Inspiring Kids to Love God
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You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength.

—Deuteronomy 6:5

What is the most important life lesson we can teach our kids? Maybe you are thinking kindness, forgiveness or compassion toward others. One could also argue that obedience and respect are paramount to becoming a wise and mature adult. Yes, all of these are important qualities we must teach our kids as they grow and mature. But what is the one thing we don’t want to miss? The lesson above all lessons?
God told the Israelites the most important message to teach their kids—and thousands of years later, it’s still the most important lesson.

No, I’m not referring to the Ten Commandments, although we do want to teach those to our kids. I’m referring the Great Commandment. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4–5 NKJV). Jesus reiterated this in the New Testament when a lawyer asked Him which was the greatest commandment. Jesus answered, “The first of all the commandments is ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29–31 NKJV).

Isn’t it interesting that in a culture where we parents are so busy making sure our kids are on the best soccer teams or in the best schools and learn gymnastics at age three or start art lessons at five, we often overlook the most important lesson of all? God told the Israelite parents it was their job to teach their children to love God. Interestingly, He begins by implying this great truth must be a part of their own lives. God said, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:6–7 NKJV).

Practical Ways to Build a Love for God

God is serious about parents teaching their kids to love Him. The passage says we must teach them diligently, so we need to be intentional about teaching our kids to love God. It shouldn’t be a haphazard whim, nor should this instruction be solely left up to the church or Christian school. First and foremost, it is our job as parents. We must look for those teachable moments at the dinner table, when we are going to the store, while we are sitting down to read, or when we tuck our children in bed at night.
How do we build a love for God in our family? The answer is actually quite simple: by teaching our kids who God is. What are His attributes? What does God say about Himself? We find the answers in the Bible. You can begin reading Bible stories to your kids at an early age. There are many children’s Bibles available at Christian bookstores or online retailers. Some of my favorites include the Beginners Bible, My First Study Bible, and the Day by Day Kids Bible.1

As your kids grow older, encourage them to begin reading the Bible on their own. Ask them to accompany you to the bookstore, and include them in the process of selecting their own Bible. There are many teen Bibles on the market today. Talk to your kids about what you are learning about God in your own Bible reading. Allow your kids to see you reading God’s Word and know your love for His Word. Discuss the Bible and God’s attributes at the dinner table and share tidbits with them throughout the day. One of my favorite devotionals to do with the family at the dinner table is Sticky Situations by Betsy Schmitt.2
When we recognize who God is and His love for us, we can’t help but love Him in return. He is the sovereign and holy God, Creator of all things. He is merciful, gracious, and kind. He is the Good Shepherd who tenderly cares for His sheep. I am continually amazed to think that the King of kings and Lord of lords hears my prayers and cares about me. The Bible teaches me how wonderful He is. When we saturate ourselves with the truth about God’s goodness and love, it can’t help but overflow from our actions and words and pour into our children’s lives.

Join me next week as we will talk about teaching our kids to pray.

This is an excerpt from Karol’s book, Defuse: A Mom’s Survival Guide to More Love Less Anger

Simple Spring Ideas for Family Fun
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Spring is a time of new beginnings. The freshness of the season and the celebration of our risen Lord offer wonderful reasons to enjoy this season.

Spring Activities:
Decorate Flower Pots – Purchase several inexpensive clay pots. Place the pots on news paper and spray paint them or hand paint them. Once they dry you can add rickrack, stickers, trim and/or glitter. You can write a Bible verse or a poem on them with sharpie pens.
Pleasant Planting – Visit the local nursery and allow each child to have a designated amount they can spend on a plant. Give them 20 minutes to find the one they want. Younger ones will need your assistance, while older ones can read up or inquire about the care involved with the plant. Take the purchases home and work together to plant them either in the ground or in their newly decorated pots. Teach the kids responsibility in taking care of the plant and watering it regularly.
Kite adventures – Go for a kite flying adventure and be sure to take the camera. It’s more fun with the whole family! After you enjoy flying kites, return home to create a colorful construction paper kite. You may even want to put a picture of your kite flying adventure on your newly constructed craft kite. Top off the day by watching Mary Poppins.
Clouds – Take a bed roll and pillows outside and lay down and look up. Watch the clouds and point out figures and pictures that you see in them. After a while you may want to come inside and make a cloud picture using blue construction paper, white chalk or cotton balls and glue.

Spring Recipes:
Easter Morning Rolls
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups softened vanilla ice cream (softened)
Lightly stir ingredients together until just moistened. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Fill ¾ full. Bake at 325 for 20 minutes. Yields 16 -20 muffins. We use these muffins as an Easter tradition at our home and talk about how the rolls symbolically represent Christ, the bread of life. The muffins have two ingredients just as Christ is made up of both God and man. The white color represents his purity, and the flour is self-rising (which represents our Easter celebration of Christ rising from the dead).

Flower Face Sandwiches
Bread
Favorite sandwich ingredients
Flower shaped cookie cutters
Celery or Zucchini strips
Spanish olives (stuffed with pimento)
Small tomatoes or carrots
Make several of your favorite sandwiches then cut them into floral shapes using your cookie cutter. Add veggie strips to be the stalks of the flowers. Create a face on the sandwich using sliced olives, tomatoes and/or carrots.

Ice Cream flower pots
4 – 6 Small Clay flower pots (thoroughly washed)
1 gallon Vanilla or Chocolate Ice Cream
2 cups Chocolate cookie crumbs
Gummy Worms (optional)
4 – 6 Plastic flowers
Soften ice cream. Line bottom of pots with wax paper or foil. Pour softened ice cream into pots (adding gummy worms if desired). Cover top of ice cream with cookie crumbs. Stick one plastic flower in the top of each pot. Place ice cream flower pots in freezer for several hours.

This is an excerpt from Karol’s Book A Positive Plan for More Fun, Less Whining. On sale now! Click the image below:

Laughter is Good Medicine
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When is the last time you had a good hearty laugh? Really, honestly, take a moment to think about it. Hopefully you don’t have to think back too far. Sometimes just the memory of a gut-wrenching guffaw starts me laughing all over again. Without a doubt, a good dose of humor levels some of the bumps in life and lightens the load of our day to day routine. Victor Hugo said, “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” I’d have to add, laughter is the sunshine that melts the winter frost which sometimes settles in human relationships.

We need to laugh more often with family and friends. Not only is it good for our health; it’s good for our life. Perhaps you are thinking, but I don’t feel like laughing. My life is the pits right now. I want to invite you to take a short mental vacation from the pit you are in and travel to a place of heartfelt joy. You will find as you fill your heart and mind with cheer, your perspective may change on the challenges you face.

Now I don’t want to gloss over the fact that there are times in our lives when we must grieve and cry. As Solomon said, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Realistically there are certain times in all of our lives when we must work through the pain of loss or hurt or grief. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not diminishing the importance of those times, but I am saying that there are many opportunities for delight and laughter as well. And sometimes humor may be the God-given salve that helps soothe the hurt and heal the pain.

Humor can be sticky. By that I mean that laughing together can bring family members closer and create a unique bonding by smoothing over some of the prickly edges. In his book The Laughter Prescription, Dr. Laurence Peter says humor serves an important role in easing tensions, in both the individual and in relationships with others. “Laughter provides the outlet for otherwise unacceptable feelings, behaviors and impulses by facilitating talking about or acting out conflicts and emotions in a safe, non threatening way.”

So how do you generate good hearty, belly-busting guffaws, even when you may not feel like it? Consider some of the following?

• Visit Clean Joke sites on the internet like: www.ahajokes.com, www.cleanfunnyjoke.com, www.tickleu.com
• Sign up to receive daily jokes from sites such as www.clean-joke-the-day.com
• Watch good clean hilarious movies that make you laugh
• Read the comics in the newspaper.
• Keep a joke or riddle book in the car or by the dinner table so you will have it readily available.
• Read books with humorous stories, jokes or cartoons.
• Rent a video of sports or commercial bloopers.
• Get together with a hilarious friend.
• Watch good clean fun videos from Youtube (Stand up comedians like Anita Renfroe or Chonda Pierce or silly animals or bloopers)
• Create a Humor Survival kit complete with joke books, squeaky toys, funny games, hilarious pictures and cartoons, funny shows on DVD.

Good hearty laughter is easy to come by. It may take a small amount of deliberate effort, but the payoff is worth it. Having fun together as a family increases your probability of chuckles and hopefully will lead to a full blown explosion of hilarity.
It’s easy to think that life’s too busy or serious to take time for fun and laughter, but life is too short not to. More importantly our family life is enriched and strengthened through the smiles and laughter we share together. Let’s make a decision to move in a positive direction by providing more opportunities for laughter with our kids.
This is an excerpt from A Positive Plan for Creating More Fun, Less Whining.

Outdoor Games and Adventures
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Nature give us a wonderful playroom filled with beauty, adventures and discoveries for kids of all ages.  As we step into spring, we step into a wonderful world of possibilities, I want to help you take full advantage of the great outdoors through creative games and activities. We all have different outdoor opportunities available to us.  Some of you may have a fenced in back yard, while others live in the city, while others live with wide open space for miles (and the rest of us are jealous of you).   You may even have a park somewhere in the vicinity that you can either walk to or take a short drive.

Consider the outdoor opportunities that are available to you and apply these game and activities to your situation. Many of the ideas you will find here will work well when you have a number of kids on your hands, so if the neighborhood kids show up at your house or if the cousins come over for a visit you will have creative fun on hand.  Most importantly we can rejoice in God’s wonderful creation and thank Him for providing the perfect playground.

 

Terrific Tag Games.  The thrill of the chase and the excitement and strategy of outrunning the person who is “it” makes tag games a thrill for kids of all ages.  In a typical tag game, one person is designated as “it” and chases the others trying to tag them.  If a player is tagged they become the new “it.”  You can also play elimination tag, in which the tagged person is out of the game.  The last person left without being tagged becomes the new it.   You can choose “it” by drawing names out of a hat or by choosing a number between 1 – 30.  The closest one is “it.”  You can also draw straws (the short one is it) or you can pick candies (the one who gets the red one is “it”).   Here are some variations to the typical tag game.

  1. Shadow Tag – Instead of tapping the runners, the person who is “it” simply steps in the persons shadow.  For the best shadows play late afternoon.
  2. Freeze Tag – Tagged people stand like frozen statues when they are tagged. Other runners can tag them and unfreeze them.
  3. Chain Tag – Best with a large group, the first person tagged joins hands with “it” and they both begin to chase others.  Each person tagged joins the chain.  Only the two players on the outside of the chain can tag.  Keep going until everyone is a part of the chain.  The last one is the new “it.”
  4. Airplane Tag – Everyone on the ground is fair game to be tagged by “it.”  The players are safe if they are above ground (like sitting on a swing, stepping on the ladder of a slide, or standing on steps).
  5. Hat Tag – You will need an old hat for this one.  The person who is “it” must tag the person wearing the hat.  The person being chased may toss the hat to another person, if “it” gets too close.  If the person with the hat is tagged then they become the new “it.”

Fun and Easy Ball Games. If you have kids in your home it is a good idea to have a good supply of balls as well.  Here are a variety of games to consider.

  1. Circle Ball – Circle up (or if you have enough create two circles) and pass the ball around the circle.  Start with tossing it to the player on the right.  Once the ball has gone around once you can vary the way you pass it: bounce it once, pass between the legs or behind the back.  If you have two circles they can compete to see who gets the ball around the circle the fastest.  Ages 3 – 8
  2.  Soccer Circle Ball – Circle up again only this time the ball is on the ground and players kick it back and forth, keeping it within the circle.  The game can be light and simple for young ones, but can be challenging for older kids as the pace picks up.  Ages 4 – 10
  3. Racket-less Tennis – You will need a tennis ball and some chalk for this game.  No net is needed, just a flat surface either on a driveway, playground or wide sidewalk.  Use the chalk to draw a rectangle about 12 feet long and 6 feet wide.  Draw a line down the middle which serves as the net.  The first person serves the ball by simply bouncing it once and hitting it with the palm of his hand.  The ball must land in the opponent’s court.  The ball is volleyed back and forth until one of the players misses the ball, or doesn’t get it across the line, or hits it out of bounds.  Players only score when they are the servers.  Play to 11 points, but the winner must win by two points so if the score is 10 – 11 then play continues until someone has a 2 point lead.  Ages 7 – 15.

Races and Relays.  Your most important job in hosting a race is determining the course.  Where are the start and finish lines, and is it a clear safe path?  Choose teams randomly (don’t ever have kids or captains pick their teams, as feelings always get hurt).   I believe it works best to draw colors (colored strips of paper or material) out of a bag to form teams. You can even divide by hair color, eye color, birthdays, or alphabetically.  Then even up the teams before you begin.

  1. Back to Back Race – Set up two goal posts or chairs about 25 feet from your starting line.  You will need about ten feet between the two teams.  The players on each team stand back to back, linking elbows and running in this position (sideways).  Each couplet runs to their goal post, circles it and then returns to tag the next couplet on their team.  Team to finish first is the winning team.
  2. Bunny Hop Relay – Mark two lines on the ground at least 15 feet from each other for the start and turn-around lines.  Divide kids into two teams, lined up single file behind the starting line.  At the word “GO” the first player on each team hops like a bunny to the turn around line and continues back to the starting line.  After she crosses the finish line, the next player in line goes.  The first team with all of it’s bunnies down and back is the winner.  Ages 3 – 8. This race can be varied for older kids to be a Kangaroo hop.  A little different type of hop is required.  This time the kangaroos stand with both feet together and keep both feet together as they land and add a little more spring to their stride.  With this rely the turn-around line should be about 30 feet from the start.  Ages 8 – 12.
  3.  Sack Races – You will need either a burlap sack or pillowcase of each player (or you could make it a relay and provide one for each team).   Play only on the grass or soft surface such as sand at the beach.  There will be loads of laughter and fun as players try to hop across the finish line in their sacks with a few stumbles along the way.  Mark the start and finish line with a stick or rope making the course around 30 feet.  You may want to run this race several times and watch the kids get better and better. Ages 7 – 12.
  4. Tunnel Ball – Begin by marking a start and finish line about 30 feet apart.  This is best played on a large flat surface and you will need one ball for each team.  Players for both teams line up in single file lines behind the starting line and spread their legs out.  On the word “Go” the player at the front of each line rolls the ball through the tunnel of legs on his team. Players are free to help the ball stay in the tunnel.  As the last person receives the ball, she runs to the front of the line with the ball and sends it down the tunnel again.  Slowly each line will progress forward.  The first team to make it entirely across the finish line wins.  Ages 6 – 12.

Just Plain Fun Games.  There are some outdoor games that are simple and fun.  You will find that most ages enjoy the following.

  1. 1. The King’s Treasure –    Draw a large circle with chalk (or you can use shoes to form a circle in the grass).   Kids circle up with one person in the center.  You will need a bag of coins, bean bag or something that is easy to grab to serve as the king’s treasure.  The king in the middle stands over the treasure to guard it.  Everyone on the circle slowly tries to sneak up and grab the treasure without being tagged. They are safe if they are back outside the circle. If they are tagged, they must sit on the outer circle.  The first one to get the treasure is the next king.  (ages 5 – 13)
  2. Obstacle course – An obstacle course can be set up in a number of different creative ways in your own yard.  You will need to make sure it is age appropriate and safe.  Some of my favorite items to use for an obstacle course are a box, a jump rope, a chair, a ball and a basket.    For starters consider having the kids crawl through the box, then they must jump three times with the rope, sit on the chair, and toss the ball in the basket.  You can make a simple course for young ones and a more difficult and longer course for the older kids.  Items to add the obstacle course include:  a hula hoop, plastic slides, mini exercise tramp, sprinklers (if it is hot), and fabric tunnel.  Ages 3 and up.
  3. Sheep and Wolf –  This is a variation of the familiar Hide and Seek game only the hiders and seekers end up changing roles.  You will need to choose one person to be the Wolf while all the rest are sheep.  Determine a central home base (a tree stump, fountain, porch step).  Remember safety is the first rule of business so make sure you establish boundaries and places that are off limits.  At first the wolf hides while all the sheep close their eyes until the wolf lets out a howl.  The sheep all begin to search for the wolf.  When a player spots the wolf he yells, “I see a wolf!”  The wolf then chases the sheep trying to tag them before the sheep reaches home base.  It a sheep is caught, he or she becomes the next wolf.  If everyone makes it to home base safely, then the wolf continues for another round. Ages 5 – 12.
  4. Red Light Green Light – One person stands about 20 or 30 feet away from the starting line with their back turned to the group.  The person then shouts “Green Light!” which is the signal for everyone to begin moving forward.  When he says “Red Light” everyone is supposed to freeze in position.  The person who is “it” turns around immediately to catch anyone who is still moving.  If he sees any movement he calls those people by name and sends them back to the starting line.  The person who is able to tap it first without being detected wins and gets to be the next “it.”  Ages 5 – 10.
  5. Follow the Leader – Choose one leader who will direct the rest of the group with their words and example.  Walk like a monkey to the mail box, act like you are swimming across the yard, hop on one foot to the tree, are a few possibilities.  As the adult, you may want to be the first leader.  Keep the kid’s ages and abilities in mind, and remember to maintain safety at all times.  Ages 5 and up.

 

We will add some more fun adventures for you next week. These ideas can be found in Karol’s book: A Positive Plan for Creating More Fun, Less Whining.

 

Resources

Letting Go
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Saint Patrick’s Day is a celebration of a man who loved the Lord and experienced the transforming power of the gospel.  Kidnapped by pirates when he was only a teen, Patrick spent six years as a slave. While in captivity he became a Christian and was able to miraculously escape to his homeland. After he was ordained into the ministry he sensed God’s call to return to Hibernia (Ireland), the land of his captivity.

What if St. Patrick decided he would not forgive his enemies? What if he just wouldn’t let his past hurts go and instead harbored bitterness and anger? He would have missed the opportunity to bring the gospel to a nation who desperately needed Christ. Patrick’s life offers us a picture of forgiveness and redemption. God does amazing work through our willingness to forgive.

I love the picture above of the bulldog with a St. Pat’s hat on because it offers such a poignant contrast. Bulldogs are known for their stubbornness and unwillingness to let go of whatever they have in their mouths. Ironically, Patrick was stubborn for the gospel, because he was willing to let go of the past hurts. Are you a bulldog or are you like Patrick, willing to forgive and let go of anger and bitterness. Forgiveness means releasing the right to hold something over another person. It’s not becoming a doormat. You may need to still set boundaries, but forgiveness is letting go and placing your hurts and resentments into the hands of a loving God.

As moms, let’s live with forgiveness and experience the joy and freedom that comes when we let go of bitterness and resentment. Let’s teach our kids to do the same. May our homes be a beacon of light, love and the gospel message to a world that needs Christ’s love.

The BREASTPLATE of Saint Patrick

I bind myself today, –
To the power of God to guide me,
The might of God to uphold me,
The wisdom of God to teach me,
The eye of God to watch over me,
The ear of God to bear me,
The Word of God to speak for me,
The hand of God to protect me,
The way of God to lie before me,
The shield of God to shelter me,
The host of God to defend me

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height.

 

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