Desperate to Hear God’s Voice

Imagine the shrill ring of the phone and the jolt into wakefulness. The voice in your ear carries unthinkable news. Is it possible that you are still dreaming?
“Your son has been been arrested.”
“The charge is murder. The victim: his wife’s ex-husband.”

As daylight comes, you learn more.
Your son was desperate to protect his step-daughters from their father’s abusive behavior. An unsympathetic judge had lifted restrictions and mandated visitation. Taking matters into his own hands, your son has somehow come to believe that the only way to save the girls from more abuse was to take their father’s life.

This is Carol Kent’s real-life story, lived out against a backdrop of grief, shame, and self-recrimination:
What kind of mother produces a murderer?
What about all the prayers, committing her son to God’s care and guidance?
How could she continue as an author and a speaker at Christian conferences when her son had been sentenced to life in prison?
If they had been more spiritual, would God have protected them from this nightmare?

Following a tragedy too big for her heart to hold, Carol was thrown back on her trust in God and her dependence upon His Truth. Heart break slowed her reading pace to a crawl, and she clung desperately to the sound of God’s voice, meditating on the words, writing down the morsels of comfort that came, line upon line.

As she has shared in her book, When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances, there was no neat and happy ending to Carol’s story. Her son continues to serve his sentence in prison, God has not intervened miraculously, and yet, Carol continues to learn, “day by day, that there is no obstacle that Christ’s resurrection doesn’t give me the power to overcome.”

Living with the daily need of God’s presence and protection, Carol has produced He Holds My Hand: Experiencing God’s Presence and Protection, a devotional work offering 365 individual meditations on Scripture. Accompanied by a relevant quotation, thoughtful questions, and a suggested prayer, each reading offers the Words of God as Words of Hope, spoken over each day. Having experienced the miracle of receiving life- altering truth in the midst of crisis, she recommends that her own words be a devotional complement to a regular schedule of Bible reading as you pause and listen for daily reassurance that God is present in the midst of your circumstances as He was present for her.


This book was provided by Tyndale Momentum, the nonfiction imprint of Tyndale House Publishers, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I have begun to experiment with including an Amazon affiliate link here in my book reviews. If you should decide to purchase When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances  or He Holds My Hand: Experiencing God’s Presence and Protection, simply click on their titles here, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

 

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Nurturing Faith and Strengthening Family Ties Around the Table

If my dining room table could talk, it might begin with a story about cinnamon rolls whose aroma can pull family out of bed like a giant magnet. Smiling and sleepy, they sniff their way toward the dining room and the warm welcome of a breakfast gathering. My scratched up table might share memories of voices singing – or arguing; of conversations with missionaries, old friends, and people who became new friends; of the sound of laughter that accompanies holiday homecomings and boisterous birthdays.

Our gatherings around the table for feasting and fun are symbolic, a pale adumbration of a larger feast, and Sally Clarkson points her readers toward this truth in The Lifegiving Table. Remembering her own family’s heritage of traditions, she shares her motivation behind it all: “The soul satisfaction of belonging to one another, the anchor of commonly held traditions, and the understanding that our home was a sanctuary from all the pressures and storms of life.” (5)

Her exhortation is well-timed, for North American culture is characterized by a speed and complexity that leans more toward fast-food in the mini-van than family meals around a table. Statistics gathered by The Six O’Clock Scramble website indicate that the frequency of family dinners has declined 33 percent over the past two decades with the average time spent at a dinner table shrinking to a mere twelve minutes. Studies also show that children and teens who enjoy more than three family dinners per week eat more healthfully, are less likely to be overweight, perform better academically, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. (13)

It’s clear that time spent around a life-giving table nourishes more than just our bodies.

“The food is only an exclamation point!”

The rhythm that pulses under The Lifegiving Table is a mother’s deep desire to build memories and traditions that nurture close relationships among her children and to point always and ever to the faith that is foundational to everything she does. Intentional time around a table may be elaborate or simple; a gathering of the troops or a face to face, one-on-one heart-to-heart talk.

I read Sally’s book straight through, underlining and nodding and gathering inspiration, but the book could also be treated as a reference, for each chapter stands alone with very practical principles for some aspect of table-love alongside scripture verses to ponder, a gentle push in the form of suggested activities, and then, recipes that come from Sally’s tried and true collection.

Practicing rhythms of life around a table is enriching for many reasons. These are some of our family’s favorites, and The Lifegiving Table offers a wealth of resources for each one:

1.  Shaping a family culture

I was sharing a youngest-son glory moment with his oldest brother, and was surprised at his response: “Well, of course. He’s a Morin.” It turns out that our boys have a very strong sense of “this is who we are” as a family. Our prayer is that as they mix and mingle with people of many faiths and persuasions, they will continue to hold fast to the bedrock of “this is why we believe” and “this is what we stand for.” Values and traditions that shape and define a family are picked up and carried forward through shared goals and strong relationships that form a legacy over a lifetime together.

2.  Practicing conversation

It was a relief to me to read that sometimes things got loud around the Clarksons’ table. Dinner time conversation is a great place for trying out convictions, arguing an opinion, or validating thought processes. It has been my goal to draw each child into the conversation so each would have the floor at some point (for at least a few seconds!), but I had no idea how obvious I was being in this quest until my youngest as a toddler turned toward his dad during a lull in the conversation and asked, “And how was your day?’ with the exact tone of voice I would have used.

3.  Celebrating everything!

In sharing this favorite G.K. Chesterton quote, Sally urges parents to tap into the natural exuberance of our children to put on display the celebratory nature of God:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” (91)

4.  Pursuing discipleship in the midst of life

“A discipleship that cannot make room for the ordinary is unrealistic.”

Growth toward God can happen in an atmosphere of fun, and whatever we plan for our day-to-day, line upon line, precept upon precept building into our children must fit our family culture well enough to be sustainable over the long haul.  Realism dictates that we shelve perfectionism. If our family had waited for perfect conditions in which to practice hospitality or implement family devotions . . . we’d still be waiting.

5.  Making love your goal

We are made to love and to be loved. How sad when children go looking to have this need met outside their family, when the life-giving table is the perfect medium for seeds of friendship to flourish right in the home.

“What makes a table lifegiving is what happens at the table.”

If relationship is the goal, a life-giving table can be found anywhere people come together to find refreshment for body, soul, and spirit, and where the value of relationship is based on the value of individuals as God’s image bearers and much-loved children.

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This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Additional Resources

Table Mentoring

Sue Moore Donaldson shares inspiration and practical advice for ministry around your table at her website, and in her books. Hospitality 101 is a Bible study featuring lessons from The Ultimate Host, and Table Mentoring will help you get started on the joyous path of coming alongside another person around your welcoming table.

Also:

Be sure to give a listen to At Home with Sally Clarkson and Friends,  a podcast in which Sally shares more thoughts on the Lifegiving Table along with interviews with fascinating guests.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

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Love Hides Close By

Until I put it on display, love is sometimes hard to see.

Dr. Mary Manz Simon invites pint-sized theologians to embark upon a delightful scavenger hunt, looking for all the places love hides in the daily life of a preschooler.  She does this with precision, because when we demonstrate the love of God to others, it is not with the intention of motivating Him to love us in return or to increase His love for us.  Rather, we love Him (and others) because He first loved us, and all our acts of love or obedience serve to demonstrate the unselfish mercy and grace that is God’s love.

So . . . where does love hide?

Readers will find six replies, hidden under the flaps that have been incorporated into the construction of Hannah Wood’s large, vivid illustrations which feature a rainbow of children who have been caught in the act of being good with actions with which even the youngest toddler can identify.

My grandson’s tiny fingers were well able to grasp and open the flaps, and it turns out that love hides very close at hand, for the revelation of love can come with an invitation to a friend, a sharing of cookies, a cheerfully executed chore, or practical services offered to the weak or the elderly.

Relevant and simply stated Scripture verses make a solid case for each example of loving deeds and will help parents (and grandparents!) to set the example in establishing memory habits as they work together to learn the verses.  A fun way to encourage this would be to let the child pull back the flap and give the answer to the question while the adult says the verse — and then switch roles.

Giving and receiving love involves words as well as actions that lend weight to those words.  After all, God Himself communicated His love to us through the Word, but He didn’t stop there:

“God demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,”                 Romans 5:8.

When our children join Him in the joy of giving, His love is put on display for all the world to see.

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This book was provided by Tyndale Kids, a trademark of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This is the third of Mary Manz Simon’s books that my grandson and I have had the privilege of reading and sharing.  You’ll also be interested in discovering God Made the Sun and God Made the Moon. (Click to read my review.)

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Grateful Parents: Grateful Kids

Finally, about ten years ago, the light began to dawn, and you can’t imagine how disappointed I was.  I realized that parenting is not a cause and effect proposition.  It’s not a vending machine in which I insert my actions (seizing teachable moments, training in character, consistency in discipline) and then am rewarded by equal and corresponding reactions (obedience, respect, good behavior).

I’m a slow learner, so this was earth-shattering for me, but . . .

Having said that, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch reminds me that if I want my children to appreciate their blessings and to operate out of gratitude rather than entitlement, I had better be modeling the right heart attitude myself.

In the Great Balancing Act called parenting, we are at war against three words:  “Is that all?”  In ourselves, in our kids, Western culture exacerbates our entrenched selfishness in everything from “ice cream servings to allowances.”  “Enough” is never enough.

Kristen is writing from the trenches of raising three kids, and so the tone of Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World is NOT “we have arrived and here’s how your kids can ooze gratitude like our perfect children do.”  She comes alongside her readers with humble offerings:  “Here’s what we’re doing.  Here’s what others have tried, and that’s great, too.”  Kristen’s perspective is derived from the knowledge that parents who are willing to fight against the prevailing culture and for an attitude of thankfulness in their children will feel as if they are swimming upstream.

My oldest son talked early — and often — so I can still hear his husky toddler voice saying, “There’s a difference between a need and a want.”  To me!  Even so, one need that is common to all kids is their parents’ love, and ironically, in our culture of possessions and privileges, it is common to find children who are sadly lacking in that need while every want is speedily fulfilled.

No one sets out with a goal of “spoiling” her children, but little daily choices that arise from incorrect thinking accomplish the task over time.  Kristen unmasks some of these:

  1.  We want our kids to be our friends.
  2.  We’re afraid to say no because of the fallout (slammed doors, tears, eye rolling, shouting).
  3. We feel guilty about our circumstances and try to compensate with permissiveness.
  4. We are busy.  We eat fast food on the way to one of Junior’s three different soccer league practices, take on an extra job to pay for a Disneyland vacation, and don’t have time for the slow work of eyeball to eyeball interaction in which we pass on our values.
  5. We don’t want them to fail, so we make things “easy” for them.
  6. We don’t want them to feel left out, so we cave to the “everyone else” argument.
  7. We don’t want them to be unhappy.

It is not for nothing, then, that Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World provides an end-of-each-chapter assortment of age-related hints for going against the flow.

For parents:

“Put a plan in place.  Decide in advance what you will say ‘yes’ to.”

For toddlers:

“Make cookies together.  You may eat one for your effort, and then give the rest away to brighten someone’s day.  Teach your children that we don’t have to keep everything for ourselves.”

For elementary age:

“Clean out closets and drawers, and instead of giving away only things that they won’t miss, urge your kids to include something they really love to share with someone else.”

For tweens/teens:

“It may seem to your son or daughter as if she’s the only one in her class or he’s the only one in his grade or on this planet who isn’t fitting in or keeping up.  But if we are going to compare ourselves to others, let’s also compare ourselves to kids who live in poverty.”

The award for most practical feature goes to the chapter called “Making Smart Choices about Technology” with its related idea of a cell phone contract.

Central to all this intentionality and hard work is the goal of  introducing kids to the freedom of self-discipline; to the security that comes from seeing parents follow through on their principles; and the self-confidence that can only come to kids who have been allowed to “struggle” a bit and then to solve their own problem before a parent comes swooping in to rob them of the privilege.  We must love our children enough to make the hard choices that lead to a lifestyle of gratitude.

This book was provided by Tyndale Momentum, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishing,  in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with these communities on a regular basis:   Soli Deo Gloria Connections, Inspire Me Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Soul Survival, Testimony Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell His Story, Coffee for Your Heart, Live Free Thursdays, Faith-Filled Fridays, Grace and TruthStill Saturday, Weekend Whispers, Sunday Stillness, Faith and Fellowship, Blessing Counters, Women with Intention, Sharing His Beauty, Monday Musings, Motivate and Rejuvenate Monday, Thought Provoking Thursday, Small Wonder, Playdates with God,  A Little R & R, Beloved Brews, SusanBMead, Faith Along the Way, Cozy Reading Spot, Reflect, Literacy Musing Mondays, Purposeful Faith, The Loft, Words with Winter, Rich Faith Rising, Encourage Me Monday, Tuesday Talk, What to Read Wednesday, Booknificent Thursday, Give Me Grace, Three-Word Wednesday, Word-filled Wednesdays, Faith ‘n Friends, Essential Things, 100 Happy Days, His Purpose in Me, After My Coffee, Thankful Thursday

5 Smooth Stones

David stooped down and picked up a handful of stones, smooth to his touch and weighty.  The rest of his story tumbles effortlessly into memory:  the battle with Goliath, David’s rise to fame in Israel, the finger of God upon his life.  In Five Traits of a Christ Follower, Doug Nuenke fills up the metaphor of those five smooth stones with five traits, five areas of growth for the one who believingly follows Jesus.  He draws on the experiences and writing of thirty skilled disciple-makers whose platforms range from nurse, teacher, and author to missionary, military personnel, and rap artist!  What emerges from the collection is a small discipleship training manual that addresses the true test of our life in Christ:  our character.

  1.  Walking with Jesus involves living in company with Him in such a way that our power and influence is clearly coming from “the Vine.” Like Martha, it is often my goal to “put dinner on the table — regardless of whether the goal of her guests was to eat.”  If my focus is on Jesus — rather than on controlling every stray atom — my attitude will reveal a love for God that fuels my walk and results in passionate attachment to His kingdom priorities.
  2. Knowing and Living the Scriptures involves more than gulping down pre-digested thinking about the Bible.  Ancient instructions in Deuteronomy reveal that an intimate knowledge of the Word yields a life-changing awe of God, motivation to obey God’s commands, and an accurate view of self that leads to humility.  The truth is that life is not found in knowledge alone, but in God Himself, and a follower of Christ will pursue Him through His Word.  One tool in pursuing a deeper knowledge of the Word is BibleGateway, an Internet resource that makes it possible to read, hear, search, study, compare, and share the Bible in 200+ versions and 70+ languages.
  3. Participating in Community is much more than a weekly gathering in a building.  Community is “doing life” together, urging one another toward the finish line by speaking words of courage and faith.  This requires the risk of vulnerability as we confess our sins to one another and experience the healing that God provides through the Body.
  4. Engaging with Those Who Don’t Know Christ requires jumping into the neighborhood just as Jesus did when He took on a body and came to Earth.  Reflecting God’s glory is a matter of being intentionally positioned to shine among those who are in need, not motivated by superiority, but by love and a desire to engage with people — even those with whom we have very little in common.  With my mother living in an nursing home, I am granted the unique privilege of ministering in small ways in that environment, and it is my challenge to discover how to do that in a meaningful way.
  5. Reproducing Spiritual Generations is gloriously demonstrated in the four-generational admonition from Paul to Timothy.  Our ministry of multiplication begins with passing on the truth we have received and then equipping the hearers to become disciples by “investing deeply, consistently, relationally, and with love.”  This is possible only from a transparent and accessible life.

Reading one short entry each day from Five Traits of a Christ-follower is like spending a month being challenged in the core competencies of the faith by having little conversations with someone who has walked the path before.  David picked up his five smooth stones so that they could be launched by a sling.  By the grace of God, it will be Christ-like character that launches the believer into a life of enthusiasm, productivity, and embodiment of the spirit of Jesus in every season of life.

This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with these communities on a regular basis:   Looking Up,   Soli Deo Gloria Connections, Inspire Me Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Soul Survival, Testimony Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell His Story, Coffee for Your Heart, Live Free Thursdays, Faith-Filled Fridays, Grace and Truth, Fellowship Friday, Still Saturday, The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness, Faith and Fellowship, Blessing Counters, Women with Intention, Sharing His Beauty, Monday Musings, Motivate and Rejuvenate Monday, Thought Provoking Thursday, Small Wonder, Playdates with God,  A Little R & R, Beloved Brews, SusanBMead, Faith Along the Way, Cozy Reading Spot, Reflect, Literacy Musing Mondays, Purposeful Faith, The Loft, Words with Winter, Rich Faith Rising, Encourage Me Monday, Tuesday Talk, What to Read Wednesday, Booknificent Thursday, Give Me Grace, Three-Word Wednesday, Word-filled Wednesdays, Faith ‘n Friends

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