Super Hero

Watching one of our grandsons dress up as “Larry-Boy” and suction “bad guys” with his super ears is very entertaining. He will dart around the house wearing his cape and vanquish all foes. It’s all fun until his little brothers are the “bad guys” and then his efforts to eliminate them create problems.

As humans, we all love to celebrate heroes. We love our sports heroes, our military heroes, and our civic heroes. We celebrate their accomplishments, and we are crushed when they disappoint us by being human.

The fact that children have heroes can be a positive thing. If their hero demonstrates the kind of character that encourages Godly behavior, that can be a powerful influence in the child’s life for good. Yet heroes often change as a child’s interest changes. It may be a cowboy or princess when they are very young, then change to an Olympic soccer player or singing star. As children are young, parents can control much of what their child is exposed to and therefore whom they choose as a hero.

I remember one of our daughters wanting to be like Mia Hamm. She was a prominent soccer player for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during that time and went on to be an Olympic soccer star as well. Ms. Hamm was a quiet, hard-working individual that stayed away from the spotlight, often deferring to her teammates even when the focus of the media was on her. This was a positive example of putting the team first over the individual, an important quality in team sports.

The most important heroes for our children are those who demonstrate a love for God and His Word. Sadly, our culture does not often acknowledge the selfless sacrifice of the real heroes of the faith, so as parents we must make that effort. We must remember that only God is perfect, so even the most upright individual may fall, especially if they are put up on a pedestal. We could fill pages with names of prominent Christians who have fallen short of God’s glory, as we have ourselves.

In Hebrews there is a passage that is sometimes referred to as the Faith Hall of Fame. These heroes were just living their lives when God stepped in and required them to step out in faith.

Hebrews 11:7, 11, 12, 31-40

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen,in holy fear built an arkto save his family.By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead,came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. 

Goodness!!! Shut the mouths of lions! Escaped the edge of the sword! Sawed in half! This is better then Robin Hood. These people paid the price and are true heroes of the Faith.

I always love to hear young adults who are walking with God share about the people who have led them on their path as Christians. Sometimes they mention someone who was not even aware of the positive role they have played in the spiritual life of that person. It may be a Sunday School teacher, a coach, a youth leader, or parent of a friend – some unsung hero who lived a life of Godly influence day by day. These are the SUPER HEROES!

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Imitation

Do you remember a time when you enjoyed dressing up like a princess, a cowboy, cowgirl, fireman, or pirate? Our granddaughters like to play school right now and emulate their teachers. Being a teacher myself, it blesses me to see them line up their dolls and teach them letters, words, or colors. I especially enjoy hearing them read stories to their “class”. They do various voices so well. It is also a bit disconcerting to hear them talk harshly to their students… have they heard me talk that way? Are they copying my tone of voice and facial expression?

Children learn roles in society, school, family, and even church by observing the people in their lives and imitating them.

A very revealing situation can be watching our children play house. If one chooses to be the mother, or the big sister, dad, baby, etc. notice the way they interact imitating that chosen role. If the “mom” acts bossy, it could be that the child sees that played out at home. Yet, it may be that the child has a personality that tends to take charge – (ask my brothers about that!) Most incriminating to me was the way the “mom” talked to the “child”. It seemed so harsh and demanding! Where did she learn that? Certainly not from me, her real mother!

Truth be told, our children do learn words, tone of voice, and even facial expressions from watching the adults in their lives. Often it is cause for laughter, sometimes it is cause for shame. A grandmother recently told me the concern she felt over some language her young grandchild has picked up. Often we don’t have control over what our children see or hear, yet personally, we can be the best example possible. I have heard adults laugh when hearing a toddler say a questionable word that the child obviously does not know the meaning of. Yet the laughter communicates pleasure and the little child will repeat those words to cause laughter again. Hint – what seems cute at 2 or 3 years old is not so cute at 10 or 12 years old.

In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul encourages us to be imitators of God. He uses the example of a well-loved child imitating his father. I think this certainly can apply to a child imitating her mother as well. I like the way the Amplified Bible translates this text.

Ephesians 5:1-2    Amplified Bible 

 1THEREFORE BE imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]. 2And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us,
slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.
Notice that Paul says “well-loved” child. Children are less likely to imitate a parent that does not show them the love they desire and need. Paul goes on to say “and walk in love,” so that love is the foundation of the respectful relationships we should have with one another. Finally, Paul sites Jesus as the example of sacrificial love, the kind of love we must have for each other, and definitely for our children.
Our challenge as parents and grandparents is to talk and live in such a way that when the little ones imitate us, it will honor our Heavenly Father, and fill our hearts with joy and thanksgiving.

    

Why?

I am beginning my second week in the home of our youngest daughter, which besides her includes our son-in-law, an almost 3 year-old, twin one year-olds, and (the reason I am here) an 8 day old – all boys. Needless to say it is a busy place, also blessed by the joy and love that sweetens the lack of sleep. The 3-year-old is in that stage of asking “Why?” in response to all requests, comments, and random statements. At first, it is engaging to answer the “whys” of life. “Why?” do we wear socks with shoes? To prevent blisters. “Why?” is it nap time? This question has various answers – it is time, you are tired, mom is tired, or any other response deemed appropriate at the time. “Why?” when told to stay in his bed, because there is not room in the crib with your twin brothers.

After answering hundreds of questions, Nana does get tired of thinking about the answers to the meaning of life and all it involves. Yet, as a teacher, I know that these questions and answers are important and will form the basis of our grandson’s world view. Recent research in brain development shows that at around three years old there is a great growth in synapses in the brain, and that if they are not used during this formative time, those synapses are pruned. Just as a gardener prunes off useless branches, God has fashioned our brain to do likewise.

We want our children to have optimum use of the amazing organ  – the brain. Answering their questions is the first and best way for them to learn about the world around them. It will also lay the foundation of a life long pattern of asking questions, opinions and seeking advice from us, their parents.  If we respond to them now with, “Why do you ask so many questions?” “I’m busy – ask…..”, or worst of all, ignore their questions, they will quit asking and/or find someone else to ask.

There is certainly a time for questions to stop for a while. The previously mentioned nap time and bed time, for example. Yet this can be done in a way that is respectful of the child’s natural curiosity. There may even be a specific time given for answering such as after nap, after breakfast, etc. This lets your child know that their questions are important, but that the current time is not conducive to answering those questions. I also am quick to admit that I didn’t know all the answers to questions posed by my children or now my grandchildren. It is absolutely fine to say “I don’t know.” But don’t stop there. The next comment from us should be, “I’ll help you find out.” As a child gets older, you may even ask them, “Who do you think we can ask about this?”

As our children get even older, they will be looking up answers on the internet. A caution – the values we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren may not be the values promoted by the information the child receives on-line. If we have built a foundation of love and respect our values will be more apt to be accepted by these growing children.

God does not always answer us right away. God is not governed by our time-table or our sense of “needing to know”. In fact, He says in I Corinthians 13: 8-13

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.     Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.   13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

God lets us know that while we are part of this human experience,  we will not understand everything. (see italicized above) We do have the hope of coming into full knowledge when we are face to face with God. What an awesome expectation!

So, until then, I will continue learning all I can so I can answer my grandchildrens’ questions. I will also endeavor to answer the countless “whys?” with patience and love…..for the greatest of these is love.

Easter Blessing

Our tenth grandchild was born yesterday on Easter Sunday. Each of these precious little ones is a blessing! I can remember wondering when I was pregnant with our second child whether I could possibly love #2 as much as I loved #1. My heart was full of love for our first child – how could another child fit in? (To this day, #1 thinks he is my favorite!) Each of our children is my favorite.

I remember a wise older mother telling me – “You think you can never love another child as much as the first since you love them with all your heart. God just expands your heart and gives you more love.” I think that is true. As each child arrived, I didn’t love the older children any less, I just had more love to share with each one. As I looked at this newest little grandchild yesterday, I was once again overwhelmed with love for this new addition to our family. Each one is precious and fills a special place in Nana’s expanding heart!

Easter is the ultimate expression of love – God’s great love for us.  God sent His only Son to die for our sins. That is His love made flesh for us. He rose again and lives in us, His children, through His Holy Spirit. We may believe from time to time that God loves some of His other children more than He loves me. Many Christians are smarter, better looking, funnier, kinder –  the list could go on and on – than I am.  Surely God must love them more because He blessed them with these special attributes.

That is a LIE. 

I Corinthians 12: 12-20

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

I don’t think it is a stretch to associate this scripture with the unique qualities various members of our families have. How would our family function if we were all the same? (how BORING)

Paul goes on to say –

1 Corinthians 12:20-26 (NIV)

20As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 
God’s great, unconditional love for us is the attitude we want to permeate our families. Each adult and child has limitless value in God’s kingdom. The fact that Jesus died and rose for each of us demonstrates His great love. Let’s make our families a reflection of God’s love  – a place where each person has value!

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Every spring my husband and I go into the woods and find wild plants and flowers to transplant. Yesterday we moved some ferns, trillium, ground cedar, various clumps of moss and three plants I am waiting for my father to identify.

I don’t ask these plants if they want to be moved. I have decided that they will do better and be viewed more frequently in the new location I have selected. I do take into consideration the type of soil, amount of sun or shade, and the plants growing in close proximity. When choosing a place to plant something, I try to pick a place that is similar to the original location. If it was originally in the shade, then I won’t place it in full sun! I always have the plant’s best interest at heart because I want it to flourish and grow. I want it to bloom where it is planted.

Sometimes we feel that God has uprooted us. It may be a situation where we physically move to another location, or it may be a change in our lives such as a new baby, a new job, attending a new place of fellowship, or even close friends moving away. Often we cannot change the situations we find ourselves in and we don’t like the change! Things were fine the way they were  – why mess things up? We may not be able to change the circumstances, but we can decide how we will respond to those circumstances. We can choose to accept circumstances beyond our control with grace believing that God in His infinite wisdom is looking out for our good.

When our third child was born, we were in a two bedroom apartment. With three cribs in one bedroom, I was feeling squeezed. It seemed like there was not enough room for the stuff we currently had, much less a new baby. I was NOT a happy camper! I took my frustration and concern to God – and I felt His response as a gentle, but piercing question. “Why should I trust you with a bigger place to live when you can’t maintain the small place you have now?”

I immediately was convicted of the truth of what God had impressed on my heart. I needed to be faithful with the apartment where we were living. I needed to tend to the current responsibilities I had before I could be trusted with more. I needed to be content with what I currently had.

 Philippians 4: 10-13 (NLT)

10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

In these verses Paul is writing to the Christians in Phillipi. He is in PRISON – yet he says that he is content!!! Paul knew that he needed to “bloom where he was planted” even in prison. He used that time to write letters to Christians in the various locations he had preached.  His teaching and discipling continued through those letters and continues to teach us now through the Bible.

Our contentment as God’s children must be founded in the belief that God is a loving heavenly Father who works in our lives for our good. That does not mean that circumstances will go our way – it does mean that God will give us grace to bloom where He plants us.