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Advent can help your kids…

When the rest of the world is talking about what presents Santa is going to bring, the age old Church practice of Advent can actually help prepare kids both mentally and spiritually for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

When the rest of the world is counting down to presents, let’s choose to countdown to the Presence.  The daily practice of remembering Jesus and God’s gift during December sets our hearts on what we need to be excited for hope, love, joy, and peace.

Try something new this year and start a tradition that will help your kids grow spiritually and develop a healthy spiritual rhythm.

For practical tips on how to put this in action, I like this blog’s resources:

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/holidays/advent-calendars/advent-a-countdown-to-christmas

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How do we raise generous kids?

When I think about how I became a generous kid, I think the answer is easy.  I watched my parents be generous with others.  I watched my mom and dad volunteer their time, give a helping hand to those in need, and make personal sacrifices to make sure people around us were ‘okay.’

I think modeling is the key to raising generous kids, but I also think it’s a discipline we need to teach.  Discipline – not in the negative sense of the word – but rather it’s a practice we must be intentional about and articulate our intentions.  “We’re going to choose to forego the name brand cereal here at the grocery store today because we’re using those funds to help make sure our Compassion child in Nicaragua has breakfast too.”

I also think generosity of spirit goes beyond ‘giving’ and ‘donating’ finances and items.  I think that generosity of spirit includes being invitational and inclusive in all we do.  Inviting others into our lives, into our faith, and into our hearts is a generosity we must foster with our children because it is the way of Jesus.  Jesus included everyone – and His heart was invitational to everyone.  When we live with generous hearts, we bless people with not only provision of physical needs, but we bless those who are poor in spirit.  And let’s be honest – we all experience spiritual poverty – but when we’re generous in spirit it not only fills up others’ hearts, but it fills our heart too.

In this upcoming season, VictoryKids are learning about how to be generous.  It’s a great conversation to have with your kids, but it’s also a great conversation for you to have with God.  What is you asked Him how He would like you to be generous this season?

Victory has many opportunities as well to practice generosity with your family and church family this season.  Click here for those opportunities.

Looking for age-appropriate strategies to foster generosity?  I found the ones on World Vision’s blog to be  helpful:  https://www.worldvision.org/christian-faith-news-stories/top-5-ways-raise-generous-child-age

Hospitality as a family value

There are a few families in my life that do hospitality really well.  When I say hospitality, I mean the act of generously inviting people INTO your home and into your life.  This invitation is not exclusive, but rather inclusive, and ever growing.

I think hospitality is absolutely a value of Jesus’.  In fact, when he sent out the disciples two by two, He gave very specific instruction that they were to stay as guests in people’s homes and only stay at homes where the people expressed welcome.  If they did not express welcome, the disciples were to leave that ENTIRE town.  Basically, the expression of hospitality paved the way for the Gospel story to permeate towns.

The Bible actually has a lot to stay about hospitality.

Hebrews 13:2 – Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Luke 14:12-14 – He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Genesis 24:31 – He said, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord. Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”

It seems to me that the there is a common thread throughout the Bible that those who are generous and hospitable reap blessing from God and get to experience a deeper relationship with Him.  That’s not why we do it, of course.  We understand that our acts of generosity and hospitality actually change people’s eternal trajectories.  Our bigger ‘yes’ to God’s call to be hospitable can radically affect all parties involved.  The guest experiences more of God’s love for them and so does the host.  The reciprocity of blessing in the Kingdom of God continues to amaze me.  And, really, who doesn’t want to experience God’s blessing?

What does hospitality with a family look like?  Some of you might think this is radical – then Jesus is probably inviting your family into a bigger opportunity to say ‘yes’ to His mission.  For those of you that this sounds like a Monday night – keep going – you’re leaning into God’s mission for your family.

Hospitality looks like having people over for dinner regularly and cooking!  Hospitality looks like gathering people on Sunday afternoon to watch the football game in your home and letting the kids run around with their friends.  Hospitality looks like letting someone crash in your extra bed for a week while things got a little complicated in their living situation.  Hospitality looks like people feeling comfortable opening the front door of your house instead of nervous to ring the bell.  Your family’s welcome to others can say a lot about who Jesus is.

Now – we might have so many valid reasons or excuses to skip hospitality.  My own heart leans towards the Mid- Atlantic’s favorite one, “I’m just too busy.”  Well – frankly – your should probably be reordering your priorities.  There’s a hundred others – “I don’t have enough space. This would be too hard with parking. I don’t have anyone to invite. My home isn’t nice enough.”  Pardon my bluntness but – UGH!  Who cares?  Really? Trust me – your heart, your love, and your wide open door are the only things you need to be hospitable.  No one ever cares about the space.  They’re touched by your generosity.

There’s one more – very specific – family excuse that I’ve heard. “We really like to guard our home as a family space.  A place to really have for retreat for our kids and us.”  Okay.  I get that the world whizzes by us and we’re full of activities that divide our attention away from our children.  However, I’ve observed families that do hospitality well and there is a common action they take.  They invite their children into the act of being hospitable.  They treat hospitality as a family mission encouraging their kids to be equally as welcoming and equally as involved in hosting the guests.  I love when my friends’ kids meet me at the door to let me in and I love when they sit with us at dinner and join in on the conversation.

I believe that parents can really teach their children a lot about who Jesus is and what He’s about when they choose to open their doors to others.  With a model like that, kids are being set up for their own lifetime to be full of Kingdom blessing from their acts of generosity.  Let’s show our kids how to live a life rich in relationship with God and others.

 

Let’s commit to being present.

I find myself often picking on kids and teenagers about their cellphone/tablet usage and accusing them of being zombies, slaves to their screens.  Honestly, though, I’ve been observing adults in the same zombie-like state lately.  And if I’m very vulnerable, I’m often that slave.

Recently, I’ve found myself encouraging my leaders to unplug during Sunday service, although I’m fighting the same temptation to shoot off that last text during LifeGroup.  What’s wrong with me?  I’ve also recently observed many parents on their phones while at kids’ activities and missing opportunities to interact with their children or even, chaperone them safely.

Why are we on our phones so much? For some of us, it’s just a habitual action that is so connected to our muscle-memory that we just do it unconsciously on impulse.  For some of us, it’s an intentional (or even unintentional) escape to avoid interaction with others – including our kids.  For some, it’s a constant need for stimulation.  For others, it might be fear of missing out on what’s going on in the rest of the world.

For whatever reason, I’m addicted to my cellphone and more dependent on it than I should be.  Are you?

When I reflect on the life of Jesus and look through the Bible, everything points to being present in the moment, paying attention to what Holy Spirit is doing and how we should be responding. In Ecclesiastes, time and time again, the author expresses how fleeting life is here on earth, just like the book of Matthew, the Psalms, and so many other books of the Bible.  We are short blips of story in the meta-narrative of God and our time to impact, influence, and experience life is limited.  When I look back on the highlight reel of my life with Jesus, do I really want to account for all the time I spent on my cellphone?

Be encouraged parents. Tuck the cellphone away today and watch your kids rehearse that dance number one more time or pick wildflowers during their soccer game.  I’m committing to making sure I do the same.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 | The Message (MSG) | Make the Most of What God Gives

18-20 After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.

Psalm 118:24 | ESV

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

How do we set an infant up for lifelong faith?

I believe the nursery is one of the most fundamental ministries in the church for both infants and parents.  For parents, it’s an opportunity to allow others to love your baby in the name of Jesus.  For infants, it’s a fundamental moment to get to know the people of God and to know that God loves them.

During this phase of life, babies just want to know, “Am I safe?” Therefore, it’s our job to consistently embrace their physical needs.  When we answer the repeated question, infants experience God’s love and also know that God’s people love them.

“You are the More Knowledgeable Other in the life of your baby.  You are meeting their basic physiological needs by feeding them, keeping them clean, and placing them in a safe place to sleep.  You are the person who helps your baby understand that it is not a good idea to pull the cat’s tail. You are the person who lets your little one experience new things” (http://justaphase.com/the-one-question-all-babies-ask/).

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I’m not a parent yet, but I’m observing a lot in our nurseries and with my friends parenting.  I really love the resources from Reggie Joiner’s It’s Just A Phase collection of books for parenting through every age group.  Honestly, as a teacher, I’m so grateful for a resource that takes into account the physical, social, and mental development of a child so that we can minister best and appropriately to their spiritual development.

I highly advise taking a look at this collection of books on Amazon for the resources appropriate for where you are at in your parenting journey. And…snuggle your babies.