Category Archives: Family

The Joy of Family Reunion

[NOTE: Today, we are pleased to bring you a “follow up” post of sorts. A few weeks ago, Daniel Gaines wrote our guest post. In his bio, we shared that he and his family were facing a separation, due to a medical condition with one of their children. Now, the family is all back in the states together. We are honored today that his wife, Tiffany Gaines, took the time to share some thoughts about their reunion that will encourage you.]

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Hair fixed, makeup on, perfume sprayed, and 3 kids in tow, I anxiously watched the clock in the terminal click to 1:47 pm. He was finally here! I knew his plane had touched down and he was on the runway in Alabama. Together at last.

My heart ached with anticipation. The children asked anxiously, “Where’s daddy? Is he here?” When he finally descended the stairs it was a flurry of movement with the children running, arms open, screaming, “DADDY!” Tears of joy and relief rolled down my cheeks. Everything was perfect in this moment. We were all together.

1 Corinthians 13:7 reminds us daily that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” For two months, I had been a single mom 10,000 miles from my husband. The days crawled by as I organized doctor appointments and took care of the kids alone. I was constantly reminded of the perfect design God had created in husband and wife, father and mother. Our family puzzle was incomplete and the load was getting increasingly difficult to bear alone.

In Tanzania, Daniel would have loved to share the load of daily parenting and discipline. He was lonely and ached with the knowledge that he could not be with his wife and children daily. We had made the decision for me to return home with all 3 children because our son was needing medical care that was unavailable in Tanzania. But Daniel had remained in Africa to continue the work we had committed to. I can only imagine how difficult it was to watch his entire family board a plane and leave him behind. Tears flowed down my cheeks that day as well as I held the hands of 2 preschoolers and walked down the aisle of that plane with my daughter in anticipation of two 9 hour flights and an unknown period of time without Daddy.

But on this day, the tears were of relief and joy as I was reunited with my love.

We hugged. We laughed. We gazed into each other’s eyes. We prayed and thanked God for the blessing of our family being together again. The boys hung to his legs and our daughter held his hand as we walked from the terminal. The days that followed were filled with a feeling of completeness that had been missing for so long. Our puzzle piece was back where it belonged. I had dreamed of this moment for 2 months and it was finally here.

I couldn’t help but think of the lyrics to a favorite song, “God’s Family.”

And sometimes we laugh together, sometimes we cry.

Sometimes we share together heartaches and sighs.

Sometimes we dream together of how it will be.

When we all get to Heaven, God’s family.

Although we go through trials, there will be joy. As a part of God’s family, we experience these same feelings. Romans 5:3-5 gives our Christian family so much hope: “… but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

We can know that, although trials come our way, God has equipped us to endure with the hope of an amazing family reunion one day. We will ache with the anticipation of being together with our Christian family. We will cry tears of joy and relief after enduring this life and know that everything is perfect because we will be together, God’s family.

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It Goes Without Saying

It is a common phrase. It is often used when one means, “Well, of course, I shouldn’t have to make that point, should I?” Then they add the phrase, “It goes without saying!”

I wonder, though, if too many parents have that same attitude when teaching and training their children. Do you? Are there things that you are assuming your children know, but leaving those things unsaid? Here are 3 areas where words should not go without saying.

1. Etiquette. Some parents leave any words regarding manners unsaid. Maybe they think their kids will just grow into it. Maybe they think manners are not important in the grand scheme of things. Personally, I think that manners are becoming rarer, seemingly by the day. It could be that in our post-modern world anything that is a standard is shunned. I think that there ought to be a standard in our conduct. Of course, the Bible is the ultimate standard in our conduct, but the idea of “manners” really originates from the idea that there should be a common standard of behavior. Children need to be taught to say “thank you” and “please.” Children need to be taught to answer with “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am” or “yes sir” or “no sir”. They need to be taught to answer politely when spoken to. Why do children not know this in our day and time? They don’t know this because their parents are leaving it unsaid. The truth is, parents have to say it every single day for many years before it starts to stick. Don’t give up.

2. Biblical Doctrine. Some parents leave words about doctrine unsaid. It seems like some parents think that just exposing their children to doctrine a few times a week is enough. It is surely necessary to expose them, but we can do so much more. Parents ought to make sure their kids are learning the doctrine of the Bible. There are so many ways to do this. Parents should be implementing family devotionals. Parents should be doing their best to make sure their kids know basic Bible facts [resources like these or these can help.] Parents ought to be teaching their kids about worship and how to worship. Don’t leave words about doctrinal and spiritual things unsaid. 

3. Family Legacy. Some parents leave too many words about family unsaid. Parents need to be building a strong family unit by developing traditions. Parents need to be making sure their children know how important they are to the family unit. Parents need to be teaching their children about their family heritage. We will leave a great family legacy, unless we leave words about our family unsaid.

As parents, we need to be certain that we are actually speaking the words to our children that we want them to hear and know. Say the words, be clear, and teach and train your children.

I mean, that goes without saying, right?

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AUTHOR: Leah Faughn

What I Missed : A Letter from “Randy”

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Dear World,

I couldn’t quite understand all the words. The sound was muffled, but I picked up a few things. I heard a pleasant voice say, “Welcome,” and I figured out some instructions about filling out some paperwork. I knew I would have to wait for a few minutes, but I could not figure out what we were waiting for.

It was hard to hear everything where I was. It was warm, and I was always taken care of, but sounds are garbled inside a mother’s tummy.

Oh, I forgot to introduce myself. My name was supposed to be Randy. At least, I heard that name sometimes and I liked it, so I like to think that would have been my name. I’m pretty sure it was my daddy’s name. I like that!

Through my short time in my mommy’s tummy, I got glimpses of things that would have been great to do. I couldn’t understand everything, but I heard people talk about walking, riding bicycles, and going on trips. Just blowing bubbles in the sunshine would have made my day, or so I would like to think.

My mom sounded like a nice lady. I pictured her that way. I could imagine her smile and her hugs. While I never knew what she looked like, I just knew she was a pretty lady. Isn’t every mother beautiful?

Anyway, back to my story. We waited for a few minutes and then we moved. I never really had any say in the matter. When mommy moved, I went with her. It was just the way things were. I loved my warm place inside mommy’s tummy, and didn’t mind going wherever she went (except the dentist…neither one of us seemed to like that place).

This time, though, something wasn’t right. I could hear my mommy crying a little. She seemed upset, but the other lady in the room calmed her down. I did not understand every word, but they were saying something about a “procedure,” and about mommy’s “right to choose.”

Then, the other lady leaned right into mommy’s ear, so I could hear, too. I heard her say, “Don’t worry, in a few minutes, you’ll be right back to normal and able to go on with your life the way you want it.”

Those words made me miss so much. I will never take that walk in the sunshine. I will never learn to ride a bike or swim. I will never feel my mother’s hugs. I will never blow bubbles in the sunshine or make smores at a bonfire. I will never climb on a trail or catch a butterfly. I will never work hard to pass a test. I will never ask a girl on a date. I won’t know the feeling of marriage, the joy of the sexual union, or the bliss of becoming a father.

You see, I missed all that because my mother killed me.

And because of your leaders, you helped pay for it.

Sincerely,

“Randy”

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

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“And Me” : A Lesson from a Child’s Prayer

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I enjoy listening to children pray. On those occasions when our family is able to be together, I especially appreciate hearing our grandchildren pray.

For some time now, I have been intrigued by a phrase often used by our youngest grandson when he prays. He regularly thanks God for “Mommy, Daddy, Mary Carol (his sister), and me.”

“And me”–I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him pray when he didn’t add those two words. 

A few years ago, I saw this Ziggy cartoon. Apparently the cartoonist and our grandson are on the same page when it comes to how they view life.  

ziggy i love life

A young boy’s prayer and a cartoon serve as a reminder to me. I need to be reminded about all of the blessings that God has given me. I need to be reminded to be thankful for all of those blessings. I need to be reminded that the gift of life itself should be viewed as an immeasurable blessing.

That prayer and that cartoon also serve as a challenge to me. I’m challenged because of the brevity of life (cf. James 4:14). I don’t need to act like I will be here forever. I need to make the most of what time I do have and not dwell on what I don’t have. An attitude of gratitude will go a long way in making for a pleasant life.

I’m also challenged as I wonder if anybody else is grateful that God gave me life. Am I using what time I have to be a blessing to others? Will I be missed when I am no longer here?

Has anybody else thanked God for you?

Have you thanked God for you?

Have you ever thought to add “and me” to the list of things for which you thank your Father?

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It May be Poisonous

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Last week when we were walking across the church parking lot my daughter showed me a medium-sized berry she had pulled off of one of the trees. My first reaction was to ask why she was pulling anything off a tree without permission. But that immediately became unimportant when I saw her motion to put this unknown object in her mouth. “Don’t eat that!” “Why not?” “Because it’s probably poisonous!” I couldn’t believe I had just gone there. I had been somewhat distracted by all of the other people that had been trying to talk to the preacher and that was a quick fix. I had no idea if it was poisonous or not. It was just one of those things that parents say to put a stop to something. Truthfully I did not know what she had gotten into. So it was time to do a more thorough investigation and have a follow-up discussion as to why she could not eat what she had picked.

I first explained that I did not really know if it was poisonous or not, and that I was sorry if I had misled her. I went on to say that we don’t eat what we don’t know. So I made her discard the item and told her since I was her dad and I loved her that I could not just let her eat something that might be unsafe. She seemed to be pretty satisfied with that explanation. So she chucked it. Her inquisitive mind was won over by a loving appeal from her daddy for her physical well-being.

This incident is not too far removed from our spiritual walk with our own heavenly Father. We often happen upon things that look good, but our level of judgment and education about this thing may be limited. We may convince ourselves the fruit will taste good for whatever reason. Then we may likely ingest it before we know what the consequences will be. The fact is that it may be perfectly harmless. It might not be poisonous at all. But wisdom still says you need to know what you’re eating before you put it in your mouth.

That’s life. Not everything that looks good is good for you. So God’s loving discipline forbids us from taking part in certain things that we may desire. God knows more than we do and His warnings are meant for our protection. A god who is not so loving would just let us do whatever we wanted to do and show no concern. But a rational plea to our sense of discernment from a loving father will often talk us out of doing something that may be harmful. At the end of the day, we will be content knowing that he cares. And even though we didn’t get to do it our way we have someone who loves us too much to let us hurt ourselves because of our lack of knowledge and our human weakness.

And I am pretty sure that we will decide fairly quickly to chuck that fruit that for a moment had appeared to be so exciting. Because heavenly love tastes so much better than any berries we pick in the parking lot.

“You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” – Psalm 73:24

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An Appropriate Place for “George”

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What you are about to read is the very first paragraph of an uncorrected proof of a book that is scheduled for publication on August 25, 2015. Let’s see if you find anything strange about that paragraph:

George pulled a silver house key out of the smallest pocket of a large red backpack. Mom had sewn the key in so that it wouldn’t get lost, but the yarn wasn’t quite long enough to reach the keyhole if the bag rested on the ground. Instead, George had to steady herself awkwardly on one foot while the backpack rested on her other knee. She wiggled the key until it clicked into place.

It wasn’t really too difficult to catch, was it? Somebody named George was referred to as “herself,” “her,” and “she.”

The publisher of this book is Scholastic Press. As you probably already know, the target audience for Scholastic Press is young people; especially young people involved in public education. 

The person who allowed me to borrow a copy of this book is both a public school teacher and a Christian sister. From both of these perspectives, she is appalled that anybody would publish anything like George for people of any age to read. I join with her in being appalled at the specific agenda and target audience for this book.

Enclosed with the book was a letter from The Editors at Scholastic Reading Club. I will reproduce below (without comment) almost all of the letter. The only information I am not including is the place to provide feedback and the thanks from the editors to those who have a “…commitment to getting books into your students’ hands…”

Please read the bulk of the letter very carefully. You will find both the message the book is sending and the target age group to whom it is being sent.

Dear Reading Club Teacher,

Our commitment at Scholastic Reading Club is to bring you books that open the world to you and your students–to help them find themselves and others in literature.

George by Alex Gino is scheduled for publication on August 25, 2015. It is s special novel starring an eight-year-old girl named Melissa, who was born a boy named George.

George, the middle grade novel, just like George, the character, faces head-on a complex subject that is very much in public discourse. We wanted you to have a chance to read it prior to publication.

Everyone who’s read George has been talking about it, in both the Scholastic offices and in the publishing community. Librarians and bookstores have said that there is a place for George on their shelves, and we would like to invite you to join the conversation. What do you think of George, and do you see a place for it in your classroom?

I had planned to write a letter to Scholastic Press, but could not find a physical address for them. I did find a place on their website where I could–and did–express my opinion about this book. If you would like to do the same, I sent my message to this location: http://scholastic.custhelp.com/app/ask

It is my opinion that the only appropriate place for a book of this nature is in the trashcan. What do you think?

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Book cover photo via Scholastic Book Club

Love Wins

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Despite the title, this is not another article about the recent Supreme Court decision. For my personal beliefs on that issue, click here and/or here. If you struggle with your feelings toward our government and the direction our country is headed, I would direct you here or here.

That said, despite all of the misuse of the phrase “love wins,” love does, in fact, win!

Love wins in our marriages when a husband and wife follow the example Christ, given to us in Ephesians 5:25-33. Instead of a home where the battle for supremacy is waged at every turn, you have a unit functioning together in love: forgiving, supporting, encouraging, and helping each other as God would have us to do.

Love wins with our children when we “bring [our children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Instead of homes ruled by childish whims and tantrums, we will have homes where children are disciplined in love (Proverbs 13:24) and teaching is done through example, discussion, and instruction instead of yelling, demanding, and domineering. Love wins when our children respond in kind, respecting, obeying, and honoring their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3; Proverbs 31:28).

Love wins in our churches when members support each other and recognize the varying functions that God gave to each as He willed (1 Corinthians 12:11). When the behind-the-scenes members do not envy the public eye members and the public eye members learn to appreciate and validate the behind-the-scenes members, love lets them understand that all those gifts were distributed “for the common good” not for arguments and divisions (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

The list could go on: love wins in our schools, our friendships, our workplaces … The list is infinite. That is because the Source of love is infinite. May we never forget the ultimate definition of love found in 1 John 4:7, “God is love.” In fact, reading 1 John 4 tells us that if we do not allow love to rule, we cannot even know God.

Love: not accept, tolerate, like, permit or condone.

Love – as defined and exemplified by God – wins every time.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

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#RediscoverNature : Kids Need to be Outdoors

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We can read all the articles and books we want about raising our children, and the experts seem to disagree on a lot of issues. But there are certain things that nearly every expert agrees on. One of those things is that children need to be outside.

When you think back to your childhood, what are some of your best memories of just being a kid? Nature Valley asked that of three generations, and put the answers in a short video. You must see this:

(Video not playing? Click here to watch on YouTube.)

If that doesn’t open your eyes, I’m not sure what will!

Now most of us can make excuses and say that we are different. “Our kids don’t spend that much time with a tablet or phone.” Really? Why don’t you ask your kids what their memories of their childhood are so far.

For most of our kids, it would be some movie or video game. Of course, those things are part of our childhood, but if those things are our major memories, we have a problem!

Parents, limit the time your kids are on screens. Limit the time they are indoors. If you must, make them go outside and play and pretend. Take them to a farm. Take them on a nature walk. Send them outside with a couple of empty boxes and watch them make magic with their imaginations. A few weeks ago, our kids even held a “funeral” for a dead animal they found in the yard (complete with Turner reading Scripture–Genesis 1:1–and leading a song). Those memories are the ones kids need to build up their imaginations and discover the amazing world God has created around them.

When they are 25 or 30, what will they say they remember most about childhood? Will it be the time they spent on their iPad, or the time they explored the world right in their own backyard?

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

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How Families Can Encourage Children to be Missionaries

[NOTE: This week’s guest post comes from Jessica Markwood. To learn more about Jessica, check out her bio at the end of today’s post.]

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We often joke about praying for missionaries to rise up and spread the Gospel in this dark world … but that they’ll be someone else’s children. It’s difficult to wish our children into the sin-sick world where they risk disappointment, rejection, and their very lives. But it’s into that world that God sent His own Son, and the world into which God sends His children – perhaps your children – still. In a world increasingly harder to reach we must influence the youth in our lives to go increasingly farther. We must foster faith in them that carries Christ into the workplace, classroom, ghettoes, public sphere, and unreached ends of the earth. If we want children to grow in Christ we must prepare them to go for Christ.

Let them see you

The best way to encourage the young people in your life to live missionally is to set an example of living missionally. The only way to truly teach the Great Commission is to live it. Exemplifying a passion for God, dedication to prayer, drive toward evangelism, love for truth, submission to others, detachment from materialism, joy in living, and hope for Heaven will inspire the same in others.

Let them see God

The world doesn’t hold back any punches when it comes to living faithfully. Nothing challenges my faith more than encountering the struggles of a lost world. Regurgitating a family member’s faith doesn’t solve the problem of evil, eradicate poverty, save those who have never heard the gospel, explain the Trinity, or answer any number of difficult questions that the world asks. Children have to be personally transformed by the gospel before they can transform others with it. Raise them in spirit and in truth, but also to seek spirit and truth for themselves.

Let them see the world

Many of us are afraid of the world – for good reason. The news shows us war, pestilence, poverty, and corruption. But it’s far scarier than the media portrays. The world is terrifying because so much of it operates outside of the Kingdom of God. But for those within the Kingdom the world offers an incredible opportunity to bring hope to beautiful people of a despairing world. Families can neither shield children from the realities of the world nor paint a picture of the world bent on destruction. Children must be able to seek the good in the world, because they will never seek to save something they do not love. Just as God loved the world in such a way that He gave up his Son for it, so we must love the world enough to give up our children to advance Christ’s kingdom in it.

Let them experience diversity

Like a lot of other kids who were raised in the church, I grew up in a bubble. Everyone with whom I interact is just like me. Luckily, I had a pretty porous bubble that afforded me opportunities to interact with people of various worldviews. We are called to go into the world, but thanks to globalization, much of the world has come to us. Just outside the bubble stand people of various ages, backgrounds, economic brackets, ethnicities, political stances, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, and opinions. The experiences that expanded my comfort zone made the words “Muslim,” and “drug addict,” and “atheist” more than abstract groups of people. They are names. Those names are some of my biggest motivators to study Scripture, share Christ, and serve others. Effective missions are not fueled by intellect or obligation, but love.

Let them do what they love

We tend to limit our understanding of ministry. What’s so incredible about the body of Christ is that it doesn’t only function behind a pulpit, but also in the classroom, on the ball field, on social media, across the street, and across the world. I once thought the only thing I could do was teach children’s class, and let me tell you – children’s class is not my forte. As I grew I realized that there were infinite opportunities to minister to others doing things that I loved. The best way to ensure that your child loves ministry wherever they are is to teach them how to make ministries out of the things they love. Every passion is a way to reach a different group of people with a different service in a different way. Don’t put ministry in a box – make ministry their world.

Let them do the impossible

Nicholas Kristof, a non-religious human rights journalist, recently wrote an article about “Dr. Tom,” a Christian doctor diligently serving in the rural Nuba Mountains of South Sudan. Kristof notes, “…the people I’ve encountered over the years in the most impossible places – like Nuba, where anyone reasonable has fled – are disproportionately unreasonable because of their faith.” The Gospel often calls upon the unreasonable to attempt the unreasonable for a God who can do far beyond reason. Jesus, meek and mild, also calls for the extravagant. The faith to which we are called moves mountains into the sea, pushes camels through needle eyes, and prevails against the gates of hell.  Let childlike faith pursue great things for God, even if they seem naïve or impossible. For what is impossible with man, and what you may think is impossible with your children, is possible with God.

If we’re going to raise children to be faithful, we must also raise them to be missional. Faith in Christ and participation in His mission are inseparable. As we strive to see the next generation progress and be better off than we are, may we not forget to mold people with faith that is stronger, influence that is wider, and love that is fiercer than ours – even when it scares us. Because the Great Commission is not only a command, but a promise from the omnipotent Lord to all who follow it. “And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

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Jessica Markwood is a student at Harding University and a member of the Lebanon Road church of Christ in Nashville. She has been on numerous mission trips in the states and around the world, and has a heart for missions. Check out her blog, “Rivers and Roads.”

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The Most Common Problem with Problem Solving

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Every person, group, and relationship has them. As much as we want to do things that are right all the time, there are still going to be problems. And problems need to be solved.

Meetings are held. Conversations are had. But, when all is said and done, the problem is still there.

Admittedly, there are countless reasons why the problem does not get solved. Each situation is different, and I know this post is painting with a broad brush. Still, I think there is one common reason why many problems do not get solved.

What is it? We talk about the problem instead of solving the problem.

We name the problem. We mention that there is a problem. We talk about how bad the problem is…

…and then we dismiss or leave, thinking we have taken care of things.

But the one thing that has not been done is actually laying out a plan to solve the problem, which was the intended purpose.

Just think about the latest squabble in your house, or about a lingering issue at work. Is the problem still there because, for days (weeks? months?) people have just talked about the fact that a problem exists, but no one has stepped up with a plan to actually solve it? I think, if we are honest, we will find that to be the case more often than not.

Now, this post would not be complete if I didn’t share how to solve this problem.

The solution should be very clear, though. It is simply to never leave a meeting or discussion without coming up with an action step that leads toward a solution.

You may not solve the problem all the way through, but you are also not just tabling the problem until the next meeting, when you will mention that the problem is still there. Something–anything–that can be done to move toward a solution is better than just talking around the issue.

So the next time you have a problem to discuss as a couple, family, congregation, eldership, business, or any other group, resolve that you will not leave the discussion without laying out a “next step.” It may not be the final step, but it will at least be a step in the right direction: the direction of a solution.

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

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