Posted in On The Reading Chair, With The Kids

ESV Family Devotional Bible Review

The last few months, I have been using this Family Devotional Bible from Crossway. I wanted to use it for a little while before I gave my review of it. So, I’ve been pulling it out during family devotion time. I have the hardcover edition, but it is also available in blue or brown imitation leather.

Now, when I think of a family Bible, I think of an heirloom quality Bible. Something pretty and significant. I don’t think of a picture Bible. But this is not necessarily intended to be that stately family Bible. This is far more practical. It is a Bible a younger family can walk through together during family devotion time. I’m not sure if you’ve gathered this or not, but I am a very big advocate for family devotions.

This Bible has plenty of full color pictures. Now, the colored ink on the Bible paper does wrinkle the page a little bit. I’m not sure if you can tell from this picture, but there is a rippled texture throughout the picture pages. While the paper is thicker than standard Bible paper, it still didn’t hold up perfectly with the ink. But the pictures are beautiful.

They aren’t childish cartoons, you have these beautiful illustrations throughout. They do remind me a little of the Bible storybooks in doctor’s office waiting rooms, but I love the illustrations in those, so it works out.

There is a small amount of ghosting on the backs of picture pages, but they don’t interfere with being able to see the pages. It is very light on footnotes.

The devotions are the real highlight of this Bible. It has these interspersed throughout Scripture. They are with the Scripture you are talking about. I really like the questions they give. They are directed enough to stay on topic, but open ended enough to give real thoughtful discussion. Smaller kids won’t benefit from the questions as much as older kids, tweens, teens, and you will. I think that makes these devotions great for a family with a wide age range. While I wouldn’t say this devotion would be ideal for families with only teens in the house, it becomes ideal for those who may have a teen or two along with a younger kid. With the younger kids, the story and illustrations are going to be where they gain the most. For older kids, tweens, teens, and parents- the discussion is where you gain the most. If you have younger kids, you may want to skip the discussion or go light on it. But if you have kids who are older, definitely make sure you leave time for the discussion questions.

The devotions focus on the hero type stories in the Bible. You won’t find a single devotion in the book of Psalms, for example. They are Biblically based and don’t really veer into any specific theology. They stay focused on the Bible stories.

30 devotions are in the Pentateuch. (None in Leviticus.)

24 devotions through the historical books.

0 devotions through the books of wisdom.

2 devotions in the major prophets.

1 devotion in the minor prophets.

56 devotions are in the Gospels.

14 devotions in the book of Acts.

1 devotion in Philemon.

1 devotion in Revelation.

(For a total of 130 devotions.)

It is reasonable to think you could go through all these devotions in one year. And you can go through them in any order you wish. You could start at the beginning. Or, if you’re starting later in the year, start with the Gospels to get further into the life of Jesus around Advent time. You can go straight through or jump around. They do tell you what page the next devotion can be found at the end of each devotion, but there is also an index in the back where you could pick the devotion that best fits you right now. (Either fits what your preacher talked about this week, fits where you are in the liturgical year, fits what you are studying in school, or just fits where your mind and interests are right now.)

I love the ESV version for kids. It is on a 10th grade reading level, so it still has a poetic, non-childish feel. But when read aloud, it is easy for them to understand in modern language.

There are 8 really nice maps at the end of this Bible. I like how they illustrated them. They are very interesting for kids, but also easy for them to understand.

Overall, I have really enjoyed this Bible. I think the devotions are excellent for a wide range of ages. The illustrations are beautiful. The Scripture is right there with each devotion so you’re not flipping around to find what you’re reading. The ESV version is a great read aloud version of the Bible for kids. I think this is an excellent resource for families. I wouldn’t say this Bible is a good Bible for kids, but rather as a family resource.

**I received this Bible for free in exchange for my honest review. I am in no way obligated to review it favorably. **

***This blog regularly contains affiliate links. Affiliate links are a great way to support your favorite bloggers as we do receive a small commission if you buy using our links.***

Posted in Around The Church, From The Altar, With The Kids

Lent 2018

If you’re looking for my annual Lent family devotions, they are in book form this year! I was coming up with a way to make the family devotional more user-friendly. Scrolling through an entire week of blog posts is a bit messy. It is free, but it is messy. Then, I had this idea to add a personal devotional for moms to the front. In pitching the idea to The Pastor, we kind of thought, “Why just moms?” So, I enlisted his help in getting both a full 40-day devotional for all people and a 40-day family devotional written. We then put it on Kindle for ease-of-use. (It is also available in paperback if you’re not a digital person.)

The entire thing is really cohesive: The personal devotions and family devotions tie into each other, so you’ll all be walking the same spiritual path together. And as usual, the family devotional includes activities to do! Fun!

The theme of this year’s Lenten devotional is Refocus. Lent is a great time to look over everything and evaluate if you’re living the way you think you should be living. “Does my life reflect Christ?” It’ll challenge you to reevaluate where you put your time and money. It will ask you to reevaluate your priorities and commitments. Basically, it is going to step all over your toes and probably make you uncomfortable and you might even hate me for it. Or… you might refocus your life on the cross and do big Jesus-work this coming year. I think it’s worth the risk.

If you want a free devotional, all my previous years of Lent family devotions are still available here on the blog. Since Lent is always 40 days, always starting on Ash Wednesday and always ending on Easter, any of these can be used any year.

Lent Family Devotional 2017 – This family devotional looks into the life and ministry of Jesus.

40 Holy People – This is a Lenten devotional looking at the lives of those who have followed Christ with great courage and wisdom.

Fruit of the Spirit Family Devotional – This is not a Lenten devotional, but you can use it during Lent if you’d like. It is 9 weeks, so it is a little longer than Lent.

Click here to buy this year’s Lent devotional on Amazon.  My hope and prayer is for families to come together around a table and talk about Jesus. So, whatever you chose to do this Lent, be it using Refocus, using one of the free devotions on my blog, using another devotional book, or just reading through a book of the Bible together after dinner— make sure that you don’t miss Jesus during this season. Let the season bring you closer to Him and closer to your family.

Posted in From The Altar, Out Of My Head

Word Before World

I’m scrolling through Instagram when I wake up this morning and come across a hashtag that gets my mind rolling. #wordbeforeworld . Now, this isn’t the first time I had seen the hashtag. I have seen @wellwateredwomen posting it for several days now. But it was the first time I stopped and took note.

What is the first thing I do when I wake up? Usually grumble about the kids already being awake and lament how late I stayed up the night before. But the first thing I usually choose to do after pulling myself out of bed and getting ready for the day is grab my iPad and start checking social media. I choose to plunge into the world first. Always. The Word part normally comes when I’ve done everything else I need to do for the day. Sure, we get into the Word every morning during Morning Basket time, so I guess I could count that. But before I even do morning basket, I’m checking my social media accounts.

Of course, my mind went to Deuteronomy chapter 6. The people of God are being told not to forget who they are and what God has done for them. They are to teach their children, talk of them in their house, talk of God’s commands walking around going about their day. They are to write them on the doorposts of their houses. And they are to think of them when they lie down and when they rise up.

It got me thinking of the giving of the first fruits, something we remind ourselves when we tithe. We give God the first of what he has given to us. So, what is more valuable than our time? The days, hours, and minutes we have? Why wouldn’t we give the first of our time each day, too?

Essentially, when I choose social media before getting into the Word of God, I’m stating my priorities for the day. Connection, news, self-image- all those things we tie up in social media- I’m saying those are the most important for me. I’m saying that my FOMO (fear of missing out) on the world is more important than my FOMO on God.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with social media. I think we, as Christians, need to remain engaged in social media as a way to influence our culture. But as all our youth pastor’s warned us, we need to be careful of how we let it shape us. So, I’m not saying we should all pull away from social media. I think a host of evangelism can be done through a screen in our culture.

I am saying that I found myself guilty this morning. I realized I’ve not been putting first things first. I’ve been putting them last. When there is time. At the bottom of the to-do list. And those priorities will never stand. The Word will never shape me because I’m not letting it take the rightful place in my life. That is not anyone’s fault but mine.

I had thought of New Year’s Resolutions in abstract terms. I knew I needed more discipline in my spiritual life and my physical life, so I was just going to abstractly focus on discipline. I now realize an abstract one word focus isn’t going to get me where I need to be. Sure, it will help me think of where I need to be. But I need action steps. I need firm commitments to being disciplined.

So, with discipline as my word of the year, my first practical step is going to be Word before World. That is my first firm commitment to the process of being disciplined. Word before World. I will seek Him first.

Posted in Around The Church, From The Altar, On The Reading Chair

Choosing A Bible Translation

We have a huge blessing available to us in modern Bible translations. Not only do we have the Bible translated into our language, but we have multiple translations that are great for various walks of life and situations. We are abundantly blessed. So, don’t get yourself worked into a tizzy over which translation is the right translation. They’re all translations. You may prefer one, but our preference does not equal rightness. You may find yourself in a spiritual drought at some point, needing the Word to be fresh for you. A different translation can be all it takes to make the Word come alive again. You may find yourself discipling a child and need something on their level, but not a Bible storybook level either. You may find yourself reading the minor prophets in a new translation that makes it sound so poetic and beautiful and you experience Scripture in beauty for the first time. You may be helping a new Christian and need something readable for someone with no personal Christian history. Read on and find the translation for you now.

Translations are made one of two ways. Well, that simplifies it a little too much, but for the sake of this conversation, we’ll go with it. If you’re looking at a foreign language and you’re going to translate it, you can either translate each individual word or you can translate the whole thought. Translating word for word can lead to some things that just don’t make a lot of sense, since we arrange our words in English very specifically. (Did you know we even have a specific order for arranging adjectives?) So, in translating word for word, you can see you’ll run into problems. However, when translating thought for thought, you may not accurately convey the right word or the right emphasis. You find people complaining about the exact accuracy of thought for thought translations. But all translations will fall somewhere between an exact word for word translation and a thought for thought translation.

Each translation also comes in at a different grade reading level. Lower grade levels are typically going to have a less expansive vocabulary used.

King James Version (KJV)

This translation is a word for word translation with a very high reading level. (12th grade) While many people that grew up in a conservative church find this to be the Bible translation they are most familiar with, new Christians typically struggle to make sense of this translation. It is more like reading Shakespeare. It is incredibly beautiful in its language, but can be difficult to understand or get to the point. This translation is often a good one for memorizing Scripture because the poetic language is easier for some people to memorize. The flow just lends itself to getting lodged in the brain. However, for new Christians, people feeling spiritual draught, and younger Christians, the reading level is just too high and they have trouble making sense of the Word. This translation was published in 1611. This is a very common choice for a family Bible because it feels and reads like an old classic.

I John 1:9 “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”

New King James Version (NKJV)

This translation is still a word for word translation. Modernized a little and the reading level brought down to a much more readable 8th grade level. It still has a lot of the poetic feel of the King James, but makes a little more sense and is easier for most people to study. This is often the choice of pastors for their preaching Bible translation. Again, Scripture memorization may be easier with this version as it is more poetic and sticks in your head like a song. This translation was published in 1982. It is a classic, conservative feel that is understandable by more people. I use this translation as our homeschool Bible. This is the translation my kids learn their memory verses from and we do our group reading from.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “ He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps.”

New International Version (NIV)

This is a mixture of word for word and thought for thought translation. A little of both has made this a pretty standard choice. It is just below an 8th grade reading level, so it is pretty well understood by most people. This was published in 1978 and is now the most read and the most trusted translation choice.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

New Living Translation (NLT)

Like the NIV, the New Living Translation is a balance between word for word and thought for thought translation. The reading level is just above a 6th grade level, so this is a very understandable translation for most people. This was not a translation of a translation, but a brand new translation undertaking by 90 Biblical scholars. This translation flows smoothly and makes a lot of sense. It is less poetic, but much more readable and understandable. This is an excellent translation for new Christians. Published in 1996.

1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”

English Standard Version (ESV)

This is a word for word translation in a little above a 7th grade reading level. This is the most popular choice for Bible Journaling. It is very readable. It isn’t unnecessarily wordy and makes a great modern choice for Scripture memorization. Publish in 2001, it is an updated version of the Revised Standard Version. This makes an excellent family Bible. I use this translation in my Bible Journaling and we have a family Bible in this translation. This also makes a great gift Bible.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

This is a modern word for word translation at a higher reading level, 11th grade. It has a more formal feel than most of the other modern translations. Published in 1971, updated in 1995. This is very readable, but also more of a scholarly translation. This is a great choice for a preaching Bible or a Christian ready for deeper Bible study. Not always the best for Scripture memorization as it does get a little wordy. This also makes an excellent family Bible.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.”

Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

This is more of a word for word translation. It has a 7th grade reading level. This version is clear and concise. It is excellent for Bible study. It can also be a great translation for New Christians. I think my primary recommendation is for Christians experience spiritual dryness in their life and need the Word to come alive again. This is the translation that you can read the stories you’ve heard your whole life and see something completely new and shocking in it that has always been there, but you are just seeing it. It is a good eye opening translation for personal study. I think it would make a great preaching Bible, as well, but I don’t know many pastors who actually use it for that. This is the Bible I use as my church Bible and for personal Bible Study.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure.”

International Children’s Bible (ICB)

This is a thought for thought translation in a third grade reading level. This is a translation meant for children. If you’re a children’s pastor, this would be a good preaching and teaching Bible for you. This is a good choice for a first Bible for a child. It is very easily understood. Published in 1982. This can be difficult for kids to follow along in service or Bible study if the leader isn’t using this version.

1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins. We can trust God. He does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrongs we have done.”

Psalm 40:2 “ He lifted me out of the pit of destruction, out of the sticky mud. He stood me on a rock. He made my feet steady.“

The Message (MSG)

This is a thought for thought, paraphrase version. A lot of hate out there for this version, but I think it definitely has its place. This translation is excellent for seekers who have no Christian back ground or experience. It was published in 2002, and can sometimes seem too flippant for many conservative Christians. But a teen who has never read the Bible will find this an invaluable source of God’s Word. And not just teens. The reading level varies with the passage, but it is about a middle school average. This can also be a good version for those experiencing spiritual aridity, but it doesn’t make for a very good study Bible. You will hear and notice things you didn’t before, but not in the same way you will with the CSB. This is a difficult version to follow along with in service or Bible study because of the paraphrasing.

1 John 1:9 “ On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.“

Psalm 40:2 “ He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip.“

New International Reader’s Version (NIrV)

This is a blend of word for word and thought for thought. This has the lowest reading level of any of the translations, just below 3rd grade. This is a translation for very young children. This was published in 1994 and updated in 1998. It is a beginner’s Bible. Excellent choice for a first Bible for brand new readers. This is a good resource for homeschooling parents to use to teach young kids to read or write using the Bible. This is the translation I usually buy my kids as they are learning to read.

1 John 1:9 “But God is faithful and fair. If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins. He will forgive every wrong thing we have done. He will make us pure.”

Psalm 40:2 “I was sliding down into the pit of death, and he pulled me out. He brought me up out of the mud and dirt. He set my feet on a rock. He gave me a firm place to stand on.”

This isn’t all the Bible translations available to you. Check out biblegateway.com if you want to compare more translations. These are just a few that I hope might help you in choosing the Bible that is right for your situation.

Another note: I used to find myself feeling bad for owning multiple copies of the Bible. That was surely a luxury many in this world do not have. And that is correct. There are many who don’t have the luxury of owning one single full copy of God’s Word. So, it often felt very first world of me to own many copies. However, I have come to accept that a Bible used in my house by me or my children is to God’s glory. No matter how many Bibles we have- if we are using them, it is for His glory. Also, supporting Bible publishers is supporting Bible translators. These companies can do good around the world with my support. Supporting them is supporting the work of furthering the spread of the Gospel. Choosing to put my money in their pockets is better than what I would have spent it on elsewhere. Also, I am always willing to give my Bible away. Whatever copy I may have in my hand at the moment, if someone else has no copy- I’m always ready to give mine away. I am not hoarding Bibles, though it may seem that way.

*** This post contains affiliate links. Using affiliate links is a great way to support your favorite bloggers. You don’t pay any extra, but we are compensated a small amount when you purchase using our links. ***

Posted in Among The Homeschool

2017-2018 at Godbold Academy

I’m finally mostly planned out for this coming school year. I usually don’t do quite so much pre-planning, but I’m having a baby late October/early November, so I figured I should plan out all I could in advance. A couple new things for us this year: First, I planned in terms instead of just all year. 5 terms total. Three 12 weeks terms, an Advent term, and then a summer term. The kids have been begging me for a more traditional summer, so I have taken their request and we made a compromise. (We usually do year round school.) They will still be completing their third term after the local schools get out. But then they get an actual summer term, which will mostly just consist of each of them having a required reading list. The other new to us thing is the Morning Basket. It is a Charlotte Mason homeschooler thing, but I have adapted it a bit for our more classical methods. More about that if you click the Morning Basket link below.

I did look into switching from The Well Trained Mind to Ambelside this year. I love a lot of things about Ambelside, but ultimately felt The Well Trained Mind is still a better fit for our family. I did look over the Ambelside reading lists for the corresponding years of history and picked a few of those suggestions that I thought might be a good fit for my crew. The Well Trained Mind is really adaptable on a child by child, family by family basis. You have a wide variety of ways the method is really done and worked out in families. We’ve used it from the beginning of our homeschool journey. (This is our 8th homeschooling year.) I’m always tempted by other things, but ultimately decide every year to stick with The Well Trained Mind. It just fits us best.

This year, I am homeschooling 5 kids. One of those is an optional one who is currently opting in. (“School” in our house is optional until you are 6 years old.) Grade levels also get a little mixed when you’re talking about homeschool, especially when you’re not just using a box curriculum. Kids tend to move at their own pace and advance quicker in some areas than others. I kind of average out their level and that is what grade the kid says they are in, since “What grade are you in?” Isn’t usually meant to be answered with, “Well, I have the vocabulary of a high school sophomore, but in math, I’m around grade 6. In literature, we read higher level books than our ages would suggest. And in Grammar, I am on grade level.” People usually expect something more like, “I’m a sixth grader.” Believe me, getting testing scores back for homeschoolers learning in non-traditional methods is quite amusing as they may very well likely place in every single grade in something. But on the average, this year I have a preschooler, a first grader, a fourth grader, and two sixth graders.

This year should prove to be a bit of a challenge for each of them as I am realizing they can do some pretty hard things. They are typically limited by the challenges, or lack there of, that I give them. We are not doing Latin this year, though that is a typical classical homeschooler subject. We are incorporating it a little in their vocabulary studies. We are also leaving out handwriting for the time being. They have a lot of writing to do, so I am not too convinced a full handwriting course is really necessary this year. If I change my mind, I can always add it in for Term 2 or 3 or even the Summer Term.

To save us from an infinitely long post, click on the links to the individual parts of our school year below.

Morning Basket

First Grade

Fourth Grade

Sixth Grade

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Posted in From The Altar, With The Kids

We Can Bless Others- Week Four

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25: 34-40 (NASB)

Think about a time when someone blessed you. I remember when I just had two little babies. I felt very overwhelmed much of the time. I’m not the most organized person, so I was rarely prepared. Well, one day, we were out and one of the babies had a huge blowout diaper. Of course, I had exactly one wet wipe on my person. I could have kicked myself. Then a complete stranger, another mom, noticed my predicament and “loaned” me her pack of wipes. That was an extremely simple gesture, but in that moment, it was such a blessing. It made that situation bearable for me. I am still grateful for those few wet wipes.

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Imagine if we all just gave a little of ourselves to one another. Imagine what a huge blessing we could be to each other.

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We often find ourselves saying, “But what can I do?” We think we do not HAVE enough to give. But think of it: You HAVE Jesus. You HAVE all that there is to give.

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We can find ways to give. We can find ways to bless others. Through acts, time, words, or things. We can be a blessing. You may not be able to feed all of the homeless people in your area, but you CAN feed one. You may not be able to clothe all of the poor, but you CAN donate your used clothing and clothe some.

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This week, let’s focus on ways we can bless others. Let’s write notes of encouragement. Let’s take food to the hungry. Let’s open our eyes and see how we can bless our world.

Discussion Questions:

  • In what ways are you a blessing to others?
  • Do you recall a time someone was an unexpected blessing to you?
  • What more could you do to bless others?

Activities:

  • Start a Family Food Drive! Decide on a budget, and go shopping for a local food pantry. You can also shop your own pantry. It doesn’t matter how MUCH you give, simply THAT you give.
  • Take on some Neighborhood Trash Duty. Take a family walk armed with a garbage bag. Pick up trash around your neighborhood. This is especially helpful on trash day ― when things might have gotten dropped on the ground. It may not seem important, but it is something you can do to show love for your neighbors.
  • Become a family of Secret Helpers. You can run this two ways. Way one: Each member of the family draws a name from a hat, and they secretly do things to try to bless that person this week. The alternative: Just let them play “Spy and Try” to secretly bless the family through the week. Either way works. They aren’t working for a Thank-You; they are trying to secretly be a blessing.

My Prayer for You:

Lord, open our eyes to the needs of those around us. Prick our hearts and let us be moved to action. Show us how we can be a blessing and give us the courage to do it. Let our hearts be burdened for others. Let us be moved to action and show others the love You so freely give. Let us be a blessing. Amen.

Posted in From The Altar, With The Kids

We Are Thankful – Week Three

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)

“Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the nations, and I will sing praises to Your name.” 1 Samuel 22:50 (NASB)

“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Then say, ‘Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us and deliver us from the nations, to give thanks to Your holy name, and glory in Your praise.’” 1 Chronicles 16:34-35 (NASB)

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 (NASB)

Clearly this thankful-thing is Biblical. Last week, we listed all our blessings, and for these, we should give thanks.

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Expressing gratitude can be difficult for some of us. Sometimes it is because we are not grateful because we are not focused on being content and counting our blessings.

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Sometimes it is because we aren’t sure how to adequately express our gratitude. Other times, it may be because we try to suppress our emotions, thinking only intellectualism matters. (God made your emotions and uses emotional language to express Himself to us. Your emotions are God-given and can give glory to God. Don’t always suppress them.)

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Gratitude and expressing thanks is a matter of the heart. We have to see the blessing to be thankful for it. We sometimes have to practice this to get to where it is our natural response.

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This week, let’s focus on actually giving thanks. Let’s say, “Thank You,” to God. Let’s say,  “Thank you,” to one another. Let’s learn to express our gratitude.

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Discussion Questions:

  • Do you thank God for your blessings enough?
  • Do you thank others when they are a blessing to you?
  • Do you need to work on seeing things from a grateful point of view?

Activities:

  • Think of someone you have not/did not thank for something they have done in your life. It could be a teacher, pastor, friend, family member, librarian, crossing guard, etc. Write them a Thank-You note. Be specific about what you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be long, but be specific in your thanks. For kids that are too young to write, Mom and Dad can help with the writing, and they can do the decorating!
  • Consider how a Thank-You feel, and share that feeling. Mom and Dad, tell each of your children something you are thankful to them for. (Some examples: Thank you for always being willing to help. Thank you for sweeping the porch today. Thank you for being kind to your siblings. Thank you for giving me lots of hugs and kisses.) After you tell each child, “Thank you,” discuss as a family how it feels to be told, “Thank you.”
  • Have a Thank-You Relay. You’ll need spoons and cotton balls. Give each kid a spoon. Pass the cotton ball from spoon to spoon without using hands. Remember to say, “Thank you,” when you receive the cotton ball! If you have enough people, you can split into teams. You can amp up the intricacy for older kids if you need to or keep it simple for little ones. To take things up a notch, make them spin around, jump, run, or not bend their elbows while they pass the cotton ball! Grab a spoon yourself! This is full-family fun!

My Prayer for You:

Lord, help us to give thanks, to speak from our lips what our heart fully feels. Give us the courage to give thanks out loud and often. May it be a blessing to the people around us. Amen.

Posted in From The Altar, With The Kids

We Are A Blessed Family- Week Two

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James 1:17 (NASB)

If you are reading this right now, you are blessed. We have this amazing tendency to focus on what we do not have rather than what we do have. We think it trite to be grateful for the common, but what is greater to be thankful for than the ordinary? Without the ordinary, we can have no extraordinary.

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We have life. We have one another. We are infinitely loved by our Maker. We get to experience the wonders of this world He created for us. We get to experience the range of feeling He gave to us. We are abundantly blessed.

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Take time to make a list of your blessing. I think you’ll find this list surprisingly long. Let’s keep our blessings in mind this week and think of them often. Let’s take things with gratitude, not for granted. Let’s thank God for all that He has given us.

Discussion Questions:

  • What would you say is your greatest blessing?
  • Do you count your blessings enough?
  • When you list all of your blessings, does anything on the list surprise you? Did someone else’s blessings surprise you?

Activities:

  • Make a Blessing Table Cloth. Get a light-colored table cloth that you are cool with writing on, or grab some butcher paper and use that as a temporary table cloth. (Or you could even grab some osanaburg fabric to use.) Take time during the week to write your blessings on this table cloth. Aim to fill it up by the end of the week. Alternatively, you can grab a jar and write on pieces of paper and put them in the jar. Will your “cup runneth over”?
  • Do the My-Blessings A-Z. (This is a favorite around my house.) Make a list of your blessings using the alphabet ― one blessing per letter. You could make this into a book if you want, or just a list to hang for remembering.
  • Play the “I’m thankful for…” Game: This is a fun, group memory game. The first person says, “I am thankful for…” and then they name something they are thankful for. The next person says, “I am thankful for…” and names the thing the first person said, plus adds on their own. The third person says, “I am thankful for…” and names what the first person said, names what the second person said, and then adds their own. On and on you go.
My Prayer for You:
Lord, help us see how blessed we are. Help us recognize our blessing and recognize that You are the source of our blessings. Show us how much we have. Amen.
Posted in From The Altar, With The Kids

Becoming A Thankful Family

Thanksgiving is upon us. I love this time of year. I love taking the time to really focus on my blessings. I put together a devotional to help guide our family toward more grateful hearts.

Advent and Christmas are coming. The pressures of materialism are going to be high. The “More! More! More!” season is coming. Let’s stop the monster before it begins. Let’s focus on what we have for this month.

I have put together one devotion per week. It is super easy and super simple. This is a great intro to doing family devotionals, if you don’t already. Family devotions will be a blessing to your family, and this simple one for the four weeks of November leading up to Advent will be easy to commit to and succeed. One day a week. That’s all.

Some tips when it comes to family devotions: Expect to get as much out of it as your children. This is for the benefit of everyone in the family, not just the kids. Let yourself be open and vulnerable during this time. Schedule the time to do the devotional, and don’t let it be optional. Don’t let yourself put it off. Put it on the family calendar for a time that works for your family, and do it. Follow up on the other days of the week. Remind your kids what you are working on. Do the optional activities on the “off” days. Make sure to pray. You can take prayer requests or not, but make sure to include prayer in your devotion time.

My prayer for you is that you center yourself on Jesus and recognize how blessed you are. I pray you will be challenged to be a blessing to others. I pray your family will see the world through the lens of gratitude. May the Lord be with you and yours.

Week One

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Week Two

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Week Three

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Week Four

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Posted in Concerning Strangers, From The Altar, On The Reading Chair, Out Of My Head

Affirm Their Worth

So, what is this common courtesy business? Well, I consider it a spiritual discipline. In fact, this spiritual discipline is more difficult for me than prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, hospitality- anything else. When God first started working on my heart about common grace, you could feel my soul yelling, “Anything but this!” Seriously. Some people find this sort of thing easy. I do not. A punk rock teen grew up to be a punk in adult’s clothing. Polite is almost the opposite of my core. To me, polite felt like a lie. It felt wrong. Chit-chat seemed like wasted meaningless words. A waste of the limited time we are given! Oh how wrong I was. I mean, I thought I was right. My logic made sense. But God has a way of taking those things we hold as true and exposing them to light, and we see that we only saw a shadow of the issue at hand.

“Once we get over our egocentric arrogance about the fact that people don’t really want to know how we are when they say “How are you?” we can see that it is just an American way of acknowledging our presence. We can wave and acknowledge their presence too without feeling the need to give a prognosis on our latest headache.” – Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Did that hit you as it hit me? Honestly, that single concept took me years to master. Years. And I still think I struggle with it from time to time. My brutal and completely open honesty struggles with this concept.

“The specific acts will vary from culture to culture, but the purpose is always the same: to acknowledge others and affirm their worth.” -Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

You read that? Read it again. Let that sink in. Does my need for this ideal of brutal honesty mean more than the worth of the person in front of me? No. Does my internal punk screaming for truth matter more than this moment to affirm this person’s worth? No. In these seemingly small moments, we make people. We breathe into them that thing we find in our Great God- worth. We shine a light into their darkness and say, “Hey, you! You’re worth my time and my attention.”

Titus 3:2 (CEB) They shouldn’t speak disrespectfully about anyone, but they should be peaceful, kind, and show complete courtesy toward everyone.

pip handYears ago, the thought of someone touching my baby would have sent me into a tizzy. You’ve seen that Steve Harvey video? No, not the Miss Universe one, the one about the woman who didn’t want strangers touching her baby. (I linked that for ya, just in case you somehow haven’t seen it.) Well, that is the world’s wisdom. And years ago, I would have been the first person and the loudest person saying, “If you want to touch a baby, have your own baby!” But you know how God works in ways different than the world? And you know how God changes us sometimes, even those pieces we didn’t think needed to be changed? Well, that is what He did to me.

Not long ago, in a coffee shop, I had Pip all wrapped up snug. It wasn’t cold out, and his feet are so dang fat socks are just not an option unless he really might freeze without them. So, I am standing and waiting on my café au lait, and a woman approaches me. She says, “Oh! Those feet!” Now, the judgement police sirens are going off in my head. I am sure I am about to get a lecture about how he will certainly catch pneumonia and die in 70 degree weather. I smile and mention that his feet are too fat for socks. She says, “May I?” Nodding to his fat little foot poking out of the carrier. I say, “Sure.” The lady proceeds to just hold and rub Pip’s foot for a minute. She has this sad kind of smile while she does. Pip is just grinning at her, because that is what Pip does. She then says, “Thank you so much for sharing him with me today. You have no idea how much holding that fat foot meant to me.” And then she walks off.

Now, five years ago, I would have in no polite way told her that she may not touch his foot! I would have likely acted like I couldn’t hear her when she first spoke to me, since I assumed she was just being Judgy McJudgyPants. But God was working on me. And in this moment, I chose to just show simple kindness. We’re not talking about some incredible heroic act. I was simply kind and polite. I shared my baby’s foot with a stranger for a minute. I’ll never know what that woman was going through. And I will never know what that moment meant to her. But to me, it seems Pip and I were there as an act of grace to her that day. We simply acknowledged her, and somehow we brought a little light.

Common courtesy is a simple act of compassion. It is a small act of service. Are you like I was, unable to small talk because of your own ideals? Perhaps those assumptions of others are keeping you from the smallest kindness? Will you acknowledge others and affirm their worth? Will you pray for opportunities to practice small kindnesses to strangers?