Teachable Moments

Don’t Try Harder!

Do you want to really discourage yourself?  Then buy motivational prints that give really bad advice.  Here are some of my favorite ones to hate:

  • Second Place is being a First Place Loser (really, you couldn’t just let me lose – you had to make me feel even worse about it?)
  • It’s Not Over Until You Win (ridiculous – if you can’t enjoy the journey to your destination, then it seems a bit of a waste of life to me.)
  • Success means to Exceed Everyone’s Expectations Always (this is an outrageous goal – it’s a one way ticket to setting ourselves up for disappointing everyone we know)
  • Here’s how I’m going to beat you – I’m going to outwork you.  That’s all there is to winning. (Really?  Talent, planning, strategy and how about prayer?  None of these matter? Yeesh!)
  • If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete. (Well I wish I would have known about this in High School – I would have been able to sit out gym class.)

And I think out of all the bad advice about how to live can be summed up in this one quote you can buy online and hang it on your wall, 

“Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, you should try harder”

Here’s my advice – don’t take the above advice.  And definitely do not try harder!

Winning, competing, and trying harder all lead us to focus on ourselves and picture others as opposition.  We can end up being prideful of our abilities and talents; we trust our own efforts. We are on a slippery slope toward arrogance.  

While these quotes are “popular” and are intended to motivate, they accomplish the opposite of what a Christian Disciple should be motivated to become or to do.  Stay away from such poor guidance.

A Christian Disciple does not try harder, but rather they become less self-reliant and more Spirit reliant.  Scripture is clear that we are not to rely on our own efforts, but rather rest in the effort of God on our behalf.  Our faith is in Him alone.

  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Prov. 3:5)
  • It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)
  • Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)
  • I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)

Next time you want to try harder to do the right thing such as fight temptation or grow in wisdom – stop.  Don’t try harder in what you are doing. Stop – tell God you trust Him, you need Him and you will rely on His Spirit.  Ask Him to fill you and give you the wisdom and strength you need to accomplish whatever it is you need to do.   

As our children grow in faith, how can we help them be reliant upon God?  First, they need to see it in us before they will ever try it for themselves.  Show them how to walk with God. Second, pray with them, asking God to fill you both and to give you His strength and wisdom.  Pray with reliance upon Him. Third, read God’s promises.  Meditate and memorize them.  Fourth, rejoice!  When we rely on Him, we see His Word come to life in ours.

Dear Reader, as you walk as a Christian Disciple, following God and as you do so, becoming transformed into His image, remember that your journey of faith must be Spirit-filled and Spirit-reliant.  His power is what we need, not our own.

May you be completely reliant on God this week – may you try less hard and find God more faithful.

Fondly yours always, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

Be Still and Know

Stillness and peace – those can be hard things to find in today’s world of distractions and noise. There is always something clamoring for our attention and it can be difficult to find peace. At the beginning of this year I put together a 28 day challenge to pursue peace and today I want to bring to you a 5 minute challenge from it. I encourage you to take just 5 minutes from your day to see if this attitude of stillness encourages you today. 

Prepare:  Turn off any radios, tvs, screens around you.  Create an environment of quietness (no sound or visual stimuli).  To pursue peace, the first step is to grow in our self-awareness which is best done in stillness.

Think: Consider Psalm 46, paying particular attention to what God says about Himself (what is His character) and how He interacts with the world (what He does).  Whether you write your thoughts down or reflect on them in your mind, consider the following.

Acknowledge God’s competency and sovereignty by telling yourself that God is able and will indeed exalt Himself in His way and in His time.  

Remind yourself that God doesn’t need you to help Him accomplish what He is doing in your life or in the world.  

Comfort yourself by reminding yourself that He is with you (vs. 11).  

Rejoice in God – praise and thank Him that He is the one who will win all the battles in your life in His time.

Psalm 46:10, “Be Still and Know that I am God” is embedded in a picture of fearful circumstances in which God’s answer to all humanity is to stop – Be Still.  In a world that “never shuts up”, in which we can live with perpetual streams of input, practicing this external quietness with an internal focus is what Spurgeon called an expressive silence (Charles Spurgeon); Calvin said to truly know God, we must first be still and must subdue and restrain our turbulent affections (John Calvin).  

Act:  Sit quietly for the rest of your 5 minutes.  As you do so, purposefully enjoy the peace that you have in some small or big way achieved.

Psalm 46, English Standard Version (ESV)To the choirmaster.
Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present (well-proved) help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
  though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
 I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

May you be encouraged in the stillness today! Blessings, Elizabeth

PS – If you found today helpful and would like to read more, check out my 28-day Pursue Peace challenge!

Teachable Moments

The ABCs of What Kids Believe

How do you know what a child believes about God?  If you want to know, just ask them!  When one Sunday School teacher who was teaching through the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23) asked their 5-8 year old students what they thought “peace” was, the responses were varied; here are some of my favorite answers.

  • My Mom says “it’s when everyone is asleep, but her”
  • Sharing one of your favorite toys and then, not hitting your friend even though they sat on it and broke it
  • When everyone gets exactly what they want to eat at dinner
  • When my Dad gets to sit in his chair and control the remote control
  • Grandpa said without quiet, there is no peace and since it’s never quiet in our house, peace doesn’t exist

These children’s God-knowledge brings a smile to our face; out-of-the-mouth-of-babes we discover what we have taught them.  Life observations that often occur in everyday conversations reveal our child’s everyday theology.  As they grow older, staying on top of these perceptions is key so we ensure our children are building a foundation of solid truth about God and who He is, how He works and how they can know and love Him.  To discover what our children are thinking and remain influential in their spiritual faith formation, consider the following A, B, C and D.

A.  Ask questions and listen well before you give advice.  No matter how old they are. Do you want them to respect you?  Then, model respect to them first by giving them an opportunity to explain themselves. Try not to jump in too soon so they have the time and space they need to make themselves heard.

B.  Be in consistent conversations. Theology is a process of learning and growing both in orthodoxy (beliefs) and orthopraxy (living out our beliefs).  This requires conversations every day whether we are walking, relaxing or driving to church (Deuteronomy 11:19 ). Hint: if a conversation isn’t going well, think about walking away and trying again another day; remember – faith formation is a marathon, not a sprint to the finish line.  Winning an argument could cost you future conversations and thus, your influence is diminished in their lives. 

C.  Communicate with them over dictating to them.  Fear can lead us to try and control our children (preschoolers and young adults alike).  To live by faith, not fear, be self-aware of your stress and worry, take a deep breath and seek to respond with calm wisdom, avoiding knee-jerk reactions.

D.  Depend on God in prayer.  We won’t be “quick to listen and slow to speak” unless we are depending on God’s Spirit to guide our thoughts, calm our hearts and produce the fruit needed for godly influence.  Ask God for His peace that passes understanding for in that stillness, we will sense God’s voice guiding and leading us.

What do our children believe?  Building a solid theology that informs our children’s everyday lives comes in all shapes and sizes, just like our children.  As children grow, it will come to mean different things to them and they’ll have different questions. Approaching our everyday conversations about their everyday theology can be as simple as A, B, C and D.

Here are some final thoughts on peace to encourage you as you parent:

  • Silence is usually associated with peace, unless they are yours and are upstairs playing – then silence is suspicious…
  • Peace is only one drive-through away when your child doesn’t need a sippy cup because they have finally reached the magical age of drinking through a straw.
  • I could get a medal for world peace and not feel as accomplished as potty training a child.
  • Peace is that glorious moment in the morning when no one is conscious but me!
  • Of course my children experience peace – ​I’m the one up most of the night overthinking their lives for them…

Blessings to you and the precious children in your life.  Fondly yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

What Puts The GRAND In Grandparenting?

“If I knew Grandparenting was so great, I would have been a grandparent FIRST!”  My Mom told me this after she had spent a delightful day playing at the park, having a picnic, and reading books with my preschool children and when they needed reigning in, she brought them to me; she had the fun, and I got to parent.  Grandparents often get the joys of being with the kiddos without all the hassle and worry. This doesn’t mean Grandparents don’t work when they are on child-duty, but it does mean that they don’t have ultimate responsibility.

Grandparents are in a unique role as there are benefits to their stage of life that they didn’t have when they were younger.  Now, of course this doesn’t apply to every Grandparent, but for many gone are the days of early alarm clocks, a 5-day work week, and evenings filled with soccer practices, piano lessons, and play dates.  Time can be considered more at the discretion of the Grandparent with a freedom of choice they haven’t previously enjoyed. Finances don’t have to be designated for orthodontic braces, prom dresses, college fees, or wedding receptions.  With these responsibilities behind them, Grandparents have a choice they can spend on their adult children and their growing families.

How best can Grandparents make the most of these precious years with their grandchildren?  How can the former generation influence the future generation?  It’s not a matter of making a “to do” list, but rather a “to be” list.  

  1. G – Get your wisdom from God.   Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:4, NIV)  God has gotten you this far, He can be there to help give you the strength and wisdom you’ll need to influence the next generation.  Ask God to give you the opportunities you need to have those teachable moments with your Grandchildren that they will carry with them the rest of their lives.
  2. R – Remember those funny, fun and frantic life stories.  A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired. (Proverbs 17:22, MSG) My Grandmother told me stories of having a goat-cart to get around town, putting rouge on her knees when she went out dancing the Charleston in the 1920s, listening around the radio to “The Shadow” in the 1930s, and remembering the first movie she ever saw (1915, “The Champion” with Charlie Chaplin).  What fun it was to hear about “ the good ole’ days” and how encouraging to know that the God that sustained my Grandparents would also see me through.
  3. A – Answer questions and Ask just as many.  Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4, NIV) Take the time to engage in conversation.  Don’t let those teachable moments slide by!  Also, if you have a Grandchild who tends not to initiate conversation, take the time to seek them out and ask about their lives – what they are experiencing, what they think and what decisions they are  making.
  4. N – Never miss a moment to be an “encourager”. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV) Parents and children face many challenges on a day-to-day basis.  As a grandparent, look for the silver lining and the positive. You never know how your words of encouragement can build up relationships, help navigate conflict and encourage perseverance through tough times.
  5. D – Disciple the next generation.  A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35, NIV) Your best gift to your grandchildren is loving them well.  Never miss out on giving a hug, speaking about your devotion to Jesus and showing appreciation for what makes them special.  Loving family relationships built on Christ is a strong witness to the world and a blessing that your Grandchildren will carry with them the rest of their lives.

Dear Reader, what a privilege it is to be a Grandparent.  Your relationship is a powerful opportunity to influence the next generation in significant ways. You’ve lived a lifetime – it’s now time to pass on all you’ve learned and invest in these young lives.  Look and cultivate all the Teachable Moments you can find – you’ll be glad you did and so will your grandchildren.

Fond blessings to you!  As always, Elizabeth

PS – do you know a Grandparent who may find this article helpful? Could you kindly consider passing this blog post on to them?  I’d appreciate it and I bet they would too. Let’s make every Teachable Moment count!

Teachable Moments

God is Love

“God loves you” is one of the most common things children hear in any Sunday School class; at least the ones I visited.  And, while I can’t really say it is a wrong thing to say, I also can’t advise that it is the wisest thing to say. Why? Because unless you are careful, it is probably one of the most confusing things you could say to a child.

Confusing?  What is confusing about telling a child that God loves them?  It is confusing unless you know for sure what the child is thinking.  Because it is rarely explained carefully and clearly in an age-appropriate manner, children can end up believing all sorts of misconceptions about God and what it means that God IS love.  Ask a child,“what do I mean when I tell you God loves you?” and see what they say.  It may be an eye-opening exercise for you.

To help clear up any confusion, let’s study it for ourselves.  After all, we can’t teach something we ourselves don’t know. To truly understand it, let’s study the word “love”, let’s look at how God shows it, and then, we’ll see how it affects our lives.

1 John 4:8, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 1 John 3:1, Romans 13:10
Love is a fulfillment of the law that in its entirety embraces the comprehensive character of God; it embodies all that God has expressed in how He orders His universe.  Love is possessive and protective inherently, as a parent would be of a dearly loved child. Love is understood in our thoughts, expressed in our behaviors, and is strongly emotional; love is an experience that touches every part of us.  Because we have a restored and intimate relationship with our God, soul to soul, we know that God is love from the inside out because of how we experience life with Him.

John 13:34,  John 3:16, Romans 5:8
God is love and it drives His relationship with us.  God does nothing without love being a primary motivation because He can never do anything that is contrary to who He Himself is.  We are commanded to love one another as God loves us. Therefore, knowing how He loves us is necessary to believers participating in fellowship which honors God and blesses the believer.  God’s love is sacrificial, personal, intentional, obvious, and undeserved. He showed it in the ultimate expression of putting us before Himself by dying on the cross and rising from the dead to be the atonement, the propitiation, and the redemption that, as sinners, we so desperately needed.  His love meets the demands of His justice by giving all of Himself to those He loves, even though they do not yet love Him.

John 14:31, 1 John 3:17-18, 23-24; 4:19, Colossians 3:14, Galatians 5:22, 23
God’s love, when experienced, is life-changing.  Someone who truly experiences the living God can not walk away unchanged or indifferent.  Love brings unity to the body of Christ, a heart that yearns to obey God, a character that is more concerned with others than one’s self, and is seen in deed and word consistently throughout one’s life.  When we believe in the triune God – the Father who rules, the Son who sacrifices, and the Spirit that abides – our faith in God is our expression of love to God that is given to us by the Spirit. Love is produced by God in us which then flows through us and is evident to all.  Love is life-changing in us and changes the lives of others who experience that love through us in ways that make us closer to God, closer to one another, and changes us, as God’s children, to be more like our Father (Ephesians 5:1-20).

Explaining it to children
Telling a child that God is love encompasses all of the above.  And you would be right to believe that not all of the above is able to be understood at all ages.  So we need to ask, what is necessary to know and how do we make it clear?

  1. We must love children.  If we are not loving the child, then we can not verbally explain to a child what love is, after all, love is seen in word and deed.
  2. We must love God.  Before we even worry about showing love to one another, are we loving God?  Am I growing in my admiration, affection, and enjoyment of the God who has given everything for me?  If children don’t see us loving God, then they won’t trust our love for them.
  3. We must think about how we articulate the love of God.  We can’t say to a child, “God loves you and God died for you.”  In a child’s mind, how does death reflect love?  How are they connected? If you love me, wouldn’t you live for me?  A child needs to understand that death is the punishment for sin; they need to know the “bad news” of the gospel before they understand the good news of God’s love.
    • The bad news (sin and death) – We, as people, have hurt God and disobeyed Him.  God, like any good Father, must discipline His children but instead of us getting into trouble (taking the punishment for our own sin), God took the punishment for us by dying on the cross.  He got hurt so we don’t have to be hurt; He took the pain so we don’t have to experience hell.
    • The good news (God’s love) – Because God substituted Himself for us, we can be reconciled to God; we can know God’s love and we can love God in return when we believe in Him and what He has done for us.  God’s love lasts forever and we will enjoy Him now and one day in heaven for God’s love brings eternal life.

Dear Reader, teaching children the love of God is essential to the foundation of their faith.  Let’s make sure we are loving God, loving others, and thoughtfully considering how we articulate God’s love to children so they do not know confusion, but instead, know the sweet confidence and surety that comes from knowing indeed that God is love.

Blessings to you and may the love of God be yours today in rich and new ways.
Fondly yours, Elizabeth