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.

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.

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.

Becoming A Content Family – Week One

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.” Phillippians 4:10-14 (NASB)

Contentment is a hard one for most of us. We can barely wrap our head around what it means, much less commit ourselves to trying to have it. We often hear people refer to Philippians 4:13… I can do anything! Yea-uh! But all that stuff before it ― well… we usually don’t keep verses 10-12 with verse 13, and certainly not verse 14! But there they are. Better yet, here it is. Context. Paul is sitting in prison, writing to the Church at Philippi. He tells them that he knows they are concerned for him but assures them that he is content. Again: He is sitting in prison. He knows what it is like to be on the mountain and in the valley. He knows what it is like to be on top of the world and to be sitting in jail. He knows both, and he is content in both. He can do all things in Christ.

Contentment isn’t happiness, despite the dictionary defining it as happiness and satisfaction. Really, that sells the concept a bit short. It is more than just feeling happy. It is peace for what is. Not in a negative, whatever-will-be-will-be sense, but in a full, resting embrace of what is. It is ceasing to struggle for more, ceasing to grasp for more.

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Herein is our modern problem with finding contentment: We choose to go the way of the world; we desire more and more. Instead of taking the approach of focusing our eyes on God and letting the rest fall away, we want. We struggle. We grasp.

We might think that Paul is a little foolish in saying that he can be content with much, but let’s be honest: the more we have, the more we want. It seems that having less helps in our contentment. Oh, the paradox of it! We often find rich men more greedy than poor men. Why? They have enough; why are they not content? Why does the rich man find it harder to give? Prosperity can bring as many spiritual problems as neediness, sometimes even more. The story of the self-made man is that he thinks it is all on his own steam, but he doesn’t realize how much he needs a Savior or other people.

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This week, let’s focus on letting go of our desire for more, letting go of our desire for bigger stuff and better things. Let’s fix our eyes on God and let ourselves desire Him.

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Discussion questions:

  • Do you have a hard time being content?
  • Do you feel like you have enough?
  • What could we do as a family to become more content?
  • What luxuries could you do without? Would you be benefitted by that sacrifice?

Activities: (You can do all or none. Do them today or sometime this week.)

  • Have everyone make a list of what they think they need. Compare lists.
  • Create a picture of contentment. What does that word mean to you?

Write, tell, read, or watch a story about someone who got what they wanted, and found they didn’t really want it after all. (Examples: The movie, Home Alone. The book, The Chocolate Touch. The story of King Midas.)

My prayer for you:

Lord, help us as we become content with what we have. Remind us of how blessed we are as people. Help us to not covet. Show us the difference between needs and wants. Help us find peace and contentment in You. Amen.

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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Thankful, Even In Snow

This doesn’t happen very often, so we had to preserve the images forever! We have snow! Some of my readers to the North may laugh at us for making a big deal over a couple inches of snow, and I don’t blame you.  This is only after about 2 hours of snowing. (It is still snowing as I write this post!) I’m not much of a snow person. If I were a snow person, I would live somewhere with more than 2 inches of snowfall a year! But I do enjoy seeing the little bits experience new and exciting (for them) things! And I am thankful, even in the cold, wet snow.

The littles  all had a blast in the snow, especially Lucas (the lovely dog pictured with us). Well, Emery was clearly not impressed AT ALL with the experience. He was trying to figure out what all the excitement was about. Sweet boy, so much like his mother.

Snow does make you appreciate a few little things that you typically take for granted. Thank you Lord for a nice, warm house to cuddle up in when we come inside. Thank you Lord for warm clothes to wear in the slurry. Thank you Lord for a wonderful family to frolic with. Thank you Lord for my three beautiful children who let me see everything with new wonder and excitement. Thank you Lord for thick, fuzzy socks. Thank you Lord for a new baby and getting a whole new set of firsts. Thank you Lord for a silly dog that elicits beautiful squeals of joy from the children. I am grateful, even for the snow, of which I am typically not a fan. What are you thankful for today?