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Gift #2 You Can Not Afford NOT to Give

>> 12.09.2012

Gift #2 --

...A clear sense of others -- it seems as though the entire (Western) Church has bought into our culture's idea of living a self-focused lifestyle.  In our own experience, the number one desire of parents we've asked is that their children grow up to live "happy" and "healthy" lives.  While there is nothing innately wrong about having a life that is happy or healthy, this certainly isn't the "gold standard" by which a "good life" is represented in Scripture.  Christ followers are continually told to "deny themselves" in order to serve others, and in doing so they serve Christ.  We see Jesus and his disciples serving in difficult situations, always giving though they've already gave and gave; Christ was crucified and most of His disciples died a martyr's death.  Giving our children a clear sense of others will take intentionality and will not be convenient.  Oh, we can do it while on other journeys, (being kind to the clerk at the store, etc.) but it also means we need to teach our children to "give up" things and "deny" their desires at times. ("Delayed gratification" is one term that comes to mind...)

We must teach our children to think of others because it does not come naturally to any of us.  This is like teaching them to wash their hands, or get dressed, or make their bed-- they must practice generosity until it becomes a habit.  Generosity that comes out of a heart of thankfulness is the most pure motive. ("We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19)  Generosity taught for the sake of looking or feeling good is not the goal nor the motive that pleases Jesus.  (Feeling good about the things you do is not wrong, however, it should be a by-product and not a driving force.) God looks at our motives.  He wants your children's hearts-- not just their outward behavior. 

Because we have been given MUCH, we know that life isn't about them-- it's about Christ and being His hands and feet while on earth.  Matt. 25:34-40 gives us a clear picture about the practical ways God wants us to help and serve others.  

When weserve others here on earth, it is as if we are serving our very King, Jesus Christ.

Here  are some ways we are practicing generosity in our home this year.  They are nothing snazzy or glitzy or even worth mentioning, but it is what we can do this Christmas time.  ( This is not to brag or be looked upon, but simply joted down for us to remember personally and to perhaps give you one idea you might use if you need a few ideas.)

* Handed out Christmas treats made by ladies of our church to elderly shut-ins or church attendees who have been ill.  The kids sang, read poems, and talked a bit with the people we visited.  (We did this with another homeschooling family and it was a blast!  The kids really liked this & we reiterated several times the reason we do this activity is to encourage those who aren't healthy enough to get out very much.) (I must also thank the ladies who had the Christmas cookie exchange who plan to ask people to bring more than they will go home with.  I would never have been able to bake all those goodies AND take them!=)

* Gave homemade gifts to teachers in their lives.  When they all have a hand in creating gifts simple as "gifts in a jar" it helps them to connect saying thanks to those in their lives and to learn to think about what makes someone else happy and encouraged.

* Being involved in purchasing an animal through the World Vision Christmas catalog.  We're still collecting money so the kids are excited to see how much they will be able to purchase in the end.  Will it be a chicken?  A goat?  A cow?!?...

* Sorted through toys/clothes and gave several large boxes to our local shelter for needy people.  After a few years of doing this with them, the kids are really starting to understand their outgrown and unused can be used by others who need them.

*  And, though this is not about "others" here on earth, we have started a Sparkle Box...which you can read about later this week! 

What things are YOU and YOUR FAMILY doing this year to show Christ's love to others and to teach your children that life for the Believer consists of a full heart of thankfulness overflowing with generosity?


Gifts You Can't Afford NOT to Give Your Children!

>> 12.04.2012

This will be a "Days of Christmas" type of series, I hope.  My internet has been down at my home and since it's equipment related I'm not sure when it will be back again so...my intentions have already not met with reality from the 1st of December so we'll just all see how this goes.

Over the last two years, we have begun to get a little more intentionally Christ-centered in our family in regards to Christmas time.  We don't have anything against giving gifts to our children, no, in fact, it's quite an addicting thing to do.  Once I purchase the first gift on the lift for one of them my mind starts spinning with ideas of all the "wonderful" things I could get them...things they "need"...things I want them to have...oh, and it could get bad...but I have several reasons for not giving into those fun parenting feelings and the biggest at Christmas time is because it's JESUS' Birthday!  I don't celebrate my children's birthdays by giving away their gifts to the guests, so why would I celebrate Jesus' birthday this way?  Anyway, all this thinking has lead me to a few, (ok, after thinking more about it turned from a "12 Days of Christmas" to a "Days of Christmas" because, after all, who wants to be held back into restrains on these things?=) er, several more than a few, ideas of gifts I HAD to give to my children.  Today I'll share with you my first.

I MUST Give My Children The Gift of...

.... a mom & dad that have a genuine, personal walk with their Savior, Jesus Christ. 

I've written about this before, but it can not be over-stated: being a Christ follower is NOT just about going to church on Sunday mornings and making sure you're children are in church when the church doors are open.  That will do little good to help them be interested in having Jesus as their Savior, too.  Following Jesus means you personally want to find out what He has for you to live out.  You can only do this by reading His Word on a regular basis and by spending time with Him in prayer-- talking to Him.  If you are doing this, those around you will see His reflection in you.  Like Moses having been with God on Mt. Sinai, people KNEW he'd seen the One True God because his face glowed!  Our countenance will shine like the countenance of one having been with the Alpha and Omega, the Creator of all, when we spend time with Him.  This will be what interests those around us, especially our children, to want a relationship with Christ.  When they observe us going to Jesus in difficult and good days, when they see us responding in ways that only one having been with Jesus could respond, that will be attractive to them and will cause them to know our Savior is alive and real.

To that end, I fail. 

I fail so often were I to get a nickel for every failed attempt at consistent Bible reading and prayer time, or even a penny for that matter, I'd be filthy rich!  As it is, we don't get money for failing that...usually just shame and guilt which Satan aptly uses to keep us from Christ.  But Dear Friend, let us remember that God's love and faithfulness for us does not depend on us in any way (can I get an "AMEN"?!).  Romans 5:8 says " But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Another way to put that was even while we were sinning, Christ still loved us enough sacrifice Himself for us.  2 Timothy 2:13 says "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself."  Therefore, we can be sure that when our reflection of HIM gets a bit...fuzzy, we can approach Him with confidence in HIS love and HIS shed blood knowing that "His mercies are new every morning." (Lamentations 3:23)  He wants us to spend time with Him, and like a person who has lost great, valuable jewels, when we are lost He SEEKS US and rejoices when we return to Him.  (Just check out Luke chapter 15 for many examples of His great love for lost ones.)

For those that are moms, DO spend time with Jesus...open His Word at the beginning of your day and even if it's 5 minutes before the cereal is poured and the toasts pops up and the kids start tugging away at you, read His Word!  THEN, keep it open and throughout the laundry, the crying fits, the time-outs, the crazy breakfast-snack-lunch-snack-UNhappy hour (4-5 melt-down time)- supper- then-too-long-before-they're-finally-asleep-in-their-own-bed-time, time (whew!  It's exhausting, isn't it?) meditate on that verse.  Thank Him for your children, for the clothes you are able to wash, the dishes you are able to use, the water you are able to have readily available...Keep Him central throughout your day and He will HONOR your time and not shame you for not being able to have a "quiet" time.  After all, He gave you your children and He KNOWS there is no such thing as a "quiet" time for years after they come.  Enjoy the blessings He's given you....as you enjoy HIM!

This was too lengthy, but if you remember one this, remember this:  there are some gifts you CAN NOT afford not to give to your children.  This is one: the gift of a mom & dad that have a genuine, personal walk with their Savior, Jesus Christ. 

More gifts and Christmas traditions to come...another day!


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