Parenting: How to cultivate character (not just control chaos)

October 19, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

In a chaotic and confusing world, let’s get grounded by looking to Scripture. Raising responsible kids is no microwave magic; it takes consistent time and energy. The results are often not instantaneous – diligence and perseverance will be your greatest assets, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges (Note: All Scriptures are ESV unless otherwise noted).

1. Psalms 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb a reward.”

Children are a gift from the Lord in a society that often places a low value on them, to the point of aborting the inconvenience. The key is to focus on the blessings, not the difficulties; on the rewards and joys not the disappointments and sorrows.

2. 2 Tim. 3:15, “And how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

A major responsibility of parents is to make children familiar with the Scriptures and how to apply them to their daily lives. Church should be supplemental in regard to educating our children about God. The best place is the home.

Pick one topic for the week such as God’s sovereignty or His love and teach on it in deed and action. When financial difficulties come, let your children see you praying and seeking God rather than yelling at everyone. Remember, character is taught and caught. Don’t throw Scriptures at them – the approach that uses the Bible like a machine gun will not work, but a broken and contrite heart that uses Scripture when the Holy Spirit prompts, will work – let them see the Scriptures in you.

3. Matthew 6:34 (NASB), “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

When we allow our minds to dwell on difficulty and trouble, it will affect our children at a very deep level. Prov. 12:25 reminds us that, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad.” Do your words and actions build your children, or harm them… do you encourage or discourage?

I came across an article, Simplifying Childhood May Protect Against Mental Health Issues, from the website Raised Good – Parenting by Nature. The article describes what I’ve been sensing for years.

Here are a few key points that stood out: “Early in his career, Kim Payne volunteered in refugee camps where children were dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. He describes them as, ‘jumpy, nervous, and hyper-vigilant, wary of anything novel or new.’ Years later Payne ran a private practice in England, where he recognized many affluent English children were displaying the same behavioural tendencies as the children living in war zones half a world away. Why would these children living perfectly safe lives show similar symptoms?”

“Payne explains that although they were physically safe, mentally they were also living in a war zone of sorts, ‘Privy to their parents’ fears, drives, ambitions, and the very fast pace of their lives, the children were busy trying to construct their own boundaries…’”

“Too much stuff, too many choices, too much information and too much speed – Soccer. Music. Martial arts. Gymnastics. Ballet. Baseball. We schedule play dates with precision. And we fill every space in their rooms with educational books, devices and toys. The average western child has in excess of 150 toys… With so much stuff children become blinded and overwhelmed with choice.” We are seeing an epidemic of hurried child syndrome as they not only try to keep up with our schedules, but manage their own.

If we add our stress, worry, and fear to their lives, they can barely cope! Parents, do not always vent your fears and frustrations. There should be a sense of calm and safety in your home. Throw into the mix unhealthy food choices, as well as caffeine and stimulants, and it becomes clear that we are raising anxious, fearful, stressed out kids. It’s okay to say no – slow down and disengage from the media and electronics often. Instead, look to things that calm the home – God’s Word, worship, fellowship, fun activities, etc. But be prepared – it will be a battle.

Why are families overburdened? One reason is that we think staying busy will help us avoid facing reality. Much like an alcoholic who escapes the temporary pain, but returns to it the following day. Another reason is that we are amped up – we take powder, pills, and drinks to stay wired…to keep us busy. But their is a cost – anxiety, stress, and fear eventually lead to nervous breakdowns.

We also stay busy because busyness means that we are successful, or so it’s said. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Success involves stability, balance, and control. Yes, it will be hard, but any battle worth fighting is worth fighting for.

- cross walk

Practical advice for divorce

October 17, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Divorce.

The word alone strikes fear into the heart of people. Maybe you lived through your parents’ divorce. Maybe you watched friends’ marriages suffer the ultimate destruction. Maybe you’ve walked that dreaded path…or you fear your marriage is heading down that road now.

I’m not sure there’s another pain in this life that compares to the incomparable devastation brought about by the end of a marriage. Nothing I’ve been through before and nothing I’ve experienced since has ever evoked the same destruction. The feelings of failure and rejection. The sense of utter worthlessness. The belief that you are unloved and unlovable. The fear that your life is over, that you will live the rest of your life alone.

When divorce happens, you can’t think clearly. You struggle with every step, walking through a fog so thick you can barely breathe. You try to make sense of it all, to make wise decisions. But so often, the pain and unbearable emotions cloud your ability to see what needs to be done, to find the path out of the destruction.

Maybe that’s where you are today. Many of us have walked this path before you…and we stand as living testimonies that there is life beyond divorce…beautiful, abundant life you never dreamed you could have. Because we’ve been there, we’ve learned. We’ve learned what to do and what not to do. We’ve walked the path imperfectly but somehow made it through to the other side. We’ve seen God take our pain and make something beautiful of it all.

Because we’ve been there, we hope you will listen to some words of advice to get you through the darkest days of your life.

Turn to God. I can’t reiterate this one enough. I promise, He’s the only answer. He’s the One who can lavish you with love, heal every broken piece of your heart. He’s the One who can take your broken and create something beautiful, something so beautiful you could never even imagine it. He’s the One, the answer to every problem you face.

Spend time with Him, in the Word and in prayer. Spend time with His children, those who love Him and will love you. Let Him remind you just how precious you are, how deep His love for you.

Become a woman (or man) so deeply rooted with God that the right man (or woman) will have to seek God to find you.

Take time. The biggest mistake I made was to jump back into the dating scene too soon. I thought I was healed. I thought I had dealt with the pain and devastation. And I was so wrong.

Grief is a powerful emotion with no timeframes. It takes years to deal with the mix of emotions that course through your being, sending you over the edge at the most inopportune of times. Allow yourself to feel the emotions, to walk through the stages of grief, before you decide to jump into a relationship. You will carry baggage into any future relationships. Just make sure you are only carrying an overnight bag and not an oversized suitcase.

Surround yourself. Don’t try to be a lone ranger. Instead, find a group who will love and support you through it all. Maybe it’s your extended family. Maybe it’s people from your church. Maybe it’s simply your best friend.

I tried to go it alone, but it wasn’t until I courageously stepped out of hiding and into the loving arms of my family and friends that I began to experience the healing. Having a shoulder to cry on. Being embraced by a caring friend. Hearing words of encouragement spoken to me. You can’t even start to put a price on the support given by those who love you.

Take the high road. I know it’s hard, but always do what’s right regardless of who is looking. You may be maligned. You may have lies told about you. No matter what they say, no matter what they do, always do the right thing. God always brings the truth to light. You will be rewarded in due time.

No matter what they say and no matter what they do, forgive. Don’t let the anger and bitterness grow up inside you and overtake your life. You may be justified in your anger, but I promise it hurts you more than it hurts the other person. Don’t let a root of bitterness take hold (Hebrews 12:15).

Maintain adequate life insurance on your former spouse when children are involved. You just never know. This one I learned by experience. I never dreamed something would happen to him, that I would be raising my children with no support from him. It’s not about the money; it’s about the kids. Had I maintained life insurance on him, I could send my kids to college. I could pay the mountain of medical bills we have amassed over the last few years. I could maybe even splurge on a vacation for and with my kids. If only…

Don’t settle for surviving. I know there are days when survival may seem like a noble goal. But I encourage you to do more. Determine to THRIVE!

God came to give us life, abundant life (John 10:10). He never wanted us to settle for a mediocre, stale life. Even when it seems your life is over, He promises so much more. He promises to bring beauty from the ashes (Isaiah 61:3). He promises a future of hope and prosperity (Jeremiah 29:11). He promises all things will work for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28). He promises to do a new thing (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Rediscover yourself. You know what’s fun? When the dust settles and you look in the mirror and you don’t have any idea who you are, who this stranger is looking at you in the mirror…and you get to start all over. You get to decide who you are, what you enjoy, how you will live. You get to decide if you are going to be a runner or a couch potato. You get to decide if you are going to be a girly girl or a tomboy. You get to figure out who you are!

Don’t let the past define you. You are free to become all God created you to be. This moment in time, this momentary pain, does not define who you are. You are who God says you are.

Don’t allow others’ opinions to tear you down. Unfortunately, there are very judgmental Christians and churches. Don’t let that get you down. God’s opinion of you is the only thing that matters, and He loves you. You are His masterpiece, His chosen people, His royal priesthood. You are a child of the One True God. You are His pride and joy, the apple of His eye. He takes great delight in you (Zephaniah 3:17).

Your life is not over. Your ministry is not over. Your opportunity to be used by God is not over. Many would have you believe that a divorce disqualifies you from representing Him. Quite the contrary. It’s often our greatest pains, our greatest failures, that God uses to build the qualities of compassion and grace into us, to prune us of the sins of pride and arrogance that blind us to the pain of others.

Think about Peter. He denied ever knowing Christ. Did God disqualify him from the Kingdom, from ministry? No! Instead, Peter was the rock upon which the church was built, a solid foundation that gave his all for the cause of Christ. Instead of going down as a coward who was afraid to admit his relationship with Christ, God used his greatest failure to create a solid foundation for the future of Christianity.

God never discards us because of a divorce; instead, if we let Him, He will use it to mold us into His image.

- cross walk

8 tips for raising gifted children

October 15, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

My kids are smarty-pants, ridiculously intelligent, off the charts…How intimidating for a parent! But I have learned a lot from corralling the precocious little Einsteins around my house. Raising gifted offspring is a daunting task, and not always a pleasant one.

Sometimes a “smarty” can develop into a “smart aleck.”

On Brie’s first birthday, she knew seventy-two words. She never shut up. By the age of two, Brianna was reading. One sweltering July afternoon, we were sitting in the crowded Tucson airport (which smelled like feet) waiting for a flight. Brie, nineteen months, happily fixated upon a pampered Chihuahua perched in a pink pet carrier next to her stroller. The pet’s owner, a jovial “grandma” type, decided to strike up a conversation with our toddler.

In her sweetest baby-talk voice, the lady pointed to the alligator on Brie’s romper and purred, “Honey, do you know how to say ‘gator’?”

“It spells IZOD lady,” Brie replied matter-of-factly, never looking up from her cheese sandwich. The amiable traveler was so shocked; she picked up her precious puppy and scurried away to the newsstand. Suddenly I realized that parenting Brie would be an adventure.

Brie’s schoolteachers were flummoxed. They didn’t know what to do with her. Mrs. Chastain suggested we promote her to second grade and skip first grade altogether. They gave Brie special projects, and educators poked and prodded her like a lab rat. Such scrutiny was exhausting and often humiliating for her.

Arguing with my daughter was like facing off with a smooth-talking district attorney in court. Brie always wanted to have the last word. She was never satisfied with the four most important words any Mom can say: “Because I said so.”

However, our little egghead needed love, training and discipline like any other child. Before I relate some helpful hints God gave me about raising our Brie, let me tell you about Bronwyn, her baby sister.

Brainiacs come in all shapes and sizes. Bronwyn, whip-smart like her sibling, decided to keep her brilliance hidden. She got tired of competing with her sis and was sick of our church members fawning over Brie. So Bronwyn decided to rebel.

We moved out of the parsonage to a home of our own when Bronwyn was four. Daddy and daughter were driving home when my four-year old looked my husband square in the eyes, and inquired,

“Daddy, you were the boss of the old house, right?”

“Of course, Bronie. Why do you ask?”

“Because I’M going to be the boss of the new house!”

And she spent the next fourteen years determined to do so.

Bronwyn used her cleverness to be the charismatic ringleader. She played the Pied Piper to any “rat” who would follow her. Our church school had a very strict dress code. Bronwyn managed to pilfer a copy of school regulations and read the fine print. Attire had to be modest, but there was no clause about shoe choice. So Bronwyn started a revolt. One Monday morning, she marched into science class wearing over-sized, fuzzy bunny slippers. Mrs. Bates immediately sent her to the principal. My daughter whipped out her copy of the by-laws and informed the principal that she had every right to wear her “bunnies.” The principal, too shocked to reply, shook her head and sent her back to class. Thus ensued the “bunny rebellion.” Students everywhere pulled out their bedroom slippers and padded to school.

The girls couldn’t be more opposite. Brie thrived on acquiring accolades like Honor Society, Student of the Year and Good Citizen awards. Bronwyn just got bored. School was much too easy for her. She had incredible musical talent, so she began conducting her school orchestra in seventh grade. She sang like an angel and played several musical instruments, but slept through math and science because they were not challenging.

Finally, she decided that the only new frontier would be an exchange student program. Bronwyn hopped on a plane to Germany and spent the year studying Russian and physics in German. She went straight to college after her junior year and finished college in three years.

Well, there you have it. A dynamo and a fireball under the same roof. So what did we learn raising two gifted kids?

  1. Don’t ignore your gifted child’s needs. Intelligent children often appear self-sufficient, but they need love, acceptance, encouragement and TIME, like any other child.
  2. Just because your children are smart, doesn’t mean they are WISE. Proverbs teaches that wisdom and fear of the Lord are essential to good parenting.
  3. Discipline must be firm and consistent. Don’t let your child manipulate you. They can and will “work the system” because genius can morph into mischief in a moment’s time.
  4. Make home a safe haven. Help them feel NORMAL. Some of their peers feel jealous and treat them unkindly. Some of their teachers are intimidated and treat them like aliens from another planet.
  5. Be an example. Show them how to love God deeply. They may know all the answers in Sunday School, but they learn loving Jesus from you.
  6. Help them find their path. Society will pull them in so many directions. Help them to find God’s will and to say “no” to the obligations people pressure them to do.
  7. Be on the lookout for brain chemistry issues that can plague the highly intelligent. I know countless bright minds that suffer from bipolar disorder, autism, Asperger’s syndrome or ADHD. These conditions are highly treatable, but don’t ignore symptoms if they appear.
  8. Pray for them earnestly. “To whom much is given, much is required.” Great potential provides great opportunity to make a positive impact on the world, or to misuse such gifts to their own ends.

I still take loving and meeting the needs of my grown-up girls very seriously. And I thank God that He entrusted them to my care!

- cross walk

How to establish healthy boundaries with your in-laws

October 12, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

In order to have healthy, life-giving relationships with in-laws (or anyone), we have to continually pay attention to boundaries.

David tells us in Psalm 16:6 that the Lord (the Father) has established his boundary lines, (space, territory) in pleasant or beautiful places. In other words, God intends for the places He gives us to dwell to be beautiful and pleasant.

Our homes are one of these sacred places. They are the places set apart for us to establish and develop family. When couples get married, they are establishing a new family and they must determine what their sacred space looks and feels like. They must be willing to “leave and cleave” to one another. Boundary lines must be established with friends and family. Unfortunately, healthy relationships with family can be the most challenging to establish and form. If the in-laws are causing a disruption in this pleasantness, perhaps the boundary lines need to be evaluated or even established.

Determine Boundaries Ahead of Time

Without a clear understanding by both spouses of the boundaries, it’s hard to communicate them to others. Oftentimes we don’t take the time to define our boundaries; then suddenly we realize that someone has overstepped them and we respond in anger. We withdraw and isolate from the relationship, or worse, cut it off altogether. Determining what the boundary lines are together is an important first step. Ask questions like:

  • How often will we visit your parents and my parents?
  • What holidays we will spend with whom?
  • What is the expectation of the parents? Will we choose to live according to their expectations or will we establish our own perimeters?

These are just a launching pad, come up with your own exploratory questions to help you determine the boundary lines.

Discuss Boundaries with Your Spouse

Discuss with your spouse before marriage what the boundaries are for in-laws. What are you comfortable with in visiting, what will be topics of discussion, etc.

My daughter and I had to learn the hard way what some unproductive topics were to discuss. Having had a close relationship, I became her confidant when marital issues developed. I began to develop unforgiveness toward my son-in-law. Fortunately, my courageous daughter shared that she felt it wasn’t best for her marital relationship to share these things with me. I could remain a fan of their marriage, support her in her role as wife and mother, and honor my excellent son-in-law.

Declare Boundaries to Your In-Laws

Communicate these boundaries with the in-laws if possible. Parents (I speak from experience) will often have expectations about holidays, visits, etc. Be sure to inform parents what your choices are to avoid problems down the road.

My youngest daughter informed me before she was married that she and her new husband would not be joining either family on major holidays. It was important for them to be together, possibly travel, or establish their own family traditions. While this was very painful, it was their choice and I was so thankful to know this on the forefront so I could prepare myself for the upcoming holidays.

I believe as a couple works together to establish these boundary lines, they should feel pleasant. The home is the space that should feel pleasant, safe, and beautiful. Without a couple agreeing and presenting a unified front, these boundaries will be difficult to establish and impossible to maintain.

What happens when the in-laws don’t honor the boundaries?

Once again, we can look to David for counsel. His father-in-law tried to kill him. I can’t imagine it getting much worse than that. However,

  • David never stopped honoring Saul. Time and time again, David had opportunities to kill, speak against, and usurp Saul, but David waited for God.
  • David didn’t demand something from Saul.
  • David also never backed down from who he was called to be. An uncooperative in-law does not change who you are as husband or wife.
  • Michal supported and even saved David. This is important to note: Michal defended her husband, she protected him from her father. Sure, she lied to save her skin later, but we must recognize that she went the extra mile on behalf of her husband. I believe we cannot dismiss the importance of a couple walking in unity.

Both of my daughters as needed presented a unified front with their husbands, protecting their marriage and oneness. The gift we can give to our children is the freedom for them to establish beautiful boundaries.

- cross walk

6 questions that help you identify your calling

October 11, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Two ladies sat across the table from me and cried. We had been talking about God’s calling. At their request, I had asked them some questions that had helped me identify my own calling.

As patterns begin to emerge in their answers, both ladies wept. God had been molding them their whole lives, but they had never seen the themes of their storylines before. Joy welled up as they realized that their dreams were, in fact, God’s dreams.

Are you also trying to identify your calling?

If you’ve been wrestling with finding your purpose in life, I encourage you to ask yourself the same questions that helped me. Write down the answers, and you’ll see how the stories of your life may not be so random after all.

Here are the questions:

1. If you could spend the rest of your life doing or talking about one thing, what would it be?

Perhaps you’re an artist, and you’d want to gift the world with beauty that inspires. Or maybe you’re in love with learning, and you’d want children everywhere to experience the freedom and opportunity that are made possible by a good education.

Whatever you would do, write it down.

2. Your life experience has rendered you an expert at something. At what are you an expert?

Your expertise doesn’t have to be in a traditional career. However, you are definitely an expert at something! For example:

  • Maybe you’re passionate about stewardship, and you’ve learned how to get out of debt and manage a budget.
  • Perhaps you’ve learned by experience how to heal from trauma through the power of God’s Word.
  • Maybe you’ve invested tons of energy into excelling at cooking, fitness, parenting, spiritual growth, or prayer.

Your area of expertise might feel commonplace to you. However, believe it or not, many people are craving the wisdom you have gained. Even if you don’t feel like your experience is very important, your knowledge can be a lifeline to someone else.

3 & 4. What do you love? What do you hate?

These questions go together because what you love and what you hate are often the left and right sides of the same thing. They are simply two different angles from which to view your calling, and they will generally be opposites of one another.

Years ago, when I was praying about my calling, my immediate, gut-level response to these questions was, “I love powerful, happy, victorious living. I hate pitiful, negative attitudes.”

My answer helped me see that I am called to help people come out of pitiful, beaten-down Christianity and into the abundant, joy-filled life that Jesus died to give us.

5. What makes you feel alive?

When you’re doing what you’re called to do, you will feel fully alive. You’ll be firing on all cylinders–filled with joy, peace, inspiration, and motivation! Therefore, even if you aren’t sure what your calling is yet, you can get some very telling clues by looking at what makes your adrenaline flow!

So, what makes you feel alive? Is it:

  • Going for a morning run?
  • Cuddling your children?
  • Standing behind a pulpit with an open Bible?
  • Writing words of hope to encourage weary souls?

Whatever you do that makes you feel alive, write it down.

6. What’s in your hand?

In 2 Kings 4, a widow begged the prophet Elisha for help. Her late husband had left their family in debt, and his creditors were coming to enslave their sons as payment for their debts. Elisha’s response was, “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” (2 Kings 4:2).

The woman responded that she had nothing in the house except a jar of oil. The prophet then instructed her to go borrow as many empty vessels as she could from her neighbors. After she had collected many jars, she was to shut the door and pour what little oil she had into all the jars.

When she obeyed, a miracle happened. God supernaturally multiplied the little bit of oil this widow had, turning it into so much oil that she sold it and repaid her creditors. She found significant breakthrough by starting with whatever was in her hand.

So I ask you today: What do you have in your house? What’s in your hand?

I recently asked this question of a bi-vocational pastor friend who had left his secular job. As our families sat at the dinner table and chatted about his career plans, I was reminded of Elisha’s story above. I encouraged my friend to make a list of everything he had in his hand.

Grabbing a pencil, he wrote down things like:

  • willingness to learn;
  • passion for helping people;
  • experience in his secular trade;
  • relationships with supportive family, friends, and mentors;
  • a love for entrepreneurship, and more.

His list included many items that didn’t appear to have eternal significance. However, when we disregarded the outliers and looked at the common themes, a light came on in his mind. My friend suddenly realized that he desired to combine his passion for pastoring with his enjoyment of entrepreneurship.

In that moment, a new business was born. My friend is now writing and teaching God’s Word using an internet platform, e-books, and social media. When he looked at the assets he had in his hand, he moved from feeling helpless to knowing he was already equipped to operate in his true calling.

Now it’s time to look for common themes. If you look at your answers to the questions above, you’ll see consistent threads that run from question to question. To visualize this, imagine a Venn diagram like the one below:

Your answers to each question above will have some outliers (totally random bits that are part of who you are, but not necessarily related to your purpose in life). For example, unless you’re called to work with animals, loving your cat is probably not related to your calling.

However, disregard the outliers and look for repeated themes—even themes from opposite angles. Put those themes together, and you’ll generally have a picture of your calling. (Hint: Your calling has probably been the passion of your heart for many years.)

If you’ve been trying to figure out what you’re called to do, the answer may be easier than you think.

If you’ve been trying to figure out what you’re called to do, the answer may be easier than you think. When you examine your life’s motivations from various angles, your calling and purpose will often become readily apparent.

- cross walk

What happens in your mind comes out in your actions

October 9, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

When Matt was very young, his parents introduced him to a family friend. Matt was excited because he had someone to play with; his parents were pleased because he could entertain Matt when they were busy.

As the years went by, Matt and his friend spent countless hours together playing video games, watching sports, music videos, and reality shows. In time, things changed—his friend began to use profanity and was disrespectful toward his family. Although his mother and father disapproved, what could they do? His friend was like a family member now. He taught Matt how to dress, how to act, and even how to treat others. Although his parents wouldn’t admit it, he taught them a thing or two as well.

Once Matt reached his teen years, his friend’s influence was obvious. Matt spent more time with him than with his family. Matt’s dad and mom were always gone, so his friend taught him about life. He introduced Matt to alcohol, drugs, and pornography. He explained how sex before marriage wasn’t a bad thing; everybody was doing it, even with same-sex partners. Surprisingly, Matt’s parents allowed his friend to continue to live in their home. After all, they enjoyed his company; he was a great entertainer.

When Matt grew older, he realized that the friendship should never have continued. He believed that his friend’s influence encouraged his dad’s affair, his mom’s problem with alcohol, and eventually, their divorce; the impact of Matt’s friend on him was just as devastating.

Today, with full knowledge of the damage done, Matt still allows his friend to live with him, and, amazingly, he still listens to his advice. Matt’s friend has a name; it’s television.

Although fictitious, Matt’s story is more fact than fiction; it’s characteristic of so many homes today—what goes in ultimately comes out. This, no one can deny.

Just a few decades ago, most of today’s television programs and movies would have shocked the public. Programs that never would have aired then, receive the highest ratings now.

You may say, “Times change.” And you are correct, but God’s standards do not. The sin that once amazed us now amuses us. When sin begins to amuse us, we are dangerously close to the edge: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).

For those who doubt that there is a significant contrast between God’s Word and what most entertainment and media outlets promote, the following may surprise you:

Media: Cheat on your spouse; everyone is doing it.

Truth: “Whoever commits adultery…destroys his own soul” (Proverbs 6:32).

Media: Have sex before marriage; experiment with same-sex partners.

Truth: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators (sex outside of marriage) God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).

Media: Abort your mistake; after all, it’s only a fetus, not a baby.

Truth: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). Psalm 139:13 says, God formed my inward parts; He knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Media: Party—eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.

Truth: “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day [Jesus’ return] come on you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34).

Media: Cage fighting and other brutal sports exemplify manhood; follow their example.

Truth: Men are to love their wives and raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. (See Ephesians 5:25 and 6:4.)

Media: Disrespect your parents and their outdated advice.

Truth: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

What most in the media promote and what the truth actually is are hardly compatible. No wonder families are disintegrating; it’s evident to me that we’ve embraced an attitude of compromise in our nation, and, more sadly, in our homes.

We, like the mighty Roman Empire that collapsed centuries ago, are crumbling from within. Historian Edward Gibbon recalls the condition of Rome before her fall: 1) The rapid increase in divorce and “the undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home.” 2) More taxation and the spending of public funds on food and entertainment. 3) “The mad craze for pleasure and sport; sport becoming every year more and more exciting and brutal.” 4) The building up of the military when the real enemy is within—“in the decadence of the people themselves.” 5) “The decay of religious faith; faith fading into mere form…” For anyone to suggest that the media isn’t propelling us in this direction, is either sheer ignorance or denial.

Culture is religion externalized. In other words, the culture around us simply reflects who and what we value. How we dress, what we view, who we hang out with, what we listen to, and how we spend our time, all speak volumes as to what we cherish. Are we cherishing the things of God, or the things of the world? Remember, what goes in the mind ultimately comes out in our actions.

- cross walk

10 ways your phone is sabotaging your life

October 8, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Your smartphone is supposed to help you connect with your loved ones and live a more productive life. While that’s certainly possible, our phones can often be more of a distraction than a help for many of us. Do you think of your phone as a needed friend, a foe, or something in between?

Your phone may be sabotaging your life if you find yourself texting when you should be talking, watching when you should be participating, and scrolling when you should be working. From the very young to the old, we are being negatively affected by the overuse of phones. Sitting in a restaurant with my family, I noticed a husband and wife probably in their late 70s eating dinner together. The gray haired man was occupied with his phone the entire time, while his sweetheart stared into space. This is not how a couple’s night out is supposed to look at any age. Technology is quickly advancing, but what about our personal relationships?

Here are 10 ways your phone may be sabotaging your life. Take a look and see if any of these issues ring true in your life.

1. Texting Too Much, Talking Too Little

Do you find it easy to text, but not as easy to talk?  It’s great to text a grocery list or meeting place, but it’s not so great for meaningful conversation.  You can text “Love you” to a family member, and that’s positive.  But to stay close to family or friends, there has to be more.  Strong relationships are not built on texting.  When it comes to spending time together in person, put the phones away and talk and laugh with each other instead.

2. I’m Too Busy To Listen

I’ve heard many people talk about how hurt they were when their friend or family member took an incoming call or text in the middle of a conversation.  One survey of 6,000 children found that 54 percent of kids felt their parents checked their phones too often, and 36 percent said their parents’ worst habit was getting distracted by their phones in the midst of a conversation.  Make sure you’re not too busy with your technology to give those present your undivided attention.  This means putting away phones during mealtimes and maybe leaving your phone in airplane mode more often.

3. Too Many Video Games

Although women can certainly overdo video games, men tend to be more at risk for video game addiction.  Understand that it’s not a fair fight; video games have been designed to be highly addictive, combining an immersive visual experience with a mission and social network of gamers.  Is your work or personal life suffering because of too much time spent playing video games?

4. I Can’t Stop Checking Social Media

In this age of selfies and likes, women can spend endless hours scrolling through photos of friends, acquaintances, celebrities, or news.  Spare moments can easily be filled with a quick peek at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or the like.  Once there, it’s easy to lose track of time.  Social media can become a convenient escape when we want to avoid the responsibilities of the daily grind.

5. Work, Work, and More Work

We used to leave our work at the office because we had to, but this isn’t the case anymore.  Now with technology, our work comes home with us.  We can answer emails in a myriad of ways – our desktop computer, iPad, phone, or laptop.  We’re almost expected to respond even when business hours have long ended.  Working without boundaries leads to stress and anxiety.  As Solomon says, “All things are wearisome, more than one can say.  The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing”(Ecclesiastes 1:8).

6. Is That Your Phone In Bed?

The end of the day is a welcome time for rest and relaxation, but many kids, teens, and adults are using phones until the last possible second.  Our brains need to rest from looking at screens before bedtime.  71 percent of Americans sleep with or next to their smartphones.  If you aren’t an emergency worker or caregiver who needs a phone nearby, charge your phone in another room to get a better night’s sleep.  You don’t need a digital binky.

7. Viewing Inappropriate Content

Think of the video clips, images, and games viewed on your phone.  Are they character building, pure, and good? Pornography used to be much harder to access, but now it’s easier than ever to find porn online or stumble across it accidentally.  Proverbs 4:23 instructs us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  We must guard our hearts from content that runs against God’s Word, whether it’s porn, violent video games, or inappropriate sitcoms.

8. No Time for Contemplation

As we move from one task to the next, we often check our phones.  Our free time becomes phone time.  Silence is squeezed out by constant noise throughout the day.  Without time for prayer, stillness, reflection, or journaling, it is difficult to examine one’s life.  We can lose the sense of perspective and purpose that is strengthened through prayer and meditating on God’s Word.  Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

9. Forgetting Our Manners

Common courtesy isn’t as common as it used to be.  Children used to greet adults with a handshake and eye contact.  Public conversation was free of profanity.  Family members were greeted when returning home.  Most courtesies begin with putting others ahead of ourselves.  We need a comeback of courtesy which places people first and devices second.

10. We Don’t Look Into Each Other’s Eyes

A kind gaze goes a long way in this society filled with people who are looking down much the time.  We are losing eye contact, rarely smiling at strangers while we do our errands.  At home, it’s not much better.  We can continue to shift our eyes from screen to screen, not really making much eye contact with our loved ones and friends.

- cross walk

New internet users fall for fake news

October 6, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

One recent Wednesday afternoon, monsoon rains were lashing office windows in Mumbai. Inside, screens were lighting up with messages announcing the arrival of Cyclone Phyan.

Employees of a start-up called Little Black Book, an online city guide, started panicking. Some went home early after receiving messages on their phones that roads were being closed. Others passed the message on to loved ones in Phyan’s path. Jayati Bhola, a 24-year-old writer at Little Black Book, was organizing a charity music show that evening and feared that the warning may put off her guests. She quickly checked the weather online and then sent around a message: “We’re still on guys! Rain or Shine.”

As it turns out, Cyclone Phyan never came to Mumbai that evening, Sept. 20. In fact, it had already happened — eight years earlier, 1,400 miles away, in Sri Lanka. “That rumor about the cyclone has been going around for years,” said Pankaj Jain, founder of SMHoaxSlayer.com, a website that fact-checks circulating rumors on social media in India.

While fake news in the United States is said to have contributed to President Trump’s election victory, in India, a nation with 355 million Internet users, false news stories have become a part of everyday life, exacerbating weather crises, increasing violence between castes and religions, and even affecting matters of public health.

“Common sense is extinct,” Jain said. “People are ready to believe anything.”

Last week, newspapers here carried full-page advertisements by Facebook that explained how to spot false news. Minister Raj­nath Singh, who oversees home affairs, addressed members of the armed border forces in New Delhi, advising them not to believe everything on social media.

Much of India’s false news is spread through WhatsApp, a popular messaging app. One message that made the rounds in November, just after the government announced an overhaul of the country’s cash, claimed that a newly released 2,000 rupee bank note would contain a GPS tracking nano-chip that could locate bank notes hidden as far as 390 feet underground. Another rumor, about salt shortages last November, prompted a rush on salt in four Indian states. In southern India, a rumor about a measles and rubella vaccine thwarted a government immunization drive.

Many false stories have led to violence. In May, rumors about child abductors in a village triggered several lynchings and the deaths of seven people. In August, rumors about an occult gang chopping off women’s braids in northern India spread panic, and a low-caste woman was killed.

Some stories exacerbate India’s rising religious and caste tensions. This week, for instance, images purportedly showing attacks against Hindus by “Rohingya Islamic terrorists” in Burma circulated on social media in India, stoking hatred in Hindu-majority India against Muslim Rohingya.

“There was one video with two people being beheaded, and the text was saying these were Indian soldiers being killed in Pakistan. When I found the original video, it was actually taken from footage of a gang war in Brazil,” Jain said. “They’ll tell you this is fresh, these are images the media is not showing you, if you’re a true Indian patriot, you will forward this message.”

The rumors have resulted in a small industry of fact-checkers who are setting up websites to debunk myths circulating online. Pratik Sinha is a former software engineer who started Altnews.in, a fact-checking website. “The number of fake news stories is so high that we can’t compete on the quantity of fact checks we do,” he said. “We focus on quality.”

The fact-checkers come from various backgrounds — some are former journalists, others are software geeks, and some are just concerned citizens. Many fake news stories appear to support India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its right-wing Hindu nationalist agenda, said Jency Jacob, managing editor for boomlive.in, a fact-checking website. “If we don’t do something, it will be too late,” Jacob said. “Political parties would love to use this for their own benefit and we need to intervene.”

The scrutiny has led to some triumphs. Ministers have deleted misleading tweets and posts after being fact-checked online; in one instance, a government ministry launched an inquiry after Altnews pointed out that an image it had used in a report to show floodlights on India’s border was actually from the Spanish-Moroccan border.

In September 2016, India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, launched an ultra-cheap mobile network service, Jio. The new network brought millions of Indians online for the first time. Jio’s cheap plans increased mobile data use more than sixfold between June 2016 and March 2017, according to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2017 report.

India’s first-time users are particularly susceptible to rumors doing the rounds on social-media websites, Jacob said. “The U.S.A. is a more mature market. In India, these forwards take on a life of their own,” he said, referring to chain messages on social media.

Asavari Sharma, a Mumbai resident, was one of many who posted images of rainy streets on Facebook. She added a caption that read “CYCLONE PHYAN REACHING US: Hope all the good souls on my list are safe.”

“Honestly, I never believe in weather news because every time they show, something never really occurs,” Sharma said. This time they had shown a “few horrible images projected straight from the satellite. So I had to upload to Facebook.”

By noon, rumors about Phyan had reached authorities. Mumbai’s Disaster Management Unit tweeted, “As informed by IMD [India Meteorological Department] there is no cyclone warning for Mumbai. Citizens r requested not to spread & trust rumour.”

Jain says the rise of false rumors worries him. “Basically, somebody’s making money out of all this,” he said, saying that clicks on fake news websites are supported by advertisements. “Ultimately, people are being conned.”

- washington post

How to motivate teens (without losing your mind!)

October 5, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

The teenage years are a mixture of wonderful and maddening. And, while we all have different parenting methods, we all want to know how to motivate teenagers to do and give their best. Let’s face it. There is no one size fits all recipe for how to motivate teens. What works for one will be a complete bomb for another. And that fact is that some days we feel like we are dragging them to the table by their hair while other days they surprise us with a surge of energy that means we are just getting started and they are finished with everything for the day. (Okay—maybe that is a bit optimistic but you get my point.)  Ready to find out how to motivate teens to get the best out of them without losing your mind or going grey? Here are a few strategies that have worked for me in motivating my teens to keep going, to get things done, to conquer rather than collapse under the pressure.

But my suggestions come with a disclaimer—every teen is different so what worked for me might just be a complete bomb for you. The key in learning how to motivate teens is to find what works for your unique child and be ready to shift gears on a dime because, chances what motivates them will change as fast and often as they do!

1. Get them to take ownership of their homeschooling. This one is huge and is a must for every teen! But it is much more than setting long term and daily goals. When I say “Let them take ownership,” this is what it looks like:

2. Get them involved in choosing their courses

3. Allow them to create their own schedule—whether they plan it day by day or by the week, getting them to outline their schedule develops skills that will help them succeed later in life.

4. Allow them to choose when and where they study. For some, sprawling out on the floor is the best place to tackle academics. For others, having a quiet room, a desk or music in the background works best.  As long as it’s working—let it happen.

5. Allow them to define their own assessments. When your teen starts to complain about the tests, the writing assignment or the project, don’t waste time explaining that they just have to deal with it and move on. Put the responsibility back on them.

“Okay, I see what you mean. How about you submit an assessment suggestion to me? Feel free to come up with any creative idea that will show that you know the material and will allow you to enjoy the process.”

Suddenly you have shifted the conversation from complaining to a solution. And you give your teen the ability to use his/her gifts and passions to show you what s/he knows.

6. When they find something they love—let them explore it further. All too often our curriculum shifts gears far too quickly. If your teen is excited about the Civil War; the Medieval concepts of chivalry; or Romanticism, let him/her keep digging in. You can always continue to build skills such as writing, critical thinking, speech and debate, science into their studies by having them suggest assignments that will build those skills while also give them the freedom to dig deep into what interests them.

7. Be sure you have a way for them to track progress. There is nothing more motivating than seeing progress. If you can find a way to graph it, do so. This can be their first computer/math project—to create a spreadsheet that they can update regularly and see just how far they have come and where they still need to go. Transparency about expectations can be a huge motivator!

8. Get a mentor involved in their life. If we are honest with ourselves, we realize that our teens often receive our praise and/or criticism with skepticism. Are they really good at writing? Do we really know what is good/bad/right/wrong when it comes to academics, sports, music, etc.? I have a teen who is an amazing soccer player. We have been telling her for years just how gifted she is and she has shrugged it off as “Yeah, but you are my parents. You are supposed to think that.”

It wasn’t until this season, when her tournament team played at several college showcase tournaments that she realized we have been right all along. Because despite the fact that we did not reach out to or invite any college coaches to see her play, there have been multiple coaches contacting her with an invitation to play for their school. For the first time, she is motivated to do some cross training, to consider playing in college and to reach out to the coaches of the colleges she is interested in attending. A mentor chosen well can be your greatest advocate. Not only can they invest in and encourage your child, but they can work with you to help coach your teen through those difficult struggles, worries, and self-doubt.

9. Let them get a job! One of the greatest ways to help your teen realize his/her own value and potential is to put them to work for someone else. They not only develop valuable skills but they begin to develop confidence, a purpose, and an identity outside of typical teen realms.

10. Cater academics to their learning and personality style. Nothing is more demotivating than tackling a subject day after day where you are either completely bored or unable to fully understand or master the material. Finding and catering to your teens learning and personality style means that you are providing courses that appeal to them whether they love the material or not. You minimize or eliminate the conflict about presentation and instead present information in a way that they best process and understand. This makes learning much more attainable—guaranteed! Find your teen’s learning and personality style here and get plenty of tips and ideas on how to cater to what works for him/her.

11. Encourage, encourage, encourage, encourage. No matter their age, your kids need your encouragement. All too often we focus on what they are doing wrong rather than what they are doing well. We focus on their shortcomings rather than their strengths. Make a conscious effort to notice and point out the good. Every day! Nothing works better to motivating anyone than recognition and encouragement!  If you need some help getting focused, grab this resource 101 Reasons You are Amazing and schedule your own time each day or week to pour encouragement and recognition into your teen!

For us the teen years have been unbelievably tough and incredibly fun (depending on the year). But no matter the kid, encouragement and the ability to own and define their own learning have been our greatest tools for success.  And guess what? I recently heard these words of wisdom from my 17 year old to my 14 year old. “Amanda, you need to just learn this now and I hate to admit it. But Mom and Dad are usually right so you should just listen now.” Ah! Success!

- cross walk

Capture your children’s minds with exceptional literature

October 4, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

One of the most attractive aspects of homeschooling is the ability to spend time together reading. Whether it’s reading the Bible together in the living room after dinner or tackling a major work of literature, such as Little Women or The Lord of the Rings trilogy, memories of reading exceptional books together will be cherished. Your children will quickly grow to love this family time with everyone involved in active listening as you explore new worlds, learn about great moments of the past, and share the hopes, dreams, and struggles of others who have gone before us.

When I first learned about homeschooling, more than ten years ago, a friend handed me several homeschooling catalogs and described the joy she had in educating her children. The catalogs were the equivalent of receiving a map to a buried treasure! I couldn’t wait to embark upon the journey of reading with our children, especially the classics and books about history and the people who lived before us. Reading together continues to be a blessing today as our oldest is entering eighth grade and the youngest two are entering sixth grade.

What will reading do for your family? It will improve vocabulary, memory skills, analytical thinking, and listening and writing skills. Filling your child’s mind with well-formulated sentences and descriptive words creates a reservoir from which he or she can draw in the future. The benefits will show up in your children’s ability to express themselves through writing or speech. The research of Jane Healy suggests that linguistic stimulation is especially critical as a child’s brain develops (from preschool through middle school).

A father who reads with his family is giving them a priceless gift. Children learn from example and will enjoy having a special time with their father, especially if he is away from home during the day and unable to participate in the daily routine. Before he was diagnosed with brain cancer three years ago, my husband would come home from work and lead everyone in a Bible study and continue on with the book we were reading. Today we are thankful that he is able to sit with us during this time and pray with us. No matter what your situation, reading with the whole family builds bonds that will last a lifetime.

One of the best ways to develop an interest in history is to learn about the people who came before us. Read about their lives. Understand their struggles. Appreciate your own life. A number of wonderful historical fiction and nonfiction books are available to supplement your history lessons with biographies of people and descriptions of events from the time period you are studying. The Landmark and World Landmark series of books first published by Random House in the 1950s contains more than a hundred books covering United States and world history. Many of the books are out of print but are still available through the public library, either locally or through interlibrary loan. Use the Resource link (in the sidebar) to see the full list of Landmark and World Landmark titles.

The Childhood of Famous Americans series by Augusta Stevenson, originally published by Bobbs-Merrill and now partially reissued in paperback by Simon and Schuster, is a series that introduces younger readers to famous Americans during their childhoods. The We Were There (various authors, published by Grosset & Dunlap) and The Immortals of Science (various authors, published by Franklin Watts, Inc.) are both series that are out of print but also available through your library, interlibrary loan, used bookstores, and online retailers.

Bethlehem Book’s Living History Library series has several titles from various time periods. Joy Hakim’s series, A History of US, is one of the most complete volumes describing the history of our country. You may also enjoy The Landmark History of the American People. Scholastic’s If You series includes several volumes of fact-filled historical nonfiction from the early history of the United States for younger readers. The Lamplighter collection and books by G. A. Henty are based on true stories and historic events that will inspire your family.

With so many books available and so little time to read them all, how do you select the best books to read? There are a number of resources that may provide the guidance you need. We have used the following books to help us select titles for family reading time in the evening, read-alouds during the day, and independent reading for various age levels:

  • All Through the Ages—History Through Literature Guide by Christine Miller
  • Who Should We Then Read? by Jan Bloom
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
  • Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children’s Literature by Elizabeth Laraway Wilson
  • Lives in Print by Ava Bluedorn
  • Hand That Rocks the Cradle: 400 Classic Books for Children by Nathaniel Bluedorn

We generally choose classic literature for our family time. We are currently reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Some of our favorites have been Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody; Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight; Freckles and Laddie: A True Blue Story by Gene Stratton-Porter; The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle; Mother Goose in Prose by L. Frank Baum; Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder; The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis; The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkein; and the list goes on!

You may want to consider Newbery Medal Winners. Some of our favorites have included these fine books: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (1923); Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field (1930); and Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (1947). These are delightful books to share with your children. Use the Resource links to search the Newbery and Caldecott Medal and Honor books to find something that may be of interest for your family.

While it is good to read to your children stories that are at a higher level than their independent readers, what do you do if your child doesn’t seem to be listening? It’s easy to lose the interest of younger readers when you are reading a work with intricate setting descriptions and character development. Taking a break and asking questions about what you have just read helps pull children back into the story. Try allowing your children to draw quietly while you read. You may be surprised to learn how much detail they will be able to tell you, even though it appears that they are not listening.

The time you invest in reading aloud with your children will reap a multitude of benefits, from improving their word skills and comprehension, to bonding as a family and sharing special moments together, to cultivating critical thinking skills. No less important are the excitement and love of learning you will kindle as you share the history of influential people from the past. Establish this valuable habit with your children today!

- cross walk

Next Page »