Jello and Thunderstorms

Jello and Thunderstorms

I can’t remember a time when I was afraid of thunderstorms. Instead I remember delighting in scanning the stormy sky for the lightning and counting the seconds until I heard the thunder.

However, I have a feeling that at one time, in my preschool past, I may have been afraid of the boom and crack of a thunderstorm.

I think that because I have a very vivid memory of flashlights and candlelight and sitting with my little brother at our kid-sized table eating jello. I know it was during a thunderstorm because the electricity had failed, but I can’t remember the storm itself. I just remember my mom making a big deal out of using candles and of having an unexpected treat of jello.

Fear is big for kids. It may be senseless, irrational fear like being afraid of the strange shapes in a dark bedroom when the house creaks a little bit. Or it may be fear of something very real and very threatening like a crashing thunderstorm. Whether we, as parents, understand a child’s fear or not, we must do all we can to help them control and conquer their fears.

My mom’s way of helping me and my little brother was just to distract us. Most likely she never foresaw that I would forever link jello and thunderstorms together, but she was trying to take our minds off something scary and focus our thoughts on something fun. Distracting kids is an effective way of helping them to overcome their fears.

However…there’s something even better.

When my own children were little, I realized that God has given us two very effective weapons to put into the hands of our little people when they are afraid.

Number one weapon is prayer. Children are amazing when it comes to prayer. Adults can pray about their fears and still come away afraid. Kids can pray about their fears and lay down and go to sleep. They believe – they believe so much more than we think they do. So, sure, you can explain the science behind the thunderstorm and hope that will settle their fears. Or you can invite your child to talk to the God who made the thunderstorm and to ask for His protection.

Number two weapon is the Word of God. It is so true that God’s Word is a sword. We can give our kids the picture of using the sword to ward off their fears and then we can take advantage of their amazing memories. Teach your children verses that they can unsheathe when thunder rocks the house or when the house is perfectly quiet except for that one unexplained creak. Try these:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:7

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6

Yes, jello distracted my brother and me from being frightened during a thunderstorm and distractions may work for your kids too. But think about how wonderful it would be to arm your children with the weapons of prayer and the Word of God so that they can face their fears.

And not just face them, but to conquer them.


Legacy of a Grandfather

Legacy of a Grandfather

Yesterday I went to the memorial service of a man in our church community. I thought I was going to support his widow who has been an amazing encourager to me for the past fifteen years, but I was wrong. God sent me to that memorial service to show me what a grandparent can and should be.
The man was 79 years old and the grandfather of seven grandchildren. One of his grandsons came to the podium to give the family message. His simple, hesitating, sometimes tearful words revealed a man who knew that being a grandfather was more than biology but that it was a calling from his God

This wonderful man had fulfilled his calling by giving his grandchildren three things.

1. Time

His grandchildren knew that he was always there for them. From his grandson’s words we could all see that there was never a time when his grandkids even considered that their grandfather would not have time to listen to them or to play with them, to read to them, to come to their sports activities, to watch them in the school play, to go to church with them.

The years of grandparenting, often the years of retirement, are not the years to claim as our own – not when a brand new generation is growing up in front of us needing the extra time we now have.

This grandfather had given his grandchildren the great gift of his time.

2. Example

Over and over again, the grandson spoke of his grandfather’s firm faith and integrity. He knew what he believed. He knew right from wrong. And he was willing to stand up for his beliefs. His grandchildren had seen him do it.

A great deal changes in 79 years. Changing culture hammers at our beliefs trying to chip away at them, to slowly erode and change them. I’m sure that at least one of those seven grandchildren challenged the beliefs of their grandfather with opposing ideas they had heard at school or from their friends. However, the example this grandfather left his family was that you must stand firm in your beliefs, you must stand up for the right regardless of what others around you say or do.

He gave his grandchildren the example of a man who would stand for the truth.

3. Wisdom

The grandson alluded to a recent time when he and his girlfriend were invited to visit his grandfather and the older man called the younger man aside apparently to give some advice. About dating? About the girlfriend? About how to treat a lady? I can only imagine that this grandfather took the time to observe his grandchild and knew when it was time to share some wisdom with him.

To lovingly observe and to gently share wisdom when appropriate – such a gift this grandfather gave to the next generation of his family.
We give our grandchildren many gifts – dolls, toy trucks, bikes, skateboards…but what about the gifts of Time, Example, and Wisdom? They are not cheap gifts and they come at the cost of our newly earned free time, but could we regret it for a legacy of believing grandchildren?
More than once the grandson called his grandfather a good man, a great man. What a legacy this grandfather left for his family!

Digging Deeper into the Word


Are you looking for new or better ways to help you dig deeper into the Word of God? Then maybe you’d like to hear about a couple of resources I have discovered recently.

The first is Katie Orr, a blogger and Bible study leader. I can’t remember how I found her blog, but I am so glad I did. Katie excels in helping people to use just a few minutes a day to dig into a small portion of Scripture and to bring up the gems hidden there. You really need to take a look at her blog, particularly the Resources tab. My favorite part of Katie’s resources is the Online Bible Study Tools. Not only is a great to have this list of Bible study tools, but Katie teaches how to use the tools effectively.

But Katie has more than a blog – she now has three FOCUSed15 Bible studies in print. Everyday Faith: Drawing Near to His Presence, Everyday Hope: Holding Fast to His Promise, and Everyday Love: Bearing Witness to His Purpose. In these three books, Katie helps us to study the Word with her FOCUSed 15 Study Method.

Foundation: Enjoy Every Word

Observation: Look at the Details

Clarification: Uncover the Original Meaning

Utilization: Discover the Connections in Scripture

Summation: Respond to God’s Word

Are you reading those big words and then thinking, “I don’t have time for this!”? Think again, because one of the really great things about Katie’s method is that because you are only studying a small portion of Scripture each week, you can finish the study in 15 minutes 5 days a week! If you have more than 15 minutes to spend, Katie offers Bonus Studies every day. You have time for this, no matter what season of life you are in.

The second resource I have discovered is also flexible according to the amount of time you may have to invest in digging deeper every day. Scripture Typer Bible Memory System is a website and an app that will help you to memorize Scripture.

Now, I have to admit that when I first saw that the idea is to type the verse in order to memorize it, I thought that there was no way it would work for me. How could I learn the verse when I was busy typing it? I’m happy to say I am wrong and that the system really does work.

There are three steps.

The first is Type It. The entire verse is displayed and you just type it. On the app, you only type the first letter of each word.

Step 2 is Memorize It. The verse is displayed with every other word missing. You type the entire verse including the missing words. Then you get to try it again with the opposite words missing.

Step 3 is Master It. None of the verse is displayed and you type the whole thing from memory. Don’t worry  – you can still get hints and there are prompts when you make a mistake.

The program also gives you regular reminders to review the verses you have already learned. And one more bonus – you can join groups of people who are all memorizing the same verses/passages.

Why don’t you give one or both of these Bible study resources a try and let me know what you think? Do you have other resources you’d like to share? Let me know.

Read, Read, Read!

Read, Read, Read 2

At least as far back as junior high I have had a “books to read” list.

Elementary school, junior high and high school – I read everything I could find. And I loved the books that had lists of suggested books on the last pages. My first “books to read” lists were born from the back of high school library books.

Nowadays my “books to read” list gets longer and longer (I can never read all these books!)so I have tried to make some sense of it.

Two years ago, after John Stott died, I decided to read everything of his that I could get my hands on. Last year, my goal was less specific – it was just to read 75 books in a year. That was the year I was first introduced to Goodreads. This year, well, I’ve gone a little crazy and a lot less focused. My reading goal for 2016 has at least three parts.

First, I am now addicted to Goodreads and, of course, had to increase my goal to 80 books in a year. (By the way, Stephen King says he is a slow reader and only reads about 75 books a year!)

Second, eleven years ago I bought a book called The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had. It’s a reading program for adults which takes you through classic novels, autobiographies, histories, history with drama, and poetry. The idea is to journal while reading, so it took me about three years to get through the novel and autobiography lists, after which I got bogged down with history.

The first book on the history list is The Histories by Herodotus. The idea of keeping a journal while reading The Histories was just too much for my brain. If I had been paying for graduate courses and getting a grade, I would have soldiered on, but this was too much. So I put the book away and forgot about it. This year I decided to stifle my rule-keeping self and start on the list and forget the journal-keeping part of the program. So, one book on the history list per month.

Third, I am on a J.R.R. Tolkien/C.S. Lewis kick. I’ve been a Tolkien fan since the mid-70’s, but never branched beyond The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As for Lewis, I’ve read a book here and a book there, but in December I read his Space Trilogy and saw that I needed to read and learn more of him.

A book I read over Christmas break renewed my interest in Tolkien – A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18. It was a fascinating book that helped me to see where Middle Earth came into being. One more book – the one I am currently reading – The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings has solidified my determination to devour as much Tolkien and Lewis as I can this year.

This is how my “books to read” list for 2016 evolved and I am sure it isn’t finished changing and growing.

What about you? Do you have a “books to read” list? How do you decide what goes on the list? Do you stick to it or do you let it blow up like I do?

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