

God has given each of us unique talents and abilities. But in order to fully use the gifts that He has given us, we need to invest time and effort into becoming the best that we can be. God will equip us for the tasks that he calls us to do, but we need to do our part in order to do our best for Him.

2 Timothy 2:15 says, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

So follow your passions and pursue your dreams, but remember the road is long and winding and bumpy. And if you are not interested in becoming the next American Idol—go ahead and sing in the shower!

Crystal Bowman

 

 

Nine Back-to-School Questions for Parents

Back-to-school! Time to shop for new clothes and wear shiny new shoes. Time to buy backpacks and boxes of 64 crayons—not a broken one in the box…yet! J And let’s not forget those new notebooks with pristine pages just waiting to be filled, along with new sharp pencils with clean erasers that haven’t yet been worn down.

It’s also time to meet new teachers, and to start thinking about test scores and reading levels. For many parents, it’s a time to heave a sigh of relief as teachers resume their roles as instructors and moms can get back to the 101 things that had been left undone before school started.

But the first day of the school year is not a time to hand over our children to teachers as if we’re running a relay race and our children are the batons.

Bill Maxwell, a columnist for the Tampa Bay Times, noted that parents are still a child’s first and most effective teacher. Without parental involvement, teachers are often spinning their wheels. He suggests the following six questions to involve parents in their children’s schooling:

1. Have you established a daily routine that provides time and a quiet place to study, assigning responsibility for family chores, being firm about bedtime and having dinner together?

2. Do you monitor out-of-school activities, set limits on TV, check up on your children when you are not home and arrange for after-school activities and supervised care?

3. Do you model the value of learning, self-discipline and hard work, communicating through questioning and conversation and demonstrating that achievement comes from working hard?

4. Do you express high but realistic expectations for achievement, setting goals and standards appropriate for your children’s age and maturity, recognizing and encouraging special talents and informing friends and family about successes?

5. Do you encourage your children’s development and progress in school, maintaining a warm and supportive home, showing interest in school, helping with homework, discussing the value of a good education and possible career options and staying in touch with teachers and school staff?

6. Do you encourage reading, writing, and discussions among family members, reading to your children, listening to your children read, and talking about what is being read?

I would add three additional questions:

7. Do you pray for your children daily, and allow them to hear you bring them by name before the throne of God?

8. Do you teach your children the most important book of all is the Bible? Do you read to them from the Bible and do they see you reading – and applying – it for yourself?

9. Do you instill in your children a healthy fear of the Lord, where the fear of the Lord has been defined as a continual awareness that God is watching, weighing, and rewarding what we do, say and think…whether you are with them or not?

The best teachers in the world still need parental involvement to ensure children’s success in school. What are your answers to these nine questions?

What questions would you add to this list?