Our culture bases success on many things. It may be an advanced education, a sprawling home, a good job, a multitude of friends, nice vehicles, frequent vacations, and the list goes on.
While none of these things are wrong, they’re not what truly makes a person successful.
What if we used a different ruler with which to measure? What if we looked within the heart and focused instead on character, integrity, and honor rather than the appearances of seemingly surface items? What if we viewed success through a different lens than what the world teaches us?
What if we, as parents, pulled the following tools from our parenting toolboxes to help our child succeed in life?
We, as parents, have an important role in modeling for and training our children in the things that truly matter. Someday when we are no longer on this earth, we won’t have taken our college degrees, fancy houses, and expensive vehicles with us. But we will have made an impact on the lives of others when our main focus was living for Jesus.
May we, as parents, make it our goal to instruct our children wisely in the things that matter to Him.
After Christian historical romance, Christian suspense is my favorite genre. Especially when characters go undercover and the tension builds as covert operations are planned to catch the bad guys.
It may be that I have read one too many of these novels. Or that I have watched Sue Thomas F.B. Eye too many times to count. Or that my grandfather was a retired police officer for the San Diego Police Department.
I’ve recently felt God prompting me into my own incognito activities.
As such, I’ve become an undercover prayer warrior.
I have always and will continue to intercede for the most important people in my life – my family and friends. I pray for them numerous times a day and whenever the Lord brings them to mind. There is not a time during the day when I’m not in constant contact with the Lord.
However, now I’ve added strangers to the list. People who don’t even know I’m praying for them.
Want to join me in this venture? Here’s how to become an undercover prayer warrior:
1. Keep your eyes open. There’s a woman I see each time I’m utilizing the treadmill at my local gym. A salt-and-pepper pixie haircut and a somber expression line her face. I’ve never seen her smile. Not once. Not when the machine she wanted was available, and certainly not to return a smile. This woman became my mission. Each time I see her, I pray earnestly for her. I pray for whatever struggles she is facing. I pray for joy and peace in her life. And I pray that if she doesn’t know the Lord, she would someday come to know Him.
Had I not been keeping my eyes open, I may not have noticed this woman and had the privilege to pray for her.
2. Keep your ears open. Ambulance sirens? Emergency helicopter? Both denote that someone is injured, or may even be possibly fighting for his or her life. Whenever our family hears either of those sounds, we stop what we’re doing and immediately pray for those who are being transported. We pray also that the Lord would provide wisdom and guide the doctor’s hands as any necessary medical procedures are done.
3. Keep your heart open. Whenever I pass by the hospital or local cancer center, I pray for those who are receiving treatment. I pray for God’s healing and that He would make Himself known to those who don’t yet know Him. It’s beyond difficult to struggle with an illness, especially one that’s terminal. Prayer support is the most important thing we can offer someone.
4. Keep your mind open. Some of the hardest people to pray for are those who are unkind. I experienced some unkindness recently from a woman in desperate need of prayer. I didn’t necessarily want to pray for this meanie, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I had to keep an open mind and pray for this person as God commands in Matthew 5:43-47.
So become God’s undercover prayer warrior. Slip into detective mode and…
Pray for that exhausted mom in front of you at the grocery store with the seven children.
Pray for the clerk at the department store or the waitress at your favorite restaurant.
Pray for the man at the doctor’s office when you overheard he’s just been told he has a terminal illness.
Scan the newspaper and pray for comfort for the families of those who have recently passed away.
Pray for those in jails and prisons.
Pray for those in drug treatment facilities attempting to overcome addictions.
When Brandon is hired as a youth pastor, he never realizes the challenge before him. His heart is set on leading teens to the Lord, but he is instead faced with an uphill battle that he can’t win, barring the Lord’s intervention.
It’s difficult for Brandon and his wife not to become discouraged as they seek to make an eternal difference in the lives of the teens. When Brandon’s friend from seminary, a fellow youth pastor, remarks that the number of kids in his youth group has grown exponentially, Brandon reminds himself that it’s not about numbers. Not about constant outings. It’s about leading teens to the Lord and helping them grow in their faith.
There are several talking point questions and some cautions throughout the movie, although there is nothing objectionable. I highly recommend you watch this movie with your kids/grandkids.
Talking point questions:
*Why attend a youth group?
*Why is knowing/memorizing Scripture important?
*What is wrong with cheating?
*How should we treat those with disabilities?
*Why is it important to exercise patience with others, especially those who are struggling?
*Why is it important to respect authority?
*Why is lying wrong?
*Why is it important to stand for what is right, even if you stand alone?
*Can you identify with any of the teens in the movie? Why or why not?
*Mention of death of a main character
*Several instances of disrespectful teens to their parents, a boss, and the youth pastor and his wife
*Couple of instances of stealing
*An instance of lying that causes extreme consequences
This movie resonated with me, both as a mother and as one who once attended a youth group that had no real “meat”, but only sought to provide fun outings for its members. While I have fond memories of those days in my youth group watching movies, attending all-night skate parties, and playing dozens of volleyball games, I wish I’d had the privilege of attending a group that put the Gospel above all else and sought to disciple its members. There is nothing wrong with fun activities and socializing, but when its the main (and only!) focus, we’ve missed the real reason: the critical importance of planting seeds that will last for eternity.
Play the Flute is suitable for the entire family, although recommended for tweens and older, as those who are younger will not understand the scope and intention of the movie. It is entertaining, engaging, realistic, and a sad commentary of the apathetic attitude so prevalent in many of today’s youth groups.
I give Play the Flute a five out of five stars. It’s not only a must-see movie for family night, but an excellent movie for any tween, teen, or adult.
The other day while at a local place of business, I noticed that several of the employees were bustling around doing their jobs. Save one. A teen had plopped on a folding chair, legs extended, proceeding to be on his phone for a majority of the time I was patronizing this business.
A relative of mine has a coworker who routinely shows up late for work, and at times, doesn’t show up for work at all. Such a choice has placed the business in a bind on several occasions. It has also made more work for the employees who take their jobs seriously.
A local business manager shared with me that they are struggling to find help to fill all of their available positions, and when they do find help, a lot of those workers are unreliable.
Poor work ethic seems to have become more prominent. There are several reasons for this:
– Inadequate instruction of the importance of work ethic on the part of their parents, whereby children are “given” everything and not required to earn anything.
– A culture that thrives on a “microwave” mentality of wanting everything right now and lacks the patience to work hard for anything. (Case in point: the new 20-year-old employee who wants to be paid the same amount as the 50-year-old who has been at a company for 15 years).
– Paying people more to sit at home than to work, as has been the case this past year.
– Refusal of employees to acknowledge they are stealing from their employer by way of using company time to scan social media, play video games, or making personal phone calls.
How can we instill the importance of a good work ethic in our children?
Model it. We can hardly expect our children to exhibit a strong work ethic if we ourselves are lazy and uncommitted to hard work.
Practice it. Our children and teens need to see us regularly practicing our own strong work ethic.
Encourage it from an early age. This can be done in the form of helping parents with projects and regular age-appropriate chores.
Clearly communicate what is expected. Explain patiently and thoroughly the task at hand and what is required.
Encourage volunteerism. Doing something for someone without expectation of payment is one of the most critical ways we can instill a powerful work ethic.
Embolden our kids to work for something they want. It is amazing how, when a teen has to pay for something from his or her own funds, that it no longer is a “necessity”. We need to teach our children that things are expensive (and never more than in recent days!) and that someone had to work to afford that “luxury”. When our teens have to pay for something themselves from time to time, they begin to value the importance of the hard work that allowed them to purchase that item.
Encourage them to go the extra mile and to take initiative. My oldest daughter often asks “what can I do to help?” I love it that she coined this phrase (and then acted upon it!) from an early age.
Teach respect for authority. The Bible has much to say about respecting authority. From the time our children are toddlers, we as parents should be teaching them that respecting authority is paramount, with God being our primary authority, followed by parents. If our children are unable to obey their first authority (us, after God), then they will be unable to obey other authorities, i.e., teachers, employers, and the police.
Instill the importance of being a team player.
Teach children that school is one of their first jobs. Whether they are homeschooled or attend a private, charter, or public school, their educational experience is one of their first jobs. A child who takes their education seriously will be better able to grow into a valued employee.
Don’t be afraid to allow “life lessons”. If your teen makes the choice to arrive at work late of his or her own accord, don’t rescue them from the consequences.
Most importantly, encourage your children to remember that whatever they do, do it as if doing it for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).
When my daughters and niece and nephews were toddlers, they could transform our home into a war zone in a matter of minutes. Nearly all of the toys, books, and dress-up clothes from the playroom migrated to other parts of the house in a split second, as five creative minds embarked on whimsical adventures. When it was time for my niece and nephews to return home, we played a game called “Tornado”. I set the oven timer and encouraged the toddlers to become tornadoes. How fast could they whirl around the room and return the items to their homes?
With the fervor and zeal of cyclones, five little kiddos flurried in all different directions, retrieving toys, books, and dress-up clothes and returning them to their rightful homes. They giggled as they sometimes bonked into a fellow “tornado”, and in the generous time allotted, my home soon took on a somewhat clean appearance once again.
Sometimes we, as parents, have to be creative in teaching our children the responsibility that leads to a strong work ethic. But by doing so, we can, with a lot of prayer and help from the Lord, instill in our children a character trait that will impact their lives forever.
As someone who is on a quest to find wholesome and enjoyable movies, I’m asked quite often about movies I would suggest for families, teens, youth groups, and personal viewing.
It can be a challenge to find movies today without the constant violence, sexual content, and foul language…but it can be done. As a Christian, I take very seriously the privilege of recommending movies on my blog that would be suitable for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Below are 31 movies in no particular order, some older classics, and some much newer, that are excellent additions to any watch-list. For a complete listing of other movies, please go to my Mom-Approved Movie Listings page.
There is a lot to fear these days. At every turn, there is something to cause our hearts to panic, our thoughts to veer toward despondency, and our minds to wrestle with the “what-ifs”. At any given moment, trepidation hunkers down for a permanent residency deep within our spirits.
Those who lived in previous generations will tell you that this isn’t the first time the world has been in a state of turbulent unrest, chaos, and fear. The Civil War, WWI, WWII, famines, and The Great Depression were terrifying. The unparalleled horrors of the Holocaust and Rwandan and Cambodian Genocides are examples of the evil and darkest side of humanity.
Things can seem bleak right now. On top of current events, there are also the “regular” things to fear: losing a loved one, cancer, debilitating diseases, severe chronic illness, fear of losing one’s job and/or home, fear of the continual loss of freedoms, and the list goes on.
All of these things are frightening and remind us that the world we live in is far from perfect. And will never be perfect. It will never be a utopia, no matter how much one might wish it to be so.
But to spend time dwelling on such statistics can send us into a spiraling state of despair.
A state we were never supposed to reside in.
Life is short. Life is frail. And life is precious.
And for those of us in Christ, this is just a momentary stop on our way to spending eternity with our Savior. So as we continue on in this journey, may we find peace and rest in the arms of our Lord through the life-changing scripture found in His Word. May we allow it to sink deep within our hearts and minds so the next time fear comes knocking at our door, we can confidently turn it away.
May we remember to surrender our fears to Him minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day.
May we remember that nothing can take away the peace that comes with the assurance of Salvation.
This world is temporary.
The fears we have in this world are also temporary. But eternity is forever.
The other day, my grandparents, both in their 80s, went to the grocery store in their small town.
Nanie waited in their stylish red minivan while Papa went in to the store. “Now remember,” Nanie said, as Papa climbed out of their minivan, “Get some prunes. Be sure to get the ones that are individually wrapped and taste like candy.”
My grandparents have always been extra conscious of eating healthy foods that promote healthy bowels. Their motto is “in one’s golden years, it’s critical to have a b.m. (bowel movement) in the p.m.!”
Papa went into the little grocery store. I can just see him in his Carhart Jeans, his favorite red flannel, his very used cowboy hat, and his wallet he carries on a chain like they do in those old movies. Because of his streamlined physique, the chain on the wallet nearly drags to the ground.
Upon seeing a boxboy, Papa asked, “Do you have any prunes?”
“Yes, I’ll show you,” the boxboy said, leading Papa down the aisle with the boxed prunes.
Papa grabbed a box of prunes off the shelf. Then, taking his cute little wrinkled self through the store, he exited through the automatic door. He didn’t even pause to stop at the check stand, but walked into the parking lot and to Nanie, who was waiting in the minivan.
Meanwhile, the boxboy was in a quandary. He had followed Papa, apparently alarmed that Papa would exit the store without paying for the prunes, but unable to figure out a way to gently apprehend an adorable and innocent-looking elderly gentleman with twinkling blue eyes.
Papa walked up to the window of the passenger side of the minivan and asked Nanie to roll down the window.
Still figuring out how to use modern technology, Nanie instead opened her door.
“Are these the prunes you want?” Papa asked.
“Yes, Johnny, those are perfect.” Nanie smiled her precious Swedish smile at the thought that Papa had correctly chosen the individually wrapped prunes that tasted like candy. She was so proud of him.
“All right, then,” Papa said.
“Johnny?” asked Nanie. “Why is that boxboy across the parking lot looking at you with suspicion?”
“I have no idea,” said Papa, because he truly had no idea. “Maybe because he’s the one who helped me find the prunes.” After a pause, he added, “I’ll be right back, Ruthie.”
Papa walked back into the store, past the boxboy (without even so much as a glance), and went to the nearest check stand. Taking out some money from his wallet on a chain, he paid for the prunes. Then, walking again past the perplexed boxboy (without even so much as a glance), Papa returned to the minivan.
I love stories like these. How precious Papa is! The funniest thing of all is that Papa is a former police officer with the San Diego Police Department. He apprehended dangerous criminals on a daily basis, some who were caught stealing things much more valuable than prunes.
But Papa had no intention of taking something without paying – he’s honest to a fault and has never broken any laws in his entire life. He only wanted to ask his wife of nearly 60 years if the prunes he picked were the correct ones. He was a man on a mission to get his beloved wife her favorite healthy treat.
After all, he’d probably purchased the wrong brand in the past and after so many years of marriage, he had become a very wise man. He had learned his motto the hard way: ask first, then purchase.
Papa has since gone home to be with the Lord. Such memories as the one above truly have more meaning when someone you love is no longer here. While I am sad that he is gone, I know that someday I will see him again.
I encourage you to take a minute to appreciate the grandparents in your life. They are truly treasures, irreplaceable and precious gifts from God.
All we have to do is live in the world for a day and it becomes evident there are joy zappers. We ourselves, other people, and even things that attempt to, while intentionally or inadvertently, steal our happiness seem to lurk around every corner.
Perhaps you recognize some of these joy zappers:
Illness. Ranking towardthe top of joy zappers is illness. According to the National Health Council, “About half of all adults have a chronic condition”. Chronic illness, chronic pain, and chronic disease are tough and can feel unmanageable, frightful, and depressing.
Mean people. Mean people are akin to weeds in a garden of flowers. It can be beyond difficult at times to react in a God-glorifying manner with “weedy” folks.
Complaining. Constant complaining can hinder our joy and make us forget how blessed we are.
Toxic media. Toxic media has taken on a whole new face in recent days. False news, censorship, lies, attacks, and more contribute to our already high stress levels in a world that has appeared to have derailed.
Idols. Idols, or anything we put above God in our lives, can come in many forms and can quickly steal our joy. Place the importance of material items – such as new cars to compete with the neighborsor an unlimited amount of charging on your charge card with no ability to pay the balance due – over everything else and you’ll quickly discover the stress of this common joy zapper.
Trials. Trials are never fun. Whether in the form of illness, relationship issues, money struggles, or when life just doesn’t go right, no one wants to hang out permanently in the struggles of life. I was recently speaking to my mom about one of the trials that has weighed heavily on my heart these past few weeks. “God is definitely growing you,” my mom tenderly told me. And she is right. God does grow us through trials. It is not fun to experience any type of trial, and most of us would like to learn whatever it is God is teaching us sooner rather than later.
Relationship conflict. Is there anything more stressful than relationship conflict?
Gossip. Being on the receiving end of gossip is an instant joy zapper and a painful reminder of how dangerous the tongue can be.
Unrighteous anger and bitterness. Unrighteous anger and bitterness can easily tip the scales against having a joyful life.
Comparison trap, procrastination, perfectionism, people-pleasing, worry, and fear. Comparing ourselves to others, procrastination, perfectionism, and people pleasing can all take us from happiness to dissatisfaction, discontentment, and a melancholy outlook. Likewise, worry and fear can take something meant to be pleasurable and turn it into something to dread.
Excessive busyness. Excessive busyness not only drags us down, but it’s unhealthy to be too busy. It causes stress and makes it difficult to find peace.
And there are many more that we could add to the list. Some of the items listed above are things others use to steal our joy. Others are things and demands we put on ourselves that steal our joy.
So what can we dowhen the joy zappers fly in and attempt to take root in our lives?
Praydiligently and often.Lord, I surrender this joy zapper in my life to you. Please show me what I am to learn from it and grow me to be more like You through it. Help me to trust You more fully through any obstacles I may be facing. While I know you might not take it completely away, I know that You will walk with me through it, and I praise You for that.
Set your mind on things above. In Matthew 14, Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. When we keep our eyes on Him, we are held safely and will not sink.
Remember who He is. It is so easy to forget that the One who spoke this very world into existence, who created our innermost being (Psalm 139:13), and who died so we who have put our faith in Him may have eternal life someday, has also overcome the world. He is bigger than anything we find ourselves in the midst of. He can and will give us peace over the most difficult joy zapper.
Be mindful of where you spend your time. One of the biggest traps we can allow ourselves to fall into is spending time with the wrong things (or people!) When we constantly fill our minds with the news, negative social media posts, or angry music we can cause our perception of things to become skewed. Spending time with unhealthy things and people can also cause a shift in our personalities. As I have told my daughters many times, “garbage in = garbage out”. Don’t let the joy zappers of where we spend our time weigh us down.
Spend time in the Word. A better place to spend our time would be to spend it in His Word. Taking time each day, preferably in the morning before you start your day, to get to know Him through Scripture is a surefire anecdote for problems to become smaller.
Grow in the Lord. Are we further in our faithwalk this year than last year? When our growth becomes stagnate, our chances of being thwarted by a joy zapper is greater.
Spend time with godly family and friends. There are few things more energizing than spending time with a sibling in Christ. Godly family and friends can pray for us as we endure the struggles of our joy zappers, hold us accountable in our walk with the Lord and through temptations, and pray for us.
Set reasonable goals. One of the biggest joy zappers is busyness. I find myself guilty often of trying to cram too much into one hour/day/week/month. We weren’t designed to be on stress overload, as we navigate the 400,000,000 items on a to-do list. Instead, set reasonable goals and achieve them in bite-sized chunks.
Spend some time in Creation. An excellent remedy to combat joy zappers is to spend some time in Creation.
Forgive. Unforgiveness can steal our joy quicker than we might realize. And not only can it steal our joy on its own, it also leads to bitterness. Ephesians 4:31-32 has a lot to say about how God thinks we should handle bitterness. He tells us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” And while it may be nearly impossible to forgive someone at times, we need only to remember how much we are forgiven for and what that need for forgiveness did to the Savior when He went to the Cross for us.
Nothing can steal our joy in Christ. It is more than mere happiness. It is a deep abiding knowledge that we are His and that we will spend eternity with Him, no matter what transpires in our lives. No matter what comes our way or threatens to derail us, Jesus is still on the throne.
Want a zany idea for your next county fair entry? Read on…
This world has become increasingly unrecognizable with its constant drama, stressors, and problems. As such, I started a new series a few weeks ago with some humor posts to take us away, even for a brief moment, from the seriousness of recent days.
A few weeks ago, I shared a silly blog post from the past about my experience driving “the big truck” while my SUV was in the shop. I followed it up with a goofy post about how a mom can be a successful tooth fairy.
This week, I’m digging once again into the momlife archives. Several years ago when my girls were younger, life seemed easier, more laid-back, and the world in which we lived was a kinder one.
Next week, join me for our regularly-scheduled blog posts, where I’ll be discussing how we can overcome joy zappers. Future momlife posts will be sprinkled in amongst my regular faith-based and writing posts.
And now, without further ado, I present to you the best county fair entry ever.
Our family loves to enter things in the county fair. Each year, my daughters gather homemade goodies, artwork, sewing projects, and drawings and see what ribbons they can earn for their time, effort, and creativity.
I decided to do something a bit unusual this year…
Unbeknownst to him, last year as a surprise, I entered my husband’s amazing steel cutout of an elk. I had been so impressed with what he had created out of a piece of steel, that I just knew the judges would be impressed too. Imagine his shock when we were walking through the exhibit hall and he saw his project on the table with a blue ribbon –the elk was an incredible work of art. Large and polished to a sheen, it’s metal glowed against the woodworking projects that surrounded it. Lon took one look at it and exclaimed, “That looks like that elk cutout I made. Hey, wait, that is the elk cutout I made!”
Not to be outdone by entering the elk project, this year I decided to take a little different route. Yes, this year’s county fair entry would definitely be one-of-a-kind.
One day, Lon decided to take a picture of his foot wearing his size 13, beatup tennis shoe, as though it was some shoe model for decrepit, needing-to-be-retired footwear. Wondering what I would enter in the fair that year, I found my answer when I discovered this picture on our digital camera.
Wasting no time, I rushed to the store and had the photo enlarged to a 5x7and printed it off. Then, finding a reasonably-priced plastic frame, I displayed this lovely piece of “art”. Buffing the glass of the frame to a sheen, the shoe picture was ready to enter in our county fair.
Wouldn’t Lon be so surprised when he saw his picture, one likely taken out of boredom, proudly displayed on the exhibit center wall amongst numerous other quality pieces of photography?
In today’s world, just look around and you’ll see so many varieties of “art”. I just knew this would be a hit at the fair with the judges and the attendees of the fair alike. So, with the framed shoe picture awaiting its artistic debut, my daughters and I entered the door of the exhibit hall with our box full of entries.
I choked back a snicker. It was very difficult not to laugh while unloading the entries. After all, I had to play this cool so my quest would be successful.
I gingerly unloaded the mound of fair entries. Framed photos of mountain scenes and animals, pictures the girls had drawn, and homemade baked goods soon graced the table.
I saved the best for last and did my best to keep a stoic expression. No easy task for someone who is noticing the very real effect of having permanent laugh lines. But I digress…
The entry coordinator reached for another entry card, likely assuming my next entry would be more of the same of the other dozen or so entries.
But when I placed the framed photo on the table, time seemed to stand still. I pasted on my best “isn’t this an amazing entry?” face.
I watched the entry coordinator’s face as she filled out the entry card for the shoe picture. I began to snort, chalking it up to something in my throat. I struggled to maintain my composure and keep my laughter under control. After all, who really enters a photo of a beat up tennis shoe in the local fair?
And moreover, who acts like they are super proud of such an entry?
The woman looked up at me, then back down at the shoe picture, then back up at me, and finally one last time at the shoe picture. She picked up the frame and with a look of concern mixed with disgust, added it to the pile of entered fair projects.
I somehow hoped she’d be a little more appreciative of this fine piece of art.
The following day when our family went to see what ribbons we had been awarded, the girls, sworn to secrecy, and me still attempting to be nonchalant about the whole ordeal, led Lon around the exhibit hall. The girls pointed out their pictures, and when we finally came to one in particular, Lon stopped and stared. “Pen, is that? No, it can’t be…Pen!”
I thought I would die of laughter. Then Lon began to laugh and together we gazed at the unlikely winner of a high-placing ribbon.
The moral of the story? In a world so full of busyness, it’s good to take some time out to truly laugh at the sillier side of life. God gave us the ability to laugh and the ability to take joy in even the most mundane things – even a framed picture of a tennis shoe.
Today we celebrate the United States of America’ s birthday. From the desire for freedom sprang this beautiful nation. We have a rich and amazing history, and while we’ve hit some bumpy spots along the way, the nation has never yet forgotten the One who is the ultimate foundation, and may we never do so.
My maternal great-grandfather and paternal grandfather fought in WWII. Various other relatives have also sacrificed much to serve this great nation. My great-great-grandparents arrived from Sweden in search of a better life. I’m a mutt, you could say: Swedish, German, English, a touch of Scotch-Irish, and potentially the merest drip of Choctaw Indian. America is not called “The Melting Pot” for nothing. This land is home to the descendants of immigrants who sought a better life, who valued freedom over staying in their motherland, who wanted a fresh start. God has richly blessed America. From…