How to Instill Compassion and Servanthood in Your Children

Ephesians 6:7 says “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord and not men.   However, just telling our children to serve others isn’t enough. We need to model compassion for others to our children.

How can we, as parents, grandparents, teachers, and youth leaders, make the application for our children from the physical act of service to the motive we need to have?

Our motive must be for Jesus and not ourselves. Matthew 6:3 says “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…” Explaining to our children that we help others, not so we can brag about it, but so that we can honor Jesus is a great step in explaining this passage.

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1. Remind our children to put others first in a me-first society. Teaching our children (and modeling it through our own behavior) to put others before ourselves can be a daunting task.

I’ll never forget when my girls were toddlers and I had split a cookie in half (inadvertently, one piece ended up slightly larger than the other) and told them to each choose a piece. I watched from afar to see how things would unfold. My oldest, Sunshine, told my youngest, Doodle, “It’s important that the person who picks first should pick the smallest.” I grinned. Sunshine was getting it!

A moment later, my smile faded as I listened to the rest of Sunshine’s rationale.  “And, Doodle, you can pick first.”

“I’m supposed to pick the smaller piece,” said Doodle.

“Yes you are,” agreed Sunshine, with a glint in her eye.

I watched as Doodle picked the smaller piece, leaving the larger piece for Sunshine, who  knew how to manipulate the system!

Our job is to continue to impress the importance of putting others first on our children, even when they don’t “get it” the first, second or one-hundredth time!

Fast forward to many years later. Sunshine is now one of the most generous and giving people I know. She is the first to give assistance, even without being asked, and the first to share what she has with others.

2.  Hone in on each child’s unique personality and their God-given gifts. Each child has their own unique personality and will each have different ideas of what types of service projects they would like to undertake. In addition, they each have their own spiritual gifts.

Doodle has a heart for world missions and decided at age five that she wants to be a missionary to Haiti. She has never once wavered from that goal.

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Sunshine has a deep love and devotion for younger children and has already been a mentor and childcare worker at our church, a VBS teacher, and a soccer coach.

Discover your child’s gift and passion. Discuss with them and ask if they could help one person in this world, who would it be? And what type of help would they want to provide? Some children have a heart for animals; some have a heart for those who are terminally ill. Still others have a heart that breaks for those in orphanages or foster care.

3. It’s never too early to start our children on the path of serving and blessing others. We started our children serving others when they were babies and would accompany us to the nursing homes. Although they don’t recall the details of those days, my husband and I were still cementing within our children a permanent foundation of following Jesus’ command to love their neighbor.

5. Pray as a family that God would place someone in your family’s path – someone who needs help. Allow each child their turn to pray for this important topic.

6. Pray for those in your neighborhood. Each month, we choose two families in our neighborhood to pray for. We have also gone on walks and runs in our neighborhood and prayed for the people who live in each house.

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 Serving others fosters Christian fellowship both within your own family and with your neighbors – it unites families and brings us closer to God and each other.

For more ideas, including “Up for Discussion” questions at the end of each chapter to help families look deeper into the reasons behind each activity, check out 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference.

77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others

10 ways to encourage others

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “encouragement” as “something that makes someone more determined, hopeful, or confident.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, the Bible tells us, Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…

So, what are some simple ways we can inspire others?

In everyday life:

  • Give genuine praise and encouragement to family and friends. This can come in the form of how much you appreciate them, value them in your life, or just how much you love them. Little notes of encouragement are big hits. For some ways to encourage your kids, check out my post 9 Ways to Show Your Kids You Love Them.
  • Did you get excellent service at a restaurant ? Tell the waiter and the manager. Did someone at local business go above and beyond? Let them know! The lady who signs members in at our local YMCA always has a smile on her face. She is quick to go the extra mile. I recently told her how much we appreciate her, and I also let her boss know. (This can also be done by completing “survey” or quality-of-service questionnaires available at many businesses).

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  • Encourage a mom. Motherhood is a hard job at times, and what mom doesn’t need a bit of encouragement? A quick word or note letting a mom know she’s doing a good job means a lot. You can even encourage a stranger! What about that mom in the long line at the grocery store with a hungry infant and grouchy toddler? We can discourage by giving a “judgmental” look or we can encourage by asking if we can help unload her groceries onto the conveyer belt or even by a simple sentence, “oh I remember those days!” and a smile.

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  • Be an encourager by mail. In my book 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others, I give ideas on how to Create a Card Ministry. Why not send a card to someone you know is having a difficult time and let them know you are praying for them. This can be done anoymously, or to someone you know. Galatians 6:2 tells us to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
  • Encourage other women. What about hosting a Girls Night Out? More details are found under the Sisters in Christ Group tab.

1094303_3_friends_5In Social Media:

  • Retweet someone’s tweet that you find interesting on Twitter. Not only does it help the tweeter, but it also provides useful information to your followers.
  • Tweet about someone’s blog post. There are so many great  blogs out there. If I stumble across one that is on the topics I regularly tweet about (#faith, #motherhood, #humor, #fitness, or #writing) I click on that little “tweet” button on the blog post and wah-lah, that post is shared with my followers.

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  • Mention fellow tweeters in a #FF (Follow Friday) or #WW (Writer Wednesday) tweet.
  • “Like” a post you find interesting on Facebook. Don’t just peruse past it, but “like” it, and even “share” it if you found it be of interest.
  • Did you just finish reading a book that you absolutely loved? Don’t be shy about it ~ spread the word! Post a positive review on Amazon, CBD, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads. (By the way, this means more to authors than you will ever know – trust me on this one!)

Each and every day, we all have a chance to be either an encourager or a discourager.

Which one will you be?

I’d love to hear some of your favorite ways of encouraging others.

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Tweetables:

10 ways to encourage others (click to tweet)

How can you be an encouragement to others? (click to tweet)

Encouraging others in their walk through life (click to tweet)

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quick and easy delicious crock-pot chili (gluten free)

We’ve had extremely cold weather this year, so what better meal than a crock pot of chili? Here’s the quick and easy directions for a delicious dinner of crock-pot chili – one of our personal family favorites:

chiliThe night before: wash, then soak 2 1/2 cups of pinto beans according to directions on package. If you forget to soak them the night before, no problem. Simply wash the beans, then boil them until softened the day of the meal.

Brown a package of hamburger meat.

Combine the hamburger meat and the softened pinto beans in the crock pot. Add two cans of Hunt’s Dinner Starters seasoned Tomato Sauce for Chili.

Add two cans of water and stir.

Turn your crock-pot to low and let simmer throughout the day, stirring on occasion.

For side dishes: fresh spinach or tossed salad and homemade cornbread. 🙂

Enjoy!

*Note: Since my husband is Celiac, this is a safe meal for him. At the time of this posting, my research concluded that Hunt’s Dinner Starters Seasoned Tomato Sauce for Chili was gluten free. If you have a food allergy, always double check the label and call the company (or find their website online) to determine if the product is gluten free.

We use The Cravings Place Grandma’s Unsweetened Cornbread Mix (gluten free, wheat free, nut free, dairy free) for the cornbread. We add honey to the mix (per package directions) to sweeten.

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Tweetables

Quick and easy delicious gluten free crock-pot chili recipe (click to tweet)

Perfect dinner idea for a cold day! (click to tweet)

What’s for dinner? (click to tweet)

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5 things a man should never buy his wife for Christmas

 
Penny Zeller, Christian Author

All right, all you sweet and thoughtful husbands…have you decided what to buy your wife for Christmas yet? Start making those lists!

And wives, if you’re reading this, kindly suggest to your husband to read this post – it could make your Christmas much merrier. 🙂

 
Ok, here is some helpful and humorous advice from a veteran wife of 21 years…

Disclaimer: these are just generalities and some wives may like the items on the “do not buy” list. Plan accordingly and good luck!

Do not buy your wife:

1. Something she doesn’t want, but that you would like. For instance, don’t buy your wife a new (or gently used from the wrecking yard) car muffler for Christmas, unless she’s a mechanic or big into NASCAR. Lon bought a loud muffler thingy for our Jeep Cherokee years ago that sounded like what would belong on the vehicle of a high schooler. Guess who drove the Jeep 99.9% of the time? Yep, me. (And no, I wasn’t a high schooler!) Guess what happened when we went to trade the Jeep in for a bigger vehicle once we started our family?

The thing was so loud that the car salesman told us we needed to “fix” the loud muffler before trading it in. Lon finally did convince the car salesman that the muffler wasn’t broken, but that it was a “high performance bought- and -installed- on- purpose- muffler.” Now some other poor wife is driving a Jeep that you can hear from a mile away!

Nix the new car tires too. While that’s nice that you want your wife to be safe, instead save it as a “family purchase” rather than a “gift for the wife purchase.”

2. Clothing. Husbands, unless you know your wife’s correct size, stick to a gift card at her favorite department store instead. Here’s why: If you buy her a size that’s four times her actual size, she’ll think you think she’s fat. Alternatively, if you buy her a size four times smaller than her actual size, she’ll think you think she needs to lose weight. See how this is a lose-lose situation?  So, unless you know for sure that she always wears a size medium in sweaters, please pass on the clothes. Otherwise, you may find yourself in deep trouble with your sweetie poo.

 

3. A toolbox. When Lon and I were first married, he wrapped a large present and hid it under the tree. I was so excited and couldn’t wait until Christmas. Imagine my suprise when I opened the package and it was a toolbox complete with my own set of tools! I thanked my sweet husband for his nice gesture, but I was puzzled. I’ve never been very handy with tools and the farthest thing from a “fix-it girl” there ever was. Our story landed us on the pages of Woman’s World and the toolbox remains in the garage where Lon uses it on a regular basis. Disclaimer: this is a perfect gift only if your wife is the “fix-it type.” Otherwise, please pass on this gift idea!

4. A kitchen appliance. Unless she specifically asks for it or you can tell from her look of anguish at the toaster you received for your wedding gift 45 years ago, keep away from kitchen appliances. Ditto for mops, a years’ worth of cleaning supplies,  a garden tiller, a chainsaw, or a lawnmower. Just trust me on this. Really.

5. An exercise video. Does this one really need any explanation? Also, unless she asks for that new treadmill, pass on the expensive (or not-so-expensive) exercise equipment too. You and your marriage will be glad you did.

So, as a wife, what tops your Christmas list?

 

Thankful for the small things…

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

It’s hard to believe that another Thankgiving is here!  As I reflect on the past year, I think of the many things I am thankful for – Jesus Christ as my Savior, my husband, my children, extended family, friends, and health. Sometimes, though, we only think of the big things we are thankful for, like those things I mentioned above.

What about the seemingly small things we are thankful for that we sometimes overlook? Below are a few that came to my mind in no particular order:

  •  I’m thankful for water. According to an article titled World Water Day: A Billion People Worldwide Lack Safe Drinking Water “More than a billion people—almost one-fifth of the world’s population—lack access to safe drinking water.” How many times do we go to the faucet and grab a glass of water without giving it a second thought?
  • I’m thankful I can breathe.  According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, “Approximately 34.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma by a health professional during their lifetime.” My husband and youngest daughter are included in those statistics. How many times do we take it for granted that we can take that a breath?
  • I’m thankful for the ability to read. While doing research for 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference, I discovered that “by age 17, only 1 in 17 seventeen-year-olds can read and gain information from specialized text” according to the National Institute for Literacy. Taking this statistic into account, there are a high number of people who cannot read. Yet, I read things everyday and don’t give it a second thought that some people don’t have that ability.
  • I’m thankful for those who risk their lives each day to bring the Good News to those around the world. We in the United States face minimal persecution when it comes to sharing our love for Jesus. Our missionaries in other nations are not so fortunate. I read The Voice of the Martyrs and my eyes were opened to the sacrifices our Christian brothers and sisters make everyday to share the hope of eternal life with the lost around the world.
  • I’m thankful for food to eat. A couple of years ago, my husband and I were both diagnosed with multiple food allergies. It has been a challenge to find things to eat.  Yet, so many people in the U.S. and in the world have no food to eat – AT ALL. They would love to only have allergies to a handful of foods  – if they still had food to eat. chili
  • I’m thankful I haven’t been involved in a devastating hurricane, earthquake, or tornado. This past year, we suffered damage to our home and vehicles during a severe hail storm. When we returned home from our vacation, our yard looked as though it had suffered a major catastrophe. Tree limbs were everywhere, our garden was ruined, the new siding on our house destroyed, and our SUV totaled.

A few days later, our church was seeking volunteers to assist with the devastation caused by the deadly Oklahoma City area tornado. As our family discussed being a part of this outreach, I was overcome with gratefulness and humbleness that it was only a relatively minor hailstorm we were dealing with and not a horrific storm where lives had been lost.

  • I’m thankful for dirty dishes. Yes, you heard me right. I know, most people wouldn’t say “thanks” for the sinkful of food-corroded crusty dishes from last night’s dinner. However, I am thankful because if I didn’t have those dirty dishes, I wouldn’t have had food to feed my family. Same goes for dirty laundry. While it may not be my favorite task, I’m thankful we have clothes to wear, and therefore, clothes that get dirty.
  • I’m thankful for my church family. Sometimes I forget how blessed I am to belong to the Body of Christ and how thankful I am that I can walk through the doors of my church and learn about the Lord and share fellowship with other believers.
  • I’m thankful I can see and hear. As I sit typing this, my kiddos are in the living room playing a game with their dad. Thank You, Father, that I can hear their giggles! I’m thankful for sight too – the snowcapped mountains in the distance and the puffy white clouds in the sky. I’m also thankful that the Lord opened my eyes to see my need for Him! snow capped mountains

That’s a shortened version of “small” things I’m thankful for. As I look back on my list, I realize they’re not “small” things at all, but big and important things.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

What if for one day, we loved as Jesus did?

Penny Zeller, Christian Author
What if for one day, we loved as Jesus did? I mean, truly loved as Jesus did. Not say we will, not pretend to, but really, truly focus on putting another person’s needs ahead of our own?

Can you imagine how we could change the world one person at a time?

And what if it became a habit?

Allow me to share a story with you about my friend Donna. Donna has rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, back problems, and a host of other health ailments. However, this doesn’t stop her from tirelessly serving others and showing each person she encounters the love of Christ in action.

thread-spool-1378256-mCase in point: Donna is often babysitting her grandchildren while her daughter and son-in-law struggle to make ends meet. Donna also teaches sewing classes to homeschool students, volunteers at church, cares for her mother who has dementia, and assists her niece, who has been hospitalized on numerous occasions with a severe neurological disorder.

I’ve never once heard Donna complain.

Add to that, the fact that a mutual friend was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and Donna came quickly to her aid.

One of the requests of our friend with cancer was that the precious words she’d written would be put into book form before our friend passed away. Donna quickly took care of our friend’s request, even though she was busy with other items, including upcoming medical tests for which she had to prepare.

This didn’t stop Donna.

reading-book-1368361-mDonna went to the local office supply store with our friend’s words. She knew time was of the essence. Our friend wasn’t expected to live much longer and her dream of seeing her words in book print became Donna’s goal.

Donna achieved her goal and was able to present the book to our friend.

Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 20:28, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…” saint-matthew-1336079-m

When I watch Donna, I get a glimpse into what it means to be Christlike and to really truly serve as Jesus did. And not only that, but as an avid prayer warrior, there’s not a day that passes that Donna doesn’t intercede on behalf of others.

I know, because I’ve been blessed to be the recipient of her prayers on a couple of occasions.

So, what if for one day, we loved as Jesus did? What if we set out to bless someone else without the expectation of ever receiving anything in return?

1113096_give_meWhat if everyday, we strove to put others first and didn’t expect to be served, but to instead serve, just as Jesus did?

What a difference we could make!

If you’re looking for ways to enlist your family in making a difference in the lives of others, please check out my book 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others.

Book Giveaway and Guest Post by Author Eva Piper!

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

Eva-Piper-BookI am honored to have Eva Piper as my guest this week! Eva is the author of the new book A Walk Through the Dark. Below is the blurb:

One day Eva Piper was an elementary school teacher, the mother of three, the beloved wife of a strong, protective husband.

The next day she stood at the bedside of a broken man who could do nothing but moan in agony and turn his head away from her.

Later she would learn that he had died and actually experienced heaven before being prayed back to life—a true miracle. Don Piper’s testimony, told in the New York Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven, would one day bring hope to thousands. But all that was in the future. Despite family and friends who kept vigil with her, Eva Piper found herself essentially alone. Walking in the dark. And she had always hated the dark.

Though it parallels that of her husband, Eva Piper’s account is quite different from his. It takes readers not to heavenly places but through a very earthly maze of hospital corridors, insurance forms, tiring commutes from home to workplace and hospital, and lonely hours of waiting and worrying. This is the story of a woman learning, step by darkened step, to go places she never thought she could go and growing into a person she never thought she could be. Packed with hard-earned wisdom about what it means to be a caregiver, to open yourself to the care of others, and to rest in God’s provision, this book provides a dependable source of light to help you walk through the dark.

Eva has graciously offered to give away an ARC copy of A Walk Through the Dark to one of my readers! You won’t want to miss reading this touching book that shows how God is there for us even in the hardest of times.

All of the details about winning are at the end of this post. But for now, let’s join Eva for her guest post “For Better or Worse.”

“For Better Or Worse”

“Do you take this woman/ man to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband?  For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health ‘til death do you part?”

Many young couples have stood in marriage ceremonies across the world and romantically answered “I do.” Fifteen years before Don’s accident we stood at the front of Barksdale Baptist Church with family and friends looking on as we uttered those words “I do”. I must admit that as a young bride I had no idea how my promise would be tested in the years to come. No bride or groom wants to think anything troublesome will come their way. Standing there in front of the altar I was filled with marriage giddiness. I was marrying the most 1386177_wedding_ringshandsome, intelligent, strong Christian man I had ever met. It was a girl’s dream come true.

Shortly after our fifteenth wedding anniversary, I was standing beside a hospital bed looking at a man I could scarcely recognize. His physical appearance had changed after numerous surgeries to piece him back together after being hit head-on by an 18 wheeler which left him encased in metal frames on his left leg and arm in an attempt to repair broken and lost bone. Those were changes I could pass over and still see the man I loved. No, it wasn’t his physical change that disturbed me, it was the change in his personality that was difficult to understand and accept. For weeks following Don’s accident he plunged into a deep depression, one where he wouldn’t speak to me, where the only response I could get was a grunt or single syllable monotone answers. There was no joy, no willingness to get better, no appreciation, nothing. It was like talking to a zombie. As his wife I couldn’t understand why he was not rejoicing in the fact he had survived a horrific wreck followed by medical complications. It didn’t seem like he cared about anything or anyone.

One evening about mid-February I arrived at St. Luke’s Hospital after teaching school. I had a book bag on my arm filled with papers to grade, lesson plans to write, and thank-you notes to send. I stood outside his room for a moment, pasted on my Suzy Sunshine smile, and walked in. As usual I got no response when I entered. The rest of the evening I spent working through the items in my bag and finished before visiting hours were over. Though I typically stayed until the very last minute that evening I decided to head home early. I was exhausted on all levels…physically, emotionally, 1031747_hospitalmentally, and even spiritually. The thought of getting home early, taking a long, hot shower, and then heading to bed sounded like a wonderful escape. I began to gather my things and head toward the door. As I reached for the handle I turned and said, “Guess I’ll head home. See you tomorrow. Love you.” His grunt of response hit me hard. I turned, dropped my book bag, marched over to the foot of his bed and let him have it.

“Why are you acting like this? Aren’t you glad to be alive and here with our kids, with me? Don’t you love me anymore? You are so mean, mean to me , mean to our children, mean to anyone who comes to see you. What’s wrong with you/”

I couldn’t believe I was saying those things but I couldn’t seem to stop myself. All my frustrations came to a boiling point in the moment between the door and the foot of his bed. Seeing my bag on the floor I reached for it ready to storm out the door, that’s when I noticed Don’s face in the large, wall mirror next to his bed. Tears were streaming down his face and his chest was heaving in heavy sobs. Instantly I was at his side, trying my best to put my arms around him, in and through all the metal, saying over and over “It’s Ok, things will be alright, I’m here.We’ll make it through this. Don’t worry. ”

Often I’d put my arms around our children to soothe hurts and pain, now I was doing that for my husband. God took that opportunity to teach me a great lesson.

“God loves us even in all our ugliness. I needed to see Don through God’s eyes.” I stood there holding Don and realized for the first time how hard this was for him. How much pain he was going through and how that 1356536_cross_with_shadow_1had to affect his state of mind. I knew then that we were living through a ‘worse’ time but that God had used it to bond us more tightly together.

It is a blessing I am forever thankful for.

About Eva Piper:

Eva Piper is a speaker and author with a unique insight into the trials of heartache and the triumph of overcoming. The wife of best-selling author Don Piper, Eva was the glue that held her broken husband and her family together. Don’s story, recounted in the New York Times bestseller, 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Life and Death, is Eva’s story too. A teacher of 34 years, she and Don now live in Pasadena, Texas. Visit http://evapiper.com/ to reserve your copy today!

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And now, for a chance to win a copy of A Walk Through the Dark! All you have to do is leave a comment for a chance to win. Your comment can pertain to anything and here is an idea: When was a time when you felt Jesus’ presence – a difficult time when you felt alone, but knew you could rely on the Lord to see you through? A time when the words of Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength an everpresent help in trouble rang true?

The fine print: sorry, but this giveaway is open to residents of the United States only. A winner will be chosen at random using random.org and confirmed subscribers will receive two entries. The giveaway ends August 18, 2013.

**If you enjoyed this post, please share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest by clicking on one of the handy-dandy little buttons below – thank you SOOOOOOOO much for sharing!**

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