15 Nickels or 10 Dimes?

My daughter was working on her second grade math workbook today, focusing on counting coins. She was reading the questions out loud to me and then telling me the answer as I worked at the stove.

Question: “Which would you rather have in your piggy bank, 15 nickels or 10 dimes?”

Answer: “10 dimes!”

My question, in response: “Well, if you had 10 dimes and gave away 25 cents to someone who had need, leaving you with 15 nickels, isn’t it indeed better to have 15 nickels?”

My daughter’s answer: “Of course that would be better. But that’s not the answer the book tells me to put down.”

Reply: “That’s because the way of the world and the Kingdom way are in opposition to one another. It’s not unusual that the world expects something different than Jesus would expect.”


After this, we talked about some Scriptures:

“Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’” (Matthew 19:21)


“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)

How many opportunities we have in the course of each day to disciple our children. It’s easy to let those moments pass, unseen in the busyness of life. Let’s strive, instead, to embrace them! Ask the Lord to open your eyes and help you to “make the most of every opportunity”–to bring to mind the lessons and Scriptures that can help your children daily to grow in the Truth.

Excuses, Excuses

We bought a foreclosure a few months ago and invested so much time and effort into fixing it up and cleaning it.

Then, of course, we had to pack and move all of our stuff.

After we had been sort of settled into the new house for about a week, we had a new baby.

When the baby was 4 weeks old, we went on a whirlwind trip back to our hometown in CT (a 16-hour trip with the whole family)…a week of preparation, travel, rushed visiting, and more travel…then another week of unpacking, laundry, van-cleaning, and re-settling at home.

Now, we’re fixing up another recently purchased foreclosure for my father-in-law to live in.

These are just a few of the various excuses I’ve been making over the past couple of months, as I’ve wondered off and on,

“What has happened to our routine?”
“Why is the tone in our home so negative?”
“Why are the children being so argumentative with one another?”

The fact is, life has been busy for us lately. On the plus side, we have managed to remain diligent in work that has needed to be done, and the children have been more than helpful in that regard. We’ve continued to have morning and evening family devotions. We have a day of rest (and fun) together every Saturday. These things are good.

However, aside from the first couple of weeks of this prolonged season (which went remarkably well), I would also say that we have not been proactive about consistently discipling our children in a positive manner. We haven’t been able to maintain our regular routines, I’ve gotten lazy about menu planning and meal preparation (can you say, convenience foods?) and our overall tones of voice have been somewhat abrupt as we go from one project and “to-do” to another. Granted, there were times when I would try to remedy any and all of these deficiencies, but overall we’ve ended up in a pretty low spot.

Generally speaking, the children have been a little more contentious than usual with one another–and we’ve not always taken the time to disciple them in those moments as we should. Attitudes all around haven’t always been the best. We’ve all grown a bit tired of the work and the lack of normalcy. So, though at different points we’ve desired improvement, we shouldn’t be surprised that it hasn’t evidenced itself. Excuses for poor behavior (even sin) have been all too easy to make.

As of late last week, I’ve decided to repent…stop making excuses…and start doing what I know I should be doing. It doesn’t matter that we have new (bad) habits to overcome; I need to return to the good things that we had been doing. Of course, there’s the little matter of self-condemnation that always rears its ugly head at times like this. I need to kick that to the curb, too, in order to move forward in faith.

The lesson? We all have moment-by-moment choices to make in life, no matter what season we’re in. Will we choose to honor God with our words, tones, attitudes, and decisions, or will we choose to indulge in complaining, focus on the negative, and neglect the good we know we should be doing? I am finding that making the right choices is so much easier when I parse life into discrete moments, rather than allowing myself to be overwhelmed by the monumental to-do list, our history, my emotions, or concerns about the future.

What kind of choices are you making right now? What effect do you think those choices will have on your family, on your ministry, and on your walk with the Lord as you go forward?

Definition of Success

My husband recently related to me a conversation between two of our friends. One man asked another, “What’s your definition of success: finishing a small number of projects, or starting lots of things and not bringing them to completion?”

Seems like a silly question. After all, we all want to be “finishers,” don’t we? I suppose I’ve always considered myself a finisher. I have goal sheets full of projects and love to check things off of my “to-do” list. However, I have to admit that right now all of my projects are in various stages of completion. Some may never get done. So what is my definition of success? I guess that’s a valid question.

Let’s take, for example, homeschooling. We started a unit study on grains several weeks ago. Got through two sections and now it’s sitting on my desk in favor of other endeavors. I’m sure we’ll get back to it, but I can’t say I have a time line on it. Likewise, we’ve begun several different books as read-alouds but not all of them have been finished. Maybe never will…at least not in the near future. Why does this happen? My answer is two-fold: first, our interests shift and change, and what seems exciting and even needful at one point may not remain a priority. Second, life is busy, we often get distracted, and sometimes it’s just easier to move on to something else.

I like the idea of bringing projects to completion, really I do. I think that self-discipline (which comes from making onesself complete things that have been begun) is a positive character trait and I don’t want my children (or myself) to be lacking in it. However, there are often other lessons learned from “not finishing” that are just as valuable. For example, when we jump from one half-finished project to another, often it’s because we get distracted by things like ministry opportunities, teachable moments, and family times. Which of these are more important to pursue? And if it’s a case of shifting interests, well, isn’t it also important to have the freedom to investigate and learn things that are of intrinsic interest, rather than stay with something that no longer has “life” in it?

So I would say that sometimes I’m a good starter, and at other times I’m a finisher. In the same way, sometimes I insist that my children bring projects to completion while at other times they have the freedom and flexibility to “not finish.” What about you?

New Years’ Resolutions, anyone??

New Year’s resolutions—do you have any? I suppose it’s all too common to make resolutions and then let them fade away into oblivion, whether because of busyness or laziness—or perhaps a combination of both. Goals met, on the other hand, bring a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, not to mention the intended benefit of the goal itself (such as losing weight or quitting smoking for improved health and energy.)

Let me ask you: what are your spiritual goals for this year? Do you want to be in the same place in your walk with the Lord in January 2010 as you are right now? If not, what is your plan for making progress? If you’re anything like me, you might set up a checklist of “to-do’s” in order to give yourself some sort of measurement of progress. Read so many chapters of your Bible each day, spend so much time in prayer, attend a Women’s Bible study, or read a certain number of Christian books on a given subject. Trouble is, we get focused on the “doing” and forget that God is all about our “being.”

So can I ask you another question? (This one is a little more personal.) How is your “being?” Do you think your character reflects the character of Christ? (That is, after all, the goal—see Romans 8:29, for example.) In what areas would you like to improve?

Personally, during this first trimester of pregnancy I’ve let my constant tiredness make me a little irritable with my children. That’s certainly a bad habit that I’d like to nip in the bud sooner rather than later! I’ve also been doing many things more out of “duty” than out of “love.” While it is good to obey, God also wants our hearts—and I’ll be the first to admit that I could use some work in that area. Trouble is, I can’t really make a checklist out of how many times I snap at the children, or sigh, or just give up on doing something that I know God would want me to do (like get up and discipline one of the children when they need it!). And even if I tried to do that, it probably wouldn’t be effective. Why? Because outward measures don’t necessarily affect the heart—and that’s where lasting change needs to start.

To get the ball rolling on heart-change, Bible reading and prayer are good. I can measure those—even better! But, the danger is that I’d just get caught up in more doing and yet wouldn’t even be “doing” the right thing with all of the information I’d acquire through study. My husband picked up a quote from somewhere (unfortunately I’m not sure the source) that goes something like this: The average Christian is knowledgeable beyond their ability to obey. In other words, I may possess lots of head-knowledge but I’m not able to adequately put it into practice the way God wants me to. Yet it is my obedience that shows my love for God and brings blessing (see Luke 11:28, John 14:15-24).

Knowledge is relatively easy to acquire, so it’s equally easy to feel confident in what we “know.” Infinitely harder to put the Word into practice on a consistent basis! If I had a “New Year’s Resolution” this year, I would want to be more obedient to what I already know in God’s Word. Given what I have already read and studied in my Christian walk, I could probably give up Bible reading entirely and still “know” more than I can successfully “do.” Scary thought, no? How about you?

I have been immensely blessed as I have edited, read, and re-read Marc and Todd Shaw’s upcoming book, The Values-Driven Life. It was actually designed to help us get from where we are to where we want to be in our relationship with God and in our expression of Christ-like character. Jesus used the parable of the soils (see Luke 8) to describe the various responses to the Gospel. The Values-Driven Life focuses on the last two: the seed that springs up among thorns, and the seed that falls on good soil, where it produces an abundant crop. The goal for all of us to be abundantly fruitful for God and His Kingdom! Here’s a brief excerpt from the first chapter—you may pick up the reference to the gardening analogy, but you’ll also get a good idea of the premise behind the book:

Crops need protection, but they also need fertilizer for optimum growth. Yep, Christians need fertilizer, too. Your nourishment comes from God’s Word, the Bible.

There is absolutely no substitute for sitting down during your quiet time in the morning and reading God’s Word. It is always relevant and always timely. Read the same passage ten times, and most certainly you will hear God’s gentle voice whisper new and fresh insight for you each time you read it. It is nourishment for the soul, and an absolute necessity if you are going to bear fruit. You can’t impart nourishment to others until you are personally “filled.” Reading the Bible regularly is an important first step in your spiritual growth.

Another means of learning God’s Word is through Bible study. Spending time alone, or especially with other Christians, dissecting and discussing God’s Word is time well invested. Interaction and discussion will offer the most substantive nourishment. Listening to a sermon can have an impact, but an interactive discourse is guaranteed to go deeper in its effects (see First Corinthians 14:26, for example). Seek active learning over passive learning any day.

Another great source of nourishment is good books, or teaching audios and videos. For example, The Values-Driven Life was written to help you identify weeds in your own life, and to provide some Miracle-Gro® for your accelerated growth. Essentially, we have identified some of the elements that are essential to your growth in Christ-likeness, and have pulled them together into twelve easy-to-understand-and-apply packets so that you can get a jumpstart on your spiritual journey.

Is there any substitute for the organic stuff (i.e., the Bible)? Absolutely not! God’s unadulterated Word will give you all that you will find in this book, and more. But reading the Bible alone also poses a challenge: there is much, much, much more! The Bible is a big book. It will take you years to read it, and even longer to understand and apply it. The Values-Driven Life offers just the highlights of what the Bible has to say specifically concerning what it means to grow in Christ-like character. No history, no prophesy, no poetry; just a focused summary of what God wants from you and me as it pertains to our character. But it will take perseverance on your part to read, meditate on, and apply the teachings herein.

If Christ-likeness is the Goal, What does it Look Like?

The purpose of The Values-Drive Life is to provide a “quick start” or “quick reference” guide for “professing Christians” at all levels of spiritual growth, whose heartfelt desire is to continue to mature in their faith. The question is, since we are attempting to summarize the whole of the Scriptures and the essence of Christ-likeness in twelve easily digestible concepts, what are the values that God most values? What should be your focus as you seek to grow in Christ-like character?

Within the books of the Bible, God’s core values—the principles and ideals that God desires for humanity—are embodied in the character of key men and women who walked closely with God, are specified in the Scriptures, and are ultimately best defined and made manifest in the person of Christ. There is ample scriptural evidence of 12 core values of God, which form the essence of Christ-likeness: Faith, Surrender, Love, Faithfulness, Wisdom, Self-control, Righteousness, Humility, Holiness, Diligence, Generosity and Praise.

These core values are evident throughout the whole of Scripture, either directly stated or seen repeatedly as the traits of those who had intimate relationships with God—and evident in Christ Himself. And we know that God wants us to be like Christ (see Romans 8:29). So, ultimately, these are the essential character traits that God wants to manifest in His people. These are the values that God values.

Subsequent chapters of VDL take an in-depth look at each of the essential “core values” of our faith. If your goal is to grow more like Christ this year, reading VDL is just what you need! It’s packed full of Scriptures (over 1,200 verses!) and—yes, probably plenty of conviction, too. Why? Because none of us have “arrived” at the goal yet, and getting there is sometimes a slow and painful process. So you’ll hopefully find plenty of encouragement, too, to press on in your striving. As you grow closer to God and desire greater obedience to His Word, 2009 may be your most blessed year yet—at least, we hope so! Advance copies of VDL can be purchased now and will ship as soon as they are available—just visit www.ValuesDrivenLife.com. You’ll definitely want to read the advance testimonials here.

Personally, I will be re-reading (and working on) the value of Love, and probably Praise, too. After that, I’m sure it will be something else.

Oh, and on the subject of New Year’s resolutions…some of you may remember our “Family Planner for Character Growth and Development” from last January; others of you are new to Values-Driven. You can access that planner by clicking here, and be sure to read the related blog post. You may find it helpful as you evaluate your family’s progress in character development and set goals for growth in the New Year. As you (and your family) strive to grow in your faith and in Christlike character, remember Jesus’ promise in Luke 11:28: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” This could be your most blessed year yet–we sure hope so!

Thanks for letting us share our “New Year’s” thoughts. You all are a blessing to us, and we pray for wonderful things for your 2009!


On a personal note, one of our first orders of business this year is to prepare for Marc’s two-week missions trip to Kenya (Jan. 20-Feb.4). He suddenly got a little nervous this week, realizing that he had to be prepared for 40+ hours of teaching and training (16 workshops, services, and revival meetings)—but he’s been in the Word and in prayer all week and we’re sure that God will do amazing things through this time. Please pray with us that this is so!

There are many expenses associated with this trip, of course. Some support has already been contributed, and we’re trusting God for the rest. Although it is a bit out of the scope of our “usual,” we thought you wouldn’t mind if we let you know of this need and asked for financial help from those of you who feel prayerfully led to do so. Given Marc’s recent layoff, every penny that we raise will be used directly for the Kenya trip, as the shortfall is still well in the thousands. Every bit will be a blessing, so if you can give—it is much appreciated. We’ve set up an informational page at: www.valuesdrivenfamily.com/kenya.htm; you can also donate there if you’re interested. Of course, we will keep you posted as Marc is away and with the “results” when he returns!

Not the answer I expected!

I was talking to my 9 year-old son last night…we were looking forward to his 10th birthday (not for a while yet, but HE is looking forward to it!) and so of course (in typical Mommy fashion) I was reminiscing about his babyhood…all the way up to the present day.

I asked him, “Are you happy about your life?” And he said, “Well, I don’t really remember the first part of it…but from what I remember, I’m happy!” OK, that’s good. Next question: “Is there anything you would change about your life?” He thought about that one for several minutes. I started to wonder…maybe I shouldn’t have asked! Then he said,

“I would have more brothers and sisters!”

THAT was a surprise! So I said, “Really?” and he said, “Yeah. I heard about this family that had five babies at the same time and they ALL survived. THAT would be awesome!”

Oh, wow!

Marc and I have been appreciating lately how much the children DO love each other. It is such a blessing. Granted, they have their moments (we all do!) of bickering, bossing, selfishness, and so on…but we really are thankful for the blessing of our children. It is nice to know that they also are thankful for each other. 🙂

“Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one’s youth.

Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them. “

(Psalm 127:3-5, NIV)


All this week I’ve been squirreled away in the office downstairs virtually all day. Marc wants me to edit his new book so that we can get preview copies ready for January, which puts us on a pretty tight timeline. Since I’ve been busy with that project, he has been managing the home and children and doing the homeschooling. Interesting change of events, to say the least. On the one hand, a nice break for me; on the other hand, I miss the usual activity and having all my little ones around me all day. I look for excuses to go upstairs off and on throughout the day. 🙂

I had to relate a conversation I had with Deborah, our three year-old, late yesterday afternoon during one of my impromptu visits upstairs. The children had just finished their afternoon jobs.

We are finally recovering from our annual “ladybug infestation,” which is the result of having a soy field in our front yard. Every year, right after the fields are harvested, the displaced ladybugs start to look for new homes–and our home happens to be nice and warm, as it begins to get chilly outside! They find their way in through cracks in the windows, log walls…who knows? But here they are. We vacuum them, usually. But many just come in and die of natural causes, so there are tons of little ladybug carcasses lying around for a couple of weeks in the late fall.

ANYWAY, I’m making a short story long… Deborah’s job yesterday was to clean up the carcasses that have been littering the stairs going from the main level up to our lofted master bedroom. I have a really hard time using the vacuum on the stairs, so Daddy asked Deborah to use the little broom and dustpan to sweep them up. Unfortunately, the broom thing wasn’t really working for her on the carpeted stairs–so she decided to pick them all up BY HAND! Daddy was impressed with her diligence and complimented her immensely. But here is our afternoon conversation about it all–I do WISH you could have HEARD her. She has soooo much personality!! Try to imagine the inflection (and her passion), OK?:

Deborah: OH! MOM!! I did my HARDEST JOB EVER today!! I picked up ladybugs off of your stairs ONLY WITH MY HANDS. It took me a REAL LONG TIME and I didn’t like it at all!! It was my WORST JOB!

Me: (with a laugh and a smile…she’s so cute!), “Aren’t you supposed to ‘work with all your heart, as working for the Lord’?”

Deborah: OH! I DID!! I actually LOVED my job…I just didn’t really like it. Not at all! But I LOVED it!!


Then, there was a really nice conversation with my sweetie as we got ready for bed last night. 🙂

I’m in my first trimester…you know, the totally tired weeks…and have been feeling really bad that lately we put the kids to bed and I’m ready to go upstairs and fall right asleep. Usually Marc and I have some good time together before we finally head to bed, but I’ve barely managed to keep my eyes open lately. So last night as we were tooth-brushing, I said, “I’m sorry I’ve been so tired and blah lately!”

His response: “Are you kidding? You’re a blessing! After spending all this time with the kids this week, I’m realizing how much you do around here!”


Am I doing enough?

This week has been incredibly busy for me. I have several projects that I am working on, and Marc is away so things are all on me at home, as well. It’s actually been all good, but there have been moments of doubt. Am I doing enough? And by that, I don’t mean, is my to-do list getting checked off fast enough–I mean, am I investing the necessary time and effort into my relationships with the children and their discipleship in the faith? The days have been good, but has there been enough going on that is of eternal significance?

These dangers of busyness have been on my mind, so I’ve actually been proactive in making sure that there aren’t any deficiencies in these all-important areas. I have been trying to stay close to the Lord myself, knowing full well that apart from Him, I can do nothing.

I have also been praying more for the children. In the hustle and bustle of every day, as I go through the paces of training, encouraging, and disciplining, I tend to overlook the fact that my part in the children’s spiritual growth and development is quite small. I can try to fill their minds with the Word and promote certain behaviors through rewards and punishments, but only God can work in their hearts. So as we go about our “doings” each day, I am trying to be more mindful to send up a quick prayer along with each and every correction, exhortation, and rebuke. Because, if the Spirit of God doesn’t work in my children’s hearts, what I do will be meaningless.

One of my favorite Scriptures to pray for the children is Isaiah 30:20-21: “though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself any more, but your eyes will constantly behold your Teacher. And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left.” When my children are facing difficult circumstances or struggling to learn from a correction, I pray that the Lord will reveal Himself to them, and that He Himself will teach them–not me, with my words or my discipline, but God, by His Spirit. I want them to hear the voice of the Lord behind them, giving them wisdom and direction for each step along their path.

Being a parent sure makes me realize how much I need Jesus.

No-TV Family Fun

I remember a young mother with two children under the age of three commenting to me that she was really trying to find things for the whole family to enjoy together (besides incessant games of Candy Land, which of course are of limited fun for the parents, anyway). And in a recent conversation with a friend of mine, she wondered what our family does with all of our “free time,” since we don’t watch TV.

Of course, now that the weather is getting nicer, it’s prime outdoor time. The options for “things to do” as a family are becoming a bit more varied than they were in the cold and snow of Winter. It seems a good time to delve into the topic of “family fun” and talk about some options.

Before enumerating a list of such fun things, it’s important to examine one’s definition of “fun.” I think our definition might be a little different from the average. Frankly, our culture seems consumed with entertainment, and it’s no more than a manifestation of the sinful nature. (What will please “me?” What will make “me” happy?) But Scripture clearly teaches us that we are to put God first, and then to “consider others better than ourselves.”

Another problem we have seen is that work is viewed simply as a necessary evil. We count the hours until the end of the day…plan our next vacation…and often endure as drudgery what should be meaningful and profitable labor. Aren’t we supposed to “work with all our heart, as working for the Lord, not men?”

With those thoughts in mind, let’s consider what we can do for fun as a family! Personally, we have a lot to do around our home. We typically WORK together for FUN! And, honestly, the work is enjoyable, most of the time. Many parents seek to avoid this, saying, “Let kids be kids,” but the truth is that we’re preparing them to be adults, and they will need to know how to work. Not only that, but we do want them to enjoy their work! We’ve found that working together as a family builds camaraderie between all family members and also imparts a wonderful attitude of diligence in the children. As we work, we are training them in valuable skills. But more than that, we sing. We talk. We praise God for His good gifts. What’s not to enjoy?

We have goats and chickens and rabbits, and we enjoy them while we labor to take care of them. We just had some baby rabbits born, and they sure are cute! We brought one in to play with it for a while last night. The kids also have fun collecting and counting the chicken’s eggs, watering the animals (and oftentimes each other!), and running the goats out to their daily pasture.

We are putting in our garden right now, which is cooperative work for the whole family–but a lot of fun!. Very often, we simply enjoy walking around the yard, seeing what’s growing, picking flowers, and just appreciating the blessing of it all.

We are blessed to have a quad that we drive around our property as well–that often adds an element of fun to splitting and stacking wood and general yard clean-up. We also “mow the lawn as a family”–one of my 5 year-old’s frequent requests and a favorite activity, because my husband drives the lawn tractor and the rest of us pile into the trailer. We dodge tree branches, watch forgotten toys get mulched by the mower, pick flowers as they race by, and generally enjoy each other and the beauty of God’s creation. But, yes, our lawn is getting mowed, too!

It’s not always work, though! We have an occasional picnic right in our own back yard, and play outdoor sports like basketball, baseball, swimming, and so on. Dad and the boys do target shooting, often with friends. We have a ravine in our back yard which makes fun hunting for critters like salamanders, snails, and other back yard wildlife. Even though there’s no big fish, the boys love bringing their poles and catching minnows!

Granted, you may not have the “homesteading” atmosphere that we have here. However, you can still explore the great outdoors at a local reserve or state forest. Find a park near your home. Talk walks in your neighborhood. Go to the home of some friends where you are able to “spread out” and enjoy nature, once in a while. Plant a window box garden of herbs or flowers in a sunny window instead of outdoors. Honestly, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to do expensive or high-impact things. Just make it a point to enjoy whatever you do as a family.

When it’s cold or rainy, we often do indoor “work projects” that are learning experiences as well: electrical, plumbing, tiling, building of all kinds (large- and small-scale). Even if the younger children can’t “do” anything, they go-fer tools, get tickled at off-moments, and simply enjoy the togetherness. You can see from Isaiah’s lamp project that he even does these “work projects” in his own free time.

Even if you’re not skilled in some of these areas, there are probably little “home improvement” projects that you can experiment with around the house. It can be fun to try, and learn, as a family! Get a do-it-yourself book out of the library and explore a site like DoItYourself.com.

You might also check out some fun (and relatively inexpensive) gadgets and gizmos at a site like American Science and Surplus. I’m sure there are others, but this is one of my favorites. Our oldest also just likes getting “junk” and taking it apart. How about taking apart a clock to see how it works? Think of the possibilities for family fun!

Music is also great fun for the whole family. We are very much NOT musically inclined, but we have a few hymn books with accompanying CDs as well as CDs with praise songs that we enjoy singing during family devotional times or at other times during the day. If you can play instruments, that is awesome family fun! We also play musical games like Ring Around the Rosie, London Bridge, Hokey Pokey, and Pop Goes the Weasel–especially to entertain the little ones.

And what about ministering as a family? For us, that is more than rewarding and something we try to do frequently. We’ve made cookies and cards with Scriptures in them to bring downtown to workers at the local post office and bank. We regularly open our home for dinners, Bible studies, and other events and we work together to neaten up the house, prepare food, and especially pray for the needs of those who will attend.

Even when indoors, we make an effort to “make the most of every opportunity,” doing fun things that are also profitable. We watch educational movies (even Biology 101 from Westfield Studios was a surprise hit–great videography and advanced teaching–but enjoyed by everyone in the family!). We also play board games, although we have only a few that everyone can play, given the disparate ages and stages of our children. Variations of bingo are fun, I Spy (the board game) is good, and then there’s charades, “The Journeys of Paul” from Cactus Games, and Bible trivia. We also enjoy “20 Questions,” and, yes, the occasional game of Candy Land.

And, Dad is a great story teller. He tells funny, challenging, and always engaging tales that of course include many of the children in the plot. The children also take their turns in creative storytelling.

We also read books aloud. We’ve been blessed by reading my grandfather’s biography–his life story of growing up in Oklahoma during the Great Depression, fighting in World War II and then being a prisoner of war of the Japanese for 3-1/2 years. We also read the free Voice of the Martyrs/Kids of Courage magazines every time they come out, and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs as well. There are eternal lessons there, which are of great value–and we simply enjoy spending the time together as we are blessed by those stories. We also try out some of the classics on occasion–whatever seems most interesting at the moment.

I don’t want you to think that you must do these certain things. Everyone’s circumstances are different, of course, and I suppose my description of our “family fun things to do” would look radically different if we were in another locale. However, I would challenge you to look at where you are and what you do there, and to consider all of those things in light of eternity and in light of God’s plan and purpose for your family. I would urge you to “make the most of every opportunity,” both in work and in play. And try to simplify! Find things to do that cost less money, involve less driving, and allow you–as a family–to focus on each other and enjoy God, His creation, His people, and His blessings to you.

Feel free to leave comments about your “family fun” that might give others some additional ideas!

In the world but not of the world

How do we live life “first and first.” That is, how do we keep God first in our life and family first as well, while juggling all of life’s other responsibilities? This is a great challenge.

You see, anyone who claims to be “sold out” for God yet neglects their parental or marital responsibilities as spelled out by God in His Scriptures, really isn’t sold out after all. For the Word says, “If you love me, you will obey my commands.”

Yes, we serve God through ministering to others within the Church and reaching the lost. We use the gifts God has given us to edify the saints and bringing the unsaved into the fold. Yet, what about “loving our wives as Christ loves the church,” and what about “bringing up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” You see, it is not either or, but BOTH. The letters to Timothy and Titus make clear that what happens in the home is what qualifies or disqualifies church leadership. These folks can’t aspire for the one (serving God) to the neglect of the other (family). It’s both. So how do we “press on for the prize” and “fix our eyes on Jesus” AND invest in our fold in the home, you ask? It’s easy (EASY to know what to do, albeit HARD to do), remove the other idols from your life!

Our appetites and pleasures in this world are selfish, and not of God. We claim we haven’t the time to evangelize our neighbors because we need to invest in our families. We likewise claim we don’t have time for family devotionals because we are busy investing in the Kingdom. Yet, we DO find time to watch television or play on our X-box for an hour or two a day. We would never dream of missing that football game or going on a hunting trip with our friends. We have to squeeze in 18 holes a week whenever the weather is nice and yearn for the golf course when it’s not. These lusts are all idols that distract us from the duties that God has for His children. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) We are not here to pursue all of our worldly lusts. If you think I am being extreme or harsh, the Word says it better than I ever could.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

Now don’t get me wrong, many of the distractions is life are not in and of themselves sinful. However, ANYTHING can be sin if we put it ahead of our duties of serving God and family. Yet, Jesus said that when He was drinking and eating it was noble, and when John the Baptist fasted it was likewise good. Therefore, we must listen to the Spirit and not our fleshly desires, and we will get done exactly what the Lord intends for us. God created us and knows our responsibilities. There is exactly enough time to do everything He wants us to do in a day. However, there may NOT be enough time to do everything WE want to do.

Jesus warned us with the parable of the four soils:

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:11-15)

Most of us fall into the third category, with one foot firmly planted in the world. Lord, I pray that You help us to be “good soil” for the Kingdom work and in the home by keeping “life’s worries, riches and pleasures” from choking our desire to “…press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)