Generational Blessings

My mother turned 90 last fall, so we had an open house for her after church. Over 200 friends and family members joined us in celebrating her birthday. Our family is blessed that she is still going strong at her age. She is physically and mentally healthy, she lives in her own home, and still drives to the grocery store. She plays the piano in the “old folks” home (as she describes it), providing lunchtime music for people who are younger than she is.

Our family is blessed to have a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother who can still be an active part of our lives. Our blessings, however, go far beyond her mental and physical health. As I looked around the fellowship hall on the day of her open house, I saw four generations of blessed people. On both my mother’s side and my father’s side, our Christian heritage goes back farther than I can trace. My siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, and their children are blessed because our forefathers and mothers lived in obedience to God’s word.  We have been blessed with spiritual wisdom and knowledge—taught to us from the day we were born. We have been spared many of life’s tragedies and sorrows because of the obedience of those who walked before us. Though our extended families are far from perfect, most of them are walking with the Lord and passing on the faith to the next generation. In Exodus 20:6 God tells us, “I lavish my love on those who love me and keep my commandments, even for a thousand generations.” (NLT)

The older I get, the more I realize the truth of that promise. I also realize that many people are not so blessed as they witness and experience generational sins being passed on from one generation to the next.  But here’s the great news: no one is without hope! In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the Apostle Paul tells us, “Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” (NLT) 

If you are not living under a generational blessing of godly ancestors, you can be a catalyst for change. Those who become Christians are new creatures in Christ. They no longer live under the generational sins of their ancestors. New believers can be the first of many blessed generations, so that those who follow can know the joy of living a life of faith. If you are living with a firm faith and foundation in Jesus Christ, then your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be blessed as you pass down your faith. God’s love will be lavished upon them.

If I live to be 90, I hope that I will be strong and healthy like my mother. But more importantly, I hope and pray that those who come after me, will be followers of Jesus Christ. “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children live in the truth.” 3 John 1:4 (NLT)

          Great-grandma

        Great-granddaughter

 

Crystal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Too Soon!

I’ve enjoyed my share of egg hunts, Easter baskets, and milk-chocolate bunnies. But it may be time to lift the resurrection of Jesus Christ above the adventures of the Easter Bunny to teach our children about the living hope we have in Jesus.

A common objection to moving beyond chicks and chocolate is that younger children are too impressionable to be exposed to the horrors of crucifixion. Since they do not really understand the concept of death, how can they be expected to understand the concept of resurrection?

One of the biggest mistakes we can make, however, is to underestimate what children are capable of understanding.

You may think, “I’m not creative enough to teach these things. Besides, isn’t this the job of Sunday School teachers?” But being creative doesn’t require a particular job title. Teachable moments occur in the course of daily activities with your child, which then become the basis for learning truth.

One truth (that Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins, for example) can be reinforced through Bible passages, stories, music, finger-plays, and other activities.

Lessons about life and death can be found in illustrations as simple as the life cycle of a plant. Allow your child to plant seeds and watch them grow. Then let them observe a dead plant or flower. Conversations about the death of a pet may also open doors for discussion.

Explaining the crucifixion to a child doesn’t need to include harsh details. It may be enough to say something like, “Jesus loves us so much that He died on the cross to take our punishment for the things we do wrong. Then He did what no one else could do. He didn’t stay dead, and because He is alive we can be friends with God forever.”

Storytelling is another terrific way to communicate the truth of the Resurrection. Even the youngest child has felt sad when separated from those he loves. We can tell the story of Jesus’ death and describe how sad Jesus’ friends were because they thought they would never see Him again. Then we can describe their joy when they discovered He didn’t remain in the tomb. Instead of being overwhelmed by the sadness that accompanies death, the child learns about the joy we have because Jesus is alive.

For two- and three-year-olds, visual aids are helpful. Older preschoolers can hold up props to participate in the story time. Adults can act out a scene for the very young. Elementary children can read the scene or act it out. Adolescents can act it out, role-play, or write their own scenes.

Children will enjoy acting out the disciples’ amazement and joy in learning that Jesus is alive and that He made the way for us to live forever with Him.

Or illustrate the resurrection in the kitchen with this fun recipe for Resurrection Rolls. Allow your children to help you by inserting the marshmallow in the center of crescent roll dough. After baking, the marshmallow disappears!

While there are many excellent Bible story books and children’s resource materials, don’t underestimate the importance of using the Bible itself. Schedule a daily time with to read together, but limit the time based on your child’s age and attention span.

Depending on the age of your children, they may not fully understand the events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But as they learn, they can share your joy as you celebrate Easter together. It’s never too soon to begin!

Dare to witness the crucifixion

crucif15

This is copied from a post I made last year on my blog, Honeycomb Adventures Press, LLC.

I get squeamish when I see people get injured. I rarely watch television because so many programs are like a feeding frenzy of this type. The crucifixion is but one more example of how I have shied away from looking too closely. I was too much of a coward to watch the movie, The Passion of the Christ, until it was shown at my church last year at one of the events I never miss, so I watched it. Even so, I feel a certain sense of amnesia about having seen it, something akin to the amnesia I have about an accident I was in once.

One evening during choir practice as the Lenten season approached this year I felt the Holy Spirit calling me to look more closely at the crucifixion. At first it came in what seemed like a verbal prompting for me to “Look at the ground under the cross,” and “Feel the rough wood.” I could handle that much as I tried to imagine the scene, to hear the birds, and to smell the air.

On April 1 I was challenged through a web page to read the book of John, one chapter a day. It was an exciting way to prepare myself to experience anew the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. It gave me a step by step approach to look more closely.

Our choir sings some exceptionally powerful anthems every year. While practicing a couple of days ago I saw the blood more clearly than before. I saw it fall on the same ground that the Spirit had led me to look at a few weeks earlier. I saw the blood dripping down the rough cross and soaking into the wood. And I realized how that blood must have soaked the royal robe Pilate had commanded the soldiers to put on him after they gave him the lashings which tore up his back.

When we look closely we are better prepared to appreciate the price Jesus paid to bear the punishment for our sin on our behalf. He loved me that much, yet I hadn’t even been born yet. Not only did “this man” Jesus do this for me, this “Son of God” left his throne and riches in Heaven to come down and live as a man, to be born in a stable, to endure the human experiences of being sought out for all the wrong reasons, being loved by some and ridiculed and hated by others, and finally crucified because the chief priests were envious of his popularity among the common people.

Thankfully, we don’t have to keep on looking at the cross. We don’t have to labor there on and on, because Sunday is coming…  When God shows his power for all time!

Teaching Little Ones About Easter

     So how do you explain Good Friday and Easter Sunday to a four-year-old child? The story of the crucifixion and resurrection is difficult for adults to comprehend, let alone young children. Well, the key to explaining anything to young children is to use language that they can understand, and to tell them only what their tender hearts and minds can handle.

Our secular society has turned Easter into a day of painted eggs, colorful jelly beans, and chocolate bunnies. After all, isn’t that much more fun? To be honest, I have no clue how the Easter bunny ever hopped his way into this sacred celebration. I find it quite disturbing that Easter egg hunts have become the focus of this holiday rather than remembering the ultimate sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I have nothing against letting children paint a few eggs and eat a few jelly beans, but they also need to know the real meaning of Easter.

In my boardbook An Easter Gift for Me (Zonderkidz), the story begins by telling how Jesus came to earth, and how he told people that He was God’s Son, and that by believing in him they could go to heaven someday. I did not go into detail about how the people hated Jesus, spit on him, and beat him. There are no whips or thorns or bloody pictures–just this simple statement: But some of the people did not understand the way Jesus fit into God’s special plan. He hung on a cross and that’s where he died. The people who loved him just stood there and cried.

In the background of this colorful two-page spread are three empty crosses. An author doesn’t get much input into  illustrations, but for this story I requested that the crosses be empty so that little ones did not have a disturbing visual of bodies hanging on crosses. The illustrator did a beautiful job of portraying this scene in an honest, but kid-friendly way.

My favorite line in the whole book is on the top of the next page: But Jesus is God so he didn’t stay dead! “He’s alive! He’s alive!” The glad angel said. Isn’t that the plain and simple truth? Jesus is God, so he didn’t stay dead. Little ones can get that and so can we!

The ending wraps it all up—This story’s amazing and all of it’s true. He died on the cross for me and for you. If you love Jesus, believe and obey, then you can see Jesus in heaven someday. 

And that’s what Easter is all about.

Crystal

 

 

Obedience School…. not just for dogs

On a daily basis I find myself reminding my girls the same things over and over – hang up your backpack, dishes go in the sink, brush your teeth, put your clothes in the hamper – a seemingly endless list.  Often if would be easier to just do these tasks myself, but as their mother I know that the only way they are ever going to learn is do it themselves.  Still, on one particular day I had reached my limit and was tired of my words falling on deaf ears.  “I wish you would just listen and do what I ask the first time!!”  It was a cry for obedience.  At their age, I pretty much know what is best for them, things would run so much smoother if they just listened to my sage wisdom :)

When the moment passed I suddenly was struck about how obedient I was being to my own Father.  How many times had his quiet urgings gone ignored?  How often his encouragement dismissed?  Doesn’t he always know what is best for me and wants me to carry out his perfect plan?  It seemed that my kids weren’t the only ones who could afford to go to obedience school!

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. 2 John 1:6

Reflecting on the command to show our love by obeying our Father, a recent incident came to mind.  After an early dinner, my husband and I took the girls to our gym to go swimming.  We take the same route there several times a week without incident.  On this particular night, however, as we exited the same familiar off-ramp I saw a homeless man holding a sign asking for help.  As many times as we travel this way, I had never seen him here before and felt I needed to do something.  But the girls were excited to go swimming and it seemed kind of a hassle to stop, so we continued the quarter mile to the gym.  Upon arrival, I turned the car around and told my family that I felt God was asking me to take that man dinner.  We picked up a sandwich, coffee and chips and within 10 minutes were back to deliver this stranger dinner.  When we arrived, he was gone.  My oldest started crying “But mom, you said God wanted you to give that man dinner and now we can’t!  We didn’t do what God wanted”.  It was a good lesson to learn as sometimes things don’t always turn out how you wanted – people are unappreciative, unkind or unavailable.  It isn’t always the end result that reflects God’s love, sometimes it is simply obeying the call.

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